With the show “Better Call Saul,” writer Vince Gilligan crafts something special: a perfect prequel.
The series is set before the events of “Breaking Bad” (arguably the greatest TV show of all time) and tells the tragedy of criminal lawyer Jimmy McGill’s descent into the cartel underbelly of Albuquerque, New Mexico and his slow transformation into the sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman we know him as from the original show.
“Better Call Saul” is a show that’s easy to overlook. Was anyone really asking about the origins of the scene-stealing scumbag Saul? I don’t think so.
Yet, Gilligan avoids the many pitfalls of prequels and tells a story that’s a perfect blend of new and old. There are plenty of Easter eggs and nostalgic cameos, but the characters are always the main focus.
The writing is truly brilliant and finds a way to be both hilarious and heartfelt. The relationships feel real and nuanced, and no character comes out of a season the same person.
While it’s not as fast-paced as “Breaking Bad,” there are plenty of twists, turns and tense moments to keep you captivated, and the slow-burn is used to construct some of the most layered characters ever put to screen.
Jimmy is the ultimate underdog you can’t help but root for, and Bob Odenkirk basks in this role of a lifetime. He’s a treasure, and I cannot get enough of him as this character. He’s charismatic and hysterical, yet clearly hides so much pain behind his mask.
Jimmy has a genuine desire to become a lawyer and help people but doesn’t fit the typical office job mold. He likes to toe the line of right and wrong and has a flair for showmanship. Unfortunately, he’s made some mistakes in his past that no one can seem to overlook, especially his brother, Chuck. It’s heartbreaking to watch him snowball toward his inevitable fate.
Nearly every other supporting character is just as multifaceted and memorable. Grizzled cartel fixer Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) returns and continues to give chill-inducing monologues.
Kim Wexler, played by Rhea Seehorn, whom I felt indifferent toward at the show’s beginning, has slowly become one of the most complex characters. Her poignant romance with Jimmy is unlike any I’ve ever seen. I’m both terrified and ecstatic to see what will become of her in season six.
Of course, in “Breaking Bad” fashion, the lines between good and bad are blurred, but there are definitely a few clear-cut, deliciously evil antagonists.
Newcomer Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton) completely steals the show. He oozes charm and could kill you with a beaming smile on his face. Yet, his unyielding dedication to family makes it nearly impossible to hate him.
Familiar favorites like Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) and Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) reprise their roles and are far more than just cameos. Giligan expertly uses them to expand the “Breaking Bad” universe and even improve the original show on a rewatch. The bitter rivalry between Fring and the Salamanca’s is a major focus of the later seasons, and some of the best episodes involve Jimmy getting sucked into that conflict.
Overall, I really don’t have any negative opinions about this show. It hasn’t quite reached the heights of “Breaking Bad” yet, but each season has only gotten better and better. I can’t say enough about the writing and character work, not to mention the gorgeous cinematography and delightful montages.
I highly recommend this to all fans of “Breaking Bad,” or just anyone in need of a show to obsessively binge. Seasons one through five are currently on Netflix, and season six just premiered on AMC. I’m dying to see how it all ends.
I’ve had a blast writing reviews for the past three years, and as this is my last one, I’m glad I could end by talking about one of my favorite shows on TV!