This week fans of the Breaking Bad series have finally been served their much needed fix with the premiere of Better Call Saul. Set six years prior to the events of Breaking Bad the series follows Saul Goodman before he was Saul Goodman, and still struggling lawyer Jimmy McGill. With only two episodes aired Saul has already caused a storm, with the show already being labelled as ‘too good to be a spin off’. But is this just an overly dedicated fan base putting the yet-to-be ‘criminal lawyer’ on a pedestal? Does the prequel really fill the large shoes of its predecessor?
The opening scene introduces us to what we presume to be Saul’s life after the events of Breaking Bad, the shots are stylistically black and white, displaying the director’s eye for creating a fantastic mise en scène. Creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould have unsurprisingly created many allusions and similarities to Breaking Bad, with the intro providing an enjoyably, ominous prediction of what is yet to come.
Over the course of first episode we see Jimmy struggling to make ends meet and desperately trying to recruit clients. The intensity of how dismal his life is emphasized to the point that it almost becomes tedious. Although the scenes stirred sympathy and pity, there was also a certain desperation for the show to continue with the actual story line, perhaps the creators’ intention. Even when events began to heat up, neither the scenes nor the characters proved enthralling. All that changed, however, with the episode’s finale, making pressing play on that next episode an easy task. It seems that this first episode was a character building one – for both Jimmy and the series; one that will undoubtedly enhance our pleasure later if not immediately.
Cameos from old characters seem to be placed to incite cooing from the large fan base rather than serve any actual function to the plot. However, with only two episodes so far it is difficult to tell whether Gilligan and Gould have plans for these old characters. The second episode improves dramatically and is far more watchable, exploring the edge-of-the-seat dramatics that fans ofBreaking Bad will remember. That is not to say that the first episode is boring, but rather that it is simply not that exciting. The second episode emulates more closely the grit that viewers have come to know and love. Let’s just say that I certainly will never look at breadsticks the same way again.
The overriding problem that Better Call Saul faces is that it will inevitably be compared to Breaking Bad, especially since it shares the same characters and stylistic techniques. The show in itself shows a lot of promise but perhaps religious fans should base what they see on the show’s own merits. Better Call Saul may be slow to begin with, but it there is whisper that suggests it may be on the cusp of greatness.