What does a Breaking Bad fan think of Better Call Saul? Jalal reviews the second season premiere.
I initially dismissed Better Call Saul as AMC trying to cash in on the overwhelming success of Breaking Bad. I didn’t understand why Vince Gilligan and the actors refused to move on. I simply stayed away thinking its initial popularity was strictly curiosity and the prequel series would fade. I was wrong and Better Call Saul ended up being a hit with audiences, critics, and the show even earned seven Emmy nominations. I decided to push my past reservations aside and give the show a chance.
The main reason I wanted to give Better Call Saul a chance was because of all the reviews I read praising Vince Gilligan for taking these familiar characters and removing them from the plot driven, five act structure of Breaking Bad. In this episode alone we watch as Jimmy struggles with decisions and rules with the subtext of who he becomes on Breaking Bad as well as what we see in the flash-forward as Gene. In the only black and white scene we watch as “Gene” takes out the trash while working in a mall Cinnabon. He accidentally locks himself in the dumpster room and the only way out is through a door that would set off a siren and alert the police if opened. Gene doesn’t open the door and instead waits hours for someone to find him. The scene ends with the discovery of what Gene etched into the wall “SG was here.” By the end of this first scene I knew the rest of the episode would be the character driven drama I had been promised.
My favorite moments from the episode are the scenes developing Jimmy’s relationship with his Kim Wexler played by Rhea Seehorn (who I can’t unsee as the perfect combination of Anna Chlumsky and June Diane Raphael). The scenes between Jimmy and Kim stood out because I’m not used to any character from the Breaking Bad universe develop such a carefree and romantic arc. The bulk of the episode followed Jimmy and Kim as they concuct these fake aliases just to fool a stock trader into buying them $50 shots of tequila all night. I can’t say these scenes gave me any sort of confidence in what direction the season will go but I do know I would gladly tune in for weeks just to see the eventual downfall of their friendship and romance.
I was surprised to find out Mike was only in essentially one scene of the premiere and while it was great returning to the character I was disappointed to not see Jonathan Banks’ Emmy nominated performance taken any further. Mike shows up at the beginning of the episode as the curmudgeon he has always been and refuses to get into Pryce’s bright yellow Hummer. Pryce fires Mike and he then walks away after telling Pryce how stupid the mistake he made was. The rest of this storyline consists of us as an audience following Pryce screw up and proving Mike right. I’m sure there is more to Mike than what was presented in the premiere and I know I will discover more about him when I go back to the first season but for now I’m left feeling apathetic to a character I was hoping would be expanded on. I want to see if there is anything else Jonathan Banks and Vince Gilligan can do with Mike since we all know his story has an expiration date.
Overall the episode is obviously setting up the rest of the series by presenting us with Jimmy, Saul, and Gene, and a promise to connect the journey and transformation between the three. The differences between Jimmy, Saul, and Gene are a little heavy-handed but still true to character and interesting. Jimmy clearly has a strong desire to break rules as we watch him guzzle cucumber water out of a “customers only” dispenser and flip a cautionary/restricted switch to no consequence in his new office at Davis & Maine. Anyone who has seen Breaking Bad knows there will eventually be consequences down the road when Jimmy becomes Saul and I’m excited to see what those changes are beyond a cautionary switch flip.
Better Call Saul holds its own as a strong character study, and I think the show would be even stronger if AMC believed in it as that instead of capitalizing on the Breaking Bad juggernaut. Viewers don’t need to be reminded of its predecessor during the commercial breaks and with the weekly talk show Talking Saul. I appreciate how small the show feels. So far I enjoy watching Bob Odenkirk’s performance and it stands on its own. I’m going to continue watching and even go back on Netflix and binge the first season.
Readers, what did you think of Better Call Saul’s second season premiere? What went over my head because I didn’t watch the first season? Sound off in the comments below.