How do you follow one of the greatest TV shows of all time? Well if you are Vince Gilligan, you take one of the characters from that show and go all superhero by giving him an origin story.
Better Call Saul takes us back to Saul Goodman in the years before he becomes Saul. Still known as Jimmy McGill, he is a struggling lawyer who is more than willing to bend the law in order to get a case. The seedlings of the Saul Goodman we all grew to know during Breaking Bad are there, however he’s not quite hit his stride yet.
It’s an interesting idea and one that only works because Gilligan manages to turn Jimmy into a fascinating character. The fleshing out of a guy who was often used as comic relief in Breaking Bad, is well done. He is still funny, there is no denying that, but it is now underpinned with a serious slant. We now understand where this character is coming from and what motivates him to act in the way he does.
If there’s a criticism, the first season’s plot is hardly revolutionary. It feels very much like it is setting up what is to come, however, if you look back to Breaking Bad, the very same thing can be said about that. Unlike that show, it takes confidence from the fact that we already have a rooting in this world, making it a much easier program to start watching.
Which I guess leads us to the question of whether non Breaking Bad fans should be watching this. The answer is yes, there is nothing here you won’t understand because of having missed Breaking Bad (which by the way if you have, get on it now) and it won’t spoil much apart from a flash forward to where Jimmy is at the end of that program and even that isn’t really a spoiler without context. The only time you might feel left out, is when a character walks into shot and your Breaking Bad loving friend gets all excited because they know who they are.
Don’t worry though, because there are also a host of new characters for you to get to know. From the small and inconsequential, like the women who run and go to the nail salon which Jimmy runs his business out of the back of. To the hugely important, like Jimmy’s brother Chuck, a great lawyer who is now housebound because he believes he has an allergy to electricity. Chuck is central to this season. Throughout it Jimmy is constantly at his beck and call and it gives us a glimpse into the heart behind the scoundrel. Chuck is in many ways the chain around Jimmy’s neck and as the season goes on, that becomes more and more important.
This season also introduces Kim, a fellow lawyer who works as Jimmy’s close friend and love interest. Their relationship is an interesting one, in many ways they are opposites and yet they have a very natural onscreen chemistry and it’s hard to dislike them. Despite that, it does feel there a lot more of their relationship to be explored.
Better Call Saul is a lot better than it has any right to be. TV spin offs are historically more bad than good and there was always the chance that taking a character who had previously been shown in such small doses and giving him an entire show would have gone horribly wrong. However, Gilligan and his team have done the exact opposite. They’ve fleshed Saul out and made him just as fascinating as the characters that made Breaking Bad the show it was.