REVIEW – BETTER CALL SAUL – With Season 3 of Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad spin-off over, we ask what we learned and where are we going.
So what did we learn in the third season of Better Call Saul? Okay, SPOILERS, but not really. We discovered Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) is still Jimmy McGill and still not Saul Goodman. And I’m not sure he ever really will be Saul Goodman. Having got through three seasons, I’m also wondering if this is even the same character. The outright rogue of Breaking Bad keeps desperately trying to second guess the audience’s prejudices so that he’ll never do anything too bad. He does something bad and then repents. But the cards are so stacked against him that we’re bound to sympathize.
All those cards for the whole season seemed to be passing through the hands of his brother Chuck (Michael McKean). Chuck and his space blanket became a central story strand of the whole season and there’s no delicate way of putting this, it was a pain in the balls. I love Michael McKean as an actor. And his performance here was wonderful but his trajectory was just so grindingly predictable. When a tragic decline and demise of a major character is your big finale of the season, you really shouldn’t have the audience shriek ‘Finally!’ but that’s what I did.
Rhea Seehorn as Kim is always fun. She’s smart but she was given so little to do except have the other office. Her legalling could be snappy, but when did this become legal eagles? Especially when we get on to oil wells and property rights. She says herself ‘I made a local bank into a regional bank’. Not exactly a thrilling ride.
And then there’s Mike (Jonathan Banks) who is visibly aging before our eyes. Mike was never a spring chicken exactly but given this is a prequel, I hope Gustav Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) sends him to a health farm or something. Waiting for someone to get a stroke is not the tensest denouement and this gangster story was almost as uninteresting as the shenanigans in a photocopying shop.
This sounds very negative. I don’t hate it at all. And everyone is so talented that this is obviously quality all the way through. But the story – which was the strongest element of Breaking Bad – has given way to simply waiting for shit to go down. And the wait is going on forever.
HOLLYWOOD – Breaking Bad spin off show Better Call Saul is entering its second season and there are precisely five things wrong with it.
Season 2 of Vince Gilligan’s Better Call Saul is underway and I think the time has come for me to get some things off my chest. First of all let me say that I loved Breaking Bad and I really liked Season One of Better Call Saul, and there’s not that much wrong with Season Two either. Except for five things.
- It isn’t called It’s Still Jimmy F*cking McGill. Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) is a wonderful character and Jimmy McGill just seems a less interesting version of him. For all his attempts to be a good guy, the character feels like he’s moving glacially towards his later manifestation. Already from the first season we got the basic conflicts and issues, but here he is back again, trying to be agood guy, trying to be a solid lawyer, trying to impress his brother. Oh and…
- Chuck his brother, played by the marvelous Michael McKean, is somewhat stuck. His phobia in a way representative of the show in general, with its morbid reluctance to move forward. Everyone tiptoes around Chuck and does their best to make him feel at his ease, but I don’t quite see why everyone is so understanding and yet there is no sense that Chuck is receiving any professional help. I mean I get that he’s a great lawyer but he’s not exactly Howard Hughes. Oh and about the lawyer thing…
- Lawyers and law firms and civil suits and all of that stuff is just so boring. I mean I keep seeing people talking about the document recovery (poor Rhea Seehorn and her shitty post it notes) and stuff like that but ultimately I don’t care. Watching Jimmy desperately trying to be a good lawyer, those meetings, those conference calls, it’s all so desperately dull. I mean the main case this season is about an old persons retirement home! I get that they’re setting up the dullness of the straight life so we can see the attraction of Jimmy becoming Saul, but even Mike has a more interesting job and he’s a car park attendant. Talking about…
- Mike was one of the highlights of Season One and his backstory was amazing. Truly great performance by Jonathan Banks. We’ve set up his allegiance to his daughter in law as motivation for him moving to the dark side but again there’s a slowness to this, an incremental slide and his story is completely disconnected from Jimmy’s. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about the pace of the show. I get that every episode is based around three or four long scenes. And I like the writing and the performances, but the overarching story is becoming repetitive and uninteresting. As if they actually only had a two season story line and this season is the buffer between the two. But the worst thing is the …
- Breaking Bad cameos. Every time one happens it takes me totally out of it. They’re unnecessary and not helped by the fact that the actors have visibly aged since the originals that are supposed to have happened after this takes place. They’re distracting and only diminish the separate shows.
BETTER CALL SAUL: REVIEW – AMC’s Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul just got better and better the more it relaxed and forget about Breaking Bad.
I must admit at first I was nervous. There were the visual echoes from Breaking Bad – the close ups of making Cinnabuns echoing cooking meth. There as the early cameo from a Breaking Bad baddie. And then there were even the plot similarities – Jimmy McGill being given the opportunity for financial freedom by the big law firm but sticking by his own amoral guns and pride. But as the season went on my nervousness relaxed and the show began to forge its own identity and its own particular delight.
One thing I noticed is that each episode was essentially three scenes. There were scenes around those scenes of course, but there were usually three moments, one of which was extended. The rhythm was different. There was a slow burn that worked well – a narrower more intense experience as if Breaking Bad had been the panorama and Better Call Saul was the sketchbook.
Then there was the shift of focus. Although called Better Call Saul, Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) – the proto Saul Goodman – often gave room to other characters, Rhea Seehorn as Jimmy’s ally/rival, his agoraphobic brother Chuck (a fantastic Michael McKean) and grump-bags Mike (Jonathan Banks) who served up the stand out moment of the whole series. Of course, Odenkirk was magnificent even when called upon to play his younger self in a series of increasingly unconvincing hair pieces, but sometimes with the depth he gave to the character came a paradox. I always thought that Saul – in Breaking Bad – hinted at depth that he resolutely refused to display. Better Call Saul resolutely gave you a sense of how deep Jimmy was, and left you wishing for the more flippant delights of Goodman. By the end of Season One, it has become apparent that the show is to be another character arc of a man behaving badly with his own specific motivations. Now these motivations have been laid out baldly, the arc predestined by the previous show, one hopes that Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould can keep us interested in what we know is going to happen anyway. On the current evidence, I’d say it’s a safe bet.
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