Header image courtesy of TV Insider.
If you have been experiencing a terrible longing for the extensive, gripping, mind-altering affliction that was the viewing of Breaking Bad, believing it unparalleled by anything on television since, as many often do, you have probably overlooked its far lesser-known counterpart show. Better Call Saul, renewing for its final season sometime this year, is the most intelligently crafted show I have ever seen. Breaking Bad fans who have overlooked it are missing out on a television experience that is just as engrossing but far more rewarding, and for the right reasons.
Also created by Vince Gilligan and Peter Vaugn, Better Call Saul is tragically underrated due to the population’s natural and warranted skepticism of spinoffs. The higher the quality of the original television product, the higher the hostility seems to be towards anything produced in its wake. We are all too familiar with the ache of realizing a highly anticipated sequel to something held dear was simply a final cash grab before oblivion. Better Call Saul shatters this routine entirely.
The show reveals the pre and post Breaking Bad life, as well as inner life, of Walter White’s beloved lawyer known as Saul Goodman. Throughout the Breaking Bad run, Saul, whose birth name is revealed to be Jimmy McGill, served as the primary vector for comedic relief and satirization of salesmanship and lawyerdom. However, he lacked any emotional depth, and the portrayal of his life was limited to his interactions with Walt. Not only does BCS attempt a far deeper look at Jimmy, it attempts an entirely different tone than its predecessor, with an amount of subtlety, sensitivity, and eclecticness that cannot be found in Breaking Bad.
Better Call Saul adheres just enough to the realities of Breaking Bad, retaining characters like Mike Ermhentraut, Gus Fring, and Nacho Varga, while still ingeniously creating an entirely separate world of its own. This new world centers around Jimmy’s never ending and viciously painful war with moral ambiguity, and his relationships with characters Kim Wexler and Chuck Mcgill. Kim serves as Jimmy’s highly intelligent apologist who cannot fall out of love with him despite her horror at his frequent missteps. Chuck is his older brother who, unlike Jimmy, was once a hugely successful hotshot lawyer prior to slipping into grief ridden mental illness.
Between attempting to stay on solid footing with the beautiful and earnest Kim amidst a mountain of half-truths, and simultaneously taking care of and resenting his highly judgemental and incapacitated brother, Jimmy confronts each new business venture, however lowly, with his trademark disarming charisma and offbeat sense of humour. And despite Jimmy being funnier than he ever was on Breaking Bad, it won’t be possible to laugh at him the way you used to. The tradeoff is worth it though. Breaking Bad had higher highs and lower lows than imaginable, hence it’s eternal watchability, but BCS inhabits the space between with so much wit, originality, tangible sorrow, and perfection of character, that it’s undoubtedly the more significant of the two.
“My brother is not a bad person. He has a good heart. It’s just he can’t help himself. And everyone’s left picking up the pieces,” says Chuck. A primary difference between the viewers’ relationship to the protagonist in Breaking Bad and BCS is this: Walter destroys, and because we know deep down that he loves to do it, we revel in the horrific aftermath. Jimmy destroys, and because we know deep down that he never meant to do harm, we squirm in agony watching his world crumble around him. While the first scenario is shocking and entertaining, the second scenario is poignant and raw. We see ourselves in Jimmy so much that it’s painful. This is why you need to give Better Call Saul a chance.