Better Call Saul has become a rare example of a spinoff that actually lives up to its main series.
When Better Call Saul was announced, I was just as skeptical as everyone else. As great as Saul was in Breaking Bad, I really didn’t have any clue how this series would go. I mean, Breaking Bad was entirely about an illegal drug ring that Saul had almost zero attachment to. So if Saul’s backstory was going to be completely disconnected from Breaking Bad’s core, would it be interesting enough to justify an entire show? The answer was an overwhelming yes.
The absurdly good writing and cinematography from Breaking Bad translated over to Better Call Saul immediately. There was never a period where you looked at Better Call Saul and questioned what it was about or had to acknowledge that it was finding its footing; you knew the deal almost right out of the shoot. It took a few episodes to introduce new characters and establish exactly what was going on, but the show took off from that point and hasn’t slowed down.
The primary storyline of the series, obviously, is Jimmy McGill’s rise from struggling lawyer to Saul Goodman. We learn all of these different details about who Saul is and where he came from. Saul didn’t just start off as a criminal lawyer with all of these connections at his disposal; he had to build up to that. Little throwaway lines or the tiniest of details from Breaking Bad are routinely brought up in Better Call Saul and it creates a seamless connection between the two series. While these sorts of things are really nothing more than little easter eggs, they do serve a purpose in connecting the stories. But the primary focus of Saul’s background is the relationship with his brother.
Jimmy’s older brother Chuck is, in a word, a jackass. Chuck is a lawyer who has effectively dedicated his entire existence to upholding the law and looks down on Jimmy not only his troubled past, but for cutting corners to get into the practice of law. On the face of it, Chuck is entirely right about Jimmy. He knows what Jimmy is all about and everything he ever says about Jimmy is pretty much entirely accurate. But at his foundation, Chuck is a genuine asshole. He actively works against Jimmy and he refuses to stop at any point short of destroying his brother’s career as a lawyer. The conflict between Jimmy and Chuck has flared up at points throughout the show but we finally received the payoff. In last night’s explosive episode, Jimmy and Chuck finally had their showdown in the courtroom. The slow burn that has been the Jimmy vs. Chuck conflict was not only riveting to watch play out, but it sucked you in like a black hole once it reached its climax. But Better Call Saul hasn’t abandoned all of the characters and stories from Breaking Bad.
While we’ve had little cameos throughout the series, major characters have big storylines alongside Saul’s. Mike Ehrmantraut has been a main character on Better Call Saul since episode one. We’ve seen how Mike and Saul met each other, how their working relationship developed and now we’re seeing how Mike got involved in Gustavo Fring’s drug ring. Jonathan Banks has stepped right back into the role of Mike and has been every bit as good as he was in Breaking Bad. An episode entirely centered around Mike, like season one’s “Five-O,” can carry the show just as well as an episode entirely centered around Jimmy does.
While Better Call Saul is named after Saul, it’s truly a prequel story about all of Breaking Bad’s biggest characters and is very much a show about several different storylines running alongside each other, not just one in particular with a couple side stories.. We’re starting to see how Saul came to meet characters like Francesca and Huel, how Hector Salamanca ended up in his wheel chair and how Gustavo Fring became the dominant kingpin in Albuquerque. All of these characters from Breaking Bad have interesting backstories and make Better Call Saul as captivating as it is. Better Call Saul has done a tremendous job explaining the backstory of the characters in Breaking Bad not named Walter White or Jesse Pinkman in a way that feels organic.
I’ve said it for a while but I have no doubts about it now, Better Call Saul is the best show on tv right now. The cinematography was an enormous strength of Breaking Bad and it’s every bit as good in Better Call Saul. The writing is fantastic. The acting is unbelievable. Everything that made Breaking Bad the greatest tv show I’ve ever watched has translated perfectly to Better Call Saul. I’m not a huge fan of the concept of spinoffs in general because spinoffs are just never as good as the main series. Spinoffs always feel like a cash grab with over-the-top fan service or they are lacking in an area that makes them impossible to live up to the main series. If you’re going to make a spinoff, you better have the appropriate materials and production team to do it or you might as well not even bother. Any series looking to head into spinoff territory (*ahem* Game of Thrones) should look at what Vince Gilligan has done with Better Call Saul as a perfect example of what a spinoff should be like.