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Better Call Saul

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Better Call Saul

Available on UK Netflix

Better Call Saul is a mini-series, from the hugely popular US drama Breaking Bad. We discuss whether Better Call Saul delivered the high standards set by Breaking Bad, or fell victim to the “spin-off” curse.

Better Call Saul tells the story of how the crooked “criminal-lawyer” Saul Goodman (S’all good, man!) becomes the loveable, witty character in Breaking Bad. Saul Goodman is a reoccurring character but not the centre of attention in the series. I, for one, welcomed a mini-series based on this character as he was always entertaining and had the depth-of-character required for a separate series.

How it begins..
The series starts with Saul hidden under an alias – looking similar to Brother Kip from Napoleon Dynamite. We know Saul has the connections to fully “wipe” a person’s life clean to start anew from a plot in the Breaking Bad series. An inquisitive start to the series, shot in black and white – possibly to suggest past tense. We are then watching a quiet court room, in which Saul Goodman is doing his best at defending a group of teenagers. It’s an entertaining sequence and a strong example of why this character deserves a mini-series.

As the story progresses..

We regularly see Saul at work in a small court, doing entertaining defences of small criminals. It’s clear he is a small-time lawyer, attempting to work his way up to independence and larger clients (for example, using a tacky British accent when answering the phone; to give the impression he has  British secretary). It’s fair to say the first episode lays strong ground; new and integral characters are introduced throughout the episode, however they aren’t fleshed-out or developed until later in the season. As a result, the first half of the series feels slow in progression and the viewer can feel slightly lost (who is this character and why do we keep seeing interactions with them?).

After several episodes of introducing important characters and laying down the story Better Call Saul begins to drag, character development is slow and the dialogue-heavy episodes aren’t hugely engaging. However, we are regularly teased with the presence of Mike; we recognise Mike from Breaking Bad as Saul’s ruthless assistant. Mike and Saul only recognise each other through Mike’s job as a parking attendant; how do these two begin work together and why is Mike in this line of work, we ask.

The latter half, the better half..

From Episode 6, “Five-O”, Mike’s story is told. Five-O is very entertaining, interesting and strongly written. It’s odd that the Better Call Saul series progresses dramatically after this episode; the writing becomes stronger and engaging, the production and camera techniques are brilliant and the characters start developing. Once you’re over half-way through this mini-series it’s fully revealed why this show was made and why it’s certainly worth watching. It’s best described as a character drama as the show uses dialogue and character development to it’s strengths. Don’t watch Better Call Saul expecting guns, explosions and “I am the one who knocks” quotes but expect the brilliant character development seen in Breaking Bad, particularly the first two seasons.

 Overall

Better Call Saul doesn’t use it’s relation to Breaking Bad as a crutch, it uses clever references and teases from it’s parent show but works strongly as a stand-alone series. Viewers will benefit from having seen Breaking Bad but it doesn’t feel integral to enjoying the show. Saul Goodman is an entertaining character, Bob Odenkirk’s acting is spot-on throughout the series and his delivery is always realistic yet entertaining. Whilst the first half begins to drag, by episode 6  the writer’s fire up their skills and the series becomes a must-watch.