The black and white cold open to AMC’s Breaking Bad spinoff shows Bob Odenkirk’s seedy lawyer Saul Goodman sadly working the Cinnabon counter in a mall, sporting large glasses and a mean ‘stache. Saul is on edge, paranoid about an intimidating person in the store. At his home, he drinks scotch and anxiously looks out the window. Saul pulls out an old VHS tape and pops it in to the television. The tape is a series of ad spots from his old profession. He watches the tape glumly until it cuts away to the title card. And that’s it. The first scene Breaking Bad fans get after a year of withdrawal from the mythos they fell in love with. It is simple but all too gratifying.
Then, without giving us so much as a beat, we’re on our way, delving into Saul’s story six years before the events of the show’s predecessor. Saul, at this point known as James M. McGill, is a nervous lawyer, practicing a speech in the bathroom while a courtroom waits his appearance. Nervous as he is, he bursts into the courtroom with the smarmy charm that Breaking Bad fans know all too well. McGill is kind of a wreck. He answers his phone, posing as his own secretary. He takes any case that he can get (like, defending a group of necrophiliacs who videotaped their grotesque acts). He isn’t quite the shady character that he plays in Breaking Bad, but he is well on his way. That being said, there is a clear human side to McGill that is an interesting change of pace from Bad’s Saul.
The first notable scene is McGill’s first encounter with Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), a pivotal, stoic character from the later seasons of Bad. It is a funny, if not somewhat awkward, scene. I am slightly worried that Vince Gilligan (co-creator) may be attempting to force Banks’ character into the show for the sake of further linking his two shows, perhaps because it seems strange to make a spinoff on one of the more cursory characters of the original show. Personally, I love Odenkirk’s character and hope that this show will give Odenkirk the opportunity to flourish in the portrayal of Saul’s past self.
There is less opportunity for Odenkirk to show off his comedic chops in Better Call Saul. In the premiere, the lawyer has to deal with his lack of success and his brother Chuck (Michael McKean), who lost his job due to the contraction of a mental disorder. This is unfortunate, as Odenkirk is a comedian by trade (and a damn great one, at that). But this doesn’t make Better Call Saul a bad show. The premiere is substantial, albeit slow. Once the stage is set, I’m sure the show will pick up speed.
I hope this show will be good. God, I hope so.
As always, thanks for reading!
Did you watch the Better Call Saul premiere? If so, what did you think? Do you think it will live up to Breaking Bad? Or do you think it will fail? Let me know in the comments!
–Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)