Let’s retire Better Call Saul’s ‘spin-off’ label. Sure, in it’s nature, that’s what the show is. But unlike other TV spin-off’s that are just ‘extra’ episodes that degrade the original show, Better Call Saul has significant promise as a standalone series that could come to rival it’s predecessor.
From the very beginning, the show returned me to the universe of Breaking Bad. Not in the obvious ways of reviving characters and settings, but through the subtle cinematography and script writing of Vince Gilligan. The camera focus changes and the interesting angled shots are quite unique to Gilligan’s shows. This artistic and cinematic experience that begun with Breaking Bad is now continuing with Better Call Saul, once again proving that television can be as good, if not better than films.
The acting, so far, is great. I don’t think anyone will be able to top Cranston’s portrayal of Walter White, but Odenkirk already in the first few episodes forms far more depth in the character of Saul Goodman than we ever see in Breaking Bad. Moving away from just comic relief, Saul is now a darker version of his false identity, and Odenkirk finds the balance between these two personas very well. Hopefully he will continue this standard to give Jimmy McGill a Walter White-like descent into the criminal world.
The humor in Better Call Saul is really well done. The show isn’t a comedy, but the occasional funny moments are quite akin to what was done in Breaking Bad. The dark, witty wordplay made me laugh quite a few times at Saul’s… sorry, Jimmy’s lines, with the subtlety of the script writing shining through.
The music by Dave Porter once again really adds to the engrossing cinematic experience of the show. The musical choices are reminiscent of Breaking Bad, but are moulded in a very different way to form a lighter tone in some of the more comical moments. The weird and wonderful musical montage songs are back (starting in the first scene), which brings us back to Walt and Jesse’s cooking (Crystal Blue Persuasion, anyone?).
Gilligan and Gould start the story with quite a lot of missing context surrounding Jimmy’s brother Chuck and his law firm. Although this may be confusing in the beginning, I later realized this was intentional. Instead of just spitting out the back story in unnatural ways, the writers make you think about the situations, and gradually piece together what happened before the events of the show. This widens the whole show’s time-frame, instead of just being self-contained. The brief flash forward to the fragmented Saul Goodman after Breaking Bad was amazing. I really hope that the writers continue to play around with time, shifting between past and future guises of Saul Goodman.
These thoughts are only from seeing the first few episodes of Better Call Saul. However, the show has a lot of promise to extend and become MORE than just a spin-off of Breaking Bad. The show feels individual, but also leaves enough Breaking Bad in there to keep us from leaving the world of Albuquerque that we have grown to love.