Where to go after you created one of the best – if not the best – TV show ever made? That’s a question Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan must have spent quite some time pondering about. And what he came up with was Better Call Saul. It’s a spin-off, but not one like we’re used to seeing. Normally, spin-offs are an easy way to cash in on a show’s success by making something similar to the original. Of course, it’s never as good as the original, but the network can be reasonably sure that the show will already have a following before the first episode even aired. Think NCIS, NCIS Los Angeles and NCIS New Orleans. Who knows, NCIS Mars could be next… they did find water there, right? Surely, they’ll need a Naval Criminal Investigative Service at some point!
Better Call Saul on the other hand is really good. It’s different than Breaking Bad though. That’s for sure. We all know the Saul the title refers to. It’s every criminal’s favorite sleazy lawyer, Saul Goodman (brilliantly played by Bob Odenkirk). Except in this prequel, Saul Goodman still goes by his given name, James McGill. And James McGill is down on his luck.
He wants nothing more than to become than to become every bit as successful as his brother Chuck (Michael McKean), a once brilliant lawyer. Instead, McGill spends his days taking care of his brother, who has become housebound after developing a sudden sensitivity to electricity. When he’s not doing that, he’s trying to make a name for himself as a public defense attorney who works out of the back of a nail salon. Is all this about to change when he accidentally stumbles upon the biggest case of his career? Well, we kinda know where he ends up eventually, but it’s still every bit as riveting to watch.
Just imagine for a second that Better Call Saul doesn’t have any links to Breaking Bad. You’d end up with a well-written and awesomely acted show about a lawyer who’s torn between being really good at doing the right thing and being really good at being the charming, fraudulent sleazebag that he was growing up. While trying to balance these two sides of his personality, he goes through quite a lot. This includes an attempt to gain a client that nearly gets him killed, some questionable activities during an embezzlement case, specializing in elder law by accident and getting acquainted with a parking attendant called Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks). Name ring a bell? Yeah, exactly.
It’s things like that that make you remember this is not a stand-alone show. There is a link to Breaking Bad. And I for one can’t wait for more episodes that will show us just how James McGill eventually turned into Saul Goodman and ended up involved with Walter White.