Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Better Call Saul Episode One Review

I freely admit I was nervous about Better Call Saul, a spin-off program derived from the Breaking Bad character Saul Goodman (played by Bob Odenkirk). Spin-offs have had mixed results on television, and that kind of track record left me skeptical about this shows chances for becoming something notable, especially since, if it was truly a stinker, it might tarnish the legacy of Breaking Bad, one of the greatest television programs of all-time.

For some reason though, it hadn't connected to me until the opening that this show inherited many of the people that made Breaking Bad such a wonderful success, including Vince Gilligan, the creator of that aforementioned show and who writes and directs the very first episode of Better Call Saul. Having that kind of talent onhand is very reassuring, especially since the first few minutes of the show reminded me of something I always loved about Breaking Bad; the music choices. As a melancholy tune plays over Saul Goodman adjusting to his new life after the final episodes of Breaking Bad, it all came back to me how good that now cancelled TV show was, and how maybe, just maybe, this show was in pretty damn good hands.

Of course, as one would expect, nothing in this first episode even begins to approach the quality heights of Ozymandias, but it does a solid job of establishing the world of Saul Goodman way back before he even had that name (he goes under the name of Jimmy McGill here). It also helps show why Saul is such a compelling character in his own right; a courtroom scene in an early part of the show doesn't show him as a some sort of "hilariously" inept lawyer, but rather, a showman who can weave a tale like few can.

Of course, having that kind of talent doesn't get him out of the major financial problems he's currently facing, and him looking to sort out those quandaries help give the viewer a glimpse at the various characters that inhabit the world of Better Call Saul. I particularly liked Chuck McGill (Michael McKean), Saul's brother, whose an inverse of Walter White from Gilligan's previous TV show. Both characters face life-threatening diseases, but whereas Walter embraced the possibility of death and used that as an excuse to start his meth career, Chuck believes he can defeat his ailments. It's an interesting duality, but McKean lends a vulnerability to the character that makes him shine on his own.

Of course, as the episode winds down, a bit of a cliffhanger is presented that confirms that the more serialized storytelling found in Breaking Bad will once again be on display here. That's fine by me though; this pilot certainly gives future episodes some very interesting things to work with. Doesn't hurt that all the plot and characters are depicted by way some impressive directing and writing that do tell me that my skepticism may have been misplaced. Alright Better Call Saul, to quote Leonardo DiCaprio, you had my curiosity...but now you have my attention.

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