Film & TV

TV Review – Better Call Saul, First Impressions

Better Call Saul is a spin-off show which chronicles the misadventures of lawyer James McGill, latterly Saul Goodman, in the time before, during and after Breaking Bad. For anyone who hasn’t seen the acclaimed original series, BB centres on a unfulfilled high school chemistry teacher, Walter White, who begins manufacturing crystal meth with ex-student Jesse Pinkman, initially in order to fund expensive cancer treatment. Saul Goodman is the lead characters’ dodgy lawyer who effectively covers them legally whilst taking a healthy slice of the profits from their sales of crystal.

Bob Odenkirk is the actor behind McGill/Goodman and was consistently treated to some of Breaking Bad’s best lines. It is little surprise that he became a fan favourite and a spin-off was commissioned as a result, with the episodes releasing each week on Netflix in the UK after their US broadcast on AMC. Better Call Saul begins in 2002 when McGill, whilst possessing the wits and humour we all know and love, was only a lowly public defender who barely makes enough to survive day-to-day.

Odenkirk has slid easily back into the character’s oily shoes, and right from the off we feel at home; he haggles, bullies and negotiates his way to outrageous settlements for small-time felons, though the first few episodes have also hinted at a larger game being played. A couple of cameos from familiar faces have already cropped up and some very dangerous people have now crossed paths with the titular attorney. Something wicked is most certainly coming this way.

In fact, much of Better Call Saul feels like Breaking Bad but in the strangest way. The setting, New Mexico, is the same and obvious parallels are drawn there. But also the cinematography, most notably Vince Gilligan’s beloved POV shot, is very similar to the original show. This is no bad thing but it is certainly a surprise. And in terms of tone, whilst Bad had a rather definitive move from humorous to serious mid-run, BCS appears to be integrating the two with gallows humour seemingly the order of the day. Overall, these are pleasing developments as the show has obviously not forgotten its roots but is also evolving into its own beast.

Something wicked is most certainly coming this way

Already there is much to be excited about just five episodes into this opening season with another five on the way. How will McGill become Goodman? Will we see interactions with Breaking Bad’s main characters that have been previously hidden? Where did the character go after the cataclysmic events of the former show’s finale? With Odenkirk obviously very at home in the character, some interesting plot points already being fleshed out and a comfortingly familiar art direction in place, things are very much looking up.


Tom Welshman

Watch new episodes of Better Call Saul when they are released every Tuesday on Netflix UK. All previous episodes are also currently streaming.

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Film & TVTV Reviews

Writer and Editor for the Film & TV section of Impact, Bharat is a keen previewer, reviewer and sometimes just viewer, of all things cinematic and televisual, with a particular passion for biographical pictures, adaptations and sitcoms.

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