Since it’s inception, Better Call Saul has always had the same question looming over its head; Is it as good as it’s predecessor?
Over five Seasons on AMC, Breaking Bad managed to tell incredibly deep stories about tragic characters and their screwed up situations, most of which happen in the real world – except for maybe the plane storyline. At the end, the show received a countless amount of awards, perfect scores and reviews heralding the crime drama television series as one of, if not the greatest, shows of all time.
One of those morally flawed characters was Saul Goodman (It’s all good man), a crooked Lawyer that was a fan favorite from the start. Goodman’s charm and candor played a pivotal role in Breaking Bad’s success, as the show invested time into creating captivating side characters to interact with Walt and Jesse.
A question on a lot of viewers minds was how exactly do you tell a story about a pre-established character when, for the most part, you know how things are going to end up? The answer is you don’t, in a way.
Breaking Bad never really delved too deeply into our favorite skeezy lawyers past, so there was a blank slate. With that, they created a whole new character, Jimmy Mcgill, someone who had family and friends – something Goodman was never really seen to have, just clients – even if they were a bit distance.
Instead of more hijinx as Goodman, Better Call Saul is telling the story of Jimmy’s evolution into that character that he created in Breaking Bad. About two full seasons and two episodes in, it’s clear as to why he created the persona of Saul Goodman. While it’s revealed Jimmy has always been a bit of a bad, but clever, egg, the prequel details the events leading up to that transformation (majorly) in the form of conflict between himself and his older brother.
As a younger brother myself, I can relate to looking up to an older sibling as a role model, and thirsting for their approval similarly to that of a parent – especially considering their parents are both gone in Better Call Saul. I can also understand the burden of the situations that Chuck has put Jimmy through, as detailed throughout the seasons, and why he acts the way he does. The deep and heartbreaking dynamic to their relationship is one of the most relatable displays of family strife I’ve ever seen on television.
Alongside the relationship between the brothers, the dynamics between Jimmy and the supporting cast is also what makes this show great. Most importantly is his relationship with Kim Wexler. Romantic relationships generally tend to feel forced in most television shows, like the two are together, apart or end up back together for the simple sake of the fact that it’s written in the script. The chemistry between the two is natural, and it makes their bond feel legitimate. Kim also feels like her own character, not one that exists simply for the sake of a romantic interest.
That can be said for each of the co-stars of the show, as Chuck, Kim, Harold and Mike Ehrmantraut ect. have such fleshed out and intense personalities and stories, that they quite literally take over the show as the most interesting aspect most of the time.
This applies to all of Better Call Sauls minor recurring characters as well. Be it between his clients, the awkward teenage camera he hires to film his commercials, or Francesca fresh out of the DMV, each interaction between them and Jimmy has its own unique sense of charm. Not only do these build solid side characters, they are also vital spoke in the wheel of Jimmy’s transformation.
Better Call Saul is a lot like Breaking Bad in its development of these characters, in the sense that while Walter White is the star of the show, his character, and his story is only the sum of its parts. Honestly, that is one of the driving reasons I believe the prequel even has the chance of eclipsing Breaking Bad, not only because of the template the show set for those developments but obviously from the carry over of pre-established relationships.
The hindsight of knowing these characters already, if only in a future form, is fascinating because it allows viewers to try and see what had to happen for that character to wind up the way they did in the future. This isn’t exactly easy though, and the show does a marvelous job of creating unique situations without milking things they’ve already found success with in Breaking Bad. Knowing exactly what’s going to happen in the future also makes a makes a lot of the situations that occur in Better Call Saul far more interesting as well. Seeing Gus and Los Pollos Hermanos in “Witness” (Season 3 Episode 2) wouldn’t carry the same ambiance and menace that it would without knowing just what transpires there and who the owner really is from the events of Breaking Bad. Yet the characters in the show are blind to it all because they haven’t lived it yet.
The creators not only had the ability to use the template of what the characters will become in Breaking Bad, they also have the advantage of knowing with characters fans love from it – which is the whole reason Saul got his own show in the first place. This allows for Mike Ehrmantraut investigation scenes and Jimmy’s shady lawyer tactics to even take place because the focus group that is Breaking Bad displaying they can be successful and worth taking the risk, and eventually flourishing.
Last but not least there’s the tease of not only seeing important characters appearing in the show from Breaking Bad but the ability to see what transpires after the events of it. When Saul Goodman is last seen at the end of the first series, he is on the run after Walt is revealed to be Heisenberg, making him an accomplice. Better Call Saul reveals Goodman works as the manager of a Cinnabon and offers a glimpse into his miserable future at the start of some of the episodes. There is no doubt that the series will continue to, and hopefully eventually revolve around, the events taking place after Breaking Bad, answering questions not only about Jimmy but the fates of Walter, Jesse and everyone else.
As much as I’ve had the morbid curiosity of knowing what happens to the Breaking Bad characters after the show ends via watching Better Call Saul, the show created even more desire to have different questions answered about Jimmy/ Saul’s future. What turned Jimmy into Saul. Where are Chuck and Kim? What happened to Jimmy’s cocobolo desk?!
Those characters, their relationships, the relatability of it all – coupled with the thrilling aspects of the drug trade, corruption in the law and other taboo elements – and the building blocks established by Breaking Bad are why I think Better Call Saul will surpass Breaking Bad by the end of it’s run.