Better Call Saul
TV Series Review
You'd expect the titular character in Better Call Saul to be named Saul, right? Yeah, not so much. At least not initially. Long before Saul Goodman ever met Walter White or Jesse Pinkman, back when crystal was what hung from those wagon wheel chandeliers at the Hotel Albuquerque and Blue Sky simply described the weather most of the summer, Saul was known as Jimmy McGill—an attorney with, shall we say, a certain intimacy with legal trouble.
Hey, everybody says to do what you know, right?
Jimmy knows all about the law because he's broken it so many times. He knows the ins and outs of client-attorney conversations from having sat on the other side of the table. Yessir. If you want a lawyer who has experience, few have the sort of experience that Sau—I mean, Jimmy has. And he uses that experience to help his clients out of all sorts of fixes.
Walter White, clearly, wasn't the first guy who broke bad in the American Southwest.
Better Call Saul is a prequel for AMC's grim but acclaimed drama Breaking Bad—plucking from its bleak morass the show's most reliable comic relief (and a few other memorable characters as well). Star Bob Odenkirk was a staff writer for Saturday Night Live for eight years, so instead of succumbing to Bad's suffocating sense of doom, Saul sets out to add a bit of wit to the wickedness.
What's This Medieval Fool doing in Albuquerque?
Jimmy comes in contact with—and often defends—pretty bad people who've done pretty bad things. In the series premiere, for instance, he tries to argue that when his teen clients cut the head off a corpse and then had sex with it, they were simply "boys being boys." And that's just the beginning of the allusions to sex and violence and drugs, of course. Language can be foul, too, including s-words. And believe it or not, Better Call Saul's sense of morality may be even more troubling than its predecessor's.
Like Breaking Bad, Saul revels in the collision of good and evil, sin and moral relativity. Both shows are, in their own ways, dark morality tales. But in Breaking Bad, Walter White grew purposefully less sympathetic as the story unwound. The good man that he once was got torn apart by his own sin and greed and (most powerfully) justifications of both. Then, in true Old Testament fashion, Walter was eventually destroyed by what he did.
We already know that Jimmy isn't on the same trajectory as Walter: He's not a good guy breaking bad, he's a regular Joe who likes to dance on the line between good and bad like a medieval fool. He'll do the right thing and have it come out wrong. He'll do the wrong thing and find everyone's the better for it. He's a slimy, irresponsible cad—but a likable one. In fact, the caddishness itself is part of the guy's onscreen charm. And that, of course, is a problem.
Not Getting Off on a Technicality
Better Call Saul may (so far at least) be better than its forebear, technically speaking, when it comes to raw content—and that's appropriate, given Saul's experience with legal technicalities. But while the show may find a loophole or two, you probably already know in your heart of hearts that it breaks just as bad.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman; Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler; Patrick Fabian as Howard Hamlin; Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut; Michael Mando as Nacho Varga; Michael McKean as Chuck McGill; Mark Proksh as Daniel "Pryce" Marmolt