Following the success of Breaking Bad, creator Vince Gilligan created this spin-off/prequel. Focusing on Saul Goodman, Walter White’s shady ‘criminal’ lawyer, the series shows him from his origins as Jimmy McGill, known as ‘Slipping Jimmy’, a two-bit hustler from Illinois, and his attempts to become a prominent lawyer in Albuquerque, New Mexico, following in his brothers much regarded footsteps. The process, Jimmy finds, is not easy, and involves him utilising many of the skills of his past in order to carve out his future.
Like its predecessor, it features a mix of relatable yet unusual characters in escalating scenarios. It also has a more consistent quality than Breaking Bad, with each episode having a solid plot while being heavily interconnected to the overall story arch. Jimmy is also a more charming character. Where Walter White’s musing shifted between the melancholic and triumphant with manipulative intent, Jimmy provides a smooth, enjoyable rhapsody. You know he’s playing you, but with a tune this enjoyable why stop dancing? Comparisons will continue to be made with its parental series, but Better Call Saul is best thought of as a companion piece. Where Breaking Bad focused on change, on Walter’s complete transformation from “Mr Chips to Scarface”, as Gilligan described it, Better Call Saul focuses more on stasis, on the inability to escape ones past and completely transform oneself. Jimmy quickly realizes that his future is not reliving his ‘Slipping Jimmy’ days nor in becoming a pillar of the legal community like his brother, but an evolution into something altogether unique.
Highly enjoyable viewing with great dramatic heft and engaging dialogue, Better Call Saul is not just a good spin-off, but a great television series.