Looking for a new show? Better Call Saul!

Assistant Lifestyle Editor

 

It was the show nobody wanted to see end, so the masterminds behind Breaking Bad invented a new beginning.

Since the shocking series finale in September 2013, fans have been patiently awaiting another fix from creator Vince Gilligan. Their answer came in the form of a two-part premiere on AMC Feb. 8 and 9 when the Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul made its television debut.

The show flourishes on its own rather than trying to piggyback on the success of its predecessor as so many other spinoffs have done.

There are nods to Breaking Bad, of course, with guest appearances and even full-time roles from former cast members. The show also features a unique soundtrack and an-all-too familiar camera technique.

However, the series’ creators are careful not to alienate viewers who may be tuning in for the first time, which suggests the show might be able to find its own path.

The premiere episode began with a black-and-white look into the future.

Saul Goodman is shown working at a Cinnabon in Omaha, Nebraska, some time after the events of Breaking Bad.  He is balding and noticeably on edge while going through the motions at work. At home, he pours himself a drink and puts in a VHS tape of his old television commercials, which ends with the familiar slogan “Better Call Saul!”

The show then jumps to roughly six years before Saul met Walter White. The viewer is introduced to Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk), a small-time Albuquerque lawyer trying to make ends meet by taking cases as a public defender. McGill, who hasn’t yet reinvented himself as Saul Goodman, is the focus of this new series. He is broke without any clients and desperate as the bills begin to pile up.

A pair of skateboarding hustlers tries to cheat McGill out of $500 by staging an accident, and he sees an opportunity for some quick cash. He recruits the two teens to execute the same plot on one of his potential clients. Things go horribly awry, and Jimmy finds himself being pulled into Tuco’s (Raymond Cruz) house at gunpoint, a cliffhanger which was resolved in episode two. The psychotic drug dealer from the second season of Breaking Bad proves to be an exciting start to the show’s cycle of fate and bad decisions.

McGill’s actions in the second episode were painful to watch because the audience already knew after the first six minutes of the premiere the battle for his soul would ultimately be lost. Perhaps even more importantly, some viewers are familiar with his story’s entire final act. Knowing all of this made me wonder: has the show already revealed too much of the story? It may be too soon to know for sure, but if the first two episodes are any indication, there is no need to panic.

Odenkirk demonstrates his immense skills as an actor yet again. Gilligan and co-creator Peter Gould portrayed Jimmy as an impressive lawyer who pleads his case in front of the camera almost as frequently as he does toward a judge or jury. The character that was often used in small doses for comic relief during Breaking Bad develops into a desperate man trying to make ends meet for himself and his older brother Chuck (Michael McKean).

Chuck is a far more successful lawyer at the distinguished Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill firm. He is out on an extended leave of absence while battling an unnamed psychological condition that prevents him from leaving his house but intends on making a full recovery.

Two episodes in, Better Call Saul has taken some of the best aspects of Breaking Bad and used them to its advantage. The writing is dark but funny at the right times, and the acting is superb. Old characters make it familiar, while the plethora of new faces gives the show an identity of its very own.