AMC’s “Better Call Saul” opens with a brief glimpse into a period of television history we have had no previous insight to: A post Heisenberg world.
In this quick, beautifully shot, black and white opening sequence, we see the damage that collaborating with legendary methamphetamine cook Walter White , from the show “Breaking Bad”, has wreaked on the life of former lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), who is now in the witness protection program in Nebraska.
Saul, the once supremely confident litigator who would not take no for an answer, has been reduced to working at a Cinnabon and reliving his former glory through bootlegs of his old commercials. However, he is not the only one still dealing with the effect Walter White left on his life.
“Breaking Bad,” which ended in September 2013, is considered by many to be the greatest television drama of all time, and deservedly so. Making a prequel to anything is already a challenging and risky move, but making a prequel to the most beloved TV show of the century is one of the most daunting tasks of all. However, creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould have made a successful return to Albuquerque with a show that takes inspiration from Gilligan’s magnum opus, while also crafting a uniquely fresh production.
The mark of “Breaking Bad” is visible on “Better Call Saul” from the very beginning, but the similarities do not extend much further than visuals and recurring characters. Fans of the former will recognize and welcome many visual techniques used to tell the story, from POV Â like “Breaking Bad”, “Better Call Saul” is also a show about transformation. But unlike Walter White, the audience is well aware of where Jimmy McGill ends up in the end. The only question is, how does a young, well-intentioned defense attorney turn into a criminal mastermind that knows his way around the shady parts of New Mexico like the back of his hand.
Bob Odenkirk does great work in his signature role, bringing a sense of anger and even sensitivity to a character that we’ve mostly seen as heartless and comical and… well, a lawyer. Jimmy still has Saul’s quick wit and nasty verbal bite, expertly demonstrated in his short but sweet encounters with fan favorite Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks).
While not (yet) as tonally dark as its predecessor was, “Better Call Saul” still contains plenty of dark humor and uncomfortable situations elevated by its wonderful lead and marvelous visual style. Only time will tell if James McGill’s transformation will be as epic, wild and downright riveting as Walter White’s was, but with Gilligan and Gould helming these beloved characters, everything should turn out well. In other words: S’all good, man!