“Breaking Bad” spin-off “Better Call Saul” premieres on AMC next month, and it’s everything you could possibly want from a spin-off of the hit series — musical montages that pull at your heart strings, cameos from some of your favourite Albuquerque natives, and plenty of Saul trying to talk his way out of trouble.
We’ve previewed the first two episodes of the spin-off series featuring lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), and it’s hands-down one of the best mid-season premieres we’ve seen so far.
There’s an incredible amount of payoff for fans of the original series with subtle nods and references to the parent show.
For those of you who may be groaning and rolling your eyes, don’t worry. The show doesn’t overdo it. If you’re not looking for the references, you most likely won’t even see some hidden in plain sight.
It is absolutely imperative that you do not miss the first minute of the series. “Better Call Saul” opens with a brilliant black and white sequence. It may throw you off at first, but once it’s revealed where the scene is heading, fans are going to lose it … in a good way. I cannot emphasise how much I’m looking forward to fellow “Breaking Bad” fans’ reactions online, so don’t tune in late.
The series itself follows Saul in 2002, six years before he has ever met Walter White and before he’s the big-shot criminal lawyer we’re introduced to in “Breaking Bad.” There’s no trace of sidekick Heull and Goodman’s not driving around a fancy Cadillac DeVille (though there’s a nice reference to it in the opening episode that fans will notice).
Instead, Saul is a down-on-his-luck lawyer just trying to get by. He’s not the most confident, cocky counselor we’re accustomed to seeing. He doesn’t even go by Saul Goodman at this point. He’s just Jimmy McGill, a lowly lawyer hungry for clients, who drives around a Toyota Esteem.
Odenkirk never misses a beat. He’s so energetic as the spritely McGill, you could just sit and watch him talk the entire time he’s in a courtroom, hashing it out with twin teenage boys, or trying desperately to save his own skin. You don’t even need to know what he’s necessarily rambling about because, to be honest, no one else probably does either.
Here’s a line of dialogue from him as he’s representing a young teenager:
“Do you remember 19? Let me tell you. The juices are flowing, the red corpuscles are corpuscling. The grass is green, and it’s soft, and summer’s going to last forever.”
Do you know what a corpuscle is? McGill’s talking about red blood cells.
It’s Saul’s usual bull, filled with grand hand gestures and priceless facial expressions, but it’s not winning over many at this point in his career.
One of the best parts of the premiere is a reintroduction to former characters like Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), Gus Fring’s right-hand man on “Breaking Bad.” Mike is still the sarcastic, wise-cracking curmudgeon fans love, but instead of waving around a gun, the former Philadelphia police officer is working as a pretty harmless parking lot attendant at the local Albuquerque courthouse.
He and McGill go back and forth a bit in the premiere, and we look forward to seeing their inevitable future interactions on the series.
More interesting, are the glimpses of Jimmy McGill’s backstory and his relationship with his older brother Chuck (Michael McKean), who is suffering from an illness.
It’s easy to see from the pilot that “Better Call Saul” (BCS) is going to be a show about the rise and fall of Jimmy McGill, as much as its parent series is about the rise and fall of meth kingpin Walter White.
So it makes sense that the show not only feels a lot like “Breaking Bad,” but also looks a lot like it. Gorgeous visual shots take you back to the streets, deserts, and skies of Albuquerque, New Mexico (especially in episode two). Some of the shots literally remind us of scenes from “Breaking Bad.” (Sorry, no screengrabs.)
We know from “BB,” creator Vince Gilligan has a way with close-up montages. Expect to see more of those on screen from sweet treats getting baked in black and white to tomatoes getting sliced and diced.
The first two episodes also feel eerily similar to the several early episodes of “Breaking Bad” content wise. In “Breaking Bad,” Walt and Jesse take a man captive, tie him up in a basement, and then discard of his body. No one dies in the first two episodes of “BCS,” but the parallels between the openings of the two series is a little uncanny.
That’s both good and bad. Since it’s a prequel series, you know the stakes are a bit lower for some characters — Mike’s not going anywhere — yet, “BCS” still has the ability to fill you with excitement and laughs at one moment while tearing the rug out from under you so that you’re rocking back and forth in your seat a bundle of anxiety-ridden nerves. Still, in some ways, it slightly feels like something we may have seen before.
Does the pilot episode stand up to that of “Breaking Bad”? No, but, to be fair, I don’t think many opening premiere episodes do.
The premiere is a little slow at points, but when Jimmy runs into two young teens who try to scam him out of $US500, the action starts to pick up and the final minutes of the premiere will have you glued. The very final shots of the episode will make you wish you didn’t have to wait an entire day to see what happens next.
It will be worth it. The second episode, which airs the following evening, is pretty much non-stop action. I can’t say much about it without spoiling anything, but there’s one repeated word that should quickly catch on and be a big hit. You’ll know it when you hear it, and it’s sure to be all over Twitter.
“Better Call Saul” premieres on AMC Sun., Feb. 8 at 10 p.m. before moving to its regular timeslot Mon. Feb. 9 at 10 p.m.
Watch a trailer for the series.
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