Essential TV: Better Call Saul

MV5BNjk5MjYwNjg4NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzAzMzc5NzE@._V1_Better Call Saul is a spinoff from the acclaimed and wildly popular AMC television show Breaking Bad. Better Call Saul is the backstory of James “Slippin’ Jimmy” McGill who was introduced in the second season of Breaking Bad as money-laundering-lawyer Saul Goodman (played by Bob Odenkirk.)

As the series starts, Saul has made good on his promise to relocate from New Mexico to Nebraska and become a manager of a Cinnabon. He is shown constantly looking over his shoulder to see if the long arm of the law is coming for him. These scenes are set are in the present and shot in black and white to contrast with the the flashback to Saul’s beginnings in Albuquerque. The black and white scenes occur after the events detailed in Breaking Bad.

In the past (now in color) and six years before the events in Breaking Bad, Saul’s origin story starts with him as James McGill, esq., a newly minted lawyer struggling to make ends meet. He works out of a cramped office/washroom in the back of a nail salon. He takes low-paying public defender jobs, defending low-lifes and other bottom-feeder criminal types. As it turns out, he is very good at his job, but it doesn’t yet make him an appreciable amount of money.

Using a flashback within a flashback trope, the series slowly reveals Saul’s beginnings as Slippin’ Jimmy, a low-level con artist and grifter in Chicago. The show effectively details Jimmy’s metamorphoses into Saul Goodman

Characters from Breaking Bad make appearances in Better Call Saul; McGill comes across Tuco (played by Raymond Cruz), the crazed, drugged out meth dealer through a scam gone wrong. Predictably, things go very bad for those who cross Tuco. Saul/McGill shows his prowess as a lawyer in talking Tuco out of executing two hapless accomplices in the scam.

The real standout is the development of McGill’s relationship with Mike “Badass Grandpa” Ehrmantraut (played by Jonathan Banks). At first they can’t stand each other, but after reluctantly working with each other, they slowly develop a grudging respect. Mike’s backstory as a dirty cop is fleshed out as well.

Worth a look if you liked the Saul Goodman character from Breaking Bad.

Skip it if you don’t like ethically-challenged lawyer shows.

Click on the following link to place a hold:

Better Call Saul

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