What can be said about Breaking Bad that hasn’t been said already? The story of a chemistry teacher’s downward spiral as he makes meth to support his family proved time and time again to be captivating, canny and creative. It brought forth hours of entertainment, some of the most iconic scenes and quotes in television history and a wild and wonderful cast. It ended on a perfect note, and yet, when it finished, it left a hole in our hearts that couldn’t quite be filled. The world of Breaking Bad didn’t go away for very long, however, as today, the first episode of its spin-off Better Call Saul hit Netflix. While it may be too soon to say whether or not it’s as good as its predecessor, its first episode is still an enjoyable experience, and leaves the audience wanting more.
Walter White and Jesse Pinkman were two of the most compelling main characters to star in a series, but their supporting cast were just as intriguing (with the possible exception of the breakfast-loving Walt Jr., with many fans saying his baby sister Holly and Hank’s mineral collection were more interesting characters than he was). One of the most memorable and funniest characters they encountered was the criminal lawyer (and criminal lawyer) Saul Goodman and Better Call Saul details how he ended up as Walter White’s cohort.
The first episode may open with an epilogue of sorts for Breaking Bad, the majority of the first episode “Uno” takes place six years before that series, and from its first scene, it exhibits the dark humour and spirit of that series without feeling too much of a rehash. Saul, named Jimmy McGill back then (Bob Odenkirk), is defending a trio of boys in court, saying, come on, we all did stupid stuff when we were nineteen. Then he sees what those boys actually did, and it’s classic.
Better Call Saul has many of the best elements of Breaking Bad; like that show it makes 50 minutes fly by and its ending leaves you dying to know what happens next. Some familiar faces show up, and elements of the show will easily be recognised but the spirit of the original is kept without it feeling too much like re-treading old ground.
Odenkirk shone in the original series as Saul Goodman and here he shines again, getting several nice little moments like talking to himself in the bathroom before going to the courtroom and pretending to be his own secretary while on the phone. The other characters, including Saul’s mentally ill brother and a pair of skaters, are also endearing, and a certain character from Breaking Bad makes a special appearance at the end. Thankfully, the episode isn’t dominated by references to the previous show, and thus, the first episode of Better Call Saul is more entertaining than the first episode of Gotham.
A spinoff for a show as brilliant as Breaking Bad has a high bar to cross, but Better Call Saul reminds viewers of why they loved Breaking Bad so much while being entertaining in its own right. I have high hopes for future installments.