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Saul Good, Man: A Look At “Better Call Saul”

Photo Courtesy of Gadge Skidmore

“I’ve done the right thing all these years, and where has it gotten me?” Jimmy McGill confesses to parking attendant and soon to be “cleaner,” Mike Ehrmantraut. 

“No more respecting the rules, no more doing the right thing. Whatever it is, it’s never stopping me again.” 

And with that, the many fans of Walter White — known better as Saul Goodman — has officially started his way down the road to breaking bad.

When the prequel spinoff of the wonderful and critically-lauded “Breaking Bad,” “Better Call Saul,” began production, many fans were cautious. Sure, most everyone from the original series would be on board, but with “Breaking Bad” finishing up at the perfect moment, was it really necessary to jump back into the seedy underworld of Albuquerque? Little did anyone know, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to Saul.

Starting six years before the beginning of “Breaking Bad,” “Better Call Saul” follows the origin story of Jimmy McGill, the sleazy and charismatic lawyer that Walter White seeks aid from. 

However, things certainly aren’t as good now as they will be in the coming years for McGill, as the start of the series has him struggling to make ends meet as a public defender for the people that no other lawyer will help (i.e. they are guilty as hell). 

Taking care of his brother Chuck, a fantastic lawyer turned housebound mental case, and begging his ex for the occasional insider info, McGill is desperately trying to better himself from his former days as conman “Slippin’ Jimmy.”

Things take a wild turn though, and over the course of the show’s first season, Jimmy gets involved with a family on the run with millions in embezzled money, and later discovers a massive fraud case at a nursing home. From there, a bumpy road with kingpins, brotherly infighting and more lie ahead, which all result in Jimmy feeling worse than when he started. Despite his good intentions, he’s led to pursue a far shadier path in the future. 

While all this might sound eerily familiar to anyone who has watched or heard about “Breaking Bad” and Walter White’s moral decline, it is anything but. Sure, the surface level descriptions of McGill and White may seem alike at first glance, the fact that Jimmy tried to better himself, only to be again shunned by those closest to him makes him a much more sympathetic and interesting character. 

Those who have no idea about “Breaking Bad” are in luck as well, as “Better Call Saul” also has proved to be a fantastic entry point for those new to the wild world of criminals and meth dealers. While there are two other recurring characters from “Breaking Bad,” one only serves as a quick cameo, and the other, Mike Ehrmantraut, gets much more backstory to his own character — like his old policeman days — that fans of the original series would find very interesting, but won’t alienate new fans. 

“Better Call Saul” is also fairly confident in its own right, immediately jumping out of the award-winning shadow of “Breaking Bad” to blaze its own path in television history. While the legal angle obviously differentiates it a good bit, its lighter and more humorous tone, a result of the title character’s dry sarcasm and wit, makes it stand out completely from Walter White’s tragic fall.

Whether you are a fan of “Breaking Bad” or not, there is very little excuse to miss out on “Better Call Saul.” 

With the first season already on Netflix and the second season just starting up, there is plenty of time to catch up on the series. You may already know where Jimmy ends up in a few years, that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy one of the best shows on television right now. 

Saul may not be good in McGill’s life, but man, does it make for good entertainment.   

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