Skip to main content

Watchlist: "Better Call Saul," Season 1

Never in history has an ambulance-chasing, two-bit, name-on-the-back-of-a-matchbook type lawyer seemed so likable as Jimmy McGill, a.k.a. Saul Goodman (s'all good, man!). But then, Season 1 doesn't get into the real sleaze. Instead, Season 1 is focused on Saul's rise from a petty swindler, to law firm mail boy, to actual, functioning, and not even really that sleazy lawyer.

For those who don't know (and there can't be many of you), Better Call Saul is the prequel/spinoff show following the exploits of Walter White's infamous lawyer from the T.V. show Breaking Bad: Saul Goodman. Saul was such an incredible character that I guess the only logical thing to do was keep him "alive" via a spinoff. Or else Bob Odenkirk (who plays Saul) just pulled the right strings. Somebody probably knows this, but I don't. Why a prequel? Probably because, if you remember, at the end of Breaking Bad Saul has to go into hiding, like everyone else who was involved with Walter White, and thus the "interesting" part of his life was likely over....or was it??? Since Better Call Saul starts with Saul working in a Cinnabon in Nebraska, we can guess that, at least for now, the answer is Yes.

S'all good, man....
But the magic of Better Call Saul is not its tendrils of connection to to Breaking Bad (and there aren't too too many early in the season); the magic of Better Call Saul is Saul himself. Just like Walter White, Saul Goodman is a flawed but likable man with a singular obsession. Walter White's was being the kingpin meth cook and making money, Saul Goodman's obsession is -- at least initially -- to become a serious lawyer and be respected. At heart he's a two-bit swindler, but his efforts to be taken seriously and build a serious law practice, all while taking care of his shut-in brother, make him an extremely endearing character. Who could not like a guy with Saul's persistence, hustle, optimism, and unquenchable desire to succeed? Hell, Saul Goodman is the American dream!
in the show) to its big brother,

If at times Saul veers too close to coming off as a plucky, goody-two-shoes who just wants to get ahead, we are consistently reminded of his past as the swinder known as "Slippin Jimmy" back in Chicago, and a lot of his current-day shenanigans are less than what you might call scrupulous; he stages an accident and "saves" someone on video in order to gain notoriety. Turns out his past as "Slippin Jimmy" just will not die.

Saul Goodman and his future button man, Mike,
way back when...
Another great feature of the show is the presence and back-story surrounding Mike Ehrmantraut, the former Philadelphia cop who, in Breaking Bad, is employed as Saul Goodman's "button man," doing favors and shaking people down for money, but who, in Better Call Saul, is a lowly parking garage attendant who menaces Saul with his scrupulous demands that Saul get his parking ticket validated. Ehrmantraut's grandfatherly look combined with his stoic efficiency as a tough-guy, his resourcefulness, and single-minded loyalty to whomever he's working for make him at least the second best character in BCS if not tied for first with Saul. I can't wait to see Saul's and Erhmantraut's paths cross again on the wrong side of the law that Saul straddles.

Season 2 starts Monday, so there's still time to binge-watch Season 1 on Netflix. Come on. I know you don't have Valentine's Day plans.....do it!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

New Yorker Fiction Review: "The Apologizer" by Milan Kundera

Issue: May 4, 2015

Rating: $$

Review: It took me five years and three separate attempts to finish Milan Kundera's famous novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, but in spite of that, quotes and insights from that book still rattle round my head on a weekly basis. What I mean to say is: my feelings on Kundera are very similar to my feelings on Haruki Murakami. I enjoy reading his work, but in small doses, like this short story.

Like Murakami, Kundera uses elements of magical realism, but where in a Murakami story you might encounter a flying dolphin or a disappearing hotel or a person who has lived his whole life in the same room, refusing to leave, Kundera's magical realism offers more direct insights and perspective on real life.

In Kundera's worlds, time and space are malleable and everything that ever happened in history is happening at the same time, and the narrator is a completely omniscient, caring, witty, and hands-on god-like being.

And so it is with "The Apo…

New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "Meet the President!" by Zadie Smith

Each week I review the short fiction from a recent issue of The New Yorker. If you told me when I was 12 that I'd be doing this I'd have been like, "Dork. There's no such thing as blogs," and I'd have been right...

Issue: Aug. 12 & 19, 2013

Story: "Meet the President!"

Author:Zadie Smith

(Please note: I've developed a highly sophisticated grading system, which I'll be using from now on.  Each story will now receive a Final Grade of either READ IT or DON'T READ it. See the bottom of the review for this story's grade...after you've read the review, natch.)

Plot: Set in England, far into the future (lets say 2113) a privileged youth of 15, named Bill Peek, encounters a few poor villagers from a small, abandoned coastal town on the southeast shore. He meets a little girl named Aggie, who is going to her sister's funeral. Peek is cut-off from real life by a sophisticated video game system that is implanted in his head, therefore th…

A Piece of Advice I Learned From My Grandfather

My grandfather was one of the most learned men I know. He read widely and voraciously, and not just in the sciences (he was a doctor); he loved politics, philosophy, and great literature as well. Whenever he finished a book he would write his thoughts about the book in the front cover and then sign and date it. To this day every once in a while I will open a book from my bookshelf or my mother's bookshelf, or at one of my family members' homes, and there will be my grandfather's handwriting. He was also a great giver of his books; if you remarked that you liked a particular one or wanted to read it, you were almost sure to take it home with you.

Reading is a very solitary pursuit but my grandfather was not a solitary person. He relished having family and friends around him which is convenient because he was blessed with a lot of both. And he carried out his intellectual life in a very "public" way as well. He was, in some ways, an intellectual evangelist. If he r…