Better Call Saul — Killer TV No 26

HERE’S the latest in our series of Killer 50 crime dramas…

AMC, 2015–

‘Let’s just say I know a guy… who knows a guy… who knows another guy.’  – Jimmy McGill aka Saul Goodman

Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Rhea Seehorn, Michael McKean, Michael Mando

Identikit: the Breaking Bad prequel/spinoff following the early years of conman-turned-lawyer Jimmy McGill


 

logosWHO WOULD have thought writer-producer-director Vince Gilligan could have created a second richly rewarding series when he spun-off this drama from Breaking Bad, following the latter’s finale in 2013? The idea of a new show based on BB‘s shyster lawyer Saul Goodman, a bit of light relief amid Walter White’s mayhem in the original, seemed to promise little more than a diverting sitcom about the scamster’s courtroom shenanigans and chintzy lifestyle. But Better Call Saul actually delivered a whole lot more – thrills, laughs and pathos. Gilligan explored the hinterland of this supporting character and came up with a superb drama in its own right. For starters, Saul Goodman was, you will remember, a name adopted because the guy sensed clients would prefer a Jewish lawyer. We find out how he went from being Jimmy McGill, or conman ‘Slippin’ Jimmy’ of Cicero, Illinois, to a qualified lawyer in Albuquerque, eventually handling Walter and Jesse Pinkman. This is all set in 2002, six years before BB. Along the way are frightening moments as we renew acquaintances with nutters such as Tuco (Michael Mando), find out that Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonanthan Banks returns to the role) had his reasons, and meet Jimmy’s mentor and brother, Chuck McGill (Michael McKean). This relationship is the emotional heart of the story, and it’s a heartbreaker that makes Jimmy’s propensity to break bad himself seem most understandable. Vince Gilligan again shows his eye for the dark and surreal details amid the everyday and conjures up scenes of blinding tension. And at its heart, Bob Odenkirk proves himself a compelling leading actor in a difficult role demanding a performance that switches from slick and funny to vulnerable in quick succession. It was nominated for seven Emmys, and picked up two Critics’ Choice Awards (Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks). It will be returning for a second series in February 2016.

Classic episode: A standout is Five-O (episode 6), which actually focuses on Mike Ehrmantraut, showing him to be a hardcase with a heart, as well as revealing Jonathan Banks’s secret side as a bloody good actor.

Watercooler fact: Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman in BB) was in ‘serious talks’ about an appearance in Better Call Saul, but this all came to nothing.

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