Strong debut for ‘Better Call Saul’

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Strong debut for ‘Better Call Saul’

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This past Sunday, Feb. 8, the most-watched premiere of all time debuted on AMC. The show was “Better Call Saul,” a spin-off of – and prequel to – the channel’s megahit “Breaking Bad.” This two-and-a-half-hour-long premiere was split up into two days, the first being Sunday and the second airing Monday, Feb. 9.

Like its predecessor “Breaking Bad,” “Better Call Saul” focuses on an anti-hero, this time James McGill (Bob Odenkirk), who became “Breaking Bad’s” sleazy lawyer, Saul Goodman.  In “Breaking Bad” he is portrayed as a shady, sarcastic, con-man lawyer who will do anything for a check. Because of this, his character comes across as a trope and culmination of society’s dislike of the law profession. In “Better Call Saul,” McGill is far from the confident Goodman “Breaking Bad” fans came to love. He lives paycheck to paycheck, working as a public defense attorney, while helping support his sick brother. The over-the-top charisma of Odenkirk in his role really sells his character’s humorous depiction of the very ordinary life of a public defender.

The style of the show really shows off the free reign that creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould were given after the wild success of “Breaking Bad.” “Better Call Saul” has yet to prove its own style, though it’s fair to assume that the show will rely heavily on symbolism, as did its predecessor. So far, we’ve been shown use of black and white filters, creative camera angles and sporadic pacing. Overall, the premiere displayed similar cinematographic elements to the series “Mad Men,” blended with the narrative style of “Breaking Bad.”

The narrative and great character development are the key driving forces of the show so far. James McGill is a lovable anti-hero that any underdog can relate to. Every opportunity that he seizes goes wrong, only for him to use his cunning rhetoric to talk his way out. This is what separates the show from “Breaking Bad.” Instead of a hardened and silent protagonist who isn’t afraid of using violence as an answer, we are given a talkative pacifist who, while not always a truth-teller, would rather use his words than a weapon.

The first night of the premiere was based heavily on setting up McGill’s (who will later become “Saul”) monotonous everyday life, and the struggles he faces as he must support himself and his mentally ill older brother, Chuck. The chuckles that the audience gets from watching his struggles is very telling of how we deal with our own everyday lives and what we would like to do about it if the world were fictional. I was surprised that there was almost no violence the first night of the premiere, only to find that the visceral nature of the creators’ style was in store for Monday night’s continuation. Bones are broken; blood is spilled; typical AMC.

The main takeaway from the premiere is that we will be watching the story of an everyman making a name for himself, both metaphorically and literally, through any means possible. This is a great time to start out on a brand-new show that is popular from the get-go.