The Cultural Column: Better Call Saul 2 Episode Premiere

Many avid fans of Breaking Bad, including myself, were left a little lost when the series reached its savage climax back in 2013. Hence, when the show’s producer and writer Vince Gilligan announced that he had yet more stories to tell, the internet exploded. But somehow we all forgot about this pretty swiftly.

Now, however, the time is suddenly upon us and a brand new series is here. Better Call Saul follows one of Breaking Bad’s lesser (albeit more comical) characters, crooked criminal defence lawyer Saul Goodman. Taking its name from Saul’s own cringe worthy catch-phrase, the series hasn’t come without its doubts, particularly the focus on a relatively minor character.

Despite this, comedian Bob Odenkirk plays a Saul (or James…) that we haven’t seen before: a scruffy public defence lawyer, with an office reminiscent of Harry Potter’s bedroom, and a ‘trash can’ kicking habit. The similarities with early Walter White are not unclear.

In fact, Breaking Bad makes its presence known throughout, from cameo appearances by much loved characters to a subtle yet well placed health-insurance joke. On the whole comic relief is well distributed throughout, and it’s the same dark quirky humour we’ve come to expect from Gilligan- no bad thing.

From the off, fans are rewarded with a brief and moody glimpse of Saul’s life in the aftermath of the Walter White fiasco. This is, however, a prequel and we’re quickly sucked back to an earlier timeline in which this new story is set.

For the majority of episode one, the viewer is forced to interact with Odenkirk’s character at a level of intimacy that we’re far from used to. It becomes apparent that there are layers to Saul that we’ve never seen before and we gain a strange respect for Saul when he proves his prowess as a slick talking professional (if a little slippery). Equally, Odenkirk shows himself to be a master, particularly in the opening scenes of episode two.

Admittedly, it’s a slow start, but the first hard hit of jeopardy is all the richer for it. Not wanting to reveal too much, the final scenes of episode one are disturbingly familiar and as thrilling as always. Episode two capitalises on this, with one of the best ‘edge of your seat’ ‘nail biting’ scenes that I’ve seen since… well since Breaking Bad.

Having raised a number of questions that are sure to go unanswered for many episodes to come, Gilligan has once again left me pining for my next hit.

Who is Chuck?

Is Jimmy “in the game?”

Is this the new Breaking Bad?