Better Call Saul, Season 1, Episode 1 (Uno), Episode 2 (Mijo).
Before your mind implodes, lets answer the obvious question: Can Better Call Saul maintain or exceed the triumphant standard which Breaking Bad had set?
Since the announcement of the spin-off, fans and critics have pondered about this. Fortunately, the opening two episodes has proven that even when removing appearance of characters Walter White (Byran Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and their electrifying performances, the criminal-fuelled area still functions without our two favourite Crystal Meth cooks.
The series is set six years before the events of Breaking Bad of which we already know. This allows us to really delve into several characters and really discover what helped fledge them into the characters we’ve come to know. Saul was known as Jimmy McGill, Mike appears to merely be working at a car park, Tuco appears more domestic than ever. What happens in between this series and Breaking Bad is mostly left a mystery.
‘Uno’ particularly mimicked the entire atmosphere of the first season of its predecessor. Jimmy McGill is at a degrading and desperate stage in life and attempts to resolve it by earning money. Slow pacing, dark humour and even some menacing aspects all matched the style as we’ve seen in Breaking Bad. The second episode ‘Mijo’ particularly focuses on the menacing moments more, returning the typical hostage-at-gunpoint scene which is more than familiar to existing Breaking Bad fans.
Stylistic choices for the programme which Breaking Bad was known for are also resurrected into the spin-off. Some essentially scream Breaking Bad such as the extreme close-ups as surfaces become scraped and cleaned; whilst other design choices are uniquely brought to the programme. The breadstick scene, for one, is a fantastic example: the dialogue is muted, Bob Odenkirk expresses frustration with his face, yet the repeating sound of the breadstick snapping is the true cinematic cue to indicate just how much Jimmy’s patience and control is snapping. The style is simplistic, elegant yet endearing as it tells the narrative in a new way which something as mature as Breaking Bad never could!
Just how dark and mature Breaking Bad had transgressed throughout the seasons was evident to all viewers (and you thought the bathtub scene was bad!) . When the grim later seasons would fit in a joke , I’d often feel as awkward as Jesse did when eating dinner – whereas earlier seasons the comedy often felt appropriate. Jimmy McGill at this point hasn’t had an enduring darkening effect in his life, which is why the bright high-key lighting, over-the-top comedy and less aggressive plots really work well in the opening two episodes.
At times things did feel too convenient. Jimmy just so happened to be victimised by the skateboarders, they just so happened to be complete Jesse Pinkman counterparts, Jimmy just so happened to convince them to help scam Betsy Kettleman, yet they’ve just so happened to have targeted an elderly woman, who’s just so happened to have been a relative to drug-lord Tuco, who’d just so happened to have been so understanding to Jimmy and let him and the skaters go – at a price.
That’s way too many “just so happened’s”.
Two episodes have gone and there’s still a lot to be explored. Scenes are often slow-paced in order to create tension, even in comedic scenes. ‘Uno’ in fact spent a whole minute establishing a hilariously dark case in a court room, yet slight movements from the court crowd who seemed entertained by watching the case really gave the entire scene atmosphere. Now with characters such as Jimmy, Nacho and Chuck all taking the centre of attention, we’re beginning to establish the start of a could-be chaotic series.
And yes, it will be incredibly difficult adjusting to calling Saul, Jimmy.
+ The episodes have a combined score, as both are truly just the opener for the series.
+ Jimmy appealing to Tuco’s crazy torture methods by agreeing he’s from the FBI was perfect.
+ “You are the worst Lawyer ever” … “I am the best Lawyer ever” : Can we have more Lawyers trained with the ethics of Saul Goodman (dammit, Jimmy McGill), please and thank you!
– The Black & White opening for ‘Uno’ was slightly at an exaggerated length. It went from “this is interesting” to “okay we get it, it’s a stylistic gesture”, luckily the other cinematic moments were more appreciative.