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Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul  

When the TV phenomenon Friends came to an end, I was devastated, and I missed it terribly. It was this devastation, coupled with the free time that one gets while waiting for exam results, which led me to watch Joey, the Friends spin-off that picked the life of Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc) up from where Friends left. I was quite excited about the show, given that Joey was my favourite character in Friends, but hardly a few episodes in, I found myself wishing that I had just stuck to watching reruns.

A spin-off more or less ruins the original show for me. There is something so unimaginative and bland about them that watching a spin-off, when there’s plenty of fresh content on television, feels like a criminal waste of time. Naturally, when Better Call Saul, the spin-off to Breaking Bad was announced, I neither had expectations from it (despite the fact that it was going to be directed by Vince Gilligan himself), nor any intention to watch it. Then, one very dull evening, I gave in to Better Call Saul.

The show’s undercurrent is the same as Breaking Bad’s — good men in a bad world. In Breaking Bad, Walter White, a chemistry teacher who gets cancer, turns to drugs to support his family. We saw him make his way through it all, not knowing exactly how things would turn out in the end. In Better Call Saul, however, there is no suspense because it is a prequel, and the story of how Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk), a small-time defence attorney, ended up becoming the despicable and widely hated lawyer from Breaking Bad.

Jimmy McGill, a one-time scam artiste, is now a struggling defence attorney, who works out of a makeshift office housed in an Asian salon. He defends a variety of criminals, from drunk drivers to men who commit armed robberies, to students who decapitate the head off a cadaver in the biology lab because they thought it was fun. After one particularly trying day, he goes back to his scamming roots to procure a client, only to get caught in the middle of a vicious drug circle ruled by a brutal overlord. Walter White and Jimmy McGill are both men who were pushed to the corner by circumstance, men who had no choice, but the difference between them is that Jimmy is a natural fraud who has to try really, really hard to be good.

Unlike Breaking Bad, whose slow, tedious first season nearly made me give up on the show, Better Call Saul is interesting right from the start. You want to know Jimmy better, you want to know why his brother walks around wearing a blanket made of aluminium foil, and you want to know what happened between him and his ex-girlfriend, who he still has a soft spot for. The characters in Better Call Saul are also very oddball, and very original. In many ways, it’s unfair to call Better Call Saul a spin-off to Breaking Bad — I would call it a companion show because although there is some reminiscence to Breaking Bad here and there, it stands on its own. Vince Gilligan hasn’t just taken a hit show and spawned something new; he’s also made sure that it won’t be overshadowed by its predecessor.

There are ten episodes in the first season, where each episode is about forty-five minutes long. Should you watch it? If you are already a fan of Breaking Bad, then it’s easy — you will thoroughly enjoy Better Call Saul. If you haven’t watched Breaking Bad, I would recommend Better Call Saul anyway. It’s interesting, it’s funny, it’s dark, and it’s unlike anything else on television right now.

Better Call Saul is presently being telecast on Colors Infinity.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2020 5:13:32 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/radio-and-tv/television-series-spinoffs/article7565935.ece

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