What makes a good spin-off series? Replication? Filling in the gaps? For all the great TV spin-offs (Frasier, Angel) there are many bad ones (Joey) and they each display different ways of getting the job done. Frasier discarded practically everything about its originator, Cheers, and did its own thing, taking the character to the other side of the country and even changing up the way it did its jokes.
Angel did something similar but doubled down on its shady moping, something which suited the character and took the Buffyverse into brave new worlds.
Better Call Saul was always going to be a massive risk. Breaking Bad is generally considered to be one, if not THE, greatest TV show of all time and a spin-off in which we already know where the characters are going was always going to be a tricky prospect. Yet in two seasons it managed to prove, irrefutably so, that it was more than capable of not only filling the ample shoes left by Walter White and co but doing so in a way that was very much ‘it’s own thing’.
Many have criticised Saul for its slow pace, at times moving in incremental steps, but it’s the deliberately slow burn of the narrative that is what makes it enthralling and far from just residing in Breaking Bads shadow. Creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould know what they’re doing and they understand that, considering we already know where the characters are going, that it’s not the where they’re going that is interesting but rather how.
Season 3 picks up from the end of season 2 as Chuck hides a recording device to implicate Jimmy and Mike tries to figure out who followed him to the desert. It’s a smart little season beginning and follows the slow burn philosophy to a T. It’s simply fascinating to just watch Mike (Jonathan Banks) piece things together one by one as he races out of the desert, rips apart his car, discovers a bug in the gas cap, buys a replacement tracking device and sets a trap to find his watcher.
We already know who it is but it’s still exhilarating to watch him piece it together, particularly when he’s just sitting at his window in silence in the dead of night
The way each scene plays out is calm but brooding and even as
Jimmy Saul Gene mopes about in his melancholy monochrome future it bristles with an intoxicating atmosphere that feels rich and explosive.
There are not many shows that can really do quiet so well as Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul and if you consider this show to be boring then, believe me, I can’t wait to be bored for another nine episodes.