Season 2 of Better Call Saul is one week away from wrapping up and it’s been another excellent season, improving and expanding the world of Jimmy McGill, whilst remaining as deft as Breaking Bad at its best.
If you haven’t seen it, though, whatever you do, don’t go into Better Call Saul expecting Breaking Bad. That’s a number one crucial error. Very broadly speaking, Breaking Bad is a show about crime, Better Call Saul is a show about Law and it’s these differences that set the shows apart and make Saul as relevant as it is.
Within a handful of episodes, Saul has evolved from a potentially unnecessary prequel to something exceedingly necessary, not because of its relation to Breaking Bad, though it also bore the same qualities, but because of its pace.
I’ve seen some people say that Saul is slow or that knowing where a couple of the characters end up takes away the tension but I completely disagree. It’s a testament to the genius minds of writers Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould and their creative team that Saul is one of the best shows on TV.
They give the show it’s space, trusting the audience to be patient by playing the long game and allowing ample breathing room for characters and things to happen naturally. I’d be happy to sit and watch these characters talk for hours and still be engaged.
Forget that we know who Jimmy becomes and that Mike won’t be dying anytime soon, instead, engage with the people themselves, their nuances, their foibles. Watch them evolve. These performers are the best in the business and subtlety is their greatest strength.
You may think that there is no tension in watching two characters you know won’t be dying yet talk, well then you’re dead wrong because the richness of their future is being determined right now. We know Saul becomes a sleazebag lawyer but right now he’s an honourable man, so, how can it not be fascinating to see his painful descent.
Also, we have so many characters whose fates aren’t yet determined. Kim, Chuck, Nacho. There’s more than enough cannon fodder for the coming seasons which makes it all the scarier when Kim is easily one of the best written female characters on TV.
This slow burn is what we need more of on shows, I firmly believe that action and consequence need to be earned on a TV show, through well-crafted characters and storytelling. Just imagine if we had got Ozymandius without caring about Jesse, Hank or Walt and hadn’t spent hours of watching the delicate drama unfold before us.
There are whole scenes that take their time for one small moment and I love the attention to detail that it allows. You mix that with the stunning cinematography and every scene feels like a mini movie.
This is none more reflected than in the latest episode, Nailed, which builds tension throughout only to release it during the final shocking scene of the episode.
This is what Better Call Saul is accomplishing, it’s taking it’s time, building up the characters, telling its own stories in its own ways. I love seeing these people live and struggle and fight and burn, their journeys keep me watching week after week and if or when we get to another Ozymandius then I’m gonna love the writers even more because they took the time to tell the story right and we’re better off for it.
So don’t go saying that it’s slow or nothing like Breaking Bad because it’s meant to be.