This prequel to Breaking Bad is like the less violent, dark comedy step-brother to the original show, only this time the titular character isn’t a mild-mannered chemistry teach but rather a conman. So it’s Breaking Badder or Breaking More Bad but with a lot more farce.
SPOILERS but of course
For the most part I think Better Call Saul succeeds, both as a prequel and as a standalone show. I think you could watch this, without having seen any of Breaking Bad and enjoy the show on its own merits, and that is about as big a complement I can give a prequel.
The show is much more a (dark) comedy than the original. It is also far less violent and far easier to watch. both in terms of the tone and in terms of the tension. (This is still a tense show at times but nothing like Breaking Bad.)
The cast is excellent, it feels just as realistic as the original and, like the original, it has a great sense of place. There were only a few moments when that immersive feel real people in a real place was shattered. Across six seasons, that’s pretty impressive.
I thoroughly enjoyed the show, for the most part, and I’m glad I watched it. It was refreshing to watch it season after season – often a year or two part or more – and have this reliably good show to watch.
You can probably sense there’s a but coming. And there is.
I didn’t really like final season. Well, really the end of the final season. First, it felt like it was a separate season, tacked on the sixth. (It could have easily been a movie too.)
But my bigger problem is similar to that I had with the ending of Breaking Bad, though my dislike of it is far less extreme. Needless to say
Just like in Breaking Bad, our (anti) hero is on his way to his doom. But then, at the last moment, he decides on a final act of contrition to spare the the person he loves (son he never had in Breaking Bad, ex-wife in Better Call Saul). This conclusion is far less violent, but is not much less unsatisfactory. Jimmy is about to pull one last con, nearly getting away with murder. But the filmmakers can’t commit to it, just like in the original. And so he does something out of character. And the audience feels better. Just like if Walt had died alone in a cabin, and Jesse had never been freed, Jimmy serving 1/10th of the sentence, never making it up to Kim – or Chuck – and left alone with that would have been much more fitting.
That wasn’t the only thing that bugged me. The return of Walt and Jesse felt extremely fan-servicey, as did the reappearance of Chuck and Mike getting some more time. I’m particularly unsure as to what Walt and Jesse bring, beyond connecting the show more to the original, which seems unnecessary to me.
But, on the whole, I thought it was great. And it feels like a good warm-up for the original for anyone who didn’t watch it at first and wonders whether or not they can handle it. As this show ramps up – and more and more people start dying – you get some of idea of where this is going (which is a bit of a neat trick).