September 29, 2013. I remember sitting in my brother’s living room. The Patriots had just beaten the Falcons on Sunday Night Football and I was staying extra late – because on that night we were saying goodbye to Breaking Bad. I remember seeing this final shot.
It was the end of an era. The end of an amazingly written and acted piece of television – and it was all over. Or was it?
A few months earlier, we were starting to already hear rumblings of a possible spin-off. A spin-off? To one of the greatest shows ever? Can you do that? The answer was yes. But can it possibly be any good?
The answer – is a huge yes.
I’ve been a big fan of Bob Odenkirk going all the way back to his HBO show Mr. Show with Bob and David (Cross). I know those two didn’t like how “Run Ronnie Run” (the Mr. Show movie) came out – but I love it and still quote it – even though mostly nobody knows what I’m talking about.
I was a late-comer to Breaking Bad, having watched the first 3 seasons on DVD and on-demand before being caught up for season four. I know that Bob Odenkirk was a part of the show, but I was very happily surprised to see how much a part of the show he was AND just how frigging great he was on the show. He was both parts funny/likable and smarmy/hate-able. He was basically perfect and I loved every time I saw him on screen.
So when I see that the Breaking Bad spin-off, with BB creator Vince Gilligan, is going to be a prequel starring Bob Odenkirk, I was immediately certain that I was going to love it. Then add BB alum Jonathan Banks (Mike) – and comedy legend (and Smallville alum, yes I chose Smallville) Michael McKean as Odenkirk’s older brother? How could I not love it? How could it not be great?
And of course – what else could you call it, but “Better Call Saul” – really, what else?
“If I’m lucky, a month from now, best-case scenario, I’m managing a Cinnabon in Omaha.”
Those were the last words spoken by Saul Goodman on (the second to last episode of) Breaking Bad. And what’s the first thing we see?
I have to admit, this threw me off for a second – but I love stuff like this. I love television that doesn’t explain things to you like you’re a dumb-dumb. Instead it tells you a story that allows you to figure things out for yourself. My first thought was – this is where Saul got his start? I didn’t remember the line in BB, but it was seeing his thinning hair that clued me in. Saul is older here. This…This is the future! Or actually – this is the present!
It was at that point – even though I was convinced that I was going to love this show – that I knew for fact that I was right.
2 minutes in I already love #BetterCallSaul
— Mikey C. (@mikey_c) February 9, 2015
After seeing what became of Saul Goodman – he’s surviving, but he’s living in fear. He’s hiding in fear. And he now goes by Gene. But he hasn’t left his old life completely behind. On that particular day, the man we knew as Saul Goodman, thought a guy at his Cinnabon recognized him. You have to wonder, does that happen a lot? That night, he pulled out an old VHS and (after closing the blinds and making sure nobody was outside) reminisced about his old days while watching old commercial spots for his law firm.
Again you have to wonder – does this happen a lot? It was at this moment that the show jumped back to what will be the main timeline of the series – but I wonder if we’ll see any of this current day again? I know I’ll be looking out for any future Black & White moments.
Meet Jimmy McGill
The Saul Goodman we know is no more – or actually, it’s more like he’s “not yet.” Instead we are introduced to struggling attorney James McGill – a lawyer forced to take cases where teenagers sexually assault corpses, or to basically “ambulance chase” a couple, hoping so badly to sign them just because he needs the money so badly.
And his office? Yeah, it’s more like a room hidden away in the back of a nail salon. That would be a perfect office for some small crime organization – but for a seemingly honest lawyer trying to find his break – it’s just sad.
So sad that he’d preferably meet potential clients in a familiar diner than have them in his office – and of course he’s his own secretary (hearing the voice he put on brought me back again to his Mr. Show days).
I thought perhaps his money problems were over once he opens a letter and finds a check from an HHM law firm in his name for $26,000.
I’m thinking – okay this is a settlement for something in the pass we’ll learn about – and this is how he gets his start.
And then he rips it up.
Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill
We come to find out that HHM stands for “Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill” a big time law firm. Did Saul…sorry – did Jimmy work there at some point? Was it maybe his father’s firm and Jimmy is the prodigal son?
Close. We learn that the M in HHM is for Chuck McGill – Jimmy’s brother – played by the comedic legend (go ahead, try telling me that the lead singer of Spinal Tap is not a comedic legend) Michael McKean – and the check is the firm’s way of trying to pay off Chuck and cheat him out of his rightful share of a firm he helped build.
It seems fairly evident that Chuck has had some sort of mental breakdown, and even though he claims that he will get better, it seems that Jimmy has his doubts and hopes that Chuck cashes out and gets on with his life.
That subplot I think will become the overarching backbone plot of at least the first season of this show. But when Jimmy and Chuck did have their few moments together, Chuck let it be know that HHM is now happy with Jimmy using the “McGill” name to promote himself – even though it is his name, Chuck seems to side with HHM and suggests a few new names for the firm.
I think we know the name he’ll eventually go with.
I thought Michael McKean was fantastic in the few minutes he was on screen – I just can’t say enough good things about him. And even though his character tells his younger brother that the “money is besides the point.” We know that for Jimmy – the future Saul Goodman…
Money is not beside the point. Money IS the point.
Earlier in the episode Jimmy runs into a set of skateboarding twins who did their best to try to scam him into giving them money by having one of them basically skate right into his car.
While Jimmy didn’t fall for it – he saw an opportunity that might be possible with the help of these two and later gets them involved in a similar scam. This time the mark is one half of the couple he met earlier in the diner. The couple that wouldn’t take his business but he later found at HHM seemingly signing with them.
His big scam – have himself drive by seemingly a random witness to the accident, and comforting her (and scaring off the twins) to the point where she can’t do anything BUT give him their business.
And everything with the plan SEEMS to go perfect…
Except of course it doesn’t. The car takes off and flees from the scene. The twins go from victim to predator as they hitch onto a truck and chase the woman down. Jimmy goes from concerned bystander, there to help the wife, to big time injury lawyer, there to pursue the wife and help the twins. Of course the twins realize they don’t need him and don’t let them know exactly where they are going.
And when the twins get there, they find who they assume is the woman that Jimmy targeted. They don’t realize that this little old lady is NOT who Jimmy thought they were chasing. But they didn’t know so they went with her into her house.
We’re not entirely sure how much time passed between the twins going in that house and Jimmy finding it. It probably wasn’t too long since he knew the road they last mentioned and he was trying that little piece of crap car as fast as it probably would go.
But when he does finally find the house.
I think we’re going to see a lot of Jimmy/Saul getting into trouble – trouble that he probably brought on himself, in addition to some bad luck. And he’ll have to rely on his quick-talking to get himself out of it. And here I am thinking, who is this little old lady pointing a gun at our Saul – you know, Jimmy…
Oh it’s Tuco. Of course it’s Tuco.
Final First Thoughts
Love, love, love it. So well acted and so much fun. It really had that Breaking Bad vibe, but still with it’s own unique feel. I am so happy that we only have to wait a few more hours for the next episode – because AMC has done it again and given me another “must watch show”
My final grade: A+ (seriously, I loved it that much)