WHERE would it be now if Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould had continued with their original plan to make their Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul (Netflix) a half-hour comedy instead of a drama?
who knows? Probably not at the start of the sixth and final season of a series that has gradually grown to match the one that spawned it.
Although Saul Goodman, aka Jimmy McGill, usually acted next breaking Bad To comic relief, the decision to tell the story of a crooked man’s evolution in a straight-forward manner – but with regular bursts of humor – was absolutely the right one.
It’s hard to believe these days that the idea of giving Saul his own show was initially met with some apprehension, given the number of failed spin-offs of hit shows that have littered television history.
Mind you, we wouldn’t be here at all if star Bob Odenkirk hadn’t survived the massive heart attack he suffered while filming in the New Mexico desert last summer.
That close touch with death – which knocked Odenkirk out of action for a while and, he admitted, made him reflect on the pace at which he’d lived his life and become acutely aware of his mortality – as well as the delay at the shooting caused by the Covid pandemic means it’s been a long road to get to Saul’s final chapter.
Or rather, half the last chapter. This is the longest season yet, 13 episodes instead of the usual 10, and so on Breaking Bad, It will be split into two parts, with the last six being held back until July.
Judging by the two episodes that arrived on Tuesday (the rest will be released weekly), Gilligan and Gould, who each wrote one episode, clearly have no intention of rushing things à la the last, botched season of game of Thrones.
They deliberately keep the pace throughout, carefully building this final section of the story piece by piece. It is a testament to supreme confidence in the material and full confidence in the audience’s patience and intelligence.
In a break from tradition, the usual black-and-white opening flashforward with Saul/Jimmy, now going by the name Gene Takavic, who runs a Cinnabon branch in Omaha, Nebraska (a fate he ended up bleakly prophesying for himself Has breaking Bad) and there is no need to constantly look over his shoulder at his past to catch up with him.
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In its place is a long, hypnotic sequence shot in slow motion and set right after the events of breaking Bad but before the “Gene” era, shows movers clearing Saul’s palatial home of all his and his wife Kim Wexler’s (Rhea Seehorn) belongings: clothes, furniture, pictures, jewelry, luxuries, everything.
In a final humiliation, a life-size cardboard cutout of Saul is pulled out of the pool and casually tossed into a dumpster.
Then it’s right back where it left off two years ago. Despite the long break, the collection is handled smoothly.
After the raid on his home that turned into a bloodbath, Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton), leader of the Juarez Cartel, is presumed dead but very much alive and seeks revenge on the man he knows is him arranged: Nacho (Michael Mando), who has been forced to go on the run and spends much of the opening double bill hiding in a dark, dingy motel room.
Parallel to the Cartel Wars storyline keeping Mike (Jonathan Banks), Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) and Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) busy, it looks like this final season’s big engine is Kim’s defiance-driven Plan to destroy Howard Hamblin (Patrick Fabian).
The development of the often-illegible character Kim—from reluctant accomplice to willing partner and wife to instigator and manipulator—was one of the most intriguing ingredients of all.
As strands cross in the remaining 11 episodes, the big question is what will become of Kim. We already know Saul’s fate.
We also know that some characters, including Mike and Gus, are up in the breaking Bad Epoch.
But the fact that Kim wasn’t even mentioned in this series is certainly an ominous sign.
As Bette Davis didn’t quite put it All about Eve: Fasten your seat belts; it’s going to be a bumpy final season.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/television/tv-reviews/better-call-saul-goodman-returns-without-missing-a-beat-41570991.html Better Call Saul: Goodman returns without missing a bar