Better Call Saul has been renewed for Season 2, despite it being completely unlike Breaking Bad. I actually find that kind of amazing. What was once a pretty loose grab at being a prequel manages to carve out its own identity so much that people actually want more. Where the audience expected the Breaking Bad equivalent of Joey, Vince Gilligan produced a slow moving, intensely character-driven drama that's sort of a prequel but it really doesn't matter. Despite fan cynicism, and the huge shadow it stood in, Better Call Saul emerged as an entirely different beast to Breaking Bad, aside from that slick bright aesthetic and some of the coolest snappy openings to grace television.
It was in Mike's standalone flashback episode that I realised Better Call Saul is not so much a Breaking Bad prequel as it is an anthology of stories taking place within it's world. Most of these stories revolve around Saul (or Jimmy McGill), but nonetheless, this show chooses a measured, mediating approach over ploughing towards an inevitable finish. However, it seems the problem that it does have an inevitable finish, and it is inevitably tied to Breaking Bad. Just look at the cold open for the entire series.
Fans will always be asking what will ultimately become of Saul after the events of Breaking Bad, and so, Better Call Saul is of two natures. A slow burn that immaculately builds character, and an exciting answer to the questions set up by its predecessor. With such uncertainty, what might we want to see from Better Call Saul Season 2?
I'm not a fan of spin-offs or prequels bringing back recognisable characters. It often reeks of desperation, and signals a lack of ideas, but when your show explicitly tracks the events leading up to something, it seems recognisable characters have to show up. Tuco's appearance in episodes 1 and 2 was simply to incite excitement, and was the closest Better Call Saul got to grabbing for recognisability, but Gus? Gus has depth, mystery, and a ready connection to Saul (at least through a guy who knows a guy, one of whom being Mike). It would be interesting to see the accumulation of the Los Pollos Hermanos empire, and it would be wonderful to see Giancarlo Esposito reprise his role, with twice as much face as when we last saw him!
The Risk? Reintroducing Gus could drag the show back into the seedy drug-dealing underworld, and that just isn't what Better Call Saul is. Just because there's a story that could be told doesn't mean it should be told. Gus would be a cool addition, and seems to be a somewhat inevitable one, but indulging in his story right now isn't Vince Gilligan's plan. He doesn't need Breaking Bad as a crutch anymore, so why make it one? Now, the moment the show reintroduces Walter White for dramatic affect? That's when I lost faith, unless he's just washing Jimmy's car. That would be neat.
Elements like Gus and Walter White are a long way off, but this genuinely intrigues me. How does Saul end up sporting that amazingly tacky office? Season 1 of Better Call Saul is clearly tracking his fragile faith in an honourable judiciary system which just isn't there in Breaking Bad. For me, when Jimmy McGill moves into that office is the moment he becomes Saul Goodman, the moment he becomes a parody of law that greases the wheels of criminal endeavours. Given how well this team are able write and shoot huge shifts in character, that is a moment I look forward to.
This office will also harbinger a shift in the show's content. What was the main crux of Better Call Saul Season 1? An attempt to bring down a scam against a retirement home. This change in setting and character will bring us more scullduggerous capers as Saul dives into the world of assassins, drug dealers, and getting hogtied in the desert, and who doesn't love that? (On TV, obviously).
After Breaking Bad
I REALLY hope that cold open wasn't just there to bait us. That would be a level of cynicism that made Breaking Bad Season 2 everyone's least favourite. Better Call Saul gave us backstories, flashbacks, and defined Saul's character by the fact he once accidentally pooped on some people, and STILL we want more of that first scene. How long after Heisenberg is this? Why is Saul so fond of these old times? Who is chasing him?
Perhaps this was just a standalone moment, a reference to punctuate the character development we were about to see. Yet, the fact this scene intrigues me so much is the one sign Better Call Saul is living in Breaking Bad's shadow. Maybe we're all just suckers for continuity, and if Better Call Saul continues along the tempered, well-planned and captivating path Season 1 laid out, I'll be happy. But if it does capitalise on this cold open, and continue the tense, bleak defeatism that Breaking Bad Season 5 was full of... oh boy. I will eagerly watch that show, then reflect on what a fickle, narrative junkie I really am. Perhaps that's what Vince Gilligan wants; all of us hooked on his product, regardless of how we look while on it.