With the premiere of "Better Call Saul" season 2 tonight, I figured I should give my thoughts on the show's first season and how it stands as not only a "Breaking Bad" spin-off, but as its own show in general, so here we go.
"Better Call Saul" is set in the "Breaking Bad" universe, taking place before "Breaking Bad" and basically telling the origins of Walter White's shady lawyer Saul Goodman, or Jimmy McGill as he's known in this show. It has Bob Odenkirk reprising the role, as well as Jonathan Banks returning as Mike Ehrmantraut, these two characters having been regulars in "Breaking Bad". Newcomers include Michael McKean, Rhea Seehorn, Patrick Fabian, and Michael Mando.
Having brought up the cast, let's go ahead and talk about the acting in this show. Bob Odenkirk made the character of Saul Goodman his own in "Breaking Bad" and you couldn't imagine anyone else in the role. Thankfully, the same can be said for him in this show, except he's playing Jimmy McGill, the man destined to be Saul Goodman. What Odenkirk does so well in this show is making Jimmy a different character that we can still learn about and grow attached to while also displaying hints of Saul's persona. It's a fine line between Saul and Jimmy and Odenkirk plays it up perfectly in a performance that's able to balance both humorous and dramatic tones. You also have Michael McKean playing Jimmy's brother, Chuck, a paranoid shut-in who's supposedly "allergic" to electricity. This review will be spoiler-free, so I won't go into everything involving Jimmy and Chuck's relationship, but it's quite interesting to watch as you see the tension between them and how they view one another, watching them have their ups and downs as the season progresses. McKean is able to make Chuck sympathetic at times, but also plays the right notes when we're suppose to be feeling something else towards him.
The one performance that really needs to be talked about, though, is Jonathan Banks and his return as Mike, Jimmy/Saul's future right hand man. Banks is every bit as lovable in the role as he was in "Breaking Bad", but Mike is given much more depth in this show as we learn about his backstory, a backstory that even makes you reflect more on the relationship that Mike had with Jesse Pinkman in "Breaking Bad". The one episode that's centered solely on Mike is easily one of the season's best episodes and it's a terrific showcase for Banks's talent as he delivers some serious emotionally powerful moments.
Another great thing about this show is its ability to stand on its own without relying too heavily on "Breaking Bad". There are definitely some "Breaking Bad" homages and references in this show, but they aren't beat over your head and you don't feel as if they're being forced at you to be reminded of "Breaking Bad". This show has its own story to tell and you better believe that it puts all of its focus on telling said story. What's even better is that you feel like this show could work just fine on its own even if "Breaking Bad" never existed. It's the story of a small time lawyer trying to make ends meet and work his way up to become a larger firm in the world of criminal justice, but he ironically enough ends up getting involved doing some questionable things himself. That's a premise that's interesting enough and with how well done this show is, you see past that it's set in a universe that also contains Walter White and his drug empire.
I also feel that this first season was a season in which each episode was consistently great and you got more and more engaged with each passing installment. Come to think of it, virtually no episode is a open and close story that's contained solely to one episode. Hell, the first episode alone ends on a cliffhanger and it's without a doubt one that'll have "Breaking Bad" fans quickly attached to what's going on. But like I said, it's not just the "Breaking Bad" aspect that's able to lure people in on the premise. Seeing the rise of Saul Goodman is genuinely interesting on its own right and with each episode, you feel as if everything that's happening is all going to feed into Jimmy's plight and how it'll affect his transformation into the lawyer we all love.
One final thing to address is that I know some people who dislike this show mainly because it doesn't feel like "Breaking Bad" to them. They watched this show expecting it to be as dark and gritty as "Breaking Bad" and I honestly don't think people should go into this show with those expectations. Granted, this show does have some dark moments, but it's a different show with its own tone, one that does have a slightly lighter and more comedic vibe to it. I'm personally fine with that and I think more people should expect that should they ever consider watching this show.
Overall, this first season of "Better Call Saul" is a great way to start the show and a fantastic start to Jimmy McGill's story. It's a well acted, interesting show with 10 episodes that are all good for their own reasons and it's able to be its own show seeing as how it's inevitably going to be in the shadow of "Breaking Bad". If you haven't seen this season and you really want to, then go straight to Netflix and start binge-watching. It's well worth your time and I'm expecting season 2 to continue this already engaging story.