*Disclaimer: This review is not intended for children, and if you are a child watching this show, and reading reviews online, you should be ashamed.*
The much anticipated prequel spin-off to Breaking Bad finally premiered, and it was worth the wait. While Better Call Saul is slower than its parent show, there were a lot of classic “Gilligan” moments, particularly through camera angles and lighting, Breaking Bad easter eggs, and a few shocking moments that kept the premiere episode rolling. Let’s dive in to what all this means:
The cold open: The cold open showing our beloved Saul Goodman turned Gene, manager of Cinnabon was brilliant. It gave Breaking Bad fans what they wanted, without us even knowing we wanted it. It showed fans and newbs alike that this man is broken. He keeps to himself, he is scared of being found out, and he longs for his glory days. And all this is done with no dialogue. The black and white adds to the ambiance, and the song that plays (see the end of this article for more on that) makes the whole thing seem incredibly sad.
Some of the best Saul one-liners to date: “The only way that entire car is worth 500 bucks is if there is a 300 hundred dollar hooker sitting in it” and “As discreet as a stripper pole in a mosque.” They have been quoted at least 3 times each in my house since Sunday night. That’s how I know they are keepers.
Camera Angles, Lighting, and sound: There were several scenes that really highlighted the camera work that is done on this show. The cold-open, attempting to get Craig and Betsy to sign a contract with him, talking to the lawyers at HHM in the same fashion as is done in Network, the moment he shares a cigarette with the blonde lawyer in the parking garage, and the skateboarders at the park. Each had great lighting, showed the scenes in wide shots, or close-ups depending on the mood of the scene. I was most impressed with the use of “everyday” sounds, like the ice tinkling in the glass, or Jimmy swallowing when he was nervous about the contract. All this is minute, but it really adds to the effect this show, and its creators, have on its audience.
Jimmy, Actor at Law: The most important thing to know about Jimmy McGill is that he is an actor first and attorney second. Sure, being a lawyer is his profession, but he is a really good actor. He acts like his own assistant on the phone, practices his pitches over and over again, and is passionate about everything he does in order to get his way. He argues with his brother, Chuck, while at his home, and is very emotionally involved in his brother’s well-being. When he goes to speak to HHM over his brother’s share of the company, he takes his act straight from the 1976 movie Network, which you can see the original clip from below.
Those knuckleheads: I truly feel that the only people on cable who can even allude to a group of teenagers breaking into a morgue, cutting off the head of a corpse, and then fucking the neck hole are Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould. In addition, they allowed us to feel like these clients of Jimmy’s weren’t that bad because technically, no one got hurt. Not a soul.
The other knuckleheads: The skateboarding scamming brothers are total dicks. They are Napoleon Dynamite’s slightly-cooler brothers who live in New Mexico. And they are super annoying and really bad at acting. Who can stand up after “breaking a leg.” Why are they even a pro? Because they are written perfectly. And they are acted perfectly. And I for one can’t wait when they become collateral damage.
Pride, Greed, and everything in between: Beyond the pretty scenes, the dialogue, and the acting (which of course are all important and amazing), we dive right into motive and the reasons people do what they do. This series is supposed to be a way to dive into how a man goes from downtrodden lawyer to a very rich criminal lawyer. Jimmy rents out a crappy office space, he owes a ton of bills, his car is a piece of shit, and he is only getting paid 700 dollars for a case. And he didn’t even win. Jimmy needs money. But when he gets a check for 26,000 dollars as a stipend for his brother’s leave of absence at his firm, Jimmy tears up the check. Why? Because Pride, that’s why. Not having money and needing it desperately will lead to Greed. Jimmy is Walter White 5 years before Walter White is Walter White. Did you get that? I hope so.
Number 1 on speed-dial: When Jimmy puts his number in one of the brother’s phones, he tells him that he (Jimmy) is number 1 on the speed dial. Except in 2002, number 1 on speed dial was VoiceMail. It’s a little nuance, I know. But I had to think of something for the cons section.
A lot of down time: Like its parent show (gah, it’s so hard not to compare), Better Call Saul is not all about crime and drugs and law. It’s about the monotony of life. The everyday man happens to be in some deep shit. Or at least will be very soon. The episode was an hour and 20 minutes (with commercials), but it did seem really long. Mostly talk, and and interesting camera angles. All of which are plusses, but not when it feels a little too long.
Cinnabon Manager Gene: The cold-open shows Gene, the manager of a Cinnabon in quaint Omaha, Nebraska. This was a nod to the fact that when Saul Goodman (aka Jimmy McGill, aka Gene) leaves Albuquerque when shit hits the fan with Walter White, he would go manage a Cinnabon.
Better Call Saul: The videos that Gene watches after his day at work are his old “Better Call Saul” commercials that aired in Albuquerque, NM. These were the same ads featured through the series, Breaking Bad.
Mike Ehrmantraut, Parking Police: The man who demands more parking stickers from Jimmy at the courthouse is Mike Ehermantraut. Breaking Bad fans will know him as the most bad-ass cop from Philadelphia. He will become an asset to Jimmy becoming a “criminal lawyer”, it is just going to take some time.
Loyola’s Café on Central: Loyola’s is in fact a café on Central in Albuquerque. Central also happens to be Route 66. You can check out there eats here. Additionally, this is the same spot that Mike likes to eat. In Breaking Bad season 4, “Cornered,” Jesse and Mike eat in the café. Mike also visits in season 5, “Madrigal.”
Freakin’ Tuco: The grandma who gets scammed by the skateboarding brothers has a grandson who she knows will help her after “hitting” someone and driving off. When they knock on the door and demand money, they are met with a gun, and then freakin’ Tuco Salamanca. Tuco takes a liking to meth, violence and saying the word “tight” a lot.
The date: The date on Jimmy’s paycheck from the courthouse is May 13th, 2002. This puts us about five and a half years before he meets Walter White, and seven and half years before becoming Gene at Cinnabon.
Jimmy’s address: The address on Jimmy’s paycheck from the courthouse reads “160 Juan Tabo NE.” A street maps search pulls up this:
Other than the Weinerschnitzel, you can see a sign for a Nail and Spa salon, where Jimmy’s “law office” is.
Suzuki Esteem: Breaking Bad had some iconic cars. Better Call Saul will likely be no different. Jimmy’s car make and model is a Suzuki Esteem. Jimmy is has a lot of self-esteem, but it’s a little battered, like the red colored door in the back.
The license plate numbers: Betsy Kettleman’s license plate number was 401-PND. Abuelita Salamanca’s license number was 493-BHS.
Music from the Episode:
The song played during the opening Cinnabon scene in tonight’s episode of Better Call Saul is called “Address Unknown” by the Ink Spots.
Hush Comics gives “Uno” an A- for giving Breaking Bad fans what they need and introducing new viewers to a series that is bound to be amazing.
All images belong to AMC.