Can lightning strike twice? That was the question everyone was asking as Better Call Saul, prequel to the much-revered Breaking Bad, premiered on Netflix this week. When Breaking Bad reached its conclusion in 2013, in arguably one of the best series finales ever, news that a spin-off was in the works, and a prequel no less, about criminal lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) was met with a mixed reaction. A prequel is always a tricky thing to get right; how do you create any kind of tension when the audience already knows the ending? Not only that, but any spin-off would struggle to live up to the hype of its predecessor. Was this going to be a Frasier, or a Joey?
Co-created by Breaking Bad showrunner, Vince Gilligan, and fellow Bad writer and producer, Peter Gould, Better Call Saul rewinds the clock in order to give us Saul Goodman’s origin story. Set in 2002, many years before Walter’s terminal diagnosis, it finds Saul when he was just a small time lawyer, known by his original name, Jimmy McGill, who struggles to make ends meet. Of course, we know that he eventually becomes a legal force to be reckoned with, but keeping in mind Walter’s tenet of “growth, decay, transformation” it’s safe to assume that knowing this end point will in no way lessen the journey – seeing Jimmy as he learns to put the criminal into criminal lawyer is going to be one hell of a ride.
If you were to pick any character from Breaking Bad to feature in a spin-off, Saul Goodman is a great choice. He’s an amazing character and quickly became a fan favourite right from his first appearance (where he managed to talk his way out of a bullet to the head) and he continued to be an odd source of wisdom and one-liners the rest of the way through the series:
If you’re committed enough, you can make any story work. I once told a woman I was Kevin Costner, and it worked because I believed it.”
Not only will we be getting lots more Saul in this new series, but everyone’s favourite hitman, Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) is also set to be a series regular. And that can only be a good thing.
With a gem of a character at its heart in Odenkirk’s sleazy, yet strangely lovable Saul and talented creative minds at the helm, Better Call Saul has all the makings of a hit. And if there’s one thing we learnt after five seasons of Breaking Bad, it’s this: in Gilligan we trust.