In legal trouble? Better Call Saul!

Breaking Bad(2008-2013) is prestige television.. Created by Vince Gilligan & Peter Gould, it follows the journey of a chemistry professor Walter White who after discovering he has cancer, decides to get into meth-making business along with his former student Jesse Pinkman to secure his family’s financial future. While navigating the criminal underworld to sell his product, he eventually reaches his breaking point becoming the drug-lord Heisenberg!(thus the title Breaking Bad)

Walter White/Heisenberg & Jesse Pinkman

The show broke several grounds thanks to its well-toned storyline, flawed  & complex characters, riveting drama infused with masterful suspense that propelled it’s narrative towards an explosive finale. Even a decade after it’s ending, it still remains one of the most influential shows in the history of television. And now it’s prequel/spin-off show Better Call Saul(2015-2022) recently reached its conclusion. Has it recreated the magic of Breaking Bad? Or has it fallen flat in front of it’s legacy? Well by the end of this article things are gonna be as clear as crystal meth.

Vince Gilligan – creator of Breaking Bad & Better Call Saul

Set before the events of Breaking BadBetter Call Saul chronicles the moral decline of a small time attorney Jimmy McGill whose life undergoes a series of trials & tragedies slowly transforming into an eccentric criminal lawyer Saul Goodman as we see him in Breaking Bad.

Howard Hamlin, Kim Wexler, Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman, Mike Ehrmantraut, Nacho Varga, Gustavo Fring, Lalo Salamanca

This show is also an origin story of Mike Ehrmantraut, a blank-faced retired cop who moves on to the radar of the criminal mastermind Gustavo Fring. Both Mike & Gus played an important role in Breaking Bad. In fact it was Gustavo Fring, that took Breaking Bad to a whole new level in the future seasons. He was responsible for Walter White’s monstrous transformation into Heisenberg. And with the inclusion of Nacho ‘Ignacio’ Varga & Lalo Salamanca(other nephew of Don Hector Salamanca), who were referenced in Breaking Bad but  not shown, the setup was complete.

Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman

Vince Gilligan has lowered the stakes here – no exploding wheelchairs, no planes falling from the sky, no vicious gunfights. Instead he did a more subtle character study. Former con artist Jimmy McGill is first seen in season 1 as a struggling lawyer destined to live in the shadow of his more successfull brother Chuck. Jimmy is idealistic, energetic & resourceful. He used unconventional methods to help his clients which weren’t approved by Chuck or his boss Howard Hamlin. Even his fiance Kim Wexler warned him not to bend the rules. But Jimmy wouldn’t listen. In order to do noble things, he would always fell victim to his worst instincts.

Gustavo Fring & Lalo Salamanca

His arrogant brother Chuck always despised him no matter how hard he worked. Jimmy still cared about his brother & when he betrayed him, Jimmy snapped. His gradual transformation into Saul Goodman began. And it’s quite relatable since Jimmy faced the heat of corporate life so hard that he once again began to find thrill of scam. His love & respect for his wife, Kim was the only thing that was keeping him sane. But slowly she also began to bend the rules herself. Both Saul & Kim did some terrible things. The lines between law & justice were blurred for them. As Jimmy/Saul spiralled into the dark side, the subsequent seasons became increasingly grim. Similar to Walter White, he gets deeply sucked into the orbit of drug cartel by representing criminals like Nacho, Lalo, etc., in court; the likes of which almost got him killed.He isn’t a monster like Heisenberg yet he somehow became the accidental villian. The final season lead to the seismic confrontation between the show’s greatest rival gangsters – Lalo Salamanca & Gustavo Fring; with repercussions that will alter Saul’s & his wife Kim’s lives permanently.

Walter White/Heisenberg meeting Saul Goodman

As the final season progressed, this show entered the Breaking Bad timeline. Saul’s first meeting with Walter/Heisenberg is shown & how he helped him to build his drug empire. But what came as a surprise to me is that the show went even beyond the aftermath of Breaking Bad where Saul is hiding in disguise as Gene Takavic. These scenes are shown in black & white. Why? Because it’s poignant. The only colourful memories that he cherishes are those of Saul Goodman & not Jimmy McGill. Saul lived like a guy with no regrets. He loved doing it. He was good at it. He felt truly alive. But in the end he had to pay up for his sins. In the last episode when he is apprehended in court he insists to bargain. But when he hears that his wife Kim has confessed, he realised that it’s over for him. The only person in this world who could have brought Jimmy back from Saul, the only person who could make him regret was his wife. And Jimmy breaks down confessing each & every terrible thing that he has done, the deaths he is responsible to, the key supporting characters that he has to face while answering; it was a watershed cathartic moment.

Saul Goodman disguising as Gene Takavic

Now that was some intense dark noir signing off with a tragic & deeply human finale. Gilligan & Gould could have left the series perfectly with Walter White’s death instead they decided to create something more complex, something more impressive. Breaking Bad was dramatic & visceral. Better Call Saul was more personal & devastating. Both series are examples of two characters (Walter White & Jimmy McGill) simultaneously going through a similar journey of human corruption as they let their moral compass slide through their fingers & shatter into pieces on the floor. Walter was forced into crime. Jimmy was born for it. But it’s all over now. In the end, they both got what they deserved. Fourteen years of storyline that started when the first episode of Breaking Bad aired back in 2008 have finally come to a scintillating closure. And what a television it has been!!

Breaking Bad final scene – In his final moments, Walter White takes a one last look at his chemistry lab
Better Call Saul final scene – Jimmy McGill is sentenced to life imprisonment. He is emotional as he bids his wife a final goodbye……

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