Better Call Saul: Does AMC's New Breaking Bad Prequel Make Good?

Better Call Saul Series Premiere Recap AMC

Long before Saul Goodman ever heard the name Heisenberg, he was a struggling New Mexico lawyer with a pile of debt collection notices and a flair for the dramatic.

Breaking Bad was Walter White’s story; Better Call Saul is Saul’s.

In a moment, we’ll ask you to give us your thoughts on the AMC spinoff. First, though, a brief recap of Sunday night’s premiere.

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You’ll recall that Saul had himself disappeared in Bad‘s finale; we watched him bid Walt goodbye as he began a new life under a new name. The series starts by showing us Saul’s life in what appears to be present-day Omaha: He’s got less hair on his head and more on his face than he did the last time we saw him, he’s calling himself Gene, and he’s the manager of a mall Cinnabon. Shot in black and white, Gene’s existence is lonely and mundane; only when he pulls out a VHS tape of his old “Better Call Saul!” legal commercials does any color enter the picture.

When the hour returns from the opening credits, it skips the Bad years and travels way back to the early years of Saul’s legal career. He’s got a different name here, too — James “Jimmy” McGill, which turns out to be his real one.

Jimmy’s rickety operation is run out of the back of a nail salon and is in desperate need of clients, a fact he tries to hide from a semi-interested couple (the husband’s been accused of embezzlement) whose business he courts throughout the episode.

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When Jimmy learns that the pair also is meeting with Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill — the firm that employs his brother, Chuck — he goes on the offensive by enlisting the talents of some low-rent con artists to coerce the wife into hiring him instead. Their elaborate plan, of course, goes south quickly, and Part 1 of the two-night premiere ends with Jimmy staring down the barrel of a gun wielded by… Breaking Baddie Tuco Salamanca?!

Though Saul is enjoyable in its own right — its flawed protagonist and his talented portrayer Bob Odenkirk are more than capable of holding your attention for an hour each week, and its relaxed storytelling is a nice counterpoint to Bad‘s breakneck speed — the nods to the mothership series are still a treat.

Right away, we see Bad hitman Mike Ehrmantraut, who at this point in the timeline is a parking lot attendant with no desire to do Jimmy any favors. And it made me chuckle when, while meeting with the (alleged!) embezzler and his wife, Jimmy says, “Frankly, I don’t go looking for guilty people to represent. Who needs that aggravation?”

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Also intriguing: Jimmy’s relationship with Chuck (played by Saturday Night Live alum Michael McKean), who is as guile-free as his brother is shifty and who foregoes electricity in his home out of a belief that electromagnetic fields adversely affect the (unspecified) illness from which he suffers. Um, OK? Also, there’s got to be more behind Jimmy’s hatred for his brothers’ employers than we see in this first hour, right?

All told, I’ll be tuning in for the second half of the premiere tomorrow night. But now we want to hear what you thought of the episode. Grade Better Call Saul via the poll below, then expand on your choice in the comments.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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30 Comments
  1. Cobra says:

    I’m hooked. I didn’t watch BB in it’s original air, I watched it all on DVD over a period of like a month and a half, so I’m glad to be on board this one from the beginning.
    .
    A+ premier. And seeing Tuco pop up was quite the shocker to me!

    • Natalie says:

      I knew when the wrong woman got out of the station wagon, that things were going to go south! Vince Gilligan has a way of hitting you with a real whammy right at the end of the show, and you never see it coming. Great twist!

  2. Mike Q says:

    Supposedly Jesse’s dad had a cameo in the ep. Did anyone see him?

  3. Jimmy says:

    I loved Breaking Bad (who didn’t) but I can already tell, I’m gonna like this show too. The first hour was a good set up for what’s to come, and seeing Tuco at the end was a shock! If all the episodes have an ending like that one, people will keep tuning in. Can’t wait for the next episode!

  4. I was suprised at how much the tone mirrored Breaking Bad. That’s not a bad thing.

  5. Carter says:

    Did anybody else notice the nail salon was the same one Saul tried to get Walt to buy instead of the car wash in Breaking Bad?

  6. Tom Schwab says:

    Raymond Cruz insisted that his character, Tuco, be killed off because “the part’s too hard.” I’d love to hear his reasons for coming back to play Tuco again (although a six years younger version of the character.)

    • Kat says:

      Actually I think they had to kill him off because he had another role on the Closer (at least according to the DVD commentary/official podcasts. The first season was interrupted by the writer’s strike, so they had to go in a different direction with Tuco when the show returned the following year when Raymond Cruz was no longer available.

    • drhenning says:

      Cruz has an even stronger role on Major Crimes, The Closer’s spinoff show… I suspect the shooting schedules didn’t overlap for him….

  7. Michael says:

    The show was a fun romp! But when we saw tucos arm with the gun,and then his face………BAM! My wife and I jumped out of our chairs. To cool,we are now hooked!

  8. Joey Padron says:

    Liked first episode a lot, it was good. Bob did great in episode. Good surprise twist of Tuco showing up at end. Can’t wait to see episode 2 tomorrow!

  9. Jerri says:

    I don’t know. I kind of expected more. Bit of a let down, but I’ll check the show out next week and see how I feel about it then.

  10. Lisa says:

    Did I saw Jimmy/Saul drive by Walter White’s house right before the skateboarder his car?

  11. Your enjoyment will probably vary on your level of hype going into it. I knew this was coming and was anticipating it, but not actively all the time, just seeing reminders now and then that made me smile. I definitely enjoyed it. That said I do think some people who are perhaps more die hard BB fans may feel a bit disappointed since obviously the show has to start slow and humble. Hell the pilot episodes of Game of Thrones and Walking Dead are both good, but also slow enough to make a semi-tired person fall asleep. It happens with the best of shows.

  12. russ says:

    Great seeing Mike again!

  13. Nick says:

    Vince Gilligan is brilliant. I’m going to have to go watch everything he’s ever done.

  14. Not bad, I thought the skateboard pursuit was a little far fetched but Saul will keep me hooked as will the rest of the BB alumni.

  15. Ellinas1978 says:

    Good enough for a pilot.

  16. Kevin says:

    Was that Sauls old cadilac next to his now current yellow heap of a car?

  17. Austin West says:

    Tuco seems to have a habit of keeping people hostage. Anyways I really enjoyed this episode, can’t wait too see more!

  18. Rico says:

    When did BB ever move at a breakneck pace, besides possibly the last few episodes?

  19. ocut says:

    the old lady didn’t know that she ran over some dude and shattered her windshield though she still noticed the blood stain on the carpet, I don’t know, also the whole thing with skateboards was kind of fishy, could’ve been constructed in a better way

  20. Diana says:

    They’ve done it again. With just the first two episodes, I can see that this is another winner. Familiar faces, good cast. Suttle humor in all the right places. Thanks