Thursday, February 12, 2015

Pilot Review: Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul (AMC)
Premiered February 8 at 10pm

I should start by saying that I didn’t love the pilot episode of “Breaking Bad,” giving it a C+. I grew to appreciate and really like the show, but still feel that is was somewhat overrated when described as the best show ever. I don’t think that this show should exist entirely in comparison to the show that spun it off, but that’s inevitable, as evidenced by the incorporation of a minor character from early on in the original show’s history to this show’s double-decker premiere installment. There’s no denying that Saul, or Jimmy, as he is apparently known, is eccentric, and he can really talk. But the fascinating crooked lawyer Walter White met isn’t the star of this show. instead, he’s a mess who manages to get himself together in the heat of the moment and talk Tuco into breaking one leg per offender instead of outright killing the idiots who tried to con his grandmother. He’s a loose cannon, and while that does make him immensely watchable, it also makes it hard to latch on to this show. I’m not taken with Michael McKean’s technophobic shut-in, and I’d like to see Jonathan Banks’ Mike Ehrmantraut as more than just a wry tollbooth operator. Having Raymond Cruz’s Tuco guest star was a fun throwback, but I think his character here is too over-the-top and comical. The show is leaning that way as a whole, and while I’m not ready to give up yet, this wasn’t the reintroduction to Albuquerque that I was hoping for, even though it was about what I was expecting.

How will it work as a series? The Monday night hour doesn’t really give much more insight since it’s all exposition and leads to the final scene with Nacho that will set up whatever Jimmy’s criminal enterprise is, which presumably will lead to the creation of one Saul Goodman. There’s plenty of wild material to be explored here, but the show really needs to find its tone.
How long will it last? I forgot that AMC renewed this show last year long before it started airing, but the pilot ratings, summarized as the most-watched cable series premiere ever, would have issued an immediate renewal on their own. The reviews have also been largely and overwhelmingly positive, so this show isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Pilot grade: C+

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