SERIES REVIEW – Better Call Saul, about lawyer Jimmy McGill using the pseudonym Saul Goodman, is more original, funny and sophisticated than any other series. The main character himself, known from Breaking Bad, is a huge hit. Still, the series has the particular merit of being highly entertaining even as it relies on viewers’ knowledge of future events. Better Call Saul has also managed the almost superhuman task of surpassing the original Breaking Bad, of which it was a spin-off. We have watched the first seven episodes of the sixth season.
It’s been two years, several closures and heartbreak since we last said goodbye to Better Call Saul on Netflix. The series’ delayed return was partly due to an outbreak that broke out shortly before the cameras were set to roll again. But a much bigger drama was the cardiac arrest of lead character Bob Odenkirk, who collapsed last July on the set of Breaking Bad’s melodramatic and melancholy prequel series in New Mexico.
Fortunately, Odenkirk is reported to have made a full recovery. (The actor says the film Nobody saved his life. And any concerns that Better Call Saul had become cursed or that bad luck was standing in the way of the sixth and final series were quickly dispelled. The first seven episodes of the new season – the last six episodes will arrive in July – immediately find its tone as it continues the story of wily New Mexico lawyer Saul Goodman (Odenkirk).
A web of multiple plot threads
The season premiere picks up immediately after the end of the fourth season when Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton) is mistakenly presumed dead after his men are massacred in his Mexican home. But Nacho (Michael Mando) is immediately exposed and begins to flee for his life. Meanwhile, north of the border, Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk), now fully embracing his “Saul Goodman” persona, conspires with Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), now his wife, to wreak devious revenge on his former employer, Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian).
The myriad of story threads that are masterfully controlled has always made Better Call Saul different from Breaking Bad (which is a prequel of sorts without the two Breaking Bad protagonists). On the one hand, there are the highly entertaining legal cases surrounding McGill/Goodman and the eccentricities of the Albuquerque legal scene. On the other is the power struggle between factions of the New Mexico drug cartel, which is more akin to a traditional crime drama and gives plenty of screen time to returning Breaking Bad favourites Mike (Jonathan Banks), Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) and Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis). These two worlds are often intertwined and intersect, but not always: they become more distinct in the first half of season six, although they are interlinked again towards the end.
Varga on the run, Lalo seeking revenge, Jimmy and Kim comploting against Hamlin
After a failed mission to assassinate Mexican drug cartel boss Lalo Salamanca, Nacho Varga runs while the wounded Lalo (the charismatic Tony Dalton) limps back north of the border.
Returning to Albuquerque, slick mall lawyer Jimmy McGill (Odenkirk) quickly morphed into the wealthy and severely corrupt Saul Goodman, plotting with his partner Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) to bring down Howard Hamlin.
As the tension in the underworld plot thread ratchets up, the decision to involve Jimmy and Kim in an elaborate character assassination – motivated solely by petty malice – might seem on paper like a distraction.
Which way do the dominoes fall?
But the makers of Better Call Saul know nothing better than to show the details of a plot. We watch as they set up the dominoes without knowing exactly how they will topple and who will fall victim to the murderous games. As always, the brilliantly clever script is accompanied by exemplary talent in other areas: Better Call Saul remains one of the most professionally directed series ever, also with a terrific cast. Bob Odenkirk is simply unsurpassable as Saul, but alongside him, Rhea Seehorn – both kind and cruel; impossible to miss – and the wickedly charismatic Dalton are also outstanding, not to mention the formidable Giancarlo Esposito, but there really isn’t a weak link in the team.
Besides, showrunners Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould deliver a satisfyingly familiar mix of desert noir and Coen Brothers-style dark comedy (twisty camera angles are still their trademark). Amidst the suspense, drifting dialogue and violence, the winning features of Better Call Saul remain its superbly crafted rhythm and those aforementioned plot threads, which are also professionally written.
What will be their fate?
Fans will be curious to see what the fate of this presumably doomed couple will be – Kim will be gone when Saul reappears in Breaking Bad. However, we will reportedly meet two of Breaking Bad’s drug kingpins, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, as both are confirmed to be returning, but we have yet to meet them.
We will have to wait until July for the inevitable conclusion, the last six episodes, in which the fate of the characters who are still in the show but who are no longer in Breaking Bad will be sealed in one way or another. The huge much-concluded seventh episode leaves no doubt that tragedies are unlikely to avoid anyone…
Better Call Saul
Direction - 9.6
Actors - 9.8
Story - 10
Visuals/Music/Sounds - 9.6
Ambience - 9.7
Fans will be curious to see what the fate of this presumably doomed couple will be - Kim will be gone when Saul reappears in Breaking Bad. However, we will reportedly meet two of Breaking Bad's drug kingpins, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, as both are confirmed to be returning, but we have yet to meet them. We will have to wait until July for the inevitable conclusion, the last six episodes, in which the fate of the characters who are still in the show but who are no longer in Breaking Bad will be sealed in one way or another. The huge much-concluded seventh episode leaves no doubt that tragedies are unlikely to avoid anyone...
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