Better Call Saul: The Jimmy McGill Story by Alex Snider

There will be a lot of Breaking Bad spoilers in these BCS recaps so fare thee warned. 

I don't miss Breaking Bad. I missed it between episodes and between seasons, as soon as the credits rolled I yearned for next hit (maybe there's a meth analogy in there somewhere??), but Vince Gilligan and his writers did a phenomenal job of telling, then ending Walter White's story, that as a viewer, my job was finished. BB had a narrow scope and a short time-line with not a single superfluous detail so that at the end, nothing was left wanting. It was like a beautiful, mutual breakup where you both just legitimately loved each other but wanted different things.

But then Better Call Saul came along and just like a particularly fine Instagram pic of your amicable ex, it's all coming back to me. Now all I can hear are the dulcet twangs of BB's intro ricocheting through my head. That and all the various accents of Jimmy McGill's "secretaries".
Gene is a surprisingly hands-on manager
The beauty so far of BCS is that you get the familiarity with the new. From the opening scene of the pilot where we watch Walter White's doppelganger (whom he had no small part in making) go through the motions of his mundane job (using the chemistry of baking, natch) to stand-offs in the desert set against the expanse of the bright New Mexico sky to the impeccable courthouse montage, the unmistakable watermarks of the Breaking Bad universe are all there. At the same time, we are given something completely new and, based on clips like this, unexpected. Saul, or rather, Jimmy was one of the more one dimensional characters on BB. Armed with  over-sized suits and killer one-liners, he delivered comic relief and did Walt's lawyerly bidding but barely graduated past stock sleazy lawyer character by the time he called the vacuum salesman. He straddled the line between not bad and bad, giving the idea that he did have a moral compass just that it had been dropped a whole bunch of times.
There must be an eight syllable German word for welcomely familiar
After spending two episodes with Jimmy, I'm completely willing to forgive him all his trespasses and that he once, without blinking, suggested having Badger killed. Turns out Jimmy is kind of a sweetheart. No angel but he's out there fighting the good fight. He's looking after his brother who is suffering from electromagnetic hypersensitivity. He's defending those who have no one else to turn to (for a measly $700 a pop). He's driving a shitty ass car. He's getting bullied by a parking lot attendant (MIKE). He's getting marked by two of the stupidest people who have ever been on the show (and I'm including No-Doze in on that because apparently that guy never learned in how many years not to interject on Tuco). He's getting taken out to the desert, being made to beg for his life and then, worse, made to argue for the lives of those awful twins (honestly, I've never wanted anyone in the BB universe to die but for them, I make an exception).

It's clear that like Walter White, Jimmy McGill always had a dark side but Jimmy lacks whatever it was that made Walt Heisenberg. Heisenberg never would have shrank before some rando in a Nebraska Cinnebon. He would have sneered and stared him down and used a cinnamon reduction to make a bomb. Walt wanted to break bad. He sought the dark out and let The One Who Knocks in. Jimmy has already repented his old Slippin' Jimmy ways and refused to open when The One Who Knocks knocked (in his case it's Nacho). I'm very curious as to what the impetuous will be for Jimmy to break bad. Will it be his sick brother and empty bank account? Will he get tired of being a loser? Will Betsy Kettleman somehow be involved??? Whatever the reason, I fully trust Gilligan and Co. to make the journey wildly enjoyable.
Next Gilligan project idea: a spin-off about her (the woman drawing)
(Also, a little nod to Jesse, maybe?)
Other thoughts:

Michelle MacLaren directed the second episode. She directed a number of my favourite BB episodes including season 4's "Salud", and season 5's "Buried" and "To'hajiilee". She is brilliant.

It's going to be easier than expected to exercise patience for familiar faces to show up and for more action from Mike because I'm so engaged with Jimmy's story particularly whatever is going on with his brother, Chuck.

Love that Chuck is played by Michael McKean, and that he looks remarkably like Bob Odenkirk. Also very happy to see Julie Ann Emery from Fargo playing Betsy Kettleman, and Michael Mando from Orphan Black playing Nacho.

Bob Odenkirk is a great actor.

LOVE that Jimmy is from Cicero. Great orator.

I hate those goddamn twins and I hope we never see them again. They are no Jesse. And they are a blight on the BB universe's twin record. RIP Leonel and Marco.

Good to see Gonzo again and as I mentioned before, interesting to see that No-Doze never did know when to shut the hell up. I guess Tuco was sort of justified...

Having a hard time understanding the claims that BCS will not be as dark as BB. So far it's seems pretty on par, right? Although I guess skull-fucking is totally lololololololol.

I like that we're going to get to see Tuco less deranged by meth but still wildly violent. And always a real sweetie to his elders.

The cold open was so beautiful and reminiscent of all Walt and Jesse's cooking session montages but my favourite part was when Saul broke out the VHS of his old commercials and the black and white was broken only by the flicker of colour reflected in his Walter White glasses. Truly the only colour in his life. And that is why Vince Gilligan shows are elevating the whole damn medium.

Loved that Saul predicted correctly where the vacuum salesman would take him and what his job would be. A nice lil' Easter egg for all us loyal BB fans.

Speaking of Easter eggs, the garbage can that Jimmy demolished after his fruitless meeting at HHM, was already dented, leaving me to believe that wasn't Jimmy's first tango with it. In fact on his way up, he takes a moment to look at it, reminding me so strongly of all the times Walt had to face down that paper towel dispenser he punched at his doctor's office.

One thing I noticed and really, really appreciated was that Jimmy speaks or at least has a passing understanding of Spanish, something that Walt never had. It's a small thing but you can see the difference even between him and those horrid twins – the way they disrespect Tuco and his grandmother before Tuco goes Tuco on them is compounded by their demanding that his grandmother speak English. I'm curious to see how the language thing plays out.

Until next week!!

Alex Snider watches a lot of TV and reads a lot of books. Follow her on Twitter where she'll be super active for a week then be quiet for months – she's a social media cicada


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