Critics Put Better Call Saul on Speed Dial

Accolades already filtering in for 'Breaking Bad' spinoff with Bob Odenkirk
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 9, 2015 9:06 AM CST
Critics Put Better Call Saul on Speed Dial
In this image released by AMC, Bob Odenkirk portrays Saul Goodman in a scene from "Better Call Saul." Odenkirk reprises his role from "Breaking Bad."   (AP Photo/AMC, Ursula Coyote)

"Every sleazeball has a story to tell" tops the Washington Post review of Better Call Saul, AMC's much-anticipated spinoff to Breaking Bad—and if the reviews so far are any indication, it's a story people want to hear. The show dedicated to Saul Goodman, the seedy attorney played by Bob Odenkirk on Breaking Bad, debuted last night (the second part airs tonight at 10pm ET), and with a 100% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it looks like Goodman will have fewer problems retaining an audience than retaining clients. Some observations (and some spoilers):

  • Scott Neumyer, who admits in the Wall Street Journal that Saul was his least favorite part of Breaking Bad and that he was skeptical of the new show, raves that Saul "is so utterly full of life, interesting storytelling, great writing and acting, and such a complete show unto itself that it is difficult to even label it a 'spinoff.'"
  • Some critics have taken notice of the show's "beautiful" cinematography and art direction. Sean Collins writes for Rolling Stone that "if you fondly remember Bad's visual panache, this … episode makes the case that you've got a lot to look forward to," while Spencer Kornhaber in the Atlantic notes the episode's opening black-and-white scene, in which showrunner Vince "Gilligan and co. use [an] unglamorous locale to create a lush aesthetic experience, with the camera lavishing attention on kitchenware, dough, passersby, and dopey signage."

  • Of the melancholy opening scene, Odenkirk himself tells the Hollywood Reporter he found it to be "sad as hell." As for reviving his BB character? "Jimmy McGill [Saul's real name] is not being given a chance to show what he can do. He's trying to judge how much of this is him, how much is the world. He's asking, "Where do I belong?" It's a journey most people go through."
  • Just so we don't totally forget the show's Breaking Bad roots, two popular characters pop up in the premiere: the gruff Mike Ehrmantraut (played by Jonathan Banks) and, in a surprise final scene, psychotic drug kingpin Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz).
  • The show's one flaw, according to David Segal writing for the New York Times, is that we go into the episode wanting to see Saul Goodman right away, and all we get initially is Jimmy McGill. "[The Goodman] persona doesn't really show up until the middle of the hour, as career anxiety produces the sort of illegal scheming and mordant dialogue for which he is loved." When Goodman does make an appearance, it's what Segal (and the entire audience) has been waiting for: "Welcome back, Saul. You've been missed."
Click for the best and worst TV spinoffs. (More Better Call Saul stories.)

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