Better Call Saul review: finale confirms Netflix show’s place among TV’s best - eclipsing Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul has finally come to an end, but which series is the best?
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The character of Saul, who is played by Bob Odenkirk, was originally only slated for three appearances in Breaking Bad, but went on to become a series regular, and showrunner Vince Gilligan decided to go ahead with a spin-off series.
Since the first season of Better Call Saul was released in 2015, the show has gone on to reach a level of popularity that almost eclipses its predecessor.
Ahead of the finale, Gilligan said that he expected fans to think that the last episode of Better Call Saul was even better than Breaking Bad’s finale.
Now that both show’s are complete, we can finally start arguing about which is best, so without further ado…
Why Better Call Saul is a better show than Breaking Bad
There is so much to get into here - whilst both shows are set in the same universe and share many major characters, there are also plenty of significant differences which make direct comparisons tricky.
But overall, and especially following the grand finale, it looks like Better Call Saul has taken the crown from Breaking Bad.
The first thing to dig down into is the characters - Walt and Jesse, played by Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, were excellent antagonists in Breaking Bad, and the friction between them was great to watch, especially in the series’ most underappreciated episode - Fly.
But even when Breaking Bad was still airing, and Better Call Saul was not even a twinkle in Vince Gilligan’s eye, many fans agreed that Odenkirk’s Saul Goodman was the best character in the series.
With Better Call Saul, he takes centre stage, gains new layers, and becomes an even greater character as he struggles with his own nature.
Kim is also an excellent addition to the series and Rhea Seehorn was perfectly cast in the role. Serving as Jimmy’s love interest in the first season she really comes into her own as the show develops, as the pair embark on a doomed romance.
Between the secondary characters in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, there’s really no contest. Skyler White, Walter White Jr., and Marie Schrader, all serve as obstacles to Walt’s aims, but essentially they’re just irritating with very little depth.
Saul has its fair share of irritants too - Howard and Chuck namely, but these characters were just so much more interesting, more multifaceted, and more complex.
Structurally, both shows are very cleverly put together - the little tasters of some future misfortune that were teased at the start of certain Breaking Bad episodes were replaced in Saul with the black and white Gene Takovic scenes.
Unfortunately for Breaking Bad, Saul has the advantage of coming out second, and therefore being able to play around with the timeline and make great callbacks to the earlier show.
This structure reinforces certain themes present in Saul, such as that his nature as ‘slipping Jimmy’ is predetermined - we, the audience know that whatever good Jimmy aims for in Saul, he is on in inescapable trajectory that will see him work for a murderous drug lord.
Additionally, one major drawback of Breaking Bad is that main thrust of the plot peaks at the end of season four. Once Walt and Jesse have engineered the demise of Hector and Gus, there’s no big threat for season five. So the writers just introduce a load of neo-nazis.
The sharp shift from the main threat being Gus, an intelligent, mysterious and cold villain who has been built up over several seasons, to a nazi gang just felt a little deflated.
With Saul, the major threats - Hank and Lalo - are both dispatched several episodes before the series ends, but there’s not the same sense of anti-climax. Instead of replacing Lalo with, say, a QAnon gang, the series watches Jimmy and Kim get eaten up by their own guilt, showing the different paths the two characters take. Saul wrestling with his own conscience feels more tense, and is far better writing, than having Walt machine gun some nazis - although I’m not denying that that scene was badass.
When it comes down to it, both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul are fantastic shows and both have some of the best examples of dramatic storytelling in television history. Breaking Bad carried the mantle of prestige television for six years, but in 2015 Better Call Saul picked up the mantle and ran with it.