I review a whole season rather than individual episodes, so there is a chance of spoilers. If you haven’t watched the whole season yet, stop reading now!
One major issue with Better Call Saul is that it is called “Better Call Saul.” Not just because Bob Odenkirk’s character isn’t actually Saul Goodman in the series (and doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon) but also because some of the best aspects of the show don’t even involve Odenkirk’s “criminal” lawyer at all.
The best character and subsequently best story-lines comes from Jonathan Banks’ Mike. The ex-police officer who can professionally “get things done” finds himself in a spiral of uncontrollable events that he fights his best to regain control of. It makes for some of the best parts of the series and in the early few episodes, Mike is the reason you continue to watch.
This is because Banks makes him so likable, cool, calm and focused. He is a “good guy” but is forced to do bad things. He could well be this series Walter White, except without the desire to actually “Break Bad” and the white underwear.
Not that Odenkirk’s Jimmy McGill, the “titular” character, doesn’t have a decent season-arc of his own, it is just that it takes a while for it to find it’s feet. The reason Saul Goodman was such a likable character in Breaking Bad was because of his schemes and dodgy dealings. The clever way he got himself (and his clients) out of trouble is what made him so interesting. The beginning of the season plays down that side of McGill as he tries to make an honest go of things.
It is an understandable character development and has some repercussions which pay-off later in the series but you can’t help but feel slightly cheated as you don’t get the drama and fun you want from the character. It isn’t long before Jimmy McGill is back to his old tricks and the season becomes must-watch TV.
The final five episodes don’t relent. Like the show that this one is a prequel to, each episode throws the key characters into another situation which looks impossible to solve but has clever ways of resolving. Not just Mike and McGill but also Jimmy’s Lawyer girlfriend Kim played by Rhea Seehorn. Her arc in this season is often as interesting and as crucial as the two “main characters” and the it is a sign that the show is growing out from it’s predecessor’s shadow.
In fact, a great aspect of the series is that it is feeling less like a prequel and more like a show of it’s own. Breaking Bad fans will know where the story ends-up but we are far removed from that fact and call-forwards are minimal. Apart from some very clever use of minor Breaking Bad characters, which link the two series well but without ruining any continuity, Better Call Saul is surviving on it’s own and has a bright future ahead.
Which brings back to that initial point again. The title is a constant reminder of where the show needs to end-up and hopefully this is planned out because at the moment the series feels far removed from the events of Breaking Bad and rightly so. Let’s just hope it all ties together nicely but after a few more quality seasons.
Overall, Better Call Saul overcomes it’s initial slow-paced first episodes of season 2 by focusing on Jonathan Banks’ excellent Mike. When Bob Odenkirk’s Jimmy McGill does come into his own, the episodes become clever frantic and exciting viewing, with new twists and turns being developed all the time.
Best Episode – Nailed: Both Mike and Jimmy undertake plans which will have devastating effects for the season finale.
Best performance – Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut
Should there be another season? – Yes, but keep it as far away from Breaking Bad as possible.
Season Rating – 4.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)