Better Call Saul

Photo: Ursula Coyote/AMC

Soon after the final chapter in the saga of Walter White wrapped, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan joined forces with writer-producer Peter Gould to create another comic epic of corruption and crime in the American Southwest, making what some considered a counterintuitive choice of protagonist. Better Call Saul takes a minor character in the story of Walter White, his hilariously amoral lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), shows his origin as hustler turned law clerk “Slippin’” Jimmy McGill, and observes his mutation into the character we met in Breaking Bad, a man who never met a norm he couldn’t flout, a law he couldn’t bend, or a promise he couldn’t break.

Better Call Saul is anchored by two Breaking Bad regulars: Saul himself and Michael Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), a former cop who becomes a fixer for a powerful Mexican cartel, setting his life on a course that will ultimately intersect with that of Jimmy and his most notorious future client. Other Breaking Bad supporting characters would make appearances over the years, including drug lord/chicken magnate Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), but new major characters replaced the familiar ones as objects of viewer prognostication. Chief among them is Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), Jimmy’s frequent partner in shenanigans, who is torn between nudging him toward the light and joining him in the darkness. There’s a huckster and con artist inside of her, too, and Jimmy liberates the chaos agent nestled within her righteous, squared-away public identity.

Better Call Saul carries the implicit assumption that any character not seen in Breaking Bad will inevitably be killed off, but proved it could sidestep bloodshed when it wanted to. In doing so, the show refined its own version of Alfred Hitchcock’s summation of the difference between surprise and suspense: Surprise is when two characters are eating lunch at a café and a bomb unexpectedly goes off, while suspense is when we see a bomb being planted under the table, then observe two people who don’t know about the bomb enjoying a nice lunch. In contrast to Breaking Bad, whose lead character has pyromaniac tendencies, Saul’s explosions are the moral and ethical ruptures in the characters’ journeys.

Saul’s direction, cinematography, and editing are similarly deliberate, prizing classical narrative filmmaking values and techniques that are rarely used today. If Breaking Bad was blunt-force entertainment that wore the outward signifiers of Prestige TV as camouflage, Better Call Saul is a European version of an American-crime potboiler, stating right out of the gate its preference for introspection and moral inventory over mayhem and shock, and making sure that the most appalling thing about any of its characters isn’t what they do, but the lies they tell themselves about why they did it. —Matt Zoller Seitz

  1. Episode 10 Marco
    Better Call Saul Recap: Good-bye, Charlie Hustle Albuquerque, Chicago: Wherever Jimmy goes, he takes himself with him.
  2. Episode 9 Pimento
    Better Call Saul Recap: Family Matters Jimmy finds resistance where he least expects it.
  3. Episode 8 Rico
    Better Call Saul Recap: McGill & McGill, Esq. The story of how $22 aspirin and interstate commerce brought two brothers together. 
  4. Episode 7 Bingo
    Better Call Saul Recap: Cocobolo Dreams Jimmy gets mired in hitches, twists, and other lawerly concerns. 
  5. Episode 6 Five-O
    Better Call Saul Recap: Living With It Mike opens up, physically and otherwise.
  6. Episode 5 Alpine Shepherd Boy
    Better Call Saul Recap: Shake-ups and Jell-O Cups A talking toilet, a Hummel figurine, and other life-changing encounters. 
  7. Episode 4 Hero
    Better Call Saul Recap: A Wolf in Tasmanian Wool A new suit and some old tricks put Jimmy in control, at least for a little while.
  8. Episode 3 Nacho
    Better Call Saul Recap: Survival Tactics Jimmy closes in on the Kettlemans and finally gets some of that elusive cucumber water.
  9. Episode 2 Mijo
  10. Episode 1 Uno
    Better Call Saul Series-Premiere Recap The bus-bench lawyer from Breaking Bad begins his own pathetic origin story.
  1. Episode 10 Klick
    Better Call Saul Season Finale Recap: For the Record “Klick” is a microcosm of how Better Call Saul has operated from day one.
  2. Episode 9 Nailed
    Better Call Saul Recap: Foiled Again Let’s not get too antsy about Jimmy’s transformation into Saul.
  3. Episode 8 Fifi
    Better Call Saul Recap: The Cost of Mesa Banking compliance is complicated.
  4. Episode 7 Inflatable
    Better Call Saul Recap: Resignation States Jimmy is a wolf in Saul’s clothing.
  5. Episode 6 Bali Ha’i
    Better Call Saul Recap: Let’s Make a Deal “Your problem is coming back sooner than we expected.”
  6. Episode 5 Rebecca
    Better Call Saul Recap: Say Uncle Chuck isn’t the funniest guy.
  7. Episode 4 Gloves Off
    Better Call Saul Recap: Down Goes Tuco! To quote Nacho, “Something’s gotta give.”
  8. Episode 3 Amarillo
    Better Call Saul Recap: Bingo! Jimmy’s slippin’.
  9. Episode 2 Cobbler
    Better Call Saul Recap: Pie, Oh My What a difference 17 miles makes.
  10. Episode 1 Switch
    Better Call Saul Premiere Recap: Don’t Hate the Playuh Jimmy isn’t quite Saul Goodman, but he’s no longer James A. McGill, Esq.
  1. Episode 10 Lantern
    Better Call Saul Season-Finale Recap: The Great Wall Is Jimmy finally ready to tear it all down?
  2. Episode 9 Fall
    Better Call Saul Recap: Come On, Irene “Fall” unfolds like a slow-motion car crash.
  3. Episode 8 Slip
    Better Call Saul Recap: Money in the Plank The straightest line we’ve seen from Jimmy McGill Esq. to crooked Saul Goodman.
  4. Episode 7 Expenses
    Better Call Saul Recap: Esteem Issues One plus one always seems to equal zero for Jimmy.
  5. Episode 6 Off Brand
    Better Call Saul Recap: The Beginning of the End In “Off Brand,” tragedy is foreshadowed wherever you look.
  6. Episode 5 Chicanery
    Better Call Saul Recap: My Dinner Without Andre “The bigger the lie, the harder it can be to dig out.”
  7. Episode 4 Sabrosito
    Better Call Saul Recap: Homemade Grudge It feels as if Saul’s already here, but Jimmy doesn’t know it yet.
  8. Episode 3 Sunk Costs
    Better Call Saul Recap: Just for Kicks Mike and Gus Fring finally meet face-to-face.
  9. Episode 2 Witness
    Better Call Saul Recap: Over a Cracker Barrel Jimmy sets himself on a path that’s far from all good, man.
  10. Episode 1 Mabel
    Better Call Saul Recap: Batteries Not Included “Mabel” focuses on each character’s obsessive tendencies.
  1. Episode 10 Winner
    Better Call Saul Season-Finale Recap: Dead Ends and Fresh Starts Mike takes care of some messy business as the prequel series draws ever closer to the world of its predecessor with its fourth-season finale.
  2. Episode 9 Wiedersehen
    Better Call Saul Recap: German’s March Kim and Jimmy have a disagreement in an eventful episode.
  3. Episode 8 Coushatta
    Better Call Saul Recap: Bayou Bayou, Baby Kim reveals a new side of herself in an episode that could have grave consequences for the future.
  4. Episode 7 Something Stupid
    Better Call Saul Recap: Cast Away Jimmy’s double life starts to catch up with him as the series jumps forward a bit in time.
  5. Episode 6 Piñata
    Better Call Saul Recap: Cell Awaits As Jimmy gets increasingly comfortable on the other side of the law the series offers a look at some of Gus’s darkest qualities.
  6. Episode 5 Quite A Ride
    Better Call Saul Recap: Better Off Shred Jimmy continues his long slide into becoming Saul in one of season four’s standout episodes.
  7. Episode 4 Talk
    Better Call Saul Recap: Broad Strokes Jimmy and Kim’s employment woes continue while Mike tries to parse Gus’ unclear intentions.
  8. Episode 3 Something Beautiful
    Better Call Saul Recap: Letter-Day Saints Jimmy plots a tiny heist, Kim reads a letter, and yet another familiar, tragic face shows up.
  9. Episode 2 Breathe
    Better Call Saul Recap: Down With the Salesmanship Saul goes job hunting and finds an opportunity he’s not expecting.
  10. Episode 1 Smoke
    Better Call Saul Recap: Waiting to Exhale Jimmy deals with the fiery aftermath of last season’s finale as season four begins.
  1. Episode 10 Something Unforgivable
    Better Call Saul Season Finale Recap: Lalo the Leader Fed up with undeserving overlords, Kim and Lalo each opt for their respective version of the scorched-earth approach.
  2. Episode 9 Bad Choice Road
    Better Call Saul Recap: Cartel and Driver The walls are closing in around Kim and Nacho.
  3. Episode 8 Bagman
    Better Call Saul Recap: Game Theory Jimmy’s definitely in the game now — and he’s bringing Kim with him.
  4. Episode 7 JMM
    Better Call Saul Recap: Disappearing Pact After this episode’s courtroom theatrics, it’s easier to wrap your head around Breaking Bad–era Saul Goodman’s seeming lack of shame.
  5. Episode 6 Wexler v. Goodman
    Better Call Saul Recap: Driver’s Ed As the cartel closes in on claiming Jimmy full-time, he’s slowly setting fire to whatever might cause him to reflect on who he was in a previous life.
  6. Episode 5 Dedicao a Max
    Better Call Saul Recap: A Soldier’s Story Hell-bent on evening the score, Gus pushes Mike deeper into his clash with the Salamancas, and closer toward a fate we already know is coming.
  7. Episode 4 Namaste
    Better Call Saul Recap: Into the Fryer No matter how precise their respective plans, the best Hank and Gus can each manage is “acceptable.”
  8. Episode 3 The Guy for This
    Better Call Saul Recap: The In Crowd Whether you’re heeding the call of Mesa Verde or Lalo Salamanca, “Once you’re in, you’re in.”
  9. Episode 2 50% Off
    Better Call Saul Recap: Too Clever by Half With Saul as his guiding hand, Jimmy’s making a killing off the lesser impulses of Albuquerque’s reliably delinquent ranks.
  10. Episode 1 Magic Man
    Better Call Saul Season-Premiere Recap: Who Made Who? Gene may be tired of running from himself, but Saul’s only started hitting his stride.
  1. Episode 13 Saul Gone
    Better Call Saul Series-Finale Recap: The Time Machine Jimmy McGill returns to square up to what he’s done and earn redemption from the person who matters most.
  2. Episode 12 Waterworks
    Better Call Saul Recap: Getting Away With It Kim proves she’s still capable of being human.
  3. Episode 11 Breaking Bad
    Better Call Saul Recap: 2 Breaking 2 Bad The Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul universe comes full circle.
  4. Episode 10 Nippy
    Better Call Saul Recap: Breaking Gene A brilliant and wholly unexpected stand-alone episode offers a welcome reprieve from the Albuquerque pressure cooker.
  5. Episode 9 Fun and Games
    Better Call Saul Recap: Perfect Day In the end, Kim never had Jimmy’s moral flexibility.
  6. Episode 8 Point and Shoot
    Better Call Saul Mid-Season Premiere Recap: Why Did Lalo Send You? The thrilling immediacy of the mid-season premiere cleans the slate for the season’s closing stretch.
  7. Episode 7 Plan and Execution
    Better Call Saul Mid-Season Finale Recap: The Beginning of the End Better Call Saul conned us just as brilliantly as Kim and Jimmy conned Howard.
  8. Episode 6 Axe and Grind
    Better Call Saul Recap: Been Caught Stealing Kim is never quite who we expect her to be, is she?
  9. Episode 5 Black and Blue
    Better Call Saul Recap: No Easy Marks An all-craft episode sets the table for more moves, countermoves, and surprising contingencies of worthy adversaries.
  10. Episode 4 Hit and Run
    Better Call Saul Recap: Best Things in Life How long can Jimmy and Kim’s personal relationship survive their professional departure?
  11. Episode 3 Rock and Hard Place
    Better Call Saul Recap: Good Death Once Saul Goodman stops being a role that he’s playing, what will be left of the Jimmy who Kim cares about?
  12. Episode 2 Carrot and Stick
    Better Call Saul Recap: Scamming Season We’re starting to see a crucial wedge between Kim and Jimmy, whose partnership we know will not survive the season.
  13. Episode 1 Wine and Roses
    Better Call Saul Season-Premiere Recap: Rosebud As he descends further into “Saul Goodman,” Jimmy takes on more risks than he should.

The Best of Better Call Saul on Vulture

  1. a long talk
    Kim Wexler’s Curtain Call Better Call Saul’s Rhea Seehorn looks back on six seasons spent getting inside ‘an extremely inscrutable character.’
  2. spoilers
    Let’s Talk About the End of Better Call Saul As it turns out, the Breaking Bad prequel turned sequel is also TV’s best time-travel show.
  3. close read
    Better Call Saul’s Most Surprising Crossover Transcends Fan Service There’s a lot more to Kim Wexler and Jesse Pinkman’s chance encounter than meets the eye.
  4. influences
    Better Call Saul Influences: Godfather and More “We’ve been ripping off Edward Hopper shamelessly over the last two years, at least.”
  5. close reads
    Why Better Call Saul Is the Anti–Breaking Bad Where Vince Gilligan’s original AMC crime drama was plot-driven to a fault, the follow-up is more relaxed.
  6. profile
    Breaking Bob: With Better Call Saul, Odenkirk Steps Into the Spotlight Easily the most anticipated new show of the year — and the first spinoff of this golden age of premium cable.