Season One, 2015
We knew this couldn’t be as good as Breaking Bad but it’s still well worth a look, compellingly so. The series is based on mobile phone-destroying attorney Saul Goodman, an artful dodger with an extremely flawed appreciation of legal professional privilege, who was not only comedy relief in several seasons of BB, but often a deus ex machina to boot (who can forget the moment when DEA Officer Hank Schraeder has Walt and Jesse cornered, only to get the slimiest of bum steers via phone from Saul’s office?)
With this ‘prequel’, we go back in time to when Saul (Bob Odenkirk), now reduced to serving slop and watching old videos of his cheesy ads, was James McGill, a newly-minted attorney-at-law, starting afresh in New Mexico after a career as a back-alley grifter in Cicero, Illinois (known as ‘Slippin’ Jimmy’ – he’s now a bit like ‘Whiplash Willie’). Jim is contending with a righteous older-brother (and junior dad) – Michael McKean – who has ‘Electromagnetic hypersensitivity’ and lives shrouded in tinfoil in a ‘grounded’ gas-lit home. We also are re-introduced to Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), whose back story explains and enhances his later phlegmatic, monolithic demeanour.
This series is great fun: insanely precise (albeit bizarre) plotting, masterful staging and direction and a cast of characters Dickens would have gleefully spooned-down with his pudding. McGill swings wildly between cockiness and shame, twixt doing good and breaking bad, with a definite sense in the last episode that he has made his choice. Whilst the show lacks the gravitas and high-tragic aspects of Breaking Bad, as a spin-off, it wheels around real nice.