Everything we know about Better Call Saul
Rob researches all there is to know about AMC’s highly anticipated Breaking Bad spin-off, Better Call Saul…
Warning: contains spoilers for the Breaking Bad series finale.
When meth-selling crime drama Breaking Bad came to an end in autumn last year, it really was the end of a televisual era. Like Game Of Thrones, Breaking Bad was not only a leading example of just how good telly has become in the last decade, but also an unprecedentedly shared experience.
It seemed like this intensely dramatic show had united all sorts of unlikely people, with vastly different tastes, with something they could all enjoy and share chin-wag about in the office. Put simply: it was a brilliant show, and a social happening too.
When the show came to its bloody end, there was an understandable emptiness left in its place, meaning that when the announcement came for Better Call Saul, the new spin-off series which will delve deeper into the life of Bob Odenkirk’s dodgy lawyer Saul Goodman, it was met with near-universal well-wishing.
To whet your appetites for Better Call Saul we’ve pulled together everything we know about the show so far…
When’s it on?
As we reported last month, even the simple facts about Better Call Saul aren’t that simple - the matter of when we’d finally get that entertainment fix we’ve been waiting for has been a bit of a cause for confusion.
Seeing as the series was originally expected to reach our screens in November 2014, you can be forgiven for being slightly disappointed when finding out it won’t actually be out until ‘early 2015’.
Thankfully, this delay was planned with good reason and other additional information seems to suggest that that the show isn’t in danger, it is the danger (meaning here that they’re plotting something altogether bigger and potentially ratings-raking than a one-off prequel).
This was proven by the fact that AMC is already developing a second series of Better Call Saul, which was revealed alongside news of the delay. An increase in scale can only be a good thing for everyone eagerly awaiting another trip to Walter White’s world (which, incidentally, could be a pretty terrifying theme park).
These two nuggets of news, the delay and the second series, are presumably linked. The initial assumption is that the first series was delayed to allow more time to develop the second series – ensuring the pacing was right, that the stories matched-up, tying down contracts and the like. Pushing back the first series allows the powers that be more time to work on that stuff, as well as probably meaning there won’t be a hugely long gap in between the two series.
So rather than a sign of worry, with a bit more information, the delays are actually signify a lot of AMC confidence in the show. We’re certainly grateful that we’ll now be getting 23 episodes of Saul’s adventures, at least.
Where and when is it set?
Previously assumed to be a straight-up prequel, things have changed slightly for Better Call Saul, in a way which could open some interesting doors for tie-ins with the original series Breaking Bad. As widely reported recently, Better Call Saul co-showrunner and Breaking Bad alumnus Peter Gould has spilt some very interesting beans on the subject of the show’s timeframe:
"One of the great things about having a time line which is flexible,” he explained, “is that perhaps some of it takes place before Breaking Bad, during Breaking Bad, and after Breaking Bad.”
So Better Call Saul is now a time-jumping series which will somehow link three different eras of the sleazy lawyer’s life. Colour us intrigued. Will the past, present and future timelines interconnect, like the way the events of the island timeline in Arrow come back to haunt Oliver in perfect chronological order years later? We don’t know yet, but it should be interesting to see how Gould and Gilligan handle that juggling process.
This flexible timeline allows some different locations to come into play too. An interesting thought is where Saul ended up after Breaking Bad – when the going got tough in the final season, with more murder and bloodshed than ever going down in the local area, Saul gave up his life as a lawyer/fixer and headed for the hills. His new identity was based in Nebraska, and he was last seen en-route to that location. Will Saul’s old life come back to haunt him at his new home? Will he set up a new business and get in more trouble? Or is he just trying to keep his head down? We’re certainly looking forward to finding out.
As for other locations, it looks like Breaking Bad’s Albuquerque will probably still be the key locale. After all, it did seem like Saul had been running his dodgy firm from there for quite some time when Jesse and Walt first paid him a visit. We can assume a lot of action will take place in Saul’s ridiculously decorated office.
An insight into the origins of Saul’s questionable career choice could be quite interesting too, with his family life being a total mystery. His Irish heritage and legal training (or lack thereof) could be intrigue past plot-points too. In one Breaking Bad episode, a presumably fake diploma is seen on Saul’s wall claiming he studied Political Science at the fictional University of American Samoa. Seeing what training Saul actually has, if any, could make for hilarious viewing.
Did this fake degree come back to haunt Saul at some point, like the back-to-university order that Jeff received in Community? Did Saul ever work in the more reputable echelons of law? Only time will tell, but a glimpse into the events that led to Saul setting up shop in a very shady area of town could be very fun to watch.
Who’s going to be in it?
"The sky's the limit with a prequel," Breaking Bad creator Gilligan said back in 2013 of Better Call Saul, which he will be co-showrunning. "Everybody who's now deceased in the Breaking Bad world is obviously still alive. You never know who might turn up and when and where."
So let’s finally get to the point here, and the question on everyone’s minds - are Walter and Jesse going to make an appearance? Their unlikely double act, heated rivalry and occasional bromance was undoubtedly the heart of Breaking Bad, and the majority of fans would no-doubt love to see them back in action together.
Well, reappearances for the drug-dealing duo became much more likely with the aforementioned news that Better Call Saul would take place before, during and after Breaking Bad. Seeing as neither character knew Saul before his first appearance in series 2 of Breaking Bad, although Jesse knew of his reputation, it would make sense for them to pop up in the ‘during Breaking Bad’ or ‘after Breaking Bad’ timelines.
Now, the latter option, for Walt and Jesse to turn up post-Breaking Bad, might seem unlikely, but it’s not as impossible as it might seem. Aaron Paul’s Jesse was last seen driving away from the scene of the final showdown laughing manically away into the night. Seeing as he’s pretty implicated in all the crimes that went down over five series of bloodshed, it doesn’t seem that unlikely that he’d try and track down his lawyer. Paul has expressed mixed thoughts on a return, though.
As for Walt, who was definitely presumed dead by most after the series finale, there is a tiny glimmer of hope. Star Bryan Cranston hasn’t ruled out the option that he survived, commenting at a Godzilla press event that “you never saw a bag zip up or anything, never say never.” Whether either actor could fit a reprise into their schedules remains to be seen, but fans will certainly be hoping for at least cameo appearances from the original stars, whether in the past, present or future timeline.
As for supporting cast, the only confirmed Breaking Bad returnee, other than Saul himself, is Jonathan Banks’ Mike Ehrmantraut. Killed by Walt towards the end of Breaking Bad, Mike is also recognisable to Community fans (Banks portrayed Buzz hickey to much fan-appreciation in series 5) and plays the roles of hired killer, mess cleaner and private investigator in the Breaking Bad universe. Whether there will be a return for Saul and Mike’s shared contact Gus Fring, drug kingpin and Walt’s main rival for a time, remains to be seen. Though it seems like a likely option.
The new characters created for the show, that we know so far, are Michael McKean as Dr Thurber, a talented attorney with an ‘unusual affliction’, Patrick Fabian as a ‘Kennedy type Lawyer’, Rhea Seehorn as another attorney and Michael Mando as a Spanish-speaking career criminal, according to Deadline. With all those attorneys, it looks like we’ll see plenty of courtroom action, which should be an interesting dynamic. Further new additions Zac and Luke, described as ‘twin skateboarders’, have also been mentioned. Whether we’ll get to see what happened to Saul’s public masturbator client is another mystery.
What will the tone and the structure be like?
Arguably more important than the casting, scheduling or timeline news is the tone of the show, the question of what it will actually be like to watch an episode of Better Call Saul. Anyone who remembers the Breaking Bad episode of the same name, which marked the first appearance of the attorney on-screen, will recall that he burst into the show as an arguably much-needed slice of comic relief, albeit a darkly-tinged one.
It’s fair to expect the same kind of tone in his spin-off show it would seem, with quotes going as far back as 2012 enforcing the idea of Better Call Saul as a more light-hearted, fun show. “I like the idea of a lawyer show in which the main lawyer will do anything it takes to stay out of a court of law,” Gilligan told Deadline. “He’ll settle on the courthouse steps, whatever it takes to stay out of the courtroom. That would be fun — I would like that.”
So would we, Vince. Just from that sentence it sounds like the hilarity of Saul will be carried over into his own show, with his likeable naff-ness and lack of professionalism segueing from Breaking Bad into its new spin-off.
Gilligan is also quoted as saying that Better Call Saul will be best viewed with fresh eyes. “It’s a different show and it’s gonna have a different energy and we’re not gonna try to just extend Breaking Bad,” he said. “We’re gonna do something fresh and new with a character that is rich and funny, and everyone’s excited about it. And we wanna make sure the audience sees right away that it’s not a continuation of Breaking Bad, but rather its own thing that hopefully is gonna be entertaining on its own terms.”
With words like funny, entertaining and different popping up, it seems likely that Saul’s unique comedy styling (which Odenkirk apparently based on legendary film producer Robert Evans) will be taking centre stage here, not the foreboding, brooding darkness of its bigger brother Breaking Bad.
As for the structure of the show, Gilligan and Gould are intending to play the long game with character development once more with 23 confirmed episodes, each of which will have an hour-long running time. Speaking to The Independent, Gilligan described the second season order as ‘tremendous’ before adding ‘the way we work is similar to Breaking Bad as it is very serialized and each episode builds on the last. And that gives us a much bigger canvas to play with.’
So, Better Call Saul will develop characters over time, expand the world by introducing a whole host of new talent, hugely please fans of the original with some returning familiar faces, jump between timelines to expand the story, will boast a comedic style to suit Saul’s style and will run for at least 23 hour-long episodes, not the previously perceived 10. Count us in, yo.
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