How Better Call Saul Subverts Breaking Bad’s Most Important Trope

How Better Call Saul Subverts Breaking Bad's Most Important Trope
The second golden age of TV is taken into account to have begun within the late ’90s with status dramas like The Sopranos, and continued with exhibits like The Shield, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and even Boardwalk Empire. These exhibits have sure issues in frequent, together with a morally ambiguous most important character that the viewers finds sympathetic regardless of their many acts of cruelty and evil. These antiheroes usually maintain comparatively respectable positions–a instructor, a cop, a politician–but conceal darker tendencies that come to the floor over the course of the present.

Now that these exhibits aren’t dominating the TV panorama, we’re seeing exhibits that problem the thought of the TV antihero. And few do this in addition to Better Call Saul, AMC’s Breaking Bad prequel sequence, which, at the moment in the course of airing its fifth and closing season, has now formally run so long as Breaking Bad did within the first place.

When we first met Saul Goodman in Season 2 of Breaking Bad, Jesse Pinkman described him as “a criminal lawyer.” Throughout that present we noticed Goodman act as an entire scumbag, a person keen to promote out his grandma if it meant getting a number of seconds’ head begin. That mentioned, he was additionally a comic book reduction character who served as a humorous counterpart to Walter White’s more and more grim transformation into Heisenberg.

In 2015, AMC launched Better Call Saul, which centered on con-man turned small-time lawyer Jimmy McGill–who Breaking Bad viewers knew would by some means go on to change into Saul Goodman. Like Breaking Bad earlier than it, this present promised to doc that transformation, however from the start, it was simple to see that Jimmy was just about the polar reverse of Walter White. Even although Jimmy nonetheless had some sleaziness in him–mostly from his time as a small-time grifter often known as Slippin’ Jimmy–in the present’s current time he at all times strived to do good and confirmed regret when he did not.

This stands in distinction to Breaking Bad, the present that Vince Gilligan famously bought as “a story about a man who transforms himself from Mr. Chips into Scarface.” When we met Walter White, he appeared like a sufferer of circumstance, a once-brilliant chemist trapped in a dead-end job who received a most cancers analysis he could not combat in his present financial scenario. Instead of accepting assist from his former enterprise accomplice, he turned to crime and started cooking meth to boost cash that may go to his household after he dies. But Breaking Bad shortly uncovered Walter for who he actually was: a person who blamed the world for the life he selected, who discovered any excuse to “break bad” and do horrible issues as he grew his crime empire. As the viewers, we ate up his more and more problematic actions as a result of they had been portrayed as “cool,” like taking down drug lords utilizing “science, bitch.” But Breaking Bad repeatedly provided Walter exit after exit, just for him to maintain going as a result of, as he mentioned in the long run, “I liked it, I was good at it, and I was really–I was alive.”

Breaking Bad was all about Walter White embracing his newfound life and the thrills that got here with it, even when it got here at the price of his household and his soul. On paper, Better Call Saul seems woefully comparable, however what makes the prequel sequence particular is the way it flips the feelings related to the antihero arc on their head. Jimmy McGill could look like a typical antihero as a result of we see him slowly embrace a lifetime of crime, however when he finds himself in a battle, Jimmy would not invent a cool strategy to confront his adversaries–if something, he goes to nice lengths to keep away from confrontation altogether. Jimmy to date hasn’t appeared able to placing a bomb on a wheelchair or equipping a machine gun to the trunk of a automotive, however he’s keen to attraction the pants off those that imply him hurt. Jimmy could by no means change into a criminal offense lord, or the boss of a strong syndicate, however by completely dedicating himself to unglamorous bottom-feeding, Jimmy McGill survives lengthy after the antiheroes are captured or killed.

Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman in Better Call Saul
Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman in Better Call Saul

At the center of that is the ethical wrestle inside Jimmy McGill. Better Call Saul does present its protagonist committing terrible acts. Jimmy McGill could not consider himself as a nasty particular person, and he at all times tries to make issues proper, even at his personal expense, however he does dangerous issues. In some ways, he’s like Bojack Horseman, one other character who desperately desires to be considered a very good particular person, however who continuously caves to dangerous habits he blames on his upbringing and circumstance, till he realizes he is change into the particular person others assume he’s. Jimmy is not breaking dangerous like Walter did; he will not change into a criminal offense lord, however we have nonetheless seen him embrace his new lifetime of aiding criminals and having fun with it, to the purpose of rejecting affords to change into a extra historically revered lawyer seemingly as a result of he enjoys being Saul Goodman extra.

Therein lies the tragedy of Better Call Saul, as Jimmy’s descent into changing into Saul Goodman has evidently decrease stakes, however the ethical downfall is extra poignant and emotionally impactful. With Breaking Bad the viewers slowly realized that Walter White was at all times a horrible particular person, whereas Better Call Saul exhibits how Jimmy was at all times holding Saul Goodman in test. Jimmy seems like a nasty particular person deep down–he believes what others take into consideration him. But the occasions of the present actually have compelled him to interrupt dangerous. We needed Walter to win it doesn’t matter what, however we dread the second Jimmy absolutely turns into Saul Goodman.

We nonetheless get antihero tales on TV, however current exhibits have made an effort to touch upon the style and provide different takes on it. The not too long ago completed The Good Place and even Bojack Horseman gave us flawed to outright horrible protagonists, and adopted their arduous makes an attempt at changing into higher individuals. Even if it wasn’t simple, in the event that they relapsed or did not absolutely change into good by the top, the exhibits had been all about making an effort. With Better Call Saul we all know there is no such thing as a redemption accessible for Jimmy. We understand how his story ends: in metaphorical black and white, on the run from the legislation, and fully alone. The present takes benefit of its standing as a prequel to make us really feel what not one of the Star Wars prequels did: an actual sense of dread at figuring out that irrespective of how a lot we root for Jimmy or how a lot he tries to remain good, finally he’ll flip into the sleazy comedian reduction scumbag felony lawyer we met all these years in the past.

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