Berlinale: Better Call Saul

Directed by Colin Bucksey, Adam Bernstein and Vince Gilligan
Starring Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Patrick Fabian, Rhea Seehorn, Michael Mando and Michael McKean

by Joanna Orland

The fact that AMC television show Better Call Saul was included in the Berlinale film festival lineup speaks volumes about the credibility of television drama, especially when programmed alongside heavy hitters including films by Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders.  Better Call Saul certainly held its own – playing better on the big screen than most of the Berlinale films themselves.  The first two episodes of the Breaking Bad spinoff further delves into the character study of shady lawyer Saul Goodman, exploring his backstory, and in the words of lead actor Bob Odenkirk – it tries to answer the question ‘what problem does becoming Saul Goodman solve?‘.

Tonally different to Breaking Bad but featuring many familiar faces and homages to the original series, Better Call Saul is the perfect balance of drama and comedy.  Whereas Saul Goodman acted as the comic relief in the very dark series of Breaking Bad, here he has to act in all roles – comic relief and dramatic hook.  And boy, does he deliver.  Bob Odenkirk’s portrayal of Saul, with more of a dramatic element to his performance, is superb.  He’s empathetic and gripping as much as he is funny.  This new dimension to Saul is what is going to carry this series forward.

The series begins in black and white in a setting that I can only imagine to be the post Breaking Bad life of Saul Goodman as he reminisces about his days as The Saul Goodman.  Flashback to his life pre Breaking Bad to the days where Saul Goodman is known as James McGill, a down-on-his-luck lawyer who tries to do right by the law, all the while dipping his toe into shady territory.

For Breaking Bad fans, Better Call Saul may require a bit of getting used to.  As Saul was the comic relief to Walt and Jesse’s harrowing dark tale, it’s make or break time for this character to see if he can hold dramatic ground on his own.  Cameos by Breaking Bad characters may have initially delighted audiences at its Berlinale screening, but will this introduction of familiar faces help Saul to forge his own path in the world of television, or will it hinder him?  As far as a premiere screening amongst an audience goes, these cameos certainly delighted.

Better Call Saul is a completely different show to Breaking Bad both tonally and story wise.  I have no doubt that after a few episodes, the audience will fully commit to Saul’s story, more intensely than a bad meth habit.  Perhaps five years from now, style-over-substance Saul will have emerged from Walt and Jesse’s shadow to become a complex and fascinating character in his own right.

One Response to “Berlinale: Better Call Saul”

  1. Felix says:

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