If you take 100 people and ask them to list their favourite shows of the past decade, I’d imagine a great many of them would mention Breaking Bad. The show, led by Bryan Cranston Aaron Paul details the life of a teacher who turns to cooking Meth to pay for his cancer treatment.
As the show developed in season 2 we are introduced to a new character called Saul Goodman (get it?). Saul is a crooked lawyer and is often used as comic relief. Bob Odenkirk pitches the character perfectly. He is funny while being believable and became a real highlight of the show. In fact, so popular was Saul that he was given his own spin-off show “Better Call Saul”
Better call Saul is titled after the advertising campaign that Saul Goodman uses in Breaking Bad. The show predates the events in Breaking Bad, well sort of! Spoiler alert: at the start of Better Call Saul, Saul is shown after the events of Breaking Bad, he has gone into hiding and is living a miserable existence working in a Cinnabon. The story then moves us back to a much younger Saul (which it transpires isn’t even his real name) and tells us the tale of how Jimmy McGill becomes his more criminally inclined alter ego, Saul Goodman.
For those that enjoyed Vince Gilligan’s original creation, Better Call Saul (BCS) will be instantly familiar. The cool, quirky camera angles, the bold cinematography and the general vibe that brings the New Mexico setting to life are all present. However, while Breaking Bad often accelerated at a breakneck pace, BCS takes a more nuanced approach. Yes, there is action, and drama, but BCS has a lot of emotional depth.
Can you compare the two?
Comparisons between any spin-off and its original counterpart are inevitable. It is rare that a spin-off can achieve the success or popularity of the original. In fact, the only instances I can think of are Cheers/Fraser and Jag/NCIS. In this case, the original and the spin-off are very similar shows in many respects. The main differences are the pace and the story that they are trying to tell
Much like the movie the Godfather, Breaking Bad tells the story of a man’s descent into darkness. In the beginning, we have a character who we feel a modicum of sympathy for in Walter White. He has cancer and a disabled son, it’s a rubbish life. However, he isn’t particularly likeable. He is a bit of a wet blanket and not a particularly warm character. Because of this dynamic in some ways, as Walt becomes Heisenberg it is cool to see him develop some moxy, but on the other hand, he becomes a terrible human being.
In BCS we see a likeable, hard-working character in Jimmy. In many ways, he is the antithesis of Walter. He is strong-willed and a hustler. He also shows integrity. We know his path and that he ends up in the same “world” as Walter, but the two characters couldn’t be more different. It is because of this transformation that the show develops a slower pace. It is far more cerebral. In almost every episode Odenkirk’s character wrestles with his conscience and it’s a testament to his fine acting skills that he is able to portray this character dealing with his demons so accurately.
So which is better?
Obviously, this is totally subjective and I fear that I face a backlash for saying this. Both shows are fantastic in their own right. But in terms of relatability and emotional connection, Better Call Saul is the superior show.