Egan Davis ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
When the landmark AMC show Breaking Bad ended last fall it left a huge gap in the television landscape. It changed the way TV was made in a variety of ways. Along with the rise in popularity of premium channels like HBO and Showtime, Breaking Bad was one of the first programs on cable that showcased cinematic television. It turned Aaron Paul into a household name and showed us that the dad from Malcolm in the Middle actually has some acting chops. It was the first show that many people “binge-watched” on Netflix because every episode usually left you wanting more. In just a matter of five seasons, Breaking Bad broke boundaries, crossed the line, and became what many people consider to be one of the greatest TV shows of all time. When word of a spinoff came to light many people were, of course, extremely skeptical.
Historically, spinoffs including the comic relief as the main character never tend to do well. It would be a more conceivable thought to have a spinoff about the badass ex-cop Mike Ehrmantraut. In the first scene of Better Call Saul’s pilot episode, an epilogue to Saul’s story is depicted after the events of Breaking Bad ended. Saul became a manager of a Cinnabon and is constantly looking over his shoulder. The majority of the show takes place about six years before the events of Breaking Bad, around 2002. Saul goes by his birth name, Jimmy McGill and he’s not a successful lawyer. On a daily basis he has run-ins with the parking lot attendant, Mike, from the original series. So far, the show has had a mix of original content and throwbacks (throw-forwards, technically) to Breaking Bad. The first episode is a prime example of this because it shows completely new characters and stories but the very last scene shows the main character being dragged into a house at gunpoint by notorious drug dealer, Tuco.
To date, the show has exceeded viewer expectations and has already drawn a weekly fan base. It has widespread critical acclaim and it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s already renewed for a second season. The show is smart, innovative, and still has stakes even though the ultimate fate of a few characters is understood.
In the show’s fifth episode titled “Alpine Shepherd Boy”, viewers get their first opening sequence without a form of flashback/forward. Saul’s mentally ill brother Chuck is in trouble with the law for stealing a neighbor’s newspaper and has his door broken in by police. This was a very strong episode for Chuck which is good because up until this point he was the least interesting part of the show.
After his daring billboard con in last week’s episode, Saul finds himself inundated with potential clients looking for a cheap lawyer. While the first few clients turn out to be duds (one gentleman hopes to secede from the United States and another is trying to patent a perverted toilet) he eventually meets an elderly woman trying to organize her will.
After his run in with the police, Chuck is brought to the hospital in order to be treated for his “electromagnetic hypersensitivity”—essentially, he thinks he’s allergic to electronic devices. When the doctor secretly proves that electronic devices have no effect on Chuck, it is decided that he is a danger to himself, but Saul refuses to have his brother committed. Upon returning home, Jimmy and Chuck argue over the story in the newspaper and how it likely caused Chuck’s episode.
Arguably the best scene was a montage that took place in the rec room of an elderly home. The montage started with everyone eating Jell-O, and when the first woman finished, it was revealed that Saul’s face was on an advertisement on the bottom offering legal will services. Immediately after this Saul came in and started schmoozing with his future paychecks. Classic, sleazy Saul at his finest.
Towards the end of the episode there is more insight into the life of Mike Ehrmantraut. He has a brief interaction with Saul and is seen finishing his shift in the parking garage. He then gets food at a diner, and parks his car outside a random house. The woman who lives in the house passes in her car and gives Mike a strange look. The last scene is a whole slew of police officers knocking on Mike’s door.
Overall, the episode was entertaining but a bit slow compared to the others before it. It was clever that they began and ended the episode with the police at someone’s door. It’s intriguing that Mike is being incorporated into the story more, and hopefully there will be expanded stories on how he and Saul become associates.
Overall Episode Grade: B+