By Donovan Levine
Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould and the other writers behind the “Breaking Bad” prequel series “Better Call Saul” have managed to consistently keep their audience actively engaged since it’s premiere in 2015. The series has been able to flesh out the lives of some of the show’s most complex characters while simultaneously developing a stand-alone story that easily rivals “Breaking Bad” and contends with “Mad Men” or “The Sopranos.”
Its season five opener premiered on Feb. 23 and didn’t skip a beat from where it left off in season four. Jimmy McGill has gone from the underdog lawyer living in his brother’s shadow to his coldhearted criminal alter-ego known as Saul Goodman, something the audience has been anticipating since the moment the show aired. And now in the wake of the final two seasons comes the pay-off for those who patiently waited to see how Jimmy finally cements himself into the man that helped facilitate the meth empire in “Breaking Bad.”
Sunday night double featured episodes one and two, titled “Magic Man” and “50% Off,” and included a clip with Gene Takovic, Saul’s third alter-ego he created in the aftermath of the events of Breaking Bad, and then the episode switches back to the moment Jimmy legally changes his name to Saul.
The audience is reintroduced to beloved characters such as Kim Wexler, Nacho Varga and Mike Ehrmantraut. But the newly introduced Lalo Salamanca has added a whole new layer to the story that is “Better Call Saul,” and creates an in-depth three-way deadlock between Don Eladio’s cartel, Gus Fring’s operation, and the Salamanca legacy.
What makes this show so well-written is that nothing is offered directly to the audience, it’s only shown the ways in which these characters go about their lives and how far they will go to get what they want. Rather than Gus Fring delivering some speech to Nacho about why he should work for him and about his feud with the Salamancas, the writers simply create a five-minute scene where Nacho is forced to watch Gus’s henchman threaten his father in front of him while Gus interrogates Nacho on the intentions of Lalo Salamanca.
Likewise, with Saul, the writing of his character is reinvented and the audience begins to see the similarities between him and Walt and how they broke bad, meaning the ways their characters have willingly chosen to raise hell and gradually abandon their morality in order to climb the ladder.
It continues to feature phenomenal storytelling. Chris Ryan from the podcast “The Ringer” also praised the show, reiterating the aforementioned story elements and dissecting the scriptwriting. “We’re only two episodes into season five of ‘Better Call Saul’ and you could already teach a class on screenwriting using just ‘Magic Man’ and ‘50% Off.’ This is how you tell a story.”