sat 20/07/2019

Better Call Saul, Netflix | reviews, news & interviews

Better Call Saul, Netflix

Better Call Saul, Netflix

Eagerly-awaited 'Breaking Bad' spinoff makes assured debut

Family law: Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk, left) and his brother Chuck (Michael McKean)

Finally the moment the Breaking Bad diaspora has been waiting for, with the arrival of Vince Gilligan's new show about the earlier career of New Mexico's least scrupulous lawyer, Saul Goodman. Mind you, the title is a little bit misleading, because Saul doesn't exist yet. In this incarnation, he's still just a hustling low-life called Jimmy McGill, a man who never knowingly leaves any barrel unscraped.

Goodman was often used as light relief in Breaking Bad, providing interludes of comic sleaze amid the remorseless descent into moral darkness, but here we must, perforce, get a fuller sense of the man and his background. This may take time, since Gilligan and his co-creator Peter Gould have permitted themselves the luxury – you could say they've earned it – of proceeding at a discursive, unhurried pace.Amid exterior landscapes lit by the infinite golden daylight of the American southwest, this debut episode (subtitled "Uno") took us on a tour of some of the landmarks of Jimmy's world (McGill in court, pictured above). There's the cramped, dingy back room of a beauty parlour which he uses as an office (the sign on the door laughingly reads "James M McGill Esq – A Law Corporation"). Then there's the gleaming palace of Hamlin Hamlin & McGill, a genuinely swanky law corporation where Jimmy's older brother Chuck (Michael McKean) is a partner, but is currently on extended leave due to ill health. Chuck himself lives in a gloomy house lit by gas lamps with a cool box instead of a fridge, because he's  suffering from some kind of aversion to electromagnetic energy. The always-skint Jimmy desperately wants Chuck to quit the partnership and cash out for millions of  bucks.

Meanwhile, Jimmy is eking out an existence on low-rent public defender cases. In one meticulously droll set-piece, we sat inside the courtroom while judge, jury and onlookers waited at inordinate length for Jimmy to present his defence case for three teenage boys (he was nervously rehearsing his lines in the men's room). For a moment, his argument that his clients had committed a mere teenage indiscretion (hey, didn't we all?) felt vaguely plausible. Then the prosecutor silently wheeled out a TV and ran a video of the defendants making merry with a dismembered corpse. 'Nuff said.

No stunt is too cheap for McGill, who's played with a masterly mix of low cunning and sweaty desperation by Bob Odenkirk. His plan to team up with a pair of scamming skateboarders never looked especially promising, but by the end of episode one Jimmy was already staring big trouble in the face. Other promising signs are that we've renewed our acquaintance with a couple of BB favourites, the deadpan enforcer Mike Ehrmentraut (Jonathan Banks, pictured left) and hysterical meth dealer Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz). Episode two goes online tomorrow.

By the end of episode one Jimmy was already staring big trouble in the face

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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