AMC's 'Better Call Saul': What the Critics Are Saying

Courtesy of Berlin International Film Festival
'Better Call Saul'

Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould's 'Breaking Bad' prequel stars Jonathan Banks, Michael McKean, Rhea Seehorn, Patrick Fabian and Michael Mando.

Better Call Saul, the highly anticipated prequel spinoff of AMC's hit Breaking Bad, zooms in on Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill, as he turns into ethically challenged lawyer Saul Goodman — long before he started doing business with the meth-cooking duo of Bad.

Co-created by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, the series also stars Jonathan Banks, Michael McKean, Rhea Seehorn, Patrick Fabian and Michael Mando. It kicks off on AMC with a two-night premiere (Sunday and Monday at 10 p.m.).

 

 

With a pilot directed by Gilligan, see what top critics are saying about Better Call Saul:

The Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman warns, "Better Call Saul really isn't much of a comedy. It'll be funny — there are parts of the first two episodes that certainly are — but this is the familiar ground of black humor and, for those who just want a clean and clear description, more drama than comedy. It's essential to know that going in. ... Saul is very much its own beast, a fairly clear departure stylistically from Breaking Bad and a drama with wholly different roots as well. The first hour moves slower than people might be expecting, but builds to and ends on a wonderful cliff-hanger that is partly but not fully solved in the second episode (luckily airing only a day after the pilot). ... The first episode certainly lets Gilligan (who directed it) and Gould (who co-wrote it with Gilligan), tweak viewers' shared history and remind people that their attention to detail, love of nuance and resistance to convention make for interesting television."

Playing the title character, "Odenkirk, for his part, is superb here. He proves yet again what a fine, grounded actor he is. Sure, he gets to unleash himself in fits and starts, but is primarily seen as introspective, still mostly innocent, as the series starts. Showing compassion (particularly as he interacts with brother Chuck) and lost-lamb desperation are the qualities that illustrate Odenkirk's range. He's in pretty much every scene, so coming to love his character (as well as understand him in these early days) is essential."

 

 

The New York Times' Alessandra Stanley reassures that it's "better than good: It’s delightful — in a brutal, darkly comic way, of course. ... [It] takes its time, teasing the viewer with enigmatic shots and oblique conversations. There is an odd tilt to characters and situations — much like the show’s cinematography. And the camera retains the restless, quirky spirit of Breaking Bad. ... Saul really gets going in the second episode, especially in a scene in which Jimmy uses his verbal skills — a dizzying blend of humility, guile and volubility — to avert disaster. Best of all, this is a series that can stand on its own. Fans of Walter White have a leg up on the outcome, but there is so much to this offshoot that viewers who have never seen Breaking Bad won’t feel left out."

The Washington Post's Hank Stuever says it "is right in line with the tone and style of the original, now-classic series. And like its predecessor, Better Call Saul raises more questions in two hours than it will readily answer. ... It isn’t too long before Jimmy/Saul is bound and gagged and thrown to the desert ground under a big, blue sky dotted with clouds — and Breaking Bad fans are home. The instant the duct tape is ripped off his mouth by his captors, a certain Saul-ness kicks in and Odenkirk’s talent is on full display as Jimmy delivers a pleading, philosophical monologue on — among other things — the awful nature of revenge. It’s a beautiful, even melodious act of BS-ing."

New York Daily News' David Hinckley writes it "starts off doing the right things to outrun the shadow of Breaking Bad. ... Several elements in Saul echo Breaking Bad. Family entanglements, the pressure of a serious illness, a cross-generational alliance. ... Saul picks up plot speed rapidly at the end of the first hour. The beginning, however, is so deliberate it’s almost hypnotic. It’s shot in black-and-white, with no dialogue for several minutes. It’s also shot out of time, and what we see falls right into the pocket for Breaking Bad fans."

 

 

San Francisco Chronicle's David Wiegand explains, "No, it’s not as good as Breaking Bad, but it has moments of possibility, if not out-and-out hope that with care and a more focused sense by Gould and Gilligan of what they want to do with their unlikely lead character, Saul might be worth a weekly call. ... By the third episode of the three sent to critics, the bits and pieces of apparent flotsam from the earlier episodes have begun to form a direction for Saul, and as they do, the series becomes less a comedy and more a serious exploration of a Falstaffian character who may be much more than the buffoon he seems on the surface."

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