Better Call Saul has what it takes to be a superior spinoff

Breaking Bad's Saul Goodman is a lawyer who's dodgier than his clients. Fertile ground for the writers of the series' now-confirmed prequel, surely?

SPOILER ALERT: Contains mild spoilers of plot points up to and including the current episode of Breaking Bad.

As Breaking Bad fans await the outcome of the desert shootout, there's finally a glimmer of hope on the horizon: not quite the tribal police riding to the rescue, but an announcement from AMC, confirming that they're making the Better Call Saul spinoff that's been rumoured for a while.

"AMC and Sony Pictures Television confirmed today that they have reached a licensing agreement for a spinoff of Vince Gilligan's landmark AMC/SPT series Breaking Bad. As conceived, the new series is based on the show's popular Saul Goodman character with the working title Better Call Saul. Plans call for Saul to be a one-hour prequel that will focus on the evolution of the popular Saul Goodman character before he ever became Walter White's lawyer."

It's a character that Bob Odenirk has fleshed out into a brilliant performance: the timing and confidence he brings to the role make what could be a cartoonish portrayal of a sleazy lawyer totally believable. He's rarely lost for words, has an office covered with wallpaper made out of the US Constitution, and a framed copy of his degree from the "University of American Samoa" where he (apparently) got an MA in political science. But what his combover, loud ties and penchant for colourful euphemisms all hide of course, is that he's very good at his job. He knows people and he knows the law, and that's an irresistable combination for a character.

We first met Saul Goodman back in the second season. After their arrangement with Tuco falls through, Walt and Jesse hit on a rock-solid distribution model for their product: Jesse talks his stoner buddies into working the corners of Albuquerque for him ("This is the ground floor. DBAA mo-fos!"). Their first hitch comes when Star Trek-loving lieutenant Badger gets busted on a park bench after falling for an undercover cop's "if I was a cop I'd have to tell you" ruse. Jesse's reaction? Call the guy from the TV ads: "Saul Goodman & Associates is your one-stop shop for all your legal needs." Initially, Walt is appalled, especially when he spots the goofy blow-up statue of liberty on top of Saul's strip-mall office. But as Jesse points out, when you're in the meth business and you need to make sure your guys aren't going to sell you out to the feds, it's better to have a criminal lawyer who's a criminal lawyer.

If there's a way in to the Better Call Saul spin-off, surely that's it: a lawyer who's dodgier than his clients. Of course, we've had legal shows where the staff are happy to bend the law, but you get the impression that where characters such as Patty Hewes in Damages think they're above the law, Saul seems to thrive below it. Even his name sounds shady: a contraction of "It's all good, man". As he tells Walt, "My real name's McGill. The Jew thing I just do for the homeboys. They all want a pipe-hitting member of the tribe, so to speak." We hear what Saul thinks of himself in his first off-colour meeting with Skyler: "Clearly [Walt's] taste in women is the same as his taste in lawyers: only the very best, with just the right amount of dirty."

Now we know Better Call Saul is going to be a prequel, what can we expect? Putting aside any possible implications for Saul's life expectancy in the current timeline (personally, I can't cope with the thought of losing any more of the BB crew) there's a world of possibility. When people call Saul, he always seems to know who to call. It would be great to see exactly how he built his network of guys who "know a guy who knows a guy". I'd also love to see more stories involving "cleaners" such as Mike Ehrmantraut, who could be back in action; hopefully we'll see Saul's enforcers Huell and Kuby, and his long-suffering secretary Francesca. Saul once told Walt a story about his second wife cheating on him (with his stepdad): will we get any more insights into Saul's home life? (Who wouldn't want to see Saul out in Albuquerque's singles scene?) But perhaps it's the Saul Goodman & Associates waiting room that will be the most fertile source of stories for the prequel: it's always so full – who are these people?

The wisdom of Saul Goodman

"Hi, I'm Saul Goodman. Did you know that you have rights? The constitution says you do! And so do I."

"Conscience gets expensive, doesn't it?"

"For a substantial fee, and I do mean substantial, you and your loved ones can vanish. Untraceable."

"I want it in a money order and make it out to Ice Station Zebra Associates. That's my loan out. It's totally legit … it's done just for tax purposes. After that we can discuss Visa or Mastercard, but definitely not American Express, so don't even ask, all right?"

"You're a high-risk client. You're gonna need the deluxe service. It's gonna cost you."

"If you're committed enough, you can make any story work. I once told a woman I was Kevin Costner, and it worked because I believed it."

"I never should have let my dojo membership run out."

"Better safe than sorry. That's my motto."

"As to your dead guy, occupational hazard. Drug dealer getting shot? I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say it's been known to happen."

"Don't drink and drive – but if you do, call me."


Richard Vine

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Better Call Saul: the audacious prequel series keeps getting better
In the new season of the Breaking Bad prequel, creator Vince Gilligan once again showcases his ability to rewrite the rules with flair

Charles Bramesco

06, Aug, 2018 @3:03 PM

Article image
Has Better Call Saul lived up to expectations?
Halfway through the first series, we have time to take stock – is this a great show in its own right, or do you have to be a fully signed-up Breaking Bad fan to appreciate it?

Richard Vine

12, Mar, 2015 @2:59 PM

Article image
Better Watch Saul: what's up with the Breaking Bad spinoff teasers?
AMC seems determined to hammer fans with a never-ending deluge of teaser trailers ahead of Better Call Saul’s release. One reason for the hard sell? The network needs a hit

Brian Moylan

01, Dec, 2014 @9:19 PM

Article image
Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould on Better Call Saul: 'It could have been a huge flop'
As the second season of the Breaking Bad spinoff starts, its creators reveal what happens next, the pitfalls of time travel – and why their female characters have suffered until now

Sam Wollaston

16, Feb, 2016 @10:58 AM

Article image
Better Call Saul recap: season one, episode 10 – Marco
The first season reaches its end – and Jimmy is going into an exquisite meltdown in a bingo hall

Richard Vine

07, Apr, 2015 @9:29 AM

Article image
Better Call Saul recap – season one episode one
Set six years before Breaking Bad, we see Saul scrabbling around at the bottom of the legal pit, in a show that’s like New Order to Breaking Bad’s Joy Division

Richard Vine

09, Feb, 2015 @4:00 AM

Article image
Better Call Saul recap: season one, episode three – Nacho
An arrest leads to an uncomfortable situation for Jimmy, as a beautiful business arrangement blossoms

Richard Vine

17, Feb, 2015 @10:15 AM

Article image
Can Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul live up to expectations?

Richard Vine: Cheers succeeded with Frasier but MASH's AfterMASH bombed. Now even Breaking Bad's writer, Vince Gilligan, is worried that Better Call Saul could disappoint

Richard Vine

04, Jun, 2014 @5:10 PM

Article image
Better Call Saul's Vince Gilligan: 'We want to reward the fans'
Breaking Bad creator spoke during a panel in LA and revealed how fans of the show are at the heart of his creative decisions

Lauren Gambino

27, Mar, 2015 @7:41 PM

Article image
Better Call Saul teaser: 'Are you with me, ladies and gentlemen?'
Trailerwatch: A new clip has appeared for the impending Breaking Bad spinoff, though like the teasers released before it, it reveals little

Guardian TV

23, Sep, 2014 @8:27 AM