'Breaking Bad' Spinoff: Why You Should Give 'Better Call Saul' a Chance


If Breaking Bad is all you want to think about right now, and even related topics can't hold your attention, I understand. Ever since Sunday night's episode, "Ozymandias," I've felt much the same way. But the sad — or, given how emotionally draining recent episodes have been, soothing — fact is that there are only two episodes left, and then that's it. So we might as well get a head start on coping with our Breaking Bad-free future by contemplating what we'll have left after the show off the air for good.

I'm speaking, of course, about Better Call Saul, the spinoff prequel that will focus on everyone's favorite shady (though effective) one-liner-wielding lawyer, Saul Goodman. Better Call Saul's been a divisive proposition from the get-go. Some Breaking Bad fans doubt that Saul's character can carry a full show, and others worry that if the show flops, it will sully the memory of one of the greatest dramas in television history.

The development of Better Call Saul looks more likely than ever (AMC and Sony reached a licensing deal last week, and you can sign up for a Better Call Saul newsletter and everything), I thought I'd share my thoughts on the spinoff. I say: bring it on. Why am I staying optimistic? Funny you should ask.

1. Saul is a Really Good Character, and Bob Odenkirk is a Really Good Actor.

From his first appearance back in season two, up through the last batch of episodes, Saul Goodman has enhanced Breaking Bad immeasurably. A large part of that is because he's hilarious, but as the series has gotten darker, so has Saul's role in it (as in the above video). Bob Odenkirk has been more than up to the task of representing Saul's evolving role. The character's increased complexity bodes well for a Saul-centric series: the fast talking we know and love will still be there, but hopefully, so will the dramatic substance that we might have thought impossible even a couple seasons ago.

2. Saul is Surrounded By Compelling Characters

Who doesn't love Saul's henchmen, the enormous, bumbling Huell and smarmy Kuby? I want more of them. One issue, though: Huell and Kuby didn't appear until the fourth season of Breaking Bad, so the characters' backstories might have to be fudged in order for them to appear in a prequel. I can live with some continuity errors if it means getting to see these guys every week.

I'm also looking forward to seeing more of Saul's secretary, Francesca. The few glimpses of her we've gotten (impersonating a police officer on the phone to help Walt get Hank away from the RV in season three, and extorting money from Walt after he breaks the office door in season four) suggest she might just be Saul's equal in executing shady schemes.

Beyond that, Saul's non-Walt and Jesse clientele is probably as colorful as the man himself. Most promising of all? Given that Better Call Saul is a prequel, it would make sense for a certain beloved former private investigator to turn up every now and again.

3. The Creative Team Has Earned Our Trust.

The series will be developed by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould (pictured), and eventually run by Gould. I don't think I need to explain to any Breaking Bad fan why we should have faith in Gilligan. As for Gould, in addition to creating the character of Saul Goodman, he's written or cowritten some of Breaking Bad's best episodes (season two's Better Call Saul, season three's Half Measures, season four's Salud, and the current season's Blood Money). It's not like these guys just caught lightning in a bottle on Breaking Bad, either. Gilligan wrote for The X-Files for years, and Gould wrote the screenplay for the well-received HBO movie Too Big to Fail. If anyone can do this show right, they can.

4. Spinoffs Have Worked Before.

For every The Tortellis (I can't imagine who thought that show was a good idea), there's a FrasierThe Mary Tyler Moore Show begat Rhoda and Lou Grant. There was almost a spinoff of The Wire, and I feel confident that the show would have been great, had it existed. The critical and commercial success of spinoffs is never a sure thing, but plenty have done well, and Better Call Saul has enough good raw material to make it one of the better ones.

5. It Doesn't Need to Be As Good As Breaking Bad to Be Worthwhile.

Better Call Saul won't be as good as Breaking Bad, and that's OK. Asking the new show to live up to the legacy of one of television's towering achievements is insane. If Better Call Saul is merely good — if it's simply better than whatever else would have aired in its time slot — then it was worth making. What are the odds of that? Pretty good, I think. Especially if the show includes more ads like the one above.

6. A Flop Wouldn't Detract From the Greatness Of 'Breaking Bad.'

The idea that Better Call Saul can ruin Breaking Bad's legacy reminds me of something Grantland's Brian Phillips recently said about Roger Federer, the tennis legend who is now a shadow of his former self: "Legacy ... has nothing to do with the athlete, whose accomplishments aren't going to change if he plays past his prime ... [it presumes] that fans don't have memories and can't cope with the complexity of a human life."

Just replace "athlete" and "human life" with "show" and "creative endeavor," respectively. Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul are inextricably linked, but they're discrete entities. Just as Breaking Bad's success doesn't guarantee the same for its spinoff, Better Call Saul's failure wouldn't retroactively render its progenitor a worse show. Come September 30, Walt's gone for good, and Breaking Bad's work is finished. If we judge the show by anything other than its 62 hours, that's our problem.

7. It's Not Like AMC Has Any Better Ideas.

What, like you're into Low Winter Sun?