Better Call Saul Episode 1.01: Uno

 Posted by on February 9, 2015 at 11:55 am  Better Call Saul
Feb 092015
Better Call Saul Episode 1.01: Saul and his awful car

Better Call Saul‘s premiere episode, Uno, has arrived. It is a weird piece of perversity. Throughout watching the first two seasons of Breaking Bad (watched only recently, and we are still finishing off the final season, so I hope there are no spoilers in Better Call Saul) (OR IN THE COMMENTS), I was struck by the idea that Breaking Bad was secretly a sitcom. Sure, it’s a dark and violent drama, but, especially in the first two years, it was stealthily comic. Two bumbling and mismatched partners in over their heads. Law enforcement officers with suspects they can’t detect right under their noses. A hapless husband keeping secrets from his wife and going through ridiculous machinations to maintain those secrets. It’s all classic sitcom fodder, and it struck me as apropos that a former sitcom star played Walter White.

Saul Goodman was always a somewhat comic character in Breaking Bad, so you have to wonder how that would play on his own show. Better Call Saul has the hyperkinetic energy that Saul Goodman himself always displayed, the broad strokes, the—I’ll say it again—perversity of the character. It’s a fun and twisted ride, although I hope it calms down some.

We start with a post-Breaking Bad Saul in hiding, living in Nebraska, balding, mustachioed, a black-and-white existence as a Cinnabon manager. He longs to be Saul Goodman again, and so the flashbacks (and our prequel) begin.

When Saul met Walter White, he claimed he was an Irishman, and indeed, when we return to his past, he’s Jimmy McGill. A struggling lawyer doing his best by disgusting clients in need of a Public Defender, broke beyond reckoning and driving the world’s shittiest car, everything about him speaks of his frustrations and struggle, from his miniscule office in the back of a Korean nail salon, to the smoke pouring out the back of his Suzuki Esteem. He wants, wants, wants, and does not have.

And then we discover that Jimmy McGill is somehow profoundly disenfranchised. His (brother?) Chuck is a (crazy? disabled? delusional?) lawyer of fabulous wealth, a founding partner of a major law firm. He’s worth millions but has nothing, while Jimmy’s efforts to fight for them both are thwarted at every turn, not least by Chuck himself. Jimmy knows everyone at HHM (Hsomething Hamlin and McGill), and seems to have a past relationship with a woman there, but then there’s that shitty car and that nail salon.

We meet Mike Ehrmantraut, and the shock ending (SPOILER!) gives us the true beginnings of Saul Goodman in the person of Tuco Salamanca, the crazed meth dealer from Season 1 of Breaking Bad. Tuco’s appearance gives us a sense of where this series will go, reviving dead and gone characters and letting them get more flesh, while introducing new characters (like Chuck) so that it won’t feel like just a rehash. Damn, this could be good. Let’s face it, the greatness of Breaking Bad was in its characters, so bringing back a few (or many) can’t hurt. However, I do hope we see more of the new characters as well. I’m a big fan of the skateboarding twins.

Bullet points!

  • Esquire explores the details of that nasty car.
  • The skateboards are Cal and Lars played by Daniel Spenser Levine and Steven Levine.
  • We know from later on in Breaking Bad that Saul buys that nail salon.

What did you think, Basketcases?


  10 Responses to “Better Call Saul Episode 1.01: Uno”

  1. “He wants, wants, wants, and does not have.” I love this line.

    I skimmed the episode pretty briefly — I had to DVR it, and I watched it pretty late — but its lightness seems reassuringly deep to me, if that makes any sense.

    There was a lot of comedy in all five seasons of Breaking Bad. Saul Goodman was almost always reliably funny (his clothes alone!), and comedian Bob Odenkirk more or less perfected a kind of exasperated bluster. In the beginning, I thought comedy was what the show was for; then season 2 landed in Walter White’s pool, and I understood.

    Breaking Bad was fundamentally about consequences. In Vince Gilligan’s desert landscape of Albuquerque, there was literally nowhere to hide. Go ahead: lie to your wife, to your kids. Build a freaking meth lab underground. And good luck with all of that, because you won’t have it for long.

    I loved the moral universe of Breaking Bad. (It’s so much more understandable than the world I live in now.) It also scared the hell out of me, more often than not. I hope Better Call Saul revisits that world from time to time, but does not stay there. There’s more fun in what you can get away with than there is in the things that will never let you go.

    • “…the things that will never let you go.”
      I noticed that Jimmy was seen from above, in his “office”, through a rectangular framework of bars. Shades of “Crawl Space” and “Felina”? Symbolism? After all Saul will end up casually suggesting having inconvenient people murdered more than once. Does anyone know what I’m talking about?

      • Saul was sometimes visibly afraid of Walter White. (“You’re done when I say you’re done.”) Yet he never seemed to entirely identify with his client, did he?

        This was an odd choice for a criminal lawyer who’s not in the habit of drawing the curtain between himself and his clients. Saul never does that thing where he warns a possibly-guilty person not to tell him something; he seems to welcome their twisted plans and confidences.

        That’s all got to weigh on a person’s soul, sooner or later.

        But do people in comedies need to have souls? I think that’s the question.

  2. The nail salon in Better Call Saul does not look the same as the one in BB. Also, I don’t think Saul bought the nail salon in BB– he was trying to get Walter White to buy it as a money laundry.

  3. Someone should tell Chuck that electromagnetic radiation (radio waves, light…well, gamma rays) is non-ionizing.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.