‘Better Call Saul’ Has Become Better Than ‘Breaking Bad’
I never thought I’d say it.
I’ve always been a huge fan of “Breaking Bad.”
But with this sixth season, the prequel to “Breaking Bad,” “Better Call Saul,” has become better than the original series.
The tipping point for me was the last episode, and last moments, of Nacho Varga, which were so tense and intense yet touching and beautiful in so many ways. That incredibly difficult mixture of emotions to attain, and the ultimate fate of one of my favorite characters in both shows, just showed how masterful “Saul” has become.
The way the two shows overlap in ways so subtle yet powerful is absolute genius, in large part because it is so subtle. The thing I love about “Saul” is that its creators trust that the show’s fans are also fans of “Breaking Bad” and they put in these amazing easter eggs that run between the two shows without ham-handedly pounding them home, instead trusting that the audience is smart enough to find them, and trusting that the audience is going to watch the shows multiple times so that if we don’t get them the first time, we will eventually.
For example, the sixth season begins with a look through Saul Goodman’s home as it’s being cleared out by a group of people. Who are the people? We don’t know, exactly. Many have assumed they’re RICO agents clearing out his belongings after he disappeared in the “Bad” timeline. But what is being positioned as a flash forward to the “Breaking Bad” timeline could instead be one that’s from far in the future to the point of Saul’s eventual death. What if what we’re seeing — given the number of medications across the bathroom which would be applicable to a much older man — is instead a flash way forward into the future after Saul returns to claim his throne, long after “Bad,” after Saul passes away at old age and people are clearing out his house since he has no heirs?
Either way, the details they pack into that moment are like a massive puzzle to viewers to put together to ascertain clues to future episodes, and past ones. But one of the details that slipped by even me is that the characters of Jimmy and Kim may have actually gone to look at that house on a lark in season five, which could foreshadow that Kim survives the prequel series into the “Breaking Bad” timeline. Likewise, another subtle detail they put in that also foreshadows that is the fact that we’d seen the character of Howard for six seasons and hadn’t even known he had a wife. If they can do that with a major character in one show, why not another?
Of course there would be other details to explain in regard to why Kim never appears in “Breaking Bad,” but the creators excel at solving such problems in imaginative ways, which, again, is one of the reasons I, and millions of others, love the show.
Another great detail had been the growing relationship between Nacho and Mike, which echoed and foreshadowed Mike’s mentorship with Jesse in “Bad.” It always seemed kind of out of left field for Mike to take Jesse under his wing, and it always seemed as if there was some ulterior motive which was never explained. Little did we know that in some ways it seemed that Mike regarded Jesse the same way as Nacho, albeit as someone he could help escape Nacho’s fate. Of course, also, both Nacho and Jesse echo Mike’s relationship with his own son, which was ultimately doomed, and which he’s been haunted by and subconsciously trying to atone for ever since.
However, none of that is ever slammed home. There’s never a moment where some character says, “You see a lot of your son in him, don’t you?” or anything else as obvious. That’s why I love “Saul.” It’s a smart show for smart viewers that rewards those of us who love it and revel in those details. It’s like reading a good book over and over and always discovering something new about the characters and seeing some new angle to the story.
There are only two more episodes of “Saul” until it hits its mid-season break. And it’s thrilling that I can’t truly predict what’s going to happen to any of the characters.
But I can try…
There are some characters that are obviously going to survive because they cross over into the “Breaking Bad” timeline. Mike. Saul. Gus. Sure, there are a lot of questions about how they evolve and change into the people they are in the latter series, but we know they’re going to live.
Kim? We don’t see her in “Breaking Bad,” and although it’s been kind of teased that she might be there behind-the-scenes, that doesn’t make much sense because there are way too many loose ends on how that would work within the existing framework of that show. I think it makes more sense that Kim ends up being the first person sent to “disappear” due to some major issues she ends up facing, most likely due to her vendetta against Howard gone awry. There’s a famous moment in the “Bad” timeline where Saul tells his secretary to be at a certain spot for a phone call on his birthday. Who else would be calling Saul on his birthday but Kim? But why would she be calling him only on his birthday at a certain time? Well, if she’s been moved to an undisclosed location and “disappeared,” that makes perfect sense. For a while I thought Nacho was going to disappear with his father, since they had the fake IDs, but that didn’t happen. However, Kim disappearing makes much more sense. It would be hard to imagine Saul being so happy-go-lucky in “Bad” if Kim had met a horrible death. But with her being gone, albeit knowingly safe from harm, that could make sense for him being in a much better state of mind.
Gene? And that leads to the ultimate fate of Gene. I think Gene/Saul/Jimmy is going to end up getting a happy ending with Kim, and her coming back from her exile or him going to be with her, would make sense. The show creators are always talking about characters getting what they ultimately deserve in regard to their fates. Whereas Walter White deserved his fatal fate due to his sins, Saul was never anywhere as evil as Walter, and should deserve something more merciful. A reunion with Kim somewhere down the line would be less schmaltzy than somehow appropriate, especially if it involved them conning people.
Lalo? Perhaps the most charming and charismatic villain in the series — which is saying a lot considering it also features Gus Fring, one of the most complex and sophisticated villains of all time in TV — he does not show up in “Bad” and therefore will need to be eliminated somehow. There’s no way he could be alive and behind-the-scenes in “Bad,” he wouldn’t stop being a thorn in the side of Gus. So, he dies somehow. My guess is that it’s at the hand of Mike. And that it’ll happen in the last or penultimate show of the “Saul” series, because every show needs a villain to keep the tension on up to the end, and Lalo is such a brilliant villain that it would be a waste to get rid of him at any point before you really needed to.
So, there are my predictions in regard to three of the main characters? What do you think?
Agree or disagree on those prognostications though, I think one thing we can agree on is that this has been an incredibly enjoyable season and we can’t wait to see what happens next…