Better Call Saul, season one finale review: 'B' is for 'better' than Breaking Bad

*WARNING this review contains spoilers* We're gunning for clean cut Jimmy to become the bent attorney we know and love

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The Independent Culture

This slow burn prequel to Breaking Bad has left some feeling unsatisfied as dear, hopeless, try-hard Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) remains a far cry from badass, strutting Saul.

But the season finale provided more detail to the Albuquerque lawyer’s transition from straight to woefully bent than the previous 9 episodes put together.

And the wonderful, agonising monologue that Jimmy enters into in front a Bingo hall full of bewildered old people will loom large in TV history.

As the cream-suited legal eagle read out the Bingo numbers with his usual panache the prevalence of “Bs” left him scraping at his own tragedy (“'B' is for brother, 'B' is for betrayal, 'B' is for broken”) and launching into a brilliantly executed rant about his fall from grace over that “Chicago sunroof” incident.

Quite why grumpy elder brother Chuck McGill (Michael McKean) thinks Jimmy is an irrepressible scumbag suddenly becomes clear. The small-minded Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity-sufferer who sold out his own kid brother evidently feared a turd might land on the leather interior of his car if Jimmy was given a shot at being a proper lawyer.

 

The finale had some superb, theatrical elements and Odenkirk slid into the role of hard-partying, A-moral, bamboozling trickster “Slippin’ Jimmy” like he was putting on a pair of comfy slippers.

And, having spent a week spinning cons with his old mate Marco (who met a swift, if timely end), Jimmy’s desperation to prove his goodness and the sensitive, needy side of his character that never rung quite true, is exposed as the façade of trying to please others (Kim, Chuck) it really is.

Freed from this he experiences a car park-based epiphany and throws off the job opportunity which might have led him into a life of convention with an almost jazz-hands degree of childish excitement.

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Bob Odenkirk as Saul in Breaking Bad

Only the presence of Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks, who is still acting troll under the toll bridge requesting coupons) reminds one of the Breaking Bad roots the show sprang from so far has it come in its own right.

Better Call Saul has no guns, no meth, no fear that the beloved main characters are about to pop their clogs at any moment and less to gamble with (Jimmy has no wife, no kids, his brother is not worth worrying about). And as such the stakes are lower.

What it does have – and why the story is such a thrilling echo of Walter White’s – is enough guts and humour to get you totally on Jimmy’s side. We’re gunning for him to become a hotshot criminal lawyer and get his hands on loads of cash. After all, as Marco says, if you’re a lawyer and you’re not making “big bank” you’re doing it wrong.

Come on Jimmy, show Howard Hamlin and all those other corporate goats the pillars you can build in your office.

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