It was only a year ago that Breaking Bad ended its illustrious run as one of the most acclaimed TV dramas in recent memory, but the conclusion of Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston) story has left a gaping void in many viewers’ hearts. While there won’t be any more cooking sessions with Heisenberg and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), fans of the show will be able to return to its universe next February – thanks to the spinoff Better Call Saul.
As the title suggests, the new series will revolve around lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), who was one of the more memorable side characters in Breaking Bad. Particularly in the early seasons (when the show was more of a dark comedy), Saul provided some much needed comic relief, famously telling Walt and Jesse that they “suck at peddling meth.”
Due to the nature of the Saul character and Odenkirk’s performance, it’s been thought to this point that Better Call Saul would lean more towards the funny side of the spectrum than its spiritual predecessor, but that may not entirely be the case. Odenkirk discussed the show’s tone in an interview with THR and said things will be more serious than expected (see his quote below).
“It’s total drama, man. It’s 85 percent drama, 15 percent comedy.”
Given the series’ association with Breaking Bad, it shouldn’t come as a complete shock that this is the plan right now. With its hour-long format and teasers that ask ominous questions like how one goes from being Jimmy McGill to Saul Goodman (hinting at large problems), we doubt many were thinking they were walking into a sitcom when the project was announced. Goodman was always good for a laugh or two, but he wasn’t exactly Jackie Chiles.
Some may question Odenkirk’s quote after hearing the Better Call Saul theme song (which was very much an act of comedy), but like we previously said, Breaking Bad was able to successfully balance the two tones early on (while operating largely as a drama). Since Better Call Saul is going to deal with legal cases and clients desperate for salvation, it makes sense for it to embrace more of its dramatic elements and supplement those with a light-hearted energy.
In fact, this development could benefit Odenkirk as a performer. In his interview, he addressed the difference between playing a side character and making the transition to a lead:
“That doesn’t happen so much with secondary characters because they don’t need to have that depth … One of the cool things about playing Saul now is that I get to have those moments. I’ve certainly gotten a chance to dig deep in Better Call Saul.”
Not that comedies can’t explore the depths of their characters, but material that is more dramatic and heavy tend to do the whole character study thing slightly better. Knowing that Saul is going to have some potentially strong character moments is very nice to hear, since it hints at the possibility of seeing a completely different side to the lawyer with questionable tactics. Many will agree that Odenkirk was great in Breaking Bad, but if all he had was his sleazy schtick to carry a show on his own, the act could get old pretty quickly.
Allowing its main actor to “dig deep” while offering fans new stories in the world of Vince Gilligan’s Albuquerque, New Mexico means that viewers could be in for an entertaining treat once the show finally airs this winter. With its “prequel and a sequel” nature, plus the chance to see some more old friends once again (Jonathan Banks will be a series regular and Paul has been in “serious talks”), we may finally have our solution to Breaking Bad withdrawals.
Better Call Saul will air on AMC in February 2015.
Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisAgar90.