On September 29, 2013, Breaking Bad junkies said “Adiós” to Walter White, Jesse Pinkman, and the rest of Albuquerque’s “finest.” Like the archetypal addict, fans wanted more; if only another episode…or ten. But inside our heads and hearts, we knew showrunner Vince Gilligan was a man of his word. This. Was. It.
Ultimately, Breaking Bad and its legacy among the other great dramas of television’s third golden age is that much more secure for Gilligan’s decision to go out on top. After all, history has shown us time and time again what happens when television politics, big business, and greed dictate a show overstay its welcome (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, House, Dexter).
Debuting tomorrow night (February 8), Better Call Saul already has the cards stacked against it. For starters, Breaking Bad devotes can explain with fervor the number of reasons why they appreciate the latter and Saul’s place within that world. Fan expectations are often impossible to fulfill.
On one hand, we want to see something reminiscent of the past (because Breaking Bad was so damn good). On the other hand, we demand something unique to B.B. because let’s face it, Saul’s—or Jimmy McGill’s—dark and twisted journey can never compete with Walter White’s story.
Because I am but a lowly graduate student without a single inside connection, I’ll be tuning in to watch Better Call Saul like the rest of you. If you’re reading this, there’s the possibility you know more in the way of spoilers than me. Besides a small handful of spoiler free early reviews and the trailer for the first episode, “Uno,” I’m going in fresh. I’m equal parts excited and hesitant. What’s more, from what I can gather, critics say the show is off to a fine start.
But I’m thinking about the big picture.
I demand Gilligan follow through on his promise that Better Call Saul will exist on its own terms and not in the shadow of the “mothership.”
There are people who assume Saul is simply riding on the coattails of Breaking Bad’s success and critical acclaim. A shallow money grab by studio executives. Perhaps more depressing—but just as possible as the latter—there’s the chance Gilligan is unable to sing a different tune.
I like to think of myself as a little more optimistic than that. Besides, Breaking Bad didn’t just get lucky for five seasons. It took countless months of collaboration and execution on both sides of the camera to keep that ship afloat. Then again, and Gilligan is fully aware of this, it takes just as long to make bad TV as it does to make shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men.
Hmm. Maybe I’m a little more nervous about going back to Albuquerque and catching up with Saul than I thought. Time will ultimately tell whether it’s a well deserved trip back.
*Stay tuned here at The 2 Shot for future reviews and more on Better Call Saul.