REVIEW: Better Call Saul season one premiere airs tonight on AMC UK
Tonight, UK audiences can finally watch popular Netflix series Better Call Saul on their television screens, as the season one premiere kicks off at 9pm on AMC.
The first episode – “Uno” – opens unexpectedly with a monochrome montage. As the melancholy tune “Address Unkown” by The Ink Spots plays, the show’s protagonist is shown silently performing his monotonous work routine at the American diner, Cinnabon. We can see the worn down, scruffy-moustached Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) is now living a colourless (quite literally depicted by the black and white visuals) and isolated life since running away from his problems in the Breaking Bad series.
At this point, hardcore Breaking Bad fans might be hoping for a continuation of their favourite series, as Better Call Saul appears to pick up from where we left off. However, after the opening credits, the story actually backtracks six years prior to the Walter White timeline. But don’t let this put you off. In fact, it is credit to creator Vince Gilligan that he did not take the show in such a predictable direction.
The viewer is introduced to a man far from the slimy Saul Goodman we knew in Breaking Bad. Instead, we meet Jimmy McGill; a small-time lawyer who lives in the shadow of his older brother Chuck McGill and who is struggling to make ends meet. He’s not the flashy sports car owner we recall, but instead wears an ill-fitted suit and drives around in a rickety yellow car that has a bright red door replacement.
It was actually pretty genius of Gilligan to have picked one of the more one-dimensional characters from Breaking Bad and flesh them out with a deeper back story. After all, there’s really not much further they could have taken a bigger character like Jesse Pinkman, as much as we’d love to be reunited with him. Even in the episode’s first moments, we encounter a completely different side to Saul as he nervously practices his lines for a courtroom case in the bathroom. Here, we seem to have a man who actually cares about his clients and his future career. It is clear the series will answer some interesting questions about what led him to become the scam artist he is in Breaking Bad.
Better Call Saul may not take the series in the action-packed direction of Breaking Bad, but the formula and visual aesthetic remain very similar. There is even a cameo from Mike Ehrmantraut, played by Jonathan Banks, who starts off as a car park attendant…and isn’t Jimmy’s biggest fan. The show is slower-paced and more dialogue focused, but once you adjust to Better Call Saul as a stand-alone series in its own right, rather than a spin-off, new excitement is found in the potential for character development and a cleverly thought-out plot.
Better Call Saul premieres Tuesday, June 27 at 9pm on AMC UK on BT TV, and continues every Tuesday thereafter.