By Michael Yu, Sept. 6, 2022
Seven years after its premiere, AMC’S prequel to “Breaking Bad,” “Better Call Saul,” has ended with its sixth season. Over the course of six seasons, showrunners Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould have managed to create a masterful character study that can stand on its own.
The character at the center of this study is Jimmy McGill, played expertly by Bob Odenkirk. Throughout the show we see many different sides to this character — from the earnest Jimmy McGill to the eccentric and sleazy Saul Goodman.
Witnessing the trauma McGill goes through until he fully embraces the Goodman persona is tragic and distressing. The show turns the return of the “Breaking Bad” fan favorite Goodman into something that is dreaded instead of anticipated.
Along with standout performances from Rhea Seehorn, Giancarlo Esposito, Michael Mando, Tony Dalton and many more, one of the biggest strengths of “Better Call Saul” is having well written and impeccably performed characters.
Seeing these characters evolve over the six seasons has been nothing short of a delight. While several characters also appeared in “Breaking Bad,” it is fascinating to see what events led to them becoming who they were in that show.
While this show does serve as a prequel to “Breaking Bad,” it is able to stray away from the common trappings that come with creating a prequel. Instead of being crammed full of unnecessary cameos, the show spends a long time developing its own characters and world before the cartel infested world of “Breaking Bad” crashes into them. It is apparent that the focus is never on solely being a companion to “Breaking Bad,” but rather on telling its own contained story.
The central theme to the final season is consequences. Throughout the season, we witness how characters wrestle with the consequences of their actions and how they each deal with guilt in different ways. As old actions catch up to the characters, their lives are flipped inside out, and they find themselves subjected to a future that is black, white and bleak.
However, the heart of the series is the love story between McGill and Kim Wexler, Seehorn’s character. Their relationship is complicated yet compelling, and in the end, heartbreaking yet hopeful. The two characters are performed beautifully by both Odenkirk and Seehorn, who were able to able to craft their relationship into one of television’s finest romances.
The way that the show uses color, or the lack of it, is superb. Every scene is expertly shot, with creative angles and framing that often show how a character is feeling. In addition, the shows’ ability to find beauty in something as simple as black and white is something that should be applauded.
The black and white segments create a sense of detachment from the characters. They appear like ghosts of themselves, drained of all color and life. However, on the rare occasion that color does seep back into that world, it always conveys a message due to the show’s strong visual storytelling.
In contrast to “Breaking Bad’s” loud ending, “Better Call Saul” ends with a whisper. The finale is subdued, thoughtful, desolate and yet beautiful. As the conclusion to seven years of storytelling, “Better Call Saul” perfectly wraps up the series and stands out as a masterclass in storytelling and character building.
There is something special about “Better Call Saul” — from the impeccably crafted characters to the powerful visual language, this show transcends the barrier of being “just a prequel” and will stand the test of time as something wholly unique.
Feature image by Jackson Gray.