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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 04 August 2018 at 10:48pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

After an agonizing year-and-a-half wait, the best show on TV returns on Monday night! 

Iíve been avoiding any potential spoilers, but I did check out the Comic-Con trailer.


I also finally rewatched season 3 on Blu-Ray (along with all of the special features), and got sucked right back in. The genius of this show is that, yes, itís a prequel to BREAKING BAD, but it also works completely as its own entity. Itís basically the opposite of everything I complain about in regards to present-day rehashes of properties like STAR TREK, where the characters and the plots donít really have a creative leg to stand, and so rely upon nostalgia-milking and strip-mining of the lore to drum up interest.

BCS could have just been a cash-grab which coasted on BREAKING BAD references and cameos. Nope. Itís completely focused on the story itís telling. The links between the two shows are just a bonus. It may overlap with BREAKING BAD in major ways (moreso as it goes on), but the cameos and references are A) Organic and not forced; B) Work perfectly in context, even if one has never seen BB. 

Indeed, people can and do watch BCS without having seen the parent series, and it absolutely works. Itís a far, far richer experience if one already knows BB, but knowing BB is not necessary to enjoy or understand BCS. And thatís why BCS is the best prequel Iíve ever seen. Both shows work perfectly on their own, but, when viewed as one giant story, itís a much deeper and more rewarding experience. Top-tier, character-driven storytelling. Methodically plotted, with compelling characters and themes. 

Bob Odenkirk has really proven his dramatic chops with this show. I never, ever expected Saul Goodmanóthe wacky comedy relief of BBóto become a legitimately tragic character. Iím beginning to agree with Vince Gilligan and company, in that Iím sort of hoping beyond hope that Jimmy McGill doesnít become the sleazy Saul that we all know and love. His story and his character have proven to be really fascinating, but in a way very different from Walter White. Both shows examine the process of descending into evil, but in completely different ways. Like variations on a theme. The really interesting thing is that Jimmy McGill has more of a heart than Walter White ever did. He legitimately cares about people, but he takes shortcuts, and makes bad, impulsive decisions with good intentions.

Kim Wexler is the antithesis of the various Mary Sue/forced Feminism characters running around in genre fiction, these days. A wonderful, complex, likable character, brilliantly played by Rhea Seehorn (who has great chemistry with Odenkirk). Jonathan Banks is always brilliant as Mike. Patrick Fabian has slowly and carefully brought depth to Howard Hamlin, who seemed at first to be something of a bad guy/foil to Jimmy. Michael Mando has really turned Nacho Varga into a complex and likable character, too. A smart criminal with a heart. And the return of Giancarlo Esposito as Gus Fring is just the icing on the cake. Iíve really enjoyed the exploration of his rivalry with Hector Salamanca. BCS has been very careful about exploring elements of the backstory and mysteries from BB without diving headlong into ridiculous retcons and/or explaining too much.

Of course, the previous season ended with the suicide of Chuck McGill, which is both a good and bad thing for the show. Good, because it seemed pretty clear from the start that Jimmy and Chuckís relationship would be the crux of the origin of Saul Goodman. They spent three seasons oh-so-carefully developing it, after all. Bad, because the show has lost the great Michael McKean, although heíll likely appear in flashbacks, at some point.

Iím pumped. Weíre really getting into the meat of the series, now. Yet, as noted, I feel a certain hesitance to actually get into more familiar Saul Goodman territory, since Jimmy McGillís story has proven so compelling. Although, I definitely want to see more of ďGeneĒ, the Cinnabon manager! The season-opening flashforwards have all been brilliant, thus far. And there have been hints that this bleak, black-and-white, post-BREAKING BAD world may not be the end of the story.

Looks like there wonít be any TALKING SAUL, this season, perhaps due to the recent controversy surrounding Chris Hardwick. But, I fully expect the excellent BETTER CAUL SAUL INSIDER Podcast to return.

Iíve had several friends who watched the pilot and then maybe another episode or two back when they first aired, but drifted away. I recently convinced them to give the show another try, and now theyíre all mad at me, since theyíve run out of episodes to watch, and are chomping at the bit for more. It just took them a while to get hooked, because the show is such a deliberate slow burn. But itís so worth it! As with BREAKING BAD, Gilligan and company are definitely playing the long game, here.

Love it!


Edited by Greg Kirkman on 05 August 2018 at 11:00am
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Bill Collins
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Posted: 05 August 2018 at 9:49am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

We get it on Tuesday over here, really looking forward
to it, i agree with everything in your lengthy post
Greg!
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Mike Devlin
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Posted: 06 August 2018 at 4:22am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

Thanks for the heads up, Greg.
It`s been a loooong wait for season 4, after the excellent
Season 3 - so happy we're nearly there!

Looking forward to your reviews... :)
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Michael Arndt
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Posted: 06 August 2018 at 9:34am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

Very excited for its return. 
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Steve De Young
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Posted: 06 August 2018 at 9:55am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

In my dream world, the last season of Better Call Saul would be a season premiere consisting of a series of flashbacks in which we see Breaking Bad from Saul's point of view, and then the rest of the season revealing the fate of Gene.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 06 August 2018 at 10:59am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

Peter Gould interview:

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 12:02am | IP Logged | 7 post reply

ďSmokeĒ.


Fantastic episode. The Omaha teaser really turns the screws on poor ďGeneĒ, and his paranoia and tension leap off the screen. Heís clearly reaching some kind of breaking point, if a cabbieís Albuquerque air-freshener can so deeply unnerve him. Itís interesting to note that the sequence is very BREAKING BAD in that thereís lots of handheld/shaky-cam cinematography, as opposed to the more traditional, smooth camera style seen throughout the bulk of BETTER CALL SAUL. A nice, subtle reminder that these season-opening teasers take place in a post-BB world.

Not a lot happens in this episode, and thereís a lot of the ďbreathing roomĒ that both shows are famous for. But, on an emotional level, thereís a ton going on. Odenkirk has relatively little dialogue in this episode, but his face and body language beautifully convey his entire arc: Thereís Jimmyís initial shock and loss at Chuckís death. Then his near-contemptuous setting down of the phone as Hamlin recites the lengthy obituary for his approval. Then his quiet frustration at having to deal with all of Chuckís colleagues and friends at the funeral. Finallyóand most importantlyóhis reaction to the unknowing Hamlin revealing that Jimmyís ratting Chuck out to the insurance company is what eventually triggered his suicide. And then he lets Hamlin stew in his own self-blame, chuckles as he feeds the fish (the one he got as a pretense for seeing the vet who hooked up him with Huell, last season), and makes some coffee. Chilling. 

As a catalyst for the creation of the Saul Goodman we know and love, this makes perfect sense. Saul Goodman is a man with no scruples and little in the way of compassion, but is full-to-bursting with sarcasm and jokes. Itís not a big leap to see Jimmyís McGillís toxic brew of guilt and pain slowly strangling the compassion and decency out of him. We already saw an important turning point at the end of last season, when Jimmy deliberately hurt and manipulated Mrs. Landry purely for his own financial gain, after all.

Yeah, thereís been a major tonal shift, here. MAJOR. Of course, we do get an incredibly fun and clever sequence with Mike being Mike, and wanting to earn his laundered paycheck from Madrigal by testing the effectiveness of their security. But thatís the only source of levity, here. From the very start, this episode feels downright ominous. 

Thereís also the Nacho/Gus subplot. Iíve previously noted that it would make perfect sense for Gus to seek out the talents of a smart and civilized criminal like Nacho Varga. And, true to form, we see that Victor is tailing Nacho for Gus. However, so far as we know, Nacho is not working for Gus during BREAKING BAD, and his whereabouts and status are unknown. Which is also ominous.

The big question, of course, would be where Kim and Jimmyís relationship is gonna go. The running joke has been that Kim probably has to die before BCS ends, but thatís by no means a certainty. Even if she merely leaves town because she canít handle the man Jimmy is becoming, I find myself dreading what is sure to come. This show has carefully and deliberately built up its two key relationships: Jimmy/Chuck and Jimmy/Kim. We watched the former disintegrate in agonizing detail, and the disintegration of the latter seems inevitable. Or is it?
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 12:26am | IP Logged | 8 post reply

Interview with Odenkirk:

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Michael Arndt
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 1:27pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

All very good points regarding the season premiere, Greg. You touched on many of the same things I was thinking.

One thing I was wondering about was Chuck's obituary. When Hamlin was going over it on the phone with Jimmy was Jimmy even mentioned? Thought I heard their parent's names but no Jimmy. If so, then that has to be another hit in the gut.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 3:50pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

Excellent point, Michael. I don't believe Jimmy was mentioned.


Based on what Odenkirk, Gilligan, and Gould have said, it seems clear that the last conversation between the McGill brothers in "Lantern" is the pivot point for the entire series. Chuck untruthfully says that Jimmy never mattered much to him, and that he should accept and embrace his inner sleazebag. And so Jimmy does that very thing just to spite Chuck, even in death.
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 4:39pm | IP Logged | 11 post reply

Holy crap!

This was off my radar since I mentally pushed it to "later in the year" after I heard the season would be delayed.   I thought it was going to be a September premiere.

Thanks for the heads up Greg.  

@Steve, I think that's a great idea though I think BCS is set around 2002 or 2003 while BB is specifically set in 2007-2009.   Unless we have some forward jumps -- though I think Vince Gilligan has said we wouldn't be overlapping the timeframes of the two shows.

I think Cinnabon Gene's story is going to dovetail with Jimmy's story in ways that I think will surprise even the most ardent BB/BCS watchers.   There's still the payoff of the Sandpiper lawsuit thread -- that's something where I think the connections when revealed will make you say "Ohhhhhhhhhhh! It all makes sense!". :-)   

Can't wait.   Best slow burn on television at the moment.  

A lot of my friends have dropped it because it's moving too slow for them -- their loss.  They want obligatory shallow cameos of Walter, Jessie, Skyler, Marie, Hank, etc and the show isn't about that.   The writers even wrote out a Marie cameo just because they felt it was too gratuitous.   I like that they are thinking more about the BB/BCS world itself rather than servicing the star power for the sake of it.   If a cameo makes logical sense and adds to the story then it's there, if it doesn't then it isn't.   It's also great to see some of the minor characters get their due.   The show is as much Mike and Nacho's story as it is Jimmy's. 
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Steve De Young
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 6:32pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

I read the ending of the episode a little differently.  I took it that Hamlinís blaming of himself, specifically him pointing out that he could have dealt with the increase in insurance rates in another way, as giving Jimmy a mental Ďoutí.  It wasnít what Jimmy did that triggered Chuckís suicide, it was how Hamlin responded to it.  Itís paper thin, but itís enough for Jimmy to let himself off the hook.  The coldness is still there.  He doesnít really care about Chuck.  He seems delighted that Hamlin feels like shit.  He was only concerned about his own guilt.  So, like a good defense attorney, once he got himself off the hook, he didnít have a care in the world.  Itís not about good or bad for Jimmy anymore.  Itís just about extricating himself, and later others, from tricky situations.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 6:41pm | IP Logged | 13 post reply

@Steve, I think that's a great idea though I think BCS is set around 2002 or 2003 while BB is specifically set in 2007-2009.   Unless we have some forward jumps -- though I think Vince Gilligan has said we wouldn't be overlapping the timeframes of the two shows.
++++++++++++++++

In theory, if BCS runs six seasons, it could roughly cover the entire span from 2002-2007.

Also, it's been revealed that this season will have some kind of flashforward (or back, depending on how you look at it) directly into the time period of BREAKING BAD. Hmmm.

Peter Gould also gave the cryptic hint to "watch the tequila". Gus used poisoned Zafiro Anejo to kill the cartel, and it's the drink of choice for Jimmy and Kim. A shot of the bottle was included in the season 4 trailer, I believe. Maybe that's the BB connection. Hmmm.


The BB cameos have all made sense, thus far. And I'm SO glad that they've committed to telling another brilliant story instead of falling back on fanservice and coasting. Really, though, it's all one big story. The two shows are intimately connected (and are becoming even moreso), and yet also operate independently. It's brilliant stuff. So many clever and ironic callbacks and call-forwards to enjoy.

Walter White's story was a story of life and death--and a man who wanted to feel alive at terrible cost. Jimmy's story is the story of the struggle for a man's soul. Lots of thematic overlap, but each story is unique and fresh.

The connections and echoes are more obvious, now. We all got a Walter White and Drew Sharp vibe from the Act 4 opening with the Madrigal employee and the kid with the bike, right?
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 8:14pm | IP Logged | 14 post reply

I read the ending of the episode a little differently. I took it that Hamlinís blaming of himself, specifically him pointing out that he could have dealt with the increase in insurance rates in another way, as giving Jimmy a mental Ďoutí. It wasnít what Jimmy did that triggered Chuckís suicide, it was how Hamlin responded to it.
++++++++++++

The above seems to line up with what Odenkirk has said. Jimmy compartmentalizes his own guilt, and jumps at the chance for Hamlin to take the blame. He passes the buck because he no longer cares. Or at least he's pretending not to.

Shades of Walter White constantly lying to himself and blaming everyone else, there.
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Brian Miller
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 8:50pm | IP Logged | 15 post reply

Just started the premiere and Iím pissed off. They had him turned wrong for his chest X-ray. 
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 9:21pm | IP Logged | 16 post reply

Itís interesting to note that the sequence is very BREAKING BAD in that thereís lots of handheld/shaky-cam cinematography, as opposed to the more traditional, smooth camera style seen throughout the bulk of BETTER CALL SAUL. A nice, subtle reminder that these season-opening teasers take place in a post-BB world.

I noticed the camerawork as well.   They are really working to make BCS look and feel like it was shot in the year it takes place -- right down to the camera angles, blocking, and the editing/cuts.   It acknowledges just how much BB changed the landscape of television and why almost every drama show that came after it is trying to play catch up to both it's style and execution.   So what do the producers of BCS do?  They buck that trend and do the opposite!   Brilliant.

They also really emphasize just how different the three eras are:  The pre-BB era is rich in colour to the point of saturation.  Even the desert scenes are full of life, making it almost dream-like.   The post-BB era is desaturated and monochromatic like a monotonous nightmare.   BB sits in the middle and in contrast to these two extremes appears normal by comparison!
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 9:55pm | IP Logged | 17 post reply

Just started the premiere and Iím pissed off. They had him turned wrong for his chest X-ray. 
+++++++

Maybe thisíll end up like whole DMV/MVD thing, and theyíll address the goof!
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 9:58pm | IP Logged | 18 post reply

They also really emphasize just how different the three eras are:  The pre-BB era is rich in colour to the point of saturation.  Even the desert scenes are full of life, making it almost dream-like.   The post-BB era is desaturated and monochromatic like a monotonous nightmare.   BB sits in the middle and in contrast to these two extremes appears normal by comparison!
++++++++++

Itís probably completely unintentional, but, looking at it from that point of view, the loud colors of Saul Goodmanís suits could be seen to represent Jimmy cloaking himself in a false veneer of vivid colors reminiscent of happier days. By the time we get to Omaha, those old Saul commercials are the only splash of color left in his horrible and lonely life. 

A stretch, to be sure, but I kinda dig that idea.
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Thomas Woods
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 10:43pm | IP Logged | 19 post reply

Saw the first episode, great stuff


SPOILER QUESTION






Was he happy because his insurance plan caused it, or
because he feels it wasn't his fault ultimately?
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Thomas Woods
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 10:48pm | IP Logged | 20 post reply

Being someone who has been in situations where I wanted
to know exactly what happened and will never know, I can
see some relief in just KNOWING what caused it.

Wondering what happened in a traumatic situation is
torture.

Edited by Thomas Woods on 07 August 2018 at 10:48pm
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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 11:16pm | IP Logged | 21 post reply

Was he happy because his insurance plan caused it, or 
because he feels it wasn't his fault ultimately?

------

I think he realizes that Chuck's suicide was his fault, and his reaction is not happiness, but denial and compartmentalization. Throughout the episode, Jimmy is struggling with the thought that Kim finally articulates toward the end of the episode. They are both wondering if Chuck's death was related to the hearing. When Howard explains it was the insurance issue that Jimmy spitefully caused, all that uncertainty is gone. Jimmy knows he caused Chuck's death, and from that point on, he just goes into denial.
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Brian Miller
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Posted: 08 August 2018 at 4:49am | IP Logged | 22 post reply

And being able to deflect the blame onto someone that readily accepts it. 
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 08 August 2018 at 10:10am | IP Logged | 23 post reply

INSIDER Podcast is up. Lots on interesting insights from Odenkirk on where Jimmyís head is at.

Sad to learn that editor Kelley Dixon is not involved with this season. Vince Gilligan has also largely stepped back, although he directed one episode.
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Thomas Woods
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Posted: 08 August 2018 at 10:16am | IP Logged | 24 post reply

Vince Gilligan has also largely stepped back

---

Is this the final season? I would rather see it end well
than start going bad.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 08 August 2018 at 11:43am | IP Logged | 25 post reply

The show has already been greenlit for a fifth season.

Gilligan is still involved, just not as much as he had been, and heís still doing publicity and the INSIDER Podcast and whatnot, as well as plotting out the season with the writing staff and directing one episode. Peter Gould has proven himself a capable showrunner, so this isnít a case of a show losing its primary creative engine. 
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