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RETURN OF BETTER CALL SAUL

The Return of the BREAKING BAD spinoff BETTER CALL SAUL starring Bob Odenkirk
Last season, we covered and rated almost every episode of BETTER CALL SAUL, a spinoff from THE GODFATHER of television cable series, BREAKING BAD, wherein the lovably lowlife lawyer Saul Goodman, played by Bob Odenkirk, was using a fake name in BAD as we now know him as Jimmy McGill, and catching the first episode of the second season along with the first episode of the entirely new series, TALKING SAUL, with the usual charming host of TALKING DEAD, Chris Hardwick, always looking (and acting) like every parent's daughter's dream date, continuing his reign as the nightcap conversationalist of cool television shows; but does the more mellow, pulpy, dialogue-driven SAUL deserve a discussion board (?) like THE WALKING DEAD or BREAKING BAD, both which are/were like rollercoaster rides from hell while SAUL consists of more parenthetical, episodic misadventures centering on an anti-hero that, hopefully, doesn't morph from JIMMY to SAUL too quickly.

Bob Odenkirk
What made BREAKING BAD so incredible is that it only seemed like a television series back then, week after week. Now, all finished after a relatively short six season run, with a beginning, middle and end, BAD is more a long, perfect film or perhaps a sublime mini-series. And like SAUL doesn't fit as much with its own post-discussion side series (yet it was nice hearing all the backstories), it has a weekly vibe unlike the serialized WALKING/BAD that in SAUL, although there are cliffhangers, each episode has its own particular fulfillment, not serving the usual nighttime soap opera on steroids but more of a gentle couch break from the intense, edgy routine.

A Rather Confusing McKean
Tonight's episode was pretty good, but again, let's not center too closely since the show will run its second season pretty much alone; yet we might take another glance now and again. Jimmy and Rhea Seehorn's Kim Wexler (finally) hook up after screwing around a guy who talks too loud on his cell phone about the stock market, and at times BETTER CALL plays for cheap thrill revenge-driven gags while other times there's a depth almost equal to its predecessor, only far more colorful and jovially optimistic.

Jonathan Banks
And an episode without Jonathan Banks, who played the go-to ex-crooked-cop Mike on BAD and is basically the main co-star on SAUL, is like JAWS without Robert Shaw; then again, nearly the entire first two acts of the Steven Spielberg Great White Classic lacked the old salty dog, and Odendirk holds his own along with the other side-characters, making Mike that much better as an anticipated protector, like Fonzie on HAPPY DAYS during the 11th hour, light blue windbreaker days before monopolizing in leather. And just to note, some of the vile Spanish villains left-over (in reverse) from BAD really don't fit: kind of like raptors wearing tuxedos. Ex-teacher turned meth-maker Walter White (Bryan Cranston), like any Film Noir where a good person turns to extreme measures, existed in a BAD new world while his antagonists violently sprang forth from the purgatory woodwork; but Saul's enemies should be the more classy types that always looked down on him...

Hope she returns
Leading to the best villains of last season: The Kettlemans, a conservative family whose perfect husband and gorgeous yet steely wife stole a bundle of cash and never took Jimmy as a serious lawyer. Then again, either did the most enigmatic character of the series, Jimmy's older brother Chuck, a bonafide, brilliant "ex" lawyer who, with a strange if banal allergy to everything electric, wasted a lot of time that could have been BETTER spent on more intriguing dialogue and/or intense adventures... His character isn't that great, but it's difficult if impossible not to re-watch last season's ten minute scene where Chuck, played by the usually perfect Michael McKean, remains in denial, moaning on a hospital bed while being surreptitiously tricked by a female doctor. Finally, some closure on the weakest aspect of the series, and yet, Chuck still remains in-hiding... but being not too nice a fella any longer, perhaps he'll see (more of) the light of day... let us pray... And, well, anyhow, as McKean's documentarian said years ago, "Enough of my yackin," for this post is only to celebrate the return of a show, BETTER CALL SAUL, that hopefully lasts a long while before starting off where the intentionally cheesy character began in the midst of BREAKING BAD, a show that needed a quick ending wherein if SAUL lasted like, for example, THE SIMPSONS (okay, this is an exaggeration on purpose, but you get the idea), this reviewer wouldn't complain one bit.
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