Tuesday, February 23, 2016

It’s a long way from Cicero to Omaha

Although my TV obsession favorite continues to be The Walking Dead, I have come to love another AMC show, Better Call Saul.

Although most of you probably know this already, a brief synopsis of the show is that it chronicles the journey of Breaking Bad’s sleazy lawyer, Saul Goodman. We know at the conclusion of Breaking Bad that Saul ends up with a new identity far from Albuquerque. Better Call Saul addresses Jimmy McGill’s (Saul’s real name) early days as a scam artist in Cicero, Illinois to his efforts to get his law practice going in Albuquerque. (We also get to see his post-BB identity as Gene the Cinnabon manager in Omaha.)

Why has this show grabbed me? Well, I always enjoyed Saul on BB; he had a sort of insouciant charm. Learning more about his character and background has made me come to genuinely like him. This is a man who clawed his way into some sort of respectability but continues to struggle with his flaws. He gets off on scamming people and talking his way out of situations. This sometimes serves him well in his new career as a lawyer, but it also causes some major and dangerous problems for him. He has a genuine compassion for those who are wronged (like nursing home residents) and a sense of justice that urges him to do the right thing...even if the methods he uses to get to that point aren’t always on the up-and-up. (Just ask the Kettlemans.)

He also has great loyalty to his friend and semi-girlfriend Kim, but especially to his older brother, Chuck. This is the most compelling part of the show for me. I won’t go into details of their relationship because that would mean some major spoilers. But this is a complex relationship in which Jimmy looks up to his big brother and desperately wants his approval. I’ve come to believe after the dozen or so episodes so far that Jimmy’s relationship with Chuck is the major factor in Jimmy’s transformation from justice-minded Jimmy to sleazebag-with-a-good-heart Saul. The core of Jimmy is still there, but betrayal and disappointment lead him to utilize some decidedly shady tactics, perhaps as a way to flip Chuck the finger. This is still playing out, so we’ll see where it ends up.

Some have criticized the show for its slow pace. I completely disagree. The writers are crafting a masterful tale of the transformation of a man: scam artist to mailroom clerk to self-made lawyer (University of American Samoa—go Land Crabs!) to legal representative of drug dealers. I find this utterly fascinating and love every moment of Jimmy’s path.

This has become one of a scarce handful of shows that I want to watch multiple times in order to pick up on things I missed the first time and subtle nuances that might give me clues about what is to come. (Although you don’t need to have watched Breaking Bad to enjoy this show, there are also some great callbacks to that show.) I’ve come to love the show and characters enough to feel fully invested in them and have decided to start a Facebook thread about the show similar to my Dead Thread, in which some of us discuss the latest episode. Is it weird to get this involved in TV shows? Maybe. But I’m a pop culture junkie, and I love feeling that passion and connecting with others who share it.

It also has given us the term “squat-cobbler,” which will live on in infamy and will serve as a coolness test when meeting future friends. You get it? Okay, I automatically like you!

Who wants some pie?!