Full spoilers for Better Call Saul and The Walking Dead below
Some said it was a bad move, I could never decide fully which side of the fence I sat on to be honest, but Vince Gilligan and AMC decided they would press ahead with a Breaking Bad spin off featuring the superb series’ loveable(?) sleazeball Saul Goodman as the lead. Better Call Saul takes place 6 years before the events of Breaking Bad and chronicles Saul’s rise from back when he was just lowly public defence attorney Jimmy McGill to the – ahem – lofty heights of law when he becomes Saul Goodman. Oh, and it’s really really good.
Comparison was always going to be a tricky one for this show, inevitable throwbacks and negative side by side composites with it’s older brother could have killed it before it even got going. I was part of the campaign trying to remind people that Saul was a huge contributor of comic relief to the antics of Walt and Jesse and so this show was always going to have a heavier comedy tinge to it than it’s predecessor. Colour me shocked then when after the first episode I did actually feel somewhat as if I had just watched another episode of BB. Not in a bad way and not in an exactly identical sense but what BCS does best is show the viewer just how much BB was the blackest of black comedies at heart; finding humour in the absurd; and that is what BCS does on a much higher plain. Whether it is in Saul being targeted by a bunch of slackers for a scam, trying to defend three teens who sodomised a cadaver on camera or talking down Tuco from one of his trademark bursts of insanity. Yes, Tuco.
Gilligan and co. had said there was scope for BB alumni to appear in BCS due to the prequel nature of the show but few expected this would happen in the first season with the exception of Mike. Then, boom, at the close of episode 1 Saul finds himself staring down the barrell of Tuco’s gun. If I’m being honest, the inclusion of BB characters worried me and still does slightly in that they could be a little too on the nose but if they are all handled as Tuco was then we should be in safe hands. Raymond Cruz was outstanding as the main antagonist for the first two seasons of BB and the creators have said that they planned for more of him but contractual obligations to The Closer prevented this. So what better way to rectify this than by giving us up to six years of Tuco now? When you think about it, it really was a genius idea. And his return was anything but jarring. Above all else I had assumed an effort would have been made by the crew to make BCS look as different from BB as possible without veering too far away from the inspiration but instead it looks exactly the same. The tones, the shots, the cuts – it’s all entirely BB. So when Tuco stuck his head out that front door, it all made sense and fit together perfectly.
BCS has huge shoes to fill now that the decision has been made to tie it closer to its predecessor than expected. That being said, all the boxes are being ticked at present. Bob Odenkirk can always be relied on for a solid showing, Raymond Cruz is back in one of his greatest roles and of course Jonathan Banks will surely turn into BB‘s version of Mike sooner rather than later and that will just be a sight and a half to behold. More please.
Better Call Saul is available at 7am every Tuesday on Netflix
The Walking Dead returned to our screens on Monday night with a low key but also high risk and ultimately tragic mid-season premiere. In previous seasons there has been somewhat of an easing in nature to the mid-season premieres on this show, with the prison aftermath last year and…well…let’s not talk about season 3. But Scott Gimple has continued his Walking Dead 2.0 approach and Greg Nicotero is well and truly transforming himself into one of the series’ most reliable directors. “What Happened and What’s Going On” opened with what we all assumed was Beth’s funeral only for it to transpire throughout the episode that we were in fact mourning Tyreese. It was brilliantly put together and for fans of the comic, Tyreese was a wild card. In the comics it was Tyreese in place of Hershel for The Governor’s prison decapitation. Once he didn’t fill that role in the show his demise was up in the air.
Did he go out like a punk or a prince? Well, many feel we should be beyond the whole “walker sneaks up on a random character” era of the show but realistically, everyone makes mistakes and it was typical of his character now that his emotions would cloud his judgement. Tyreese had devolved. When all around him were learning how to survive in this world – as we discovered most recently with Glenn in this episode – Tyreese lost his killer instinct. He somewhat directly led to the death of Bob and was unable to exact what may have been a rightful retribution on Carol. Instead he understood that she did what she had to and by the time of this week’s episode as he lay dying he knew that he wouldn’t get it back. He was done with the world he now lived in, would only be a burden. It was a great send off for a fan favourite who may not have always ticked the boxes die hard fans wanted him too, but he was played with aplomb right till the end and particularly with this week’s monologue Chad Coleman deserves every bit of credit for his work. It’s back folks.
The Walking Dead airs at 9pm Mondays on Fox
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