‘The Universe Owes Me’

Look back to all the Shakespeare you had to read in school, and you’ll find that all his villains had the same basic motivation. From Iago to Richard III to Cassius to Lady Macbeth, all of them felt wronged, cheated, denied their rightful greatness by a cruel, unjust universe. And all of them got pretty ruthless in their efforts to claim it.

That same motivation, that Shakespeareanity, is at the heart of Better Call Saul. And in its first season, everyone – from writers to actors to directors and cinematographers, is just RUNNING with it.

Continue reading

Somewhere Between In Over His Head And Already Drowned

Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould and Bob Odenkirk are making this really hard for me.

I’m a writer. I have a decent grasp of English vocabulary. But there are only so many ways you can write, week in and week out, about the continued, consistent excellence of Better Call Saul.

And the hardest part is realizing that it’s only getting better.

Continue reading

How Jimmy McGill Broke Bad

There’s always a risk you take when you try to build a supporting character into the lead.

As a rule, supporting characters exist to allow us to better understand the “hero” of the story. As a rule, they don’t have quite enough story of their own. As a rule, they’re not designed to carry their own shows.

But when you’re talking about Vince Gilligan, when you’re talking about Bob Odenkirk, when you’re talking about Better Call Saul, the rules don’t really apply anymore.

Continue reading

The Victory Of Walter White

It’s a masterwork of writing and acting, and typical of Gilligan’s method/madness, building a shocking outcome on a foundation of nearly unbearable tension and pitch-perfect performances.

When I wrote that some while ago, fans were still abuzz over that “money shot” of Breaking Bad‘s season premiere.  “Box Cutter” set a standard that any other season of any other series would struggle to merely approach, let alone maintain.  But I was sure that Vince Gilligan and his cast and crew were up to the challenge.

I had no idea… Continue reading

On Breaking Bad, or: Who Runs When A Bad Man Goes To War?

I’m sure I’m not the only one who heard the concept and first thought “black comedy”.

A chemistry teacher, beaten down by the myriad sticks and stones of his life, discovers that he’s dying.  Worried for his family’s future, he decides to put his time and skills to use in providing for them after he’s gone… by cooking and selling crystal meth.

In and of itself, the tale of Walter White doesn’t necessary reach out and grab you.  It could be very good.  It could be very bad.  It could be somewhere in the middle.  And so the middle was where I stood for those early episodes.  It wasn’t until late in the second season that I committed to watching it.

What I saw when I did was something far more than a two-sentence logline.  Something that defied, even transcended, the bounds of genre.  Something that, for me, redefined what was possible in scripted television.

What I saw was Breaking Bad. Continue reading