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Better Call Saul!


Captain Kelsten
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Suffering withdrawal now so I'm on YouTube snapping up tasty morsels:

 

 

 

Be warned, if you have not seen Better Call Saul or are still working through the series, having a single video like this in your algorithm will cause YouTube to start pumping Vanity Fair videos and suchlike at you that basically spoil the final season's big moments in text AND thumbnails. So be warned.

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9 hours ago, Benny said:

Based on my recent rewatch of Better Call Saul before this last season, I would argue it's pretty much perfect throughout. Not a moment squandered or time wasted, and riveting for the entire run time. And you definitely cannot say that about Breaking Bad or The Sopranos, despite how well regarded those shows are.

Far be it from me to slight a programme that is excellent – to say the least – but I think Better Call Saul certainly has its fair share of wheel-spinning episodes and dead-ended plot threads. Of course, the latter are inevitable in a prequel, and usually what Saul forfeits in intrigue and escalation it very handsomely makes up for by keenly dramatizing the predicaments of the doomed (for instance, the cumulative effect of Nacho's Sisyphean battles against successive Salamancas is superbly grim), and in elaborating upon and refracting its parent show's themes and subjects (turning to Nacho again: his split loyalties and struggle to serve two masters fascinatingly contrast with Jesse's travails in Breaking Bad).

 

Still, there remain lapses, material best considered either as redundant asides or dramatic busywork. To give a minor example of what I mean: the sequence in 'Smoke' where Mike, on the pretext of substantiating his cover story as a security consultant, infiltrates a Madrigal warehouse is amusing, yet it doesn't serve to develop the character or alter their relationships. By the time this stunt takes place in the series' internal chronology, Mike's professionalism, skill and craftiness are already fully established, whilst his autonomy under Gus's employ has been explained by the circumstances of their first meeting, occurring an entire season earlier. Now, it's true enough that one of Saul's chief concerns is the extent to which people are trapped by recurring behaviours (glancingly touched upon here by the implication that Mike has a compulsion to put himself to work), and the off-piste conduct does somewhat anticipate certain dynamics in the ugly business with Werner Ziegler – but these hardly make a case for the sequence being integral to the overarching narrative. Rather than the essential, a caprice.

 

So, yes, a redundant (though enjoyable!) aside. As for "dramatic busywork", the episode 'Bagman' is an unfortunate case in that it features almost nothing but that – it's the one in which Jimmy goes to collect Lalo's bail money. Following a dull and wholly inconsequential ambush, the invincible characters of Jimmy and Mike are pursued by a gunman in a mild goose chase across the desert. I mentioned earlier that the programme has only so much room for manoeuvre, and this is a rare case where that inability to freely escalate, to strike a raw nerve, is entirely to its detriment. Both men will emerge unscathed from the (ostensibly) dire situation, and in lieu of the action and suspense that would otherwise be inherent, we have to make do with the default bickering and bristly exchanges between the pair, crystallized umpteen episodes before and accomplished there with much greater panache. There are some small things to delight in, such as Kim’s first meeting with Lalo (under false credentials, no less – something she repeats in the final episode), or Jimmy’s anxiety about how the mess he finds himself in could undermine his marriage, but for the most part watching ‘Bagman’ is rather akin to all the stale piss drinking it features. (A further demerit of the episode is that it’s extremely reminiscent of ‘4 Days Out’, one of BB’s finest and a point of comparison which does absolutely no favours to this exercise in going-through-the-motions and shuffling the characters along.)

 

Even here, where I’m finding fault with the programme, I would still like to close by emphasizing that it amounts to a small miracle: bookending a monstrous masterpiece like BB without coming across as superfluous is already asking a lot, so it’s all the more remarkable that, in experiencing it, Saul largely excises its predecessor from your consciousness. I expected a journey through foregone conclusions from the programme, and that expectation was met; what I didn’t foresee, however, was its genius in making those bitter endings arise from its internal tragic logic and icy fatalism rather than hand-me-down plots and commitments to an existing canon. It not only makes the old new, but also its own.

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3 hours ago, Hulot said:

Far be it from me to slight a programme that is excellent – to say the least – but I think Better Call Saul certainly has its fair share of wheel-spinning episodes and dead-ended plot threads. Of course, the latter are inevitable in a prequel, and usually what Saul forfeits in intrigue and escalation it very handsomely makes up for by keenly dramatizing the predicaments of the doomed (for instance, the cumulative effect of Nacho's Sisyphean battles against successive Salamancas is superbly grim), and in elaborating upon and refracting its parent show's themes and subjects (turning to Nacho again: his split loyalties and struggle to serve two masters fascinatingly contrast with Jesse's travails in Breaking Bad).

 

Still, there remain lapses, material best considered either as redundant asides or dramatic busywork. To give a minor example of what I mean: the sequence in 'Smoke' where Mike, on the pretext of substantiating his cover story as a security consultant, infiltrates a Madrigal warehouse is amusing, yet it doesn't serve to develop the character or alter their relationships. By the time this stunt takes place in the series' internal chronology, Mike's professionalism, skill and craftiness are already fully established, whilst his autonomy under Gus's employ has been explained by the circumstances of their first meeting, occurring an entire season earlier. Now, it's true enough that one of Saul's chief concerns is the extent to which people are trapped by recurring behaviours (glancingly touched upon here by the implication that Mike has a compulsion to put himself to work), and the off-piste conduct does somewhat anticipate certain dynamics in the ugly business with Werner Ziegler – but these hardly make a case for the sequence being integral to the overarching narrative. Rather than the essential, a caprice.

 

So, yes, a redundant (though enjoyable!) aside. As for "dramatic busywork", the episode 'Bagman' is an unfortunate case in that it features almost nothing but that – it's the one in which Jimmy goes to collect Lalo's bail money. Following a dull and wholly inconsequential ambush, the invincible characters of Jimmy and Mike are pursued by a gunman in a mild goose chase across the desert. I mentioned earlier that the programme has only so much room for manoeuvre, and this is a rare case where that inability to freely escalate, to strike a raw nerve, is entirely to its detriment. Both men will emerge unscathed from the (ostensibly) dire situation, and in lieu of the action and suspense that would otherwise be inherent, we have to make do with the default bickering and bristly exchanges between the pair, crystallized umpteen episodes before and accomplished there with much greater panache. There are some small things to delight in, such as Kim’s first meeting with Lalo (under false credentials, no less – something she repeats in the final episode), or Jimmy’s anxiety about how the mess he finds himself in could undermine his marriage, but for the most part watching ‘Bagman’ is rather akin to all the stale piss drinking it features. (A further demerit of the episode is that it’s extremely reminiscent of ‘4 Days Out’, one of BB’s finest and a point of comparison which does absolutely no favours to this exercise in going-through-the-motions and shuffling the characters along.)

 

Even here, where I’m finding fault with the programme, I would still like to close by emphasizing that it amounts to a small miracle: bookending a monstrous masterpiece like BB without coming across as superfluous is already asking a lot, so it’s all the more remarkable that, in experiencing it, Saul largely excises its predecessor from your consciousness. I expected a journey through foregone conclusions from the programme, and that expectation was met; what I didn’t foresee, however, was its genius in making those bitter endings arise from its internal tragic logic and icy fatalism rather than hand-me-down plots and commitments to an existing canon. It not only makes the old new, but also its own.


Excellently reasoned post, and it feels almost churlish to counterpoint anything, but I would only like to say that Bagman leads directly to Lalo turning up at Jimmy and Kim’s flat to have the fantastically tense scene where he asks Jimmy to repeat over and over exactly what happened in the desert - and that scene is stacked with peril, because Kim’s life is under threat even if Jimmy’s protected by plot armour. 
 

BCS and BB share the same DNA from a storytelling perspective - that is ‘actions have consequences’ - and the above is a good example of that, but BCS is more subtle, more believable, and when it does all finally kick off, it’s justified and earned because of the slow burn and the layers that have been slowly added over the years. Be that a gunshot to the head, or someone slowly breaking down and crying on a bus. 
 

Fuck, what a show. 

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I don't think I'm going to be able to engage with other TV for a while after this.

 

Watching attempts at courtroom and "lawyer" stuff in She Hulk I'm gonna be all like Marvel, plz...

 

Stay in your lane, as 

 

Spoiler

Walt would have said.

 

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I had to watch the finale a second time as…..…

Spoiler

….I kept waiting for the final scam to be laid bare and then it just ended!

Watching a second time, knowing that he wasn’t trying to scam out of it, more that he was looking for redemption, it’s a fantastic ending.

 

One of the best TV shows ever made, that’s for sure.

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Did anyone else think, at first

 

Spoiler

because it cut to it straight from Saul requesting he serve his sentence in a certain prison on a certain wing, the scene set in Robert Forster's bunker was actually revealing that Walter White was still alive and they were cellmates? It was a few seconds before it dawned on me it was a flashback to the hideout instead of a big reveal. 

 

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58 minutes ago, SM47 said:

Did anyone else think, at first

 

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because it cut to it straight from Saul requesting he serve his sentence in a certain prison on a certain wing, the scene set in Robert Forster's bunker was actually revealing that Walter White was still alive and they were cellmates? It was a few seconds before it dawned on me it was a flashback to the hideout instead of a big reveal. 

 

 

Of course. That would have been a major twist!

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Spoiler

It did throw me initially. Took my brain a while to adjust and remember vaguely the section from Breaking Bad. I think it sets you up to think in that way purely because Jimmy's request was so specific.

 

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21 hours ago, Popo said:

Excellently reasoned post, and it feels almost churlish to counterpoint anything, but I would only like to say that Bagman leads directly to Lalo turning up at Jimmy and Kim’s flat to have the fantastically tense scene where he asks Jimmy to repeat over and over exactly what happened in the desert - and that scene is stacked with peril, because Kim’s life is under threat even if Jimmy’s protected by plot armour.

No, that isn't a churlish counterpoint at all – I agree with you about the tension and quality of that later scene, it's just that I'd rather there'd been a better means of bringing it about than the inert non-event that is 'Bagman'.

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The parts where very little is actually happening in BCS were often some of my favourites. There's not a hard and fast rule that a show must always be driving the plot forward in every scene either. Sometimes you need to just exist in a place with the characters for a while.

 

I think "Bagman" is superb. 

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1 hour ago, Chadruharazzeb said:

 

You should leave clowning to all the other clowns in the clown school. 

Good idea. Which course are you teaching there, out of interest?

 

1 hour ago, Benny said:

The parts where very little is actually happening in BCS were often some of my favourites. There's not a hard and fast rule that a show must always be driving the plot forward in every scene either. Sometimes you need to just exist in a place with the characters for a while.

 

I think "Bagman" is superb. 

A drama need not race through its plot, and can linger on its characters – I wouldn't be singing the programme's praises if I hadn't been engrossed by its deliberateness, or felt that what it does understatedly, it does brilliantly. But that again brings me back to and reaffirms my criticisms of 'Bagman': I don't sense in it the presence of those quiet, subtle, intellectually nourishing attributes. Jimmy and Mike are at their must superficially ornery; dramatic irony hollows out all their agonies, without compensatory insight; being left to hang on their every word invites a scrutiny that the perfunctory dialogue can't withstand – it's altogether as arid as the desert itself. But to each their own, and more power to you for liking it.

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1 hour ago, Benny said:
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It did throw me initially. Took my brain a while to adjust and remember vaguely the section from Breaking Bad. I think it sets you up to think in that way purely because Jimmy's request was so specific.

 

Why was his request so specific by the way? I started to wonder if he actually really wanted to end up in the backwater prison that he did, because he knew he’d be well known there as Saul and would get an easy ride. That was later compounded when they started singing his name on the bus and he looked as though he knew it was going to happen that way.

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Spoiler

I actually thought he looked rather uncomfortable about it, as he'd tried so hard to shed himself of Saul by that point, only to smile eventually when he realised he had to accept that was who he was and always would be to the prisoners.

 

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Just finished this. Not many can stick their landings these days but that was fucking perfect.

 

What am I going to watch now that can even hold a candle to that? 

 

I am surrounded by crushed up tissues.

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1 hour ago, Benny said:
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I actually thought he looked rather uncomfortable about it, as he'd tried so hard to shed himself of Saul by that point, only to smile eventually when he realised he had to accept that was who he was and always would be to the prisoners.

 

I think that’s what’s been so good about it, that you can read it in so many different ways and it all works perfectly. The characters are so well written, that they can leave a lot to the viewer’s imagination and it’s great fun to speculate.

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Vince G has made it clear that he’s done with the BB universe. Part of me thinks he’ll steer back towards X-Files, with a more supernatural show but one grounded in reality. 
 

Calling it now.

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BCS is just a near-perfect show. It was never afraid to mark time and build characters’ lives, unlike a lot of television which has to push forward relentlessly. This is Rembrant to a lot of shows’  2-year old with a crayon.

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I haven't read much in here because I've waited until it was all done so I could watch at my own pace without getting to a point where I'd have to wait a week for the next episode. 

 

I just watched episode 7.

 

😲

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