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Better Call Saul review: The problem with beginning at the end


Better Call Saul, the highly anticipated spinoff/prequel for Breaking Bad, started its two-night premiere with a flash forward, letting everyone know where Saul would end up in life. And we have to wonder… does knowing his bleak future make the show more or less enticing?

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To be fair, Better Call Saul isn’t the first show to start with a major spoiler for the characters’ futures. Most recently, we’ve watched How I Met Your Mother and rooted for Ted and Robin, despite believing they’d never end up together. We also all got hooked on Showtime’s The Affair, knowing full well who would hook up and that something bad would go down. We’ve also spent seven seasons with Don Draper knowing that by Mad Men‘s end this spring, someone (most likely Don) would tumble from the high-rise window. Did having glimpses into their future make any of the shows less interesting? Not really.

We have to wonder if Better Call Saul is different, though. With Jimmy/Saul/Gene’s life, we don’t just have a tease of what might come… we’re intimately aware of a massive chunk of Saul’s future and, ultimately, his fate.

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If we ignore all of Saul’s history from Breaking Bad, the tease might not be too revealing. When Better Call Saul premiered, we saw Saul in Omaha working at a Cinnabon under the name “Gene.” From that, we could gather that something bad will inevitably go down and that it will lead him to abandoning the law, changing his name and moving far, far away. Still a pretty big spoiler, but also a very vague one.

When you add in what we know of Saul’s storyline in Breaking Bad, though, his future begins to take better shape. We know that in six years, he’ll find himself standing in front of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, offering to help and that, a few years later, his involvement in their schemes will be the thing that makes him flee to Omaha.

And we’re clearly not supposed to ignore those details, either. The showrunners, Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould could have easily picked up in that time frame and never touched on anything familiar from Breaking Bad other than Saul Goodman himself. Instead, they’ve chosen to find ways to remind us of how we already know Goodman and where his life his headed. Sure, the journey is better than the destination. But, in this instance, we already know a huge chunk of his journey, too.

Case in point: The first two episodes center around Goodman’s first big scheme (still operating under the name ‘Jimmy’) and how it lands him in the presence of one of ABQ’s most violent criminals: Tuco. If you remember (and of course you do), Tuco was once tangled up with Jesse and Walt, too.

So, we have to wonder: Does knowing where Saul ends up, and even knowing how he gets there, make his story any less interesting? Judging by the premiere’s record-breaking viewership, it seems as if it only pulls people further in. We’re going to give him a few more weeks before we decide for sure, though.

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