US premiere date: August 6
Breaking Bad is one of the best television shows ever made. Its spin-off, Better Call Saul, from Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan, might be even better. Sure, Saul doesn’t have the addictive elements of the cancer survivor-turned-meth cook’s story, but it’s a stunning example of expert execution. It’s also more heartbreaking.
Television is littered with remakes, spin-offs, sequels, and prequels, yet Saul has never been concerned with catching up to Breaking Bad’s story, nor the heavy-handedness of empty Easter eggs. Its brilliance is a result of its methodical, glacial pace. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the ride through New Mexico’s underbelly.
If you’ve been sitting shotgun since 2015, this should be no surprise. The story centers on Jimmy McGill’s tragic downfall and life-long battle with his own demons. It’s packed full with the legalities (and illegalities) of the justice system, the most mundane clerical duties, cold-blooded cartel power dynamics, and illegitimate entrepreneurs. Season 4 featured Jimmy’s journey from disbanded lawyer to Saul Goodman (the finale even gave us its title character’s namesake). It wasn’t Anakin Skywalker turning to the dark side, but McGill’s transformation was extremely haunting and affecting. His partner-in-sometimes-crime, Kim Wexler, played by the incredible Rhea Seehorn, was left repulsed beyond belief.
If we had to pick one reason to watch Season 4, it’s Seehorn. She’s become the backbone of a show littered with exceptional actors. She’s evolved into Saul’s co-protagonist, but someone who doesn’t quite have the stomach for all of McGill’s cons. Kim is a lawyer full of confidence, anxiety and dread. Her anxiety quickly shifts to the viewer, who spends each and every episode on pins and needles. All we know of her fate is this: She never showed up on Breaking Bad.
If that’s not enough, Better Call Saul feels written by experienced, tactical surgeons–or better yet, by expert chemists. The way Gilligan and company purposefully back themselves into a corner just to prove they can cleverly write themselves out of it, perfectly mirrors the agility of their main character. Make no mistake, we’ve become junkies for what Gilligan and company have cooked up. — Ryan Peterson