When it was first announced, Better Call Saul received a bit of a backlash. The concept of a “prequel” series to Breaking Bad, a show showered with universal praise during it’s run, was hard to digest. Well, creators Vince Gilligan & Peter Gould proved a lot of people wrong as Better Call Saul proved to be essential viewing. It’s second season maintain that quality and delving deeper into the fall of Jimmy McGill and emergence of his Saul Goodman persona. Now on Blu-ray, you can see for yourself how Better Call Saul is unexpectedly proving to be one of the best things on TV.
For background, Better Call Saul serves as a prequel of sorts to Breaking Bad, focusing on one key character, Saul Goodman. During Walter White’s escalation to drug kingpin, Goodman served as the shady lawyer, helping him handle his illegitimately acquired cash and facilitate other illicit dealings. Better Call Saul is set around 5 years prior to this, when the lawyer was originally known as Jimmy McGill. A small-time attorney, living in the shadow of his elder brother and torn between doing the proper thing and doing what comes naturally to him.
In the first season, spurned by his brother’s firm, he makes his way int he law business by visiting retirement homes, offering services to complete Wills and other legal documents. In the course of this he finds a corporation overbilling it’s elderly clients, opening up a potentially massive lawsuit. This ends up with him finally getting the position he always craved. Working at a prestigious law firm, his own office, power, money the works. Season 2 continues this by examining a man pulled between two aspects of his nature. His desire to be respected and regarded as a professional, and the allure of making more of a splash and doing things his way. It’s this non-conformity that led to his success after all and the show examines how these self destructive qualities bring him down.
Jonathan Banks’s Mike Ehrmantraut gets his backstory fleshed out more too, with his immersion in the criminal underbelly of Albuquerque continuing apace. The pair parallel each other in a way, both on a path to becoming morally corrupt, one through his own worse instincts, one by necessity. It’s also wonderful to see Mike’s hard exterior being gradually worn away by Jimmy, a bit of a bromance forming as they find themselves immersed in more morally grey areas.
The show is first and foremost a character piece. In the same way Breaking Bad saw Walter White become Heisenberg, this is the transition of Jimmy McGill to Saul Goodman. But rather than the bleaker elements that permeated it’s forbear, this show is about immersion in sleaze. While knowing Jimmy’s eventual fate could take something out of the show, it’s a testament to Odenkirk’s talents coupled with the writing, make for gripping viewing. Whip smart and darkly hilarious too. The distinct visual style and smart use of music that led to so much reverence for Breaking Bad is present here, as are other references to that show. But the nods are delicately done, taking nothing away from the show’s own identity, only burnishing it further.
THE PACKAGEImage quality is solid. Colors pop, detail is sharp and no artifacts or issues noted. The release contains all ten episodes spread over three-disc Blu-ray discs, a healthy amount of special features are spread over all discs and include:
- Audio Commentaries – For every episode, featuring cast and crew members. Notably Breaking Bad and BCS creator Vince Gilligan. The one’s I’ve listened too are both entertaining and highlight much of the intelligence behind the show.
- Switch Table Read – A round table run through of the episode with the cast.
- Settling the Score: Original Music by Composer Dave Porter – The episode Klick has a impressive sequence that plays out without musical accompaniment. This feature shows a recorded, but unused piece written for that scene.
- Gag Reel
- Building the Shot and The Takedown – Two featurettes that showcase some of the production and technical approaches to two notable sequences in the season.
- Jimmy and Kim: A Complicated Relationship – Actors Rhea Seehorn and Bob Odenkirk discuss how their characters play off each other and how their relationship has developed over two seasons. A nice addition that showcases how so much of the show relies on the superb acting talent involved.
- In Conversation: Jonathan Banks & Mark Margolis – Banks (Mike) and Margolis (Hector) reflect on their career and path to being involved in the show.
- Constructing Davis & Main – A behind the scenes tour of the law office set that plays a prominent role in the show.
- Landing FIFI – One episode features Saul using a Air Force B-29 Superfortress as part of a advert, this is the story of how the show managed to use “Fifi”.
- Commercials – Four spoof legal commercials set within the show’s universe.
- HSC: Beaches ‘n’ Peaches – The Hoboken Squat Cobbler. Watch the show, then watch this. Pure gold.
- Digital download code included.
THE BOTTOM LINEBetter Call Saul sounded unnecessary when first announced but has quickly become indispensable viewing. A show in the same universe as Breaking Bad, but one carving out it’s own distinct and nuanced niche. This released is crammed with special features which only enhances the allure of owning one of the best shows currently on TV.
Better Call Saul Season 2 is available on Blu-ray and DVD from November 15th.