Written and directed by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould – starring: Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Rhea Seehorn, Patrick Fabian, Michael Mando, Michael McKean, Giancarlo Esposito and Tony Dalton (running time: 63 hrs).
The “Better Call Saul” series’ main character – Saul Goodman – has his genesis in the award-winning series known as “Breaking Bad”, where you see Saul Goodman (whose name is coined from the phrase “it’s all good, man”) at the height of his, well – shystering career – is probably the best way to put it.
Born James “Jimmy Hustle” McGill, Jimmy is always a small shrub in the shadow of a grand oak-tree, being his more intelligent, more sophisticated, classier and way more educated brother, Charles “Chuck” McGill, the senior founding partner in the prestigious Albuquerque law-firm “HHM”.
Jimmy has earned his law-degree via correspondence from the University of American Samoa. Chuck, on the other hand, graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University Law School. And their respective career paths could be described as: a rough and ready quart beer-fuelled night out at the local shebeen potentially involving guns, death and violence vs. quaffing exotic expensive cocktails on the terrace of the Mount Nelson Hotel in the early evening where you need to wipe your mouth with a starched white napkin before you head off to the bathroom.
One could perhaps view Jimmy’s and Chuck’s strange brotherly love relationship as a modern-era spin on the old-testament story of Cain and Abel. In the Christian interpretation of the story, brothers can indeed become mortal enemies through the fact they worship the same god in the very same way. The god in Better Call Saul could be seen as “the law” or even “legal ethics” or even money, and what choices one makes to get ahead in the game. And so, this metaphorical biblical arc starts with a steep trajectory right from the get-go in the series.
Watching Better Call Saul as sixty-three-one-hour-episodes is a 63-hour odyssey involving a proper commitment on the part of the viewer. It is an investment in being patient; in slowing time down and dedicating it to cinematic art-appreciation. It’s not a take-away order – the ever-popular “wham-bam thank you ma’am” payoff – something that does not even qualify as food, nor has any nutritional value. Instead, it’s a slow-cooked gourmet meal, where the ingredients are carefully selected days in advance; where you run the recipe over in your head at night making sure you have the cooking sequence right; where on the big day you open a bottle of fine red wine, put on some classy music (whatever your taste might be) and get cooking. And, when you finally serve up the meal, you will see the pure and unadulterated delight in the eyes of your guests, when the taste sensations explode in their mouths, where they look up at you with eyes gleaming and chomping full mouths trying to get the mumbling words of being ever so grateful out now that you have opened the gates of gastronomical heaven for them for just one night.
Better Call Saul’s directors and screenplay writers – Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould – have left nothing to chance.
This is carefully crafted five-star cinematic art where there is no fake stylisation. It is perfectly cast with a capable and dedicated group of actors; it is also beautifully shot in the arid climate State of New Mexico’s town of Albuquerque, where the stark Karoo like outback is of desolate dusty roads during the day and long ominous shadows falling at dusk which, in the ultimate world of attorney Saul Goodman, resonates with drug deals gone bad and life being very close to death – where Saul is unwittingly caught up between warring Mexican drug cartels. The writing is authentic, and the characters are all convincing and credible in their own rights as individuals, none of whom is some imitated and exaggerated construct.
In the final analysis of the series, the plotline asks the question of: what makes a really good lawyer? Is it to be the lawyer who will straddle the fine-line of ethics; one who will resort to questionable methods in solving a case; who will roleplay act when he/she unhesitatingly needs to; one who will use extreme non-legal creativity to get a result; a lawyer who will go out and find clients and make rain when business dries up; a lawyer who is not one bit shy and in actual fact has no limit to what he/she is capable of doing to get ahead and win the case, while at all times serving the very best interests of his/her clients and the deep needs of his/her pocket.
One thing is for sure, if I were ever to get into some ghastly legal shit and I desperately needed help, I’d want a lawyer like Saul Goodman. You can keep your Dali Mpofu and Barry Roux senior counsel types. Just give me real and alive with personality and raw charm on top of dogged relentlessness, and all things beautiful and wonderful can and may happen. Law is the business of people and risk, and without a sense of humanity and killer instinct you should rather just go back to watching Netflix and begging for lockdown and zoom meetings to be made permanent.