Better Call Saul: Such Perfect, Perfect Fan Service

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 12.06% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Gini and I emerge from every movie theater with the opinion that this movie could have profitably edited fifteen minutes out.  We get easily bored with the long tracking shots which mean to establish mood but actually just make it boring.  We’re not a fan of just sticking a camera on a character just to watch his expressions.
Except we love Better Call Saul, and Better Call Saul is practically nothing but watching the endless repetitions of Jimmy McGill.
Why do we love such sweet tedium when it’s Saul and hate it in other movies?
The answer is simple: Better Call Saul is a show about anguish. Reluctance.  Lament.  The truth is that Jimmy McGill would be much better off if he chucked his morality into the dumpster and embraced his role as Saul Goodman, but… Jimmy has a conscience.  A nagging, tickle-in-the-throat conscience.  One that, if he could only leave behind, would make him the man he really needs to be.
Watching him squirm on the hook is the show.
You didn’t get a lot of that in Breaking Bad, because Walter wanted to be the bad guy.  He had flecks of conscience, but the truth was, he’d decided to make meth by the end of the second act of the debut episode.  Whereas Jimmy doesn’t want trouble, but he’s in a world where trouble presents him with such opportunities, and such quandaries.
There is a bravado scene where Jimmy is negotiating a drug-crazed lunatic down from murdering a victim to simply beating him into unconsciousness.  It is an excruciating scene.  It takes forever.  But watching Jimmy ratchet down the impending bloodshed, a man who’ll say anything to keep the peace yet still makes a crazy kind of sense, is watching a man cobble together the best morality he can out of an ugly situation.  It’d be a lot easier for him, fewer witnesses, if he could just walk away and let the kid get stabbed to death.  But he’s not.  That twinge.  And so he puts his own life on the line to negotiate, even though he hates these fucking kids, because dammit he can’t do this.
And so in a sense, I’m finding it better than Breaking Bad.  We knew Walter was going to go bad.  He had that in his eyes. But while we know that Jimmy will become Saul Goodman, we also know that on some level he deeply regrets that choice.  And we never really got a chance to see who he has when Walter wasn’t dropping massive upheaval on his doorstep.
It’s hard to say after three episodes whether Better Call Saul will be a successful spinoff.  It all depends on where it’s going.  But as fan service, it’s perfect: as Breaking Bad fans, we know who that guy who just dragged Jimmy into the house is, we know who that guy at the ticket booth is, we know where some of these plotlines are headed.
And yet there are so many slow sequences where Jimmy paces and drinks, not wanting to put skin in the game.  Not yet.  He’s a lawyer, not a criminal.
But oh.  He could be such a good criminal.

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