When it bowed out with a perfect series finale that tied up all the loose ends, Vince Gilligan’s crime drama Breaking Bad was hailed as possibly the greatest TV series to ever hit the airwaves. Gilligan has since followed up the saga of Walter White with Better Call Saul, the origin story of his duplicitous lawyer Saul Goodman, formerly known as Jimmy McGill and later known as Gene Takovic.
While Breaking Bad is undeniably a masterpiece of television, helped in no small part by Bryan Cranston’s captivating performance as Walt, the spin-off has arguably emerged as an even stronger series.
It Uses The Inevitability Of Fate As A Dramatic Tool
Like all the best prequels, Better Call Saul uses the inevitability of fate as a dramatic tool. No matter what happens to Jimmy and Kim and Mike, Breaking Bad fans know it’ll end in tragedy.
Viewers went into Better Call Saul knowing how it would end, which has allowed the writers to subvert the audience’s expectations and tell their origin story in a unique way.
Jimmy Is More Relatable Than Walt
While Walt was characterized as a villain in Breaking Bad – with that evil becoming clearer and clearer in each episode – Better Call Saul’s Jimmy is much more relatable. He’s made mistakes and hates that people define him by those mistakes.
Jimmy often does bad things with good intentions, like bending the law to help Kim or bucking a broken system that hindered justice, while Walt pretended to have good intentions (providing for his family), but he never really did, because he built his meth empire to fuel his own ego – and admitted as much in the series finale.
Mike And Gus Are Both More Complex In Better Call Saul Than Breaking Bad
In addition to rounding out Saul Goodman’s character arc, Better Call Saul has dedicated a lot of time to fleshing out other Breaking Bad supporting characters, primarily Mike Ehrmantraut and Gus Fring.
While Breaking Bad mainly depicted Mike as a fixer and Gus as a ruthless criminal leader, Saul has expanded on their personal lives and backstories significantly.
Better Call Saul Is Funnier
Both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul have a strong sense of humor on top of their complex drama, but the latter is even funnier than the former.
This is largely thanks to the lead actor’s background in comedy. Bryan Cranston got his start on sitcoms like Seinfeld and Malcolm in the Middle, but he is predominantly a dramatic actor. Bob Odenkirk began his career as a comedian and worked for SNL before landing his own sketch show on HBO.
Its Most Hated Character Actually Warrants The Hate
Both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul feature a supporting character that is widely despised by the fan base. In Breaking Bad’s case, it was Walt’s embattled wife Skyler, and in Better Call Saul’s case, it’s Jimmy’s brother Chuck.
But where Skyler reacted like any normal person would when her husband revealed his history of manufacturing drugs and killing people, Chuck actually warrants the hate. He’s a terrible brother to Jimmy, and flashbacks show that he always has been, and despite that, Jimmy still takes care of him, and he doesn’t appreciate any of it.
The Flash-Forwards Add New Dimensions To The Narrative
While Better Call Saul is primarily a prequel to Breaking Bad, it also acts as a sequel with the future-set black-and-white scenes following Jimmy’s life under the guise of Gene Takovic managing a Cinnabon in Omaha, Nebraska.
These sequences with Gene, which usually arrive at the beginning of each season, have added new dimensions to the narrative and given audiences more mysteries to mull over.
It’s A Unique Spin On A Well-Worn TV Genre
Unlike Breaking Bad’s groundbreaking study of change, a TV drama about lawyers is nothing new. In fact, the law procedural is one of the most familiar and well-worn genres in the television landscape and has been for decades.
But Better Call Saul has put a fresh spin on this well-worn genre. Jimmy McGill isn’t like other TV lawyers. He bends the rules and will do anything to avoid actually going to court.
The Cinematography Is Breathtaking
There were plenty of interesting shots in Breaking Bad, like placing a camera inside a refrigerator or capturing the beauty of the New Mexico wilderness with gorgeous landscape photography.
But the cinematography in Better Call Saul is even sharper. Cinematographers like Marshall Adams and Arthur Albert have given the series a more distinctive aesthetic than most modern movies.
Kim Wexler Is Arguably The Most Compelling Character In The Whole Breaking Bad Universe
Although Jimmy McGill is the focus of Better Call Saul, the series has a secondary protagonist who’s so compelling that she frequently steals the spotlight. Fellow attorney Kim Wexler is a little more on the moral side than Jimmy, but she’s also not perfect.
From her intimate conversations with Jimmy to her intense confrontation with Lalo Salamanca, Rhea Seehorn has given an impeccable performance as Kim throughout Better Call Saul’s five seasons. The fact that her awards shelf remains Emmy-less is a travesty.
Jimmy’s Transformation Is Subtler Than Walt’s
Walt’s fabled transformation from Mr. Chips into Scarface had plenty of pathos, but it was telegraphed by moments like gruesomely taking his first life or driving through a gaggle of drug dealers.
In Better Call Saul, Jimmy’s transformation is much subtler, signified by moments like humming “Smoke on the Water” to show Marco’s influence on his rebelliousness in the season 1 finale.