Laura Petrie TV Review

Modern and Classic Television

Tag: Betsy Kettleman

What’s wrong with Better Call Saul?

Back in March 2015, my review of Better Call Saul in its first season was full of excitement. There was a character and actress to fawn over (Betsy Kettleman) and…

Back in March 2015, my review of Better Call Saul in its first season was full of excitement. There was a character and actress to fawn over (Betsy Kettleman) and the editing had the same visual interest of this prequel’s predecessor: Breaking Bad. I was also correct that there would be many seasons, but now that’s something I worry about.

What are we feeling now in the fourth season? As Jimmy gets closer and closer to the moment when Saul is born, it seems the show is happy to let him stay Jimmy for as long as possible. In some ways, that delayed gratification can be very satisfying, but there are some big things bothering me about it right now.

We’re getting backstory and the motivation for Jimmy’s eventual turn, but we’re also seeing those stories draw out longer than the writing supports. The show is leaning heavily on its Breaking Bad parentage for any kind of steam at all. In other words: They know we’re going to watch because they know we have to know what happens, so they are milking as many seasons out of it as possible.

And what doesn’t have steam at all? Jimmy’s relationship with Kim Wexler. Even though I believe we are meant to see them as mismatched, the moments between them have felt cold and false for so long, that I really can’t wait until she’s written away. That’s an unusual and unfortunate way to feel about a character who is central to the current narrative.

The writing team seems to love the performances from Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler, but they haven’t struck me as powerful in any of the moments where they really should have. The cold, uptight personality certainly contrasts with Jimmy, but the opposites attract idiom isn’t working on this relationship.

Expiration Date

The timeline for the show is already set – we know approximately when the Breaking Bad timeline starts up. Then we’ll find out how much they want Better Call Saul to overlap with Breaking Bad (if at all) and if they’ll continue the future, bun-making Saul’s story beyond the black and white. Will we meet someone from Jimmy’s past in Saul’s future?

I like how those questions are in my mind. At the moment, the ideas I come up with are more entertaining than watching the show itself. I enjoy the antics, but at times they seem barely held together by dramatic sequences with the Salamanca cousins and Nacho.

The people (or network executives) behind the show may be thinking that we really only enjoy the parts that include Breaking Bad characters. So they dole them out slowly and dramatically (so far over four seasons) and spend so much camera time on a sideways glance that should have meaning, but doesn’t (yet).

I’m one of those viewers who is hanging on to see Jimmy transform into Saul, for Kim to go away in some undoubtedly underwhelming fashion, for as much Gale Boetticher (David Costabile) as humanly possible, and to see if future Saul survives to serve another cinnamon bun.

I think it’s possible for many elements of these first four seasons to be brilliant in hindsight, but they need to get somewhere soon or it will all feel like schadenfreude.

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Better Call Saul

There are only two things you need to know about Better Call Saul: 1) You need to watch it, and 2) Julie Ann Emery is a kick-ass Betsy Kettleman. Bob…

There are only two things you need to know about Better Call Saul: 1) You need to watch it, and 2) Julie Ann Emery is a kick-ass Betsy Kettleman.

Bob Odenkirk has been on my must-watch list since the days of Mr. Show on HBO. His work as Jimmy McGill is very fulfilling for his longtime fans who remember him as say…Don Pratt for instance (see video below). These are the days before Saul Goodman, but with hints at the full origin story that we didn’t even know we’d love so much.

Julie Ann Emery is officially my pick for rising star thanks to her genius portrayal of Betsy Kettleman. We have seen her in some great shows and movies, including the recent Fargo series as Ida Thurman. The writing is surely to be credited, but the choices Emery makes with facial expression and delivery are simply killer.

Cinematically, the show is as delicious as all Breaking Bad fans might have expected. I’m happy to see Kelley Dixon as editor. Scenes that take us even further back in Jimmy’s life are applied very skillfully within the context of the present.

When I watch new television, there has to be a “Got Me” moment. That’s the moment when I say, “Oh yeah…this show has it.” For Breaking Bad, it was when [spoiler] Walt blew up that guy’s car at the gas station. That was the Got Me. Better Call Saul’s Got Me involved [non-spoiler] Betsy Kettleman racing upstairs after something was revealed.

This show had the potential to careen wildly into dangerous spin-off cliché territory. Thus far, the team has shown that their success on Breaking Bad was no fluke and I can’t wait to see where the next seasons go (oh yeah, there will be many more).

Verdict: This is a show you watch it when it airs. Monday nights at 10/9c on AMC

Will it become a classic?

Will it become a classic?

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