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.
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.