Better Call Saul Series 1 Episode 1: “Uno” Review
Please be aware this post contains spoilers for Better Call Saul series 1 episode 1.
Better Call Saul, somewhat paradoxically, starts at the end of Breaking Bad. Post-Walter White, Saul is a man who has left his former identity behind, and now works at Cinnabon. He has awful hair, a worse mustache and is on edge from the slightest sideways glance – it’s the I-have-powerful-enemies look that Walt sported in series five of Breaking Bad. We know how Saul got to this point, but how did Saul become… well, Saul? We rewind six years before the moment that Saul and Heisenberg collided to find out.
“Uno” starts slow. James “Jimmy” McGill is a small-time lawyer who lives in the shadow of his esteemed lawyer brother, Chuck McGill, despite the fact Chuck has lived in a state of isolation for more than a year, citing fear of “electromagnetic forces.” It’s safe to say his brother has a few issues, and yet Jimmy is still somehow doing worse. Ouch.
Meanwhile, Jimmy’s own law career has stumbled to defending hopeless cases at the local council. I will leave you with the pleasure of learning for yourself what exactly Jimmy’s first few clients of Better Call Saul are accused of, but Jimmy has no chance with a defence. This first half-hour is slow, there’s no mistaking it, and there’s also a lot to take in that will build the premise of the next nine episodes.
Then, something changes. Jimmy’s at breaking point. Chuck tells Jimmy not to hide in the shadow of someone else. Abandon the family name. Become your own man. The flowery sort of talk you get on television. Jimmy immediately heeds the message, utilising contacts made (hilariously) in the first half of the episode. He conceives a means of immorally making a few bob and the plan works a little too well, until he is taken aback by a surprise cameo appearance. And the pilot is over. Luckily, episode 2 is now available to stream on Netflix.
Better Call Saul managed to fit in a surprising number of non-contrived Breaking Bad cameos, for a show that is not actually Breaking Bad. Firstly, the fantastic Jonathan Banks as Mike – at this point in time a car park attendant but somehow just as threatening a presence; and secondly, Better Call Saul‘s big surprise. More on this in our episode 2 review.
If you’re looking for Breaking Bad 2.0, (or Breaking Bad -1.0, I suppose), you will be disappointed. That’s not to say that the series is completely dissimilar. The show is very much set along the same lines in terms of formula. However, this story is already showing signs it will not be as action-oriented as Breaking Bad, at least not in the beginning. We begin with small-time crime. But then, Breaking Bad had to build up to its peak, which was arguably hit somewhere during the third and fourth series. Better Call Saul needs time too.