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Briefly on why ‘Better Call Saul’ probably won’t suck (but I reserve the right to change my mind)

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Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about AMC’s Breaking Bad. To say I love it is an understatement. The show was genius on every level, and I don’t believe I’ll ever know television that great ever again.

When it ended, I was among the thousands of fans who were sad and joyous to see it go, concluding exactly the way it should have. A show that good couldn’t live forever without endangering the integrity of the story and the characters. TV has a cringeworthy history of great shows gone wrong because the networks tried to keep them alive. I could not watch this story go on longer than it needed to, and I also knew Vince Gilligan wouldn’t let it.

‘All the days became so long,
Did you really think I’d do you wrong?’

Another reason I was glad to see it end was because I was too involved with the characters. I cried for Hank on the way to work one day — in an off cycle. I called Trey, sobbing: “I’m a hot mess! I’m really scared for Hank this next season!” (We know now that I had reason to be, so I’m not completely crazy.) I also dreamed about the show. During the second part of the final season, I dreamt on a couple of occasions that I had to write the series finale against some crazy-impossible deadline — as the Nazis were on the way to our house. Although this sounds ridiculous in the light of day, as I type this, I remember so many details of that the dream, but mostly I remember how terrifying it was. I can sometimes talk myself out of a nightmare, but I wasn’t able to in this case. (“This is just a dream, this is just a dream, you’ll wake up soon … Oh, my God, no it’s not! THEY’RE COMING!”)

Vince Gilligan’s Nazis invaded my dreams. I’d like to chalk that up to a simple case of fangirldom, but that’s not it: The character development on Breaking Bad was simply that good. The Nazis terrified me just as much as the other characters engaged me. We fell in and out of love with the core characters, just as we do with the people who come and go in our lives. We came to enjoy that uncertainty, never knowing how we would feel about a character from one season to the next. Now, as I rewatch earlier episodes, the ones when Walt was much more likable, I’m angry at his character because I know the destructive path he will pave with his hubris, and I mourn his future casualties. When I watch Hank make one awful joke after the other and suffer paralyzing panic attacks, I’m sad for the jocular boob. He’s the hero I didn’t see coming — the one I didn’t want to lose, even though I knew he had to go.

These are two meager examples of how deeply invested I was in these characters. When I heard rumors of a prequel, based on Saul Goodman’s character, I thought it was a lie. Or a carefully crafted PR stunt by the studio to build interest in the second half of the final season.  As it became more evident there was such a show in development, I didn’t believe and didn’t want to.

And then came the trailers. And the gushing critiques. And now I’m watching it with bated breath, reminding myself that the writers don’t want this to suck anymore than I do. I’m also reminding myself that even before the news of the new series that Trey and I would consult IMDB and then watch all the Breaking Bad episodes that have Saul in them. That’s investment in a character — a character you want to know for a long time.

I’m glad to meet him again.

Author: Jacqui Barrineau

Jacqui Barrineau is a writer and editor who lives in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., with husband Trey, a Shetland Sheepdog, and two unhelpful-but-funny cats. Her work has appeared in "So to Speak" and "Calliope," and she's a regular contributor to the flash-fiction sites Paragraph Planet and Doorknobs & Bodypaint. Once upon a time, she was the audience engagement editor at USA Today. Now she does other fun things that involve advertising, marketing and social media. The views expressed here and in other outlets are hers, not her employers'. Outside of work, she's proud to serve on the Northern Virginia Community College Marketing Advisory Committee. As a committee member, she joins industry leaders in lending their knowledge and expertise to ensure the college's Marketing curriculum is relevant and responsive to the needs of the students and the surrounding business communities.

3 thoughts on “Briefly on why ‘Better Call Saul’ probably won’t suck (but I reserve the right to change my mind)

  1. So what did you think? I actually really liked it. I liked seeing some already gone characters come back to life. I knew I liked Saul for a reason in Breaking Bad. He was definitely a scene stealer.

  2. I need to watch it again. It was, like BB, beautifully shot, and Odenkirk was ON! I do want to love this; I think I might. We’ll see.

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