‘Better Call Saul’: How ‘Breaking Bad’ cooked up the addictive method for the spinoff


By spawning the acclaimed “Better Call Saul,” “Breaking Bad” achieved a little bit of spinoff immortality that eluded “Friends” (“Joey”), “MASH” (“AfterMASH”) and “The Golden Girls” (“The Golden Palace”), amongst others. Because the prequel nears its finish, it’s price contemplating how the unique sequence’ Emmy-winning legacy cooked up among the best TV offshoots since “Cheers” begat “Frasier.”

Launched in 2008, “Breaking Bad” made its debut the 12 months after “Mad Men” put AMC on the map as a house for status storytelling. Coupled with FX’s “The Shield” and “Nip/Tuck,” these primary cable networks demonstrated what’s thought-about premium TV could possibly be outlined by high quality and ambition, not merely its venue.

The keys to “Breaking Bad’s” endurance will be traced to quite a lot of elements, mixed in a means that has rippled via “Saul’s” addictive method, however which has confirmed as tough to copy for imitators as Walter White’s unusually pure meth.

Each sequence charted the ethical descent of their central characters, combining darkish comedy, absurd moments and lengthy, sluggish scenes imbued with rigidity and high-stakes drama.

Maybe foremost, “Breaking Bad” – which introduced the evolution of high-school chemistry trainer Walter White (performed by Bryan Cranston), confronted with a terminal analysis, right into a prison mastermind – grew to become one of the unpredictable sequence TV has ever produced. Creator Vince Gilligan and his staff persistently wrote themselves into seemingly inescapable corners, earlier than revealing some believable and often ingenious means out.

As for Walt’s ethical decay, the signature second got here when he sat idly by watching the sleeping girlfriend of his associate Jesse (Aaron Paul) choke to loss of life – not committing homicide, precisely, however failing to intervene with a view to defend himself. That foreshadowed further casualties that may observe, together with the astonishing sequence through which White engineered the demise of drug kingpin Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito).

On the time commentators drew parallels between Walt and Tony Soprano, each household males and criminals who epitomized the age of the TV antihero.

Not like “The Sopranos,” although, viewers watched the previous progressively flip to the darkish facet, inviting questions on what atypical individuals would possibly do underneath comparable circumstances. As critic Gene Seymour famous shortly earlier than the finale, “it’s the seeming normality of Walter White that makes us interrogate ourselves more than he interrogates himself.”

In a way, “Better Call Saul” confronted an much more delicate balancing act that’s widespread amongst prequels: constructing towards the narrative territory occupied by its predecessor with out both exhausting that actual property too quick or undermining the favored materials that impressed it.

“Saul,” too, has unfolded as “a tragedy,” as Gilligan just lately described it in a session with reporters, watching Bob Odenkirk’s character make the transition from Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman, with the alienation of his important different, Kim (Rhea Seehorn), because the mysterious linchpin hovering over the story when it comes to finishing that metamorphosis.

“Breaking Bad” caught the touchdown when it comes to its sequence finale, providing a definitive and satisfying end after a interval characterised by cryptic endings that to varied extents left viewers to puzzle over the writers’ intent. The present additionally bucked TV tendencies by turning into a late-blooming hit, steadily constructing viewers towards the top – drawing a series-high 10.3 million viewers for its remaining episode – as individuals found the present and phrase of mouth unfold.

When “Breaking Bad” concluded in 2013 Gilligan took what amounted to a victory lap of TV interviews, together with an look with Charlie Rose, who requested whether or not the producer had accepted that he would possibly by no means do something this good once more.

“It was lightning in a bottle,” Gilligan mentioned.

Towards the chances, Gilligan and “Saul” co-creator Peter Gould caught lightning twice. Whereas they’ve mentioned there aren’t any plans for additional adventures on this world – the spinoff of a derivative – with Gilligan telling Rolling Stone it’s “time to do something new,” the enduring lesson from each sequence is perhaps how exhausting it’s to stroll away from a profitable enterprise if you’re working on the prime of your sport.

“Better Call Saul’s” sequence finale premieres Aug. 15 on AMC.