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*This article contains both Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad spoilers.
“Better Call Saul vs. Breaking Bad,” a question that once would’ve been mockable, even offensive. But now, is one seriously asked by both critics and fans. I discussed the topic with Jason Martin this past weekend on Fox Sports Radio. I concluded, while the prequel isn’t going to win the debate, it’s no longer criminal to ask. Better Call Saul is on track to ranks amongst television’s greatest dramas.
Also, if Netflix has peaked and the latest on the streaming wars.https://t.co/pF5pSRZheF
— Bobby Burack (@burackbobby_) May 3, 2020
The worst that can be said about Breaking Bad is that there are four television shows better. On my list, there is just one, The Leftovers. Even an all-time final season of Better Call Saul wouldn’t result in that. But after its exceptional penultimate season, holding a score of 92 on Metacritic, there are now only a handful of dramas safe from a slide down television’s pantheon.
Better Call Saul works more than it should. It came in with the built-in disadvantage of an already known ending (for the main story). We are all aware of Saul Goodman’s depressing post-BCS’s years, which lead to his disappearance. A happy ending isn’t in the cards. Yet, Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s prequel has as much speculation surrounding it as any show on television. It’s a burden to find a conversation about the show that doesn’t include fun and wild surmising on how Kim Wexler, who isn’t in or mentioned in Breaking Bad, is written out of Goodman’s life. Wexler’s uncertain future gives it the type of suspense that made its predecessor the heart-pounding thriller it was.
If Rhea Seehorn’s portrayal of Wexler this past season isn’t Emmy-winning, those awards won’t mean much anymore.
There was reasonable concern coming into the series whether a goofy, corrupt lawyer could carry a show. Bob Odenkirk quickly put those doubts to rest in the first season. The heartbreaking history of Goodman was the backstory we didn’t know we needed. Odenkirk is a star, and Goodman is a fascinating, complex character. The prequel has only strengthened the legacies of Gus Fring and Mike Ehrmantraut. Gilligan and Gould introduced us to Nacho Varga, a fan-favorite, and Lalo Salamanca, the best villain to hit television in years.
The desert-set “Bagman” episode isn’t getting topped this year. The episode that’s on-par with “Face Off” received a 100% Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Better Call Saul‘s blend of humor, memorable lines, devastation, and pulse-pumping edge resembles that of The Sopranos.
In addition, each season has started out with flash-forwards of post-Breaking Bad events. Goodman, now going by Gene, is hiding in Nebraska in the aftermath of Walter White’s destruction. Gene lives a sad life in constant fear of being found/caught, which is what happened in season 5’s opening. There are few clues where this part of the story is going, but I’ve long said, it’s where the series will conclude.
Landing the plane is the hardest part (ask David Benioff and D.B. Weiss). Many great shows crash into the ground in their final seasons. But that wasn’t the case with Breaking Bad, its best season was its last. Better Call Saul has followed an eerily similar path in which each season improved upon the previous. Both penultimate seasons took major steps forward. Expect Gilligan and Gould to wrap this up in a shockingly satisfying way. This would positively lead to more questions about the show’s all-time ranking.
Better Call Saul is Kevin Durant: ascending toward the top 10 but with a ceiling outside of the prestigious G.O.A.T. conversations. In both cases, this is no fault of their own but instead a credit to the greats before them.
So, how high can it go?
Here are the dramas, in addition to Breaking Bad, that are out of reach: The Wire, The Sopranos, Mad Men, The Leftovers, Deadwood, Lost, The Twilight Zone, and Game of Thrones. Everything else is in play. Even if the show ends up behind a few others, it’ll be an overwhelming achievement. Prequels, sequels, and spin-offs often just don’t cut it. This is especially true when following a show or film of the magnitude of Breaking Bad.
No, Better Call Saul will never be Breaking Bad, but the list of those better is quickly dwindling.