(*This post contains spoilers for Better Call Saul)
Whenever a traveler visits the past in a time-travel story, there is always the concern that their actions will significantly affect the present. No matter how small that action is.
In movies like About Time, the main character has the ability to constantly travel back in time to make small changes, to ensure he has the most successful future. In more extreme stories, even a rock picked up and thrown at a small mammal in the Jurassic generates a future with dinosaurs still roaming the Earth.
While we all agree with this concept, we fail to grasp that what we do right now, no matter how small, can have unpredictable results in the future as well. Just like something small in the past could have made a different present, a tiny act we do now can change the future.
Even more difficult to understand, things that happen completely out of chance can also generate unpredictable reactions. Imagine being run over by a bicycle just after leaving your house. This might affect your neighbor's day who stopped to help you, and his wife who is now left to take the kids to school. She is now late to a meeting and because of it, upsets a coworker who proceeds to eat leftover cakes at work even though he shouldn't. This can make a third coworker hungry because she thought she would have breakfast at the office and there was nothing to eat. Our lack of morning luck means someone we have never met before is not having breakfast cake. And I could continue on and on.
Overthinking the possible effects of every single action would simply make us mad. Especially since we cannot really know exactly how we affect the world in one way or another. We don't even know whether we will reach our goals or what our final destination will be when we make everyday decisions.
We hope for the best, and we try to make the choices we think will lead to a better world for us and those around us. Despite the fact that it is 100% impossible to anticipate all the consequences of anyone's actions.
Okay, so what the hell does this have to do with Better call Saul?
Better call Saul is about transformation. It tells how this flashy-clothed and unscrupulous lawyer called Saul Goodman came to exist. How can a somewhat normal person, as we all are, be turned into an unlaw lawyer involved with a drug cartel?
In a way, it kind of follows the same prerogative as Breaking Bad. What situations and small decisions would turn Walter White a chemistry teacher into a meth drug lord? (Living in the US, where cancer treatment can cost $400,000, would be a logical place to start).
Better Call Saul shows the slow transformation of Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman. Both Better Call Saul and its predecessor Breaking Bad explore crime and law in a more nuanced sphere (although I would argue Better Call Saul leans more on that). They presuppose that there are no good and evil people, and even unlawful conduct is the product of many small steps. These steps create deviations that at some point make it impossible to turn back. And even when they are already on a pretty difficult path there is still some good deep, deep inside.
All the characters exhibit this nuance. I especially loved how they managed to explore it with the character of Kim Wexler, Saul's girlfriend and then wife. In season 6, as well as a few times in seasons 4 and 5, it is shown that even someone who is lawful, smart, and in general good may become problematic. As she grows tired of how rich men always win and seeing how Saul wins cases using illegal and unethical means, she starts copying her boyfriend. She finds it fun to act like him and gets satisfaction from being part of the cons. That leads to problems and unfortunate events.
Kim also represents the main redeeming characteristic of Saul and the last remnant of his past life. Once he loses her his "transformation” is complete.
The show explores how arbitrary, maneuverable, and rigged the US legal system is. It also explains how it is easy for cartels and rich men such as bankers to get away with what they want. In a way, Saul Goodman is a relatable character because throughout the show he stands for people who aren't usually able to protect themselves legally. For example, prostitutes and small drug sellers.
He uses his intelligence and, at times, unethical ways to save his clients. Season 5 is when he has his most benevolent case. Kim, who practices real estate law, has a big client, a bank called Mesa Verde. The owner of this bank wants to build a call center in an area already occupied by houses. All neighbors sell their properties, but one homeowner refuses to do so because he has lived there for 40 years and is attached to the place. Kim agrees with this man's reasons, but her client is adamant about it and wants to have him out of there.
Kim prompts Saul to be the property owner's lawyer. He manages to win the case using all kinds of tricks, such as putting fake china in the desert and calling archaeologists to investigate. In the end, Saul wins by working against Kim's wishes, leading Kim to wonder how far he would go to achieve his goals.
With Saul's schemings becoming more sophisticated and his clients becoming more dangerous, he became a criminal.
Should I watch Better call Saul?
Better Call Saul follows the character of Jimmy McGill (later known as Saul Goodman) as he becomes a criminal lawyer. The show was loved by critics for a variety of reasons, including its strong performances (especially by Bob Odenkirk in the lead role), its well-crafted storytelling, and its ability to expand upon the world and characters of Breaking Bad in a meaningful way. Additionally, the show has a unique tone and style that sets it apart from its predecessor while still maintaining the same level of quality.
The characters are compelling, and the show is visually striking. It takes its time with scenic and sometimes slow shots, which nowadays is a rarity for self-paced fast-food-style Netflix shows. At the same time, it does make for a slower show as well. If you are looking for a fast-paced show, you should probably skip this one. You need to give it time.
Additionally, it relies a lot on its predecessor Breaking Bad, which makes it more difficult to watch. Having watched it long, long ago, sometimes the references and connections to the other story got lost to me. It is a stand-alone show, but at the same time, I don't think it's possible to enjoy this show if you've never seen the original. But maybe it's a worthwhile idea if you haven't checked them out yet. Now is the time.
Our small decisions and the change they can create
One of the main themes of Better Call Saul is the transformation of the character Jimmy McGill into criminal lawyer Saul Goodman.
The show explores the various factors that contribute to this transformation. These factors include Jimmy's desire to be successful and respected, his difficult relationship with his brother Chuck, and his involvement in the criminal underworld. Additionally, the show also explores the moral and ethical dilemmas that Jimmy faces as he becomes more entrenched in this world. It also examines the way that these choices ultimately shape his identity.
We follow how Jimmy's moral compass changes and how he becomes more and more the Saul Goodman we know from Breaking Bad. By the end of the show, we are left wondering if things could have turned out differently.
He asks the two main characters, Mike Ehrmantraut and Walter White what they would change if they could travel back in time. Mike answers that he would go back in time to the day he received his first bribe as a cop. This leads us to believe this is what he considers to be the first step of the many that took him to be where he is now: the head of security and right-hand of drug lord Gustavo Fring.
Walter answers that he shouldn't have trusted his friend with the successful company that they created after university. If only he had the money from the company, he wouldn't be needing it when he got cancer, which started the whole ordeal. Saul, on the other hand, has pretty petty answers to this question. We are led to view him as a man only interested in money and power.
But that's not the whole reality. He finally shows his awareness of everything that happened to him when he confesses in front of a judge and Kim in the last episode. He also shows how he got there. How things could have played out differently if he had made different choices.
The final season emphasizes this point by showing H.G. Wells' The Time Machine a number of times. A book that explores the human duality of being at the same time virtuous and evil, through the two humanoid monsters our time-traveler finds in a distant future.
When the show is over we are left with a sense of justice being served. Despite the fact that we once cheered for those same characters, we now see that their actions have consequences. Even if they are humans and have made mistakes. Their choices and their acts accumulate, leading to the lives they are now living.
In the end, the final "what if?" does not remove Saul's blame for his choices, just challenges our perception of life as black and white.
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The time machine (H.G. Wells). Published in 1895, The Time Machine distinguishes itself as being the first novel to introduce the concept of time travel. The novel tells the story of “the Time Traveller,” an unnamed Victorian scientist who travels into the future to the year 80,2701. There he encounters two new races of people: the playful, child-like Eloi, who spend their days in leisure, singing, and dancing, soaking up the rays, and the Morlocks, a subterranean group that runs the machinery, producing goods but also preying upon the Eloi at night.
Nebraska (2014) is a road film by Alexander Payne starring Will Forte, Bruce Dern, June Squibb, and our own Saul Goodman: Bob Odenkirk! It’s a blend of family comedy and drama about an old man who believes he has won a lottery prize and wants to travel to collect it. Like Better Call Saul, it deals with the care of older relatives and lots of black and white.
Better call Saul is a pretty worth-watching show. It has a good story and great characters, and it’s visually striking. Even though it's a prequel to a famous show (which usually doesn't work), they made it interesting by itself. But, as I said before, I do think you need to have watched Breaking Bad first and it's not a fast-paced show.
P.s.: I (and a lot of people) am pretty bummed that Bob Odenkirk hasn't won any award for this role. Last Sunday he lost the Golden Globes again for Sterling K. Brown from This is Us. I love him on This is Us, but come on! It's been years. I can only hope the Emmys will be different.
Hi! I’ve been meaning to ask how you make your images. I dig them!