Better Call Saul: The best drama on television is back
In season five, episode one, the Breaking Bad prequel immediately rediscovers its groove
Rarely has there been a TV show as dependably good as this
In a world going slowly mad, consistency has never felt more important. And rarely has there been a TV show as solidly dependable as Better Call Saul. Returning to Netflix for a fifth season Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s Breaking Bad prequel immediately rediscovers its groove as it continues to track the decline and fall of morally bankrupt defence lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk).
When we took our leave, downtrodden Jimmy McGill was morphing into slimy Saul, of the cheap suits and loud TV ads. But as the story resumes, it’s back to the future with a bang, as we catch up with Saul’s post-Breaking Bad alter-ego Gene.
The genius of Gilligan’s drama is that it serves both as predecessor and follow-up to Breaking Bad. When that deep desert Götterdämmerung finally flamed out in 2013, Goodman left his meth lord client Walter White to his bloody reckoning with the police and fled New Mexico for a new life as a Cinnabon manager in Omaha.
Yet it was hinted in the previous series of Saul that his cover had finally been blown.
This is now confirmed as the creepy cab driver who clocked him after his collapse at work calls him out in the mall. The cabbie plays the confrontation for laughs. Yet his eyes are hard. Gene/Saul/Jimmy considers running again.
In the end,though, he decides to stay. What happens next? With the Gene scenes arriving at the top of each season we may have to wait another year to find out.
Back in pre-Breaking Bad Albuquerque, Jimmy has changed his name to Saul. Meanwhile soulmate Kim (Rhea Seehorn) is, and not for the first time, wondering what kind of man she’s got herself involved with. The Mike- Gus Fring subplot also grows murkier, as Mike (Jonathan Banks) reckons with the consequences of his execution of German engineer Werner.
The episode finishes on a note of quiet catharsis. Jimmy/ Saul wants Kim to lie to a client, to persuade them to accept a plea bargain. She blanches and even looks at him in disgust. However she then runs the con anyway.
Saul has already fallen into the swamp. The terrible teaser the new season seems likely to pose is whether Kim will join him. And if so, will what sort of price will she have to pay? The instalment poses a further question, too, of course.
The best drama on television has been away for 18 months. How on earth have we managed without it so long?