Better Call Saul is a rarity: a spinoff that is as acclaimed as the original. The hit series is entering its final season on AMC.
Created by Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan, the series stars Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill, a con man turned lawyer. Audiences first met him under the alias of Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad. Better Call Saul showcases Jimmy before he meets Walter White. So far, the series racked up 39 Emmy nominations as well as 21 wins. According to Gilligan, the concept was almost completely different.
“When we first started concocting the idea of doing a spinoff, we literally thought it’d be a half-hour show.” Gilligan said in an interview, “It’s basically Saul Goodman in his crazy office with the styrofoam columns and he’s visited every week by a different stand-up comic.”
Once it became clear that the sitcom approach didn’t work, the producers instead decided to invert the “Breaking Bad” formula of 25% humor and 75% comedy. Even so, they realized that Saul had a unique struggle as a protagonist.
“And it dawned on us that this character seemed so comfortable in his own skin. Peter and I do not possess those kinds of personalities,” Gilligan added. “We thought, ‘Regardless how much comedy is in it, how do you find drama in a guy who’s basically okay with himself?’ So then we thought, ‘Well, who was he before he was Saul Goodman?'”
As a result, the creators centered the series on Jimmy becoming Saul, and that became the core of the show’s success. After all, if you give a fan favorite character a spinoff, why not focus on what made them the way they are?
Better Call Saul Star Talks Final Season
Additionally, series star Bob Odenkirk felt strongly that Jimmy’s development was the best part of the series.
“My favorite thing is the way Jimmy learns about himself and exhibits this sense of self-awareness,” Odenkirk said. “It’s great because the hardest thing for me was to play the naiveté of Jimmy as a younger person, where he started in the series.”
Unfortunately, Odenkirk also points out that development isn’t always positive. While he wishes redemption was on the table for Jimmy, he knows it isn’t.
“On the other hand, what he does with that self-awareness isn’t too good,” he continued. “He has these realizations about himself, but they give him an outlet to become ethically unmoored.” In addition, Odenkirk revealed that Jimmy’s arc mirrors that of Walter White, which is cathartic for fans of both series.
“If you dig deep down Jimmy McGill is a good guy,” Odenkirk explained. “But, like Walter White, he does have an ego and his ego is hungry for respect and appreciation in a way that I don’t think the world ever really can satisfy in a person, except in incremental moments. And I think it’s a foolish thing to pursue. And I would love to see him have that realization. I don’t think he will.”
The last season of Better Call Saul returns to AMC in 2022.