White Cover Magazine
Maybe you haven’t seen Better Call Saul yet.
This would be a luxury. Because it’s great, yes. And because you get to catch up – remember when having to catch up with a television show was a chore? Now, it’s almost what you hope for… the ability to binge-watch and mellow out in bed with a laptop on your, fittingly, lap. Shows are made to be craved and consumed now, not patiently taken in over eight month segments repeatedly over a decade. And they’re better that way, too – I loved Boardwalk Empire, but I enjoyed it more the second time I’d watch each season, when I could just go from episode-to-episode instead of having to force myself to get re-excited every Sunday. The show was slow, perhaps, but watched in one motion it was exhilarating.
If you haven’t seen either of Better Call Saul‘s first two episodes – titled ‘Uno’ and ‘Mijo’ – you can watch them now. Ahead of tonight’s third. Or you can just wait until it’s over and watch the trio together.
And no scene in these excellent opening episodes is more delicious than the series’ very first, where Saul is now named Gene and he works in a Cinnabon. The season opens in black-and-white, and every effort that goes into layering, baking, and making one of those little wonder cakes is given Vince Gilligan’s delicate, artistic attention.
Cinnabon has become somewhat of a joke in popular culture, helped along by Louis CK’s stand-up – it’s the place you see people in sweatpants lining up beside in malls or airports, one of those depressingly attractive logos of modern suburban life. You love cinnamon buns, but you sort of feel lame buying one from the same place that fat guy‘s buying one from; and it’s not like it’s some excellent, authentic local company – it’s a corporation whose business sells you on comforting familiarity. But, what the hell? You do want a cinnamon bun, right?
Read: ‘Better Call Saul enters sweet, sticky partnership with Cinnabon’ by Tim Kenneally, The Wrap (Feb. 9, 2015)
Of course, Vince Gilligan’s best work has always come from turning these sort of mediocre settings into works of art. New Mexico is really one of those, as a state that flaunts natural beauty but is more of a wasteland culturally (compared to, say, the showtime of Hollywood or Las Vegas) than it is the pot at the end of some rainbow’s horizon.
Gilligan has turned motorhomes and Pontiac Azteks into the vehicle of the ultimate badasses, he turned the colourful tent of bug bombers into the office of America’s greatest living narcotic chemist, and Breaking Bad‘s eventual hero (Hank Schrader) was the everyman’s ultimate police officer, an overweight bald guy who still thinks the “I never inhaled” joke is funny and who made his own beer in his garage (‘Schraderbrau’).
Saul Goodman was one of those types, too. He was as much a joke – the cheesy lawyer with the bus bench ads and the late-night TV commercials, the combover, the clown suits, the Constitution painted as a mural behind his office desk – as he was cunning – often, Saul was the only man Walt and Jesse could trust, the brains behind so many of their exit strategies, the Tom Hagen to Walt’s Vito Corleone.
And the end of the black-and-white opening to Better Call Saul sees Gene reclining in his living room chair, sometime in the future after the conclusion to Breaking Bad, closing his blinds so he can safely pop in the videotape of his old commercials and cry at how beautiful and glorious his career, his life once was.
But I found this funny, because of course most of us would never want to be the guy tackily hawking his services in those infomercial-istic ads. But that was Saul’s world. He doesn’t really miss being a lawyer probably – he misses control.
His business was his. It didn’t really matter what business it was.
Walt was much the same way, in Bad. And as little as they got along, it’s often why he and Saul were on the same page. They were both good, deep down, but they were also willing to sacrifice everything because they were tired of living their life under someone else’s thumb. And it’s worse when the thumb doesn’t belong to any one individual. With Walt, he was living under the thumb of his dead-end career and his family and friends, who loved him but never respected him. With Saul – or Jimmy McGill, as he begins in this new series – he was living under the thumb of the American system, a system he was trying to profit from by representing it in front of a jury, but actually was being eaten by.
There were many great bits in Better Call Saul‘s first two hours – the scene with Bob Odenkirk and the busty woman in the bar and the courtroom/coffee machine montage, both in Episode 2, especially. But the Cinnabon scene was eye test-passing perfection. It was the sort of television you always knew you wanted, but didn’t quite know how to ask for.
I don’t think I’ve ever written so much about a five-minute piece of TV. But I enjoyed it.
VIDEO: Saul Got His Cinnabon and Twitter Loved It by NowThis on YouTube