Sophia Takal (Green) and Daniel Schechter (Life of Crime) Talk Vince Gilligan’s Better Call Saul

A fan of Vince Gilligan's new show gets caught up on how this spin-off relates to the dark and wonderful world of Walter White and company.

On Sun, Apr 12, 2015 at 12:31 a.m., Sophia Takal wrote:

Hi Dan,

I saw on Twitter that you’re watching Better Call Saul, too! I haven’t seen Breaking Bad so I wondered if you could answer a few questions for me:

Why is it called Better Call Saul?

Dan Schechter: So “Better Call Saul!” is the catchphrase on TV commercials, bus ads and billboards for Saul Goodman’s law practice in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Saul, played brilliantly by Bob Odenkirk, is the drug lawyer of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, the lead characters/meth-makers of Breaking Bad.

Who is Saul?

DS: Saul Goodman is who James “Jimmy” McGill (Bob Odenkirk) becomes. He is a lawyer of epically sleazy proportions. He dresses like the Joker from Batman, wears a preposterous combover and no job (or client) is too morally bankrupt for him to accept. Saul’s bottom line is money, at any cost. He is also rather funny (sometimes on purpose, other times not) and has major gifts of the gab and for self-preservation. He was a Breaking Bad fan favorite from his introduction in Season 2 and [SPOILER ALERT] survives the run of the show to go on to live in Nebraska or somewhere, working at that Cinnabon we see in the BCS pilot, with a new, third identity (presumably about eight years later).

There’s also a pretty slick reference in BCS to the name’s origin in the incredible cold opening scene of 104 “Hero,” where Bob tells Kevin Weisman in a flashback, “Get it? It’s S’all Good, Man?”

Is Michael McKean in Breaking Bad?

DS: No, nor is his existence mentioned, nor his “electricity allergy.”

Why are they spending so much time focusing on the tough, old bald guy?

DS: Mike Ehrmantraut is also a fan favorite from Breaking Bad. His character started off as a somewhat mysterious and efficient henchman for a rival drug dealer to Walter White, but continued to play a larger and larger part in the series as it went on. He was never a character that I fully bought in either series, but he was always interesting to watch. I presumed his backstory was “special forces” or some shit, not a Philly cop, but maybe he still has military background that explains how impressive he is. Frankly, he seems somewhat shoe-horned into BCS, but I’d have to say his major episode this season (“Five-O”) was the best of the series so far.

I’m confused: is Bob Odenkirk a comedian or an actor? Sometimes the show is funny but sometimes he looks sad, so it’s hard to tell.

DS: An actor, you silly goose! I mean, both, but the guy’s a great fuckin’ actor and that’s a tough role to play. Vince Gilligan (the show’s creator) often hires comedians to play roles in his shows because he feels strongly that comedians have an easier time being dramatic than the other way around. Bob’s performance may seem cartoonish, but so is the character and he’s incredibly capable of pulling off intense drama, CHUNKY monologues and carrying a dramatic series. I have criticisms of the show, but Bob’s performance is a highlight for me.

Does this show relate in any way to Breaking Bad?

DS: Yes and no. I think BCS is a little all over the place. It’s a legal drama at times, an existential drama at times, a drug show like Breaking at times, a cop noir in one episode…. I think the show made the mistake of starting off too hard with a bang to grab its audience. The character “Mijo” that we meet at the end of the pilot is a MAJOR Breaking Bad character (Tuco Salamanca, played with terrifying unpredictability by Raymond Cruz). I think that led me to believe this show would be interweaving New Mexico drug culture into the series, à la Breaking Bad, a lot more than it did. But aside from some smaller dabbles, it hasn’t. Obviously we meet Mike, and each episode has a cheeky handful of references to the BB universe, but so far, no, the storylines are too separate and the tone is less sensationalized… Howevs, it’s no secret that the future of the show is eager to have scenes that were in the margins of Breaking Bad, and supposedly, Walter White, Jesse Pinkman and another character you won’t know named Gus Fring (played incredibly by Giancarlo Esposito) are likely to return, which would be incredibly fun. Still, I wish BCS was standing on its own legs more.

Where are the drugs?

DS: Yeah, it’s a bummer. I wouldn’t have introduced them so early and then disregarded that stuff… because then you really want them and don’t really care about “The Kettlemans” or “The Elderly.”

Where is the violence?

DS: I’d bet my life it is coming in Season 2. Still, I think it took Season 1 too long for him to realize he can be a sleaze. The arc with his brother could’ve happened in three eps, not 10, and I don’t think the show is delivering on the promise of its premise. I thought the season was filled with a lot of “save the cat” B.S. to make him sympathetic, but I didn’t really buy it as Saul’s backstory. Still, GUESS WHAT, SOPHIA?! If you like Drugs and Violence so much?? GO WATCH BREAKING BAD LIKE EVERYONE ELSE — it more than lives up to the hype. Got better with every episode, will forever live in the TV pantheon of greatness and, truthfully, I’m happy to watch anything these amazing writers write in the future. I think they’re incredible. I’d watch it regardless of its connection to Breaking Bad, but knowing where this guy is going certainly gives me something to look forward to and be patient for. So I’m in for Season 2: “Better Call Saul (For real this time.)”

I hate violence and I hate drugs.


Sophia Takal is an actor/director/producer. She directed the feature film Green and is editing a new one called Always Shine. She produces and acts in her husband, writer/director Lawrence Michael Levine’s movies like Gabi on the Roof in July and Wild Canaries, which just came out on Netflix! She also acts in other people’s movies.