If you’ve ever been afraid of a spinoff series ruining an original show, then you have nothing to worry about with “Better Call Saul.”
The “Breaking Bad” prequel, which premiered Sunday night with an additional new episode on Monday night, broke cable television ratings by being the highest-rated series debut ever with 6.9 million viewers.
And with good reason.
The premiere of “Better Call Saul” begins with a classic Vince Gilligan teaser. Similar to the season premieres of “Breaking Bad” that foreshadow future events, “Better Call Saul” begins with a solemn look at Saul Goodman’s future, post-Walter White. Saul hides in plain sight, spending his days working at a Cinnabon in Omaha, Nebraska, and his nights reliving his glory days through a VHS tape of Saul Goodman commercials. As part of the classic Gilligan teaser formula, the opening is shot in entirely black and white shots that keep your attention.
The show jumps back to 2001 and introduces viewers to Jimmy McGill who, spoiler alert, eventually becomes Saul Goodman at some point during the show. For the time being, however, Jimmy is a young lawyer who works as a public defender in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and struggles between making ends meet and convincing anyone from potential clients to two teenagers to do what he wants.
Bob Odenkirk carries the show to great heights immediately in the first episode. Despite being a recurring character who serves as both comedic relief and a scapegoat for Walter White and Jesse Pinkman on “Breaking Bad,” Saul has his own set of baggage, from his lackluster business to his mentally ill brother who won’t cash out of the shares of the major law firm he stopped working at. Although there are still humorous moments in the premiere, 2001 Saul has a ways to go in terms of character development, and it’s already showing.
Guest appearances from “Breaking Bad” characters Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) and Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz) also make the premiere more enticing, but don’t lose the focus of the show. Instead, it furthers the allure of the show and leaves the viewers asking more questions. How do Mike and Saul get in cahoots with each other? Is 2001 Tuco just as crazy as he is in 2008? Will we see Hector Salamanca ring his bell in his wheelchair again?
Regular episodes of “Better Call Saul” will air Mondays at 10 p.m. on AMC.