April 1st, 2020

Death Chess

The Old Saul was Older



It is getting increasingly difficult to think of Better Call Saul as a prequel. Everyone looks so much older now than they did on Breaking Bad, I have to admit it's a little distracting. Particularly when it comes to Bob Odenkirk, whose face has a lot more lines and his eyebags a lot more weight than when his character was introduced on Breaking Bad eleven years ago. On the one hand, I'm all for suspension of disbelief but, on the other, there's something kind of bittersweet about this older Saul. There's a sense of weary compassion in Odenkirk's performance here that seems to suggest someone much more experienced with life.

I watched a bit of the first episode of Breaking Bad to feature Saul last night, which I've done before when it seemed like the spin-off was going in a very different direction. I was surprised to find the difference made more sense now.



"JMM", last night's episode, featured the courthouse wedding between Saul and Kim (Rhea Seehorn), her peculiar solution to being blind-sided by his strategy in the previous episode. Now she wants no more secrets between them and, at an oddly chosen time during some passionate foreplay, Saul confesses he's taken as a client a prominent figure in a Mexican cartel. It takes some visible effort for Kim to swallow that with a smile, especially after Saul brags about how much money he could make if he's in good with a cartel.



Rarely has it been shown so clearly that Kim is the biggest restraint on Saul's worser instincts. We know something causes them to part eventually and now the shape of the tragedy may be a little clearer. I still suspect that the real cause of their sundering will be some high crime committed by Kim, not Saul. The show deliberately called back to her bad girl inclinations a couple episodes ago. The difference between Kim and Saul may not be that she's the straight arrow and he's the crook--it may be simply that she's more repressed than he is so when she acts out she does so with less moderation and tact. I suppose we'll see. I do hope the show eventually goes to a post-Breaking Bad setting full time at some point so Odenkirk's visible age can be more of a strength.