‘Saul’ puts Odenkirk ‘through the wringer’

23 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Better Call Saul’ review: Spinoff delivers your ‘Breaking Bad’ fix.

Spin-offs from hit shows rarely recreate the magic of the original. Bob Odenkirk, who played the smarmy Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad, is standing in a dusty clearing as crew members rumple his necktie and spray him with mist, adding to his sweaty appearance.According to Esquire columnist Stephen Marche, who has had a sneak preview of what’s to come, the first two episodes are not only ‘better’, they’re ‘smarter’ AND ‘sharper’. ‘In the very first shot, in silent black and white, we see the ruins of Saul Goodman after the action of Breaking Bad, just as he said he would be,’ Marche continued. ‘He’s working at a Cinnabon in a mall, terrified of anyone slightly threatening who walks into the store.

LOS ANGELES — Though touted as a prequel, Better Call Saul’s opening minutes begin where Breaking Bad’s penultimate episode left Saul Goodman, which will give viewers a welcome false impression that Vince Gilligan’s acclaimed AMC series never ended. Odenkirk, a supporting player on AMC’s hit about teacher-turned-meth dealer Walter White, is taking center stage in spinoff Better Call Saul (Feb. 8, 10 p.m. It steps kind of lightfootedly between humor and drama.” The idea for Saul initially was tossed around as a joke among the Breaking Bad writers during Season 2, “but the fact that we kept telling that joke over and over again started to make us all gradually feel there was something to it,” Gilligan says.

In this scenario, told through black-and-white scenes reminiscent of Bob Odenkirk’s role in the 2013 film Nebraska, the sleazy criminal lawyer is no longer that, having recently extracted himself from his dangerous life in Albuquerque in favor of a safer one in Nebraska. The series, devised by Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan, makes small-time lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) the central character and is set six years before his appearance on the award-winning Breaking Bad.

While initially envisioned as a half-hour, case-of-the-week comedy, long walks during lunch hours with Gilligan surfaced something deeper in Saul, says co-creator Peter Gould, who invented the character. “‘Who was this guy? Sign up to receive it in your inbox here. “Apples remind me of oranges,” Seth Rogen wrote on Twitter in an attempt to clarify a joke he made about “American Sniper” and a fake Nazi propaganda film. “Can’t compare them, though.” What this piece presupposes is, maybe you can? “Breaking Bad” (apples, I guess) and “The Office” (hello, oranges?) have few similarities except for one: idiot savants Saul Goodman and Michael Scott.

US cable network AMC will premiere the series next month but critics given a preview of the opening three episodes, which return viewers to the New Mexico locale, delivered a favourable response. On the set in mid-July, Odenkirk wipes his brow and trudges through dense woods, filming a scene in which the struggling McGill searches for some rogue potential clients. The prequel introduces us to Jimmy McGill — Saul’s real name before he acquired his professional alias — who spends an alarming and entertaining amount of time practicing his over-the-top courtroom dialogue in the courthouse’s bathroom mirror. And what problem does becoming Saul solve?’ We started talking about what the answers could be, and once we started zeroing in on them, they turned out to be a lot more dramatic and interesting than we expected,” Gould says.

Odenkirk says he was “continually surprised at the depth they brought to this character in the writing and how willing they were to trust me to handle some really challenging scenes. He’s unpolished and easily angered — like whenever he runs into Breaking Bad fixer Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), who is an ex-cop-turned-courthouse-parking-attendant. Aesthetically, the series is beautifully pieced together with suspenseful closeups of Jimmy’s animated expressions, zoomed-in action shots and the anticipated sweeping panoramic desert shots. If you’re not looking for the references, you most likely won’t even see some hidden in plain sight.” The Hollywood Reporter said the series was a huge risk since recent landmark dramas like The Sopranos and The Wire had not attempted a sequel. “But there’s no question that Gilligan and Gould have earned the right to attempt this. Bob Odenkirk begins unpacking this in a nuanced way on “Better Call Saul.” In “Breaking Bad,” he was essentially the court jester in a languishing Shakespearian drama.

The comparisons and differences are sure to draw mixed reactions, though in reality, Saul doesn’t have to live up to Breaking Bad because not many premieres can or will ever stack up. Although they say viewers shouldn’t expect to see Walt or Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), they’ve given themselves the freedom to bounce around pre-, post-, and during Breaking Bad’s timeline throughout Saul’s first season (it has been renewed for a second). There are deeply sad, depressing elements to the universe he inhabits as a focal point, though they are nearly always alleviated by his uncanny ability to save his own ass in the most high-stakes situations. “Saul” is both campier and more intense than “The Office.” Although, holistically speaking, the two are similar in their use of comedy coupled with unflinchingly depressing moments. Chips-turned-Scarface transformation that made Walt a compelling antihero, Saul faces the weight of expectations from devoted viewers of the 16-time Emmy winning series anticipating a Breaking Bad 2.0 — a reality which isn’t lost on its creators. When introducing another character, it’s tempting to say, ” ‘Oh, well, what if it were so-and-so from Breaking Bad?'” Gould says. “And sometimes that’s a great idea and it’ll enhance the story, but sometimes it’s just a reference that does nothing to further the story.” While they’d welcome back any of the Bad cast “if they were willing to come and play, we had to really think about, more than anything, telling the story of Jimmy McGill.” But familiar faces will appear, Odenkirk says: “That first episode has an ending that every Breaking Bad fan will want to wear an extra diaper for when you watch it.”

During Bad, “the thing we found that worked best for us is to be the first fans of that show and try to tune out what we thought other people would think about the story we were telling,” Gilligan says. “The loudest voices on the Internet are not necessarily the most well-thought-out opinions, so if you listen closely to the instantaneous response, it can really steer you in some crazy directions.” “On the Internet, mostly there’s nothing but snark and bitter critique,” he says, eating a late-afternoon lunch in his trailer. “I’ve never seen anything (before) where the majority of comments are like, ‘Sounds like it could be fun! Supernatural series The X Files spawned a spin-off, The Lone Gunmen in 2001, revolving around characters who ran a conspiracy theory magazine, but it was axed after 13 episodes.

There the integral question lingers: would he find that success again and again, if there weren’t that sliver of savant expertise paper-pushing the odds into his favor? They require a perpetual incompleteness — and this is crucial to the type — which renders it near-impossible to determine for certain whether the moments when they “win” are happy accidents (often occurring with startling frequency) or the result of narrowly-focused, master manipulation.

She’s a stretch, when you consider she’s a successful doctor. (Knock on wood the gyno who delivers your unborn child is not an “ idiot savant.”) Although, this is still a person who once thought Rosie The Riveter was Taylor Swift. The “cluelessness” is more prevalent in her social schemes turning successful; everything (usually) works out for Mindy — including a war waged against the mother the ultimate mama’s boy. If that seems too far off the mark, consider Selina Meyer of “Veep.” There has never been a more madcap level of dopiness to grace HBO, and now Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ bureaucrat has risen to POTUS glory. On the opposite end of that range might be someone like Andy Dwyer on “Parks And Rec.” The “winning” is nowhere near running a gynecological practice or the country, but it’s there episodically, as well as embedded in his arc of rising from “boyfriend with a broken arm on Rashida Jones’ couch” to the happily married and employed Andy we see as “Parks” comes to a close.

It’ll be interesting to watch this character unfold in the drama-heavy “Saul,” certainly providing different undertones than the comedies it sees as precedent. The idiot savant’s life seems depressing and pathetic, until there they are again, squirming out of a boiling-point situation with drug king pins in the desert.

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