How ‘Breaking Unhealthy’ cooked up the addictive system for ‘Higher Name Saul’

How 'Breaking Bad' cooked up the addictive formula for 'Better Call Saul'

2022-08-14 19:34:30

Launched in 2008, “Breaking Unhealthy” made its debut the 12 months after “Mad Males” put AMC on the map as a house for status storytelling. Coupled with FX’s “The Defend” and “Nip/Tuck,” these primary cable networks demonstrated what’s thought-about premium TV may very well be outlined by high quality and ambition, not merely its venue.

The keys to “Breaking Unhealthy’s” endurance will be traced to quite a lot of components, mixed in a method that has rippled by means of “Saul’s” addictive system, however which has confirmed as tough to duplicate for imitators as Walter White’s unusually pure meth.

Each sequence charted the ethical descent of their central characters, combining darkish comedy, absurd moments and lengthy, sluggish scenes imbued with stress and high-stakes drama.

Maybe foremost, “Breaking Unhealthy” — which offered the evolution of high-school chemistry trainer Walter White (performed by Bryan Cranston), confronted with a terminal analysis, right into a legal mastermind — grew to become one of the vital unpredictable sequence TV has ever produced. Creator Vince Gilligan and his crew constantly wrote themselves into seemingly inescapable corners, earlier than revealing some believable and often ingenious method out.

As for Walt’s ethical decay, the signature second got here when he sat idly by watching the sleeping girlfriend of his associate Jesse (Aaron Paul) choke to loss of life — not committing homicide, precisely, however failing to intervene as a way to shield himself. That foreshadowed extra casualties that may comply with, together with the astonishing sequence wherein White engineered the demise of drug kingpin Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito).

On the time commentators drew parallels between Walt and Tony Soprano, each household males and criminals who epitomized the age of the TV antihero.

Not like “The Sopranos,” although, viewers watched the previous steadily flip to the darkish facet, inviting questions on what extraordinary individuals would possibly do beneath related circumstances. As critic Gene Seymour famous shortly earlier than the finale, “it is the seeming normality of Walter White that makes us interrogate ourselves greater than he interrogates himself.”
In a way, “Higher Name Saul” confronted an much more delicate balancing act that is frequent amongst prequels: constructing towards the narrative territory occupied by its predecessor with out both exhausting that actual property too quick or undermining the favored materials that impressed it.

“Saul,” too, has unfolded as “a tragedy,” as Gilligan just lately described it in a session with reporters, watching Bob Odenkirk’s character make the transition from Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman, with the alienation of his important different, Kim (Rhea Seehorn), because the mysterious linchpin hovering over the story when it comes to finishing that metamorphosis.

“Breaking Unhealthy” caught the touchdown when it comes to its sequence finale, providing a definitive and satisfying end after a interval characterised by cryptic endings that to numerous extents left viewers to puzzle over the writers’ intent. The present additionally bucked TV developments by turning into a late-blooming hit, steadily constructing viewers towards the top — drawing a series-high 10.3 million viewers for its closing episode — as individuals found the present and phrase of mouth unfold.

When “Breaking Unhealthy” concluded in 2013 Gilligan took what amounted to a victory lap of TV interviews, together with an look with Charlie Rose, who requested whether or not the producer had accepted that he would possibly by no means do something this good once more.

“It was lightning in a bottle,” Gilligan mentioned.

Towards the percentages, Gilligan and “Saul” co-creator Peter Gould caught lightning twice. Whereas they’ve mentioned there aren’t any plans for additional adventures on this world — the spinoff of a by-product — with Gilligan telling Rolling Stone it is “time to do one thing new,” the enduring lesson from each sequence could be how onerous it’s to stroll away from a profitable enterprise if you’re working on the prime of your sport.

“Higher Name Saul’s” sequence finale premieres Aug. 15 on AMC.

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