TV Review: ‘Better Call Saul’ Allows Grief and Anger to Rise to the Next Level

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One of the series that gets the least credit for its great work is “Better Call Saul.” There are many that view the series as unnecessary or fan service. However, one of the things that makes “Saul” stand out is the lack of bombastic or loud moments. Instead, Vince Gilligan and his team have set up a series that is deeply internal and emotional. While “Breaking Bad” will always be the loud series that helped to usher in the era of Peak TV, “Saul” is not that show. In those quiet moments, it raises what we can expect from a series in 2018.

Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) is given a lot to work with to kick off this season. After the tragic passing of Chuck McGill (Michael McKean), Jimmy has to pick up the pieces. He is banned from being a lawyer after the fallout of last season. His relationship continues with Kim Wexler (Rhea Seahorn) who seems to have her own trauma building within. Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) feels extreme guilt over what happened to Chuck, believing he is the reason he died.

Simultaneously, the Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) story continues to progress. He is trying to handle his new role working for gangster Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). He’s uncomfortable with the role, especially because he knows he will be asked to do more in the future. Another gangster has fallen into Fring’s debt. Nacho Varga (Michael Mando) may have dealt with Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis), but he might be in more danger than ever before.

The following episodes are a quiet and internal struggle against grief on the Saul side of things. Meanwhile, Esposito is rising to become the big bad we loved from “Breaking Bad.” The juxtaposition of both stories allows the audience to understand the emotion that Jimmy goes through, while we continue to raise the stakes. It’s very strong writing from Gilligan’s team that will pay dividends as we delve deeper into Saul’s story.

The actor who gets the most to work with is Odenkirk. He again showcases why he’s one of the best actors on television. He pops off the screen throughout the episodes, bringing his quirky charisma to screen. You can see the frustration and anger building in Odenkirk. It’s clear from the word go. The seeds of Saul Goodman are more present than ever. The intro to this season is perhaps the most heart-pounding moment of the series so far.

Again, Rhea Seahorn is a standout. She gets some very showy moments early in season 4 that should help show why she’s Emmy worthy. Seahorn has been one of the underappreciated aspects of the show since its inception. She’s among the best on the show and continues to build out her character. Kim’s been excellent throughout the series, and hopefully, with more of a showcase role, Seahorn can get her long-deserved Emmy nomination.

The actor who rises the most from last season is Esposito. Last season, Esposito portrayed the mild-mannered Gustavo Fring well. Now, we see Gus Fring, the dangerous killer unleashed. Esposito brings an intensity unlike any on television. He quickly reminds us why he received an Emmy nomination for the role. Paired with Banks, the two actors elevate everything they touch. The two actors also bring the best out of Mando, who is really hitting his stride. Mando looks and feels on edge every second, someone easy to empathize with in Esposito’s wake.

Once again, Gilligan has given life to “Better Call Saul.” It remains one of the best dramas on television, especially as it turns inward. What makes the show really thrive are the incredible performances throughout. Not only does Odenkirk continue to shine, but the supporting characters build emotional arcs this season. Gilligan should be proud of the series he’s built. It’s no longer in the shadow of “Breaking Bad.” Instead, “Better Call Saul” has taken it’s rightful place as one of the best dramas on television.

What do you think? How are you enjoying “Better Call Saul?”  Let us know in the comments below! 

“Better Call Saul” airs on Monday nights on AMC.

GRADE: (★★★)