Breaking Bad has been deemed one of the best television series of all time and boasts a huge following, even after its finale aired in 2013. So when a spinoff was announced shortly after the series finale, it did not seem like a good idea at all. The whole idea of making a prequel to the legendary series sounded like a big mistake. However, Better Call Saul is not exactly a prequel in the traditional sense: it’s a dramady that shows how the con artist Jimmy McGill becomes the sleazy attorney, Saul Goodman, who most Breaking Bad fans were always curious about. The plot of the prequel does not mess with the precious plot of Breaking Bad, so fans became excited. Even though Better Call Saul is still on the air, it has proved to already be better than Breaking Bad in certain areas, and that is no small feat.
Better Call Saul really takes its time with its characters and focuses on character development: the show mainly follows the slow transformation from Jimmy to Saul, and serves as a deep character study of Jimmy McGill. Breaking Bad, on the other hand, was a fast-paced show. It was frequented by decisive situations, where the fate of the characters changed in an instant. There were a few episodes where Rian Johnson took the pedal off the accelerator; it was mostly high speed drama. Whenever Vince Gilligan, the man behind both shows, is asked about the slow pace of Better Call Saul, he mentions he was losing sleep that the show was moving too quickly.
Apart from the more natural pace of Better Call Saul, the series also shows a lot of restraint in showcasing violence on screen. Breaking Bad certainly had its share of extreme violence: whether it was burning a body in acid or Walt’s machine gun scene in season 5, they were all unnecessarily gory. Sure, Breaking Bad was full of criminal minds, but Better Call Saul also flaunts of a whole brigade of bad guys. However, they do not break into violent behavior at every opportunity. This violence restraint makes the scenes that do showcase violence even more impactful. The scene where Tuco and Mike get into a fight in season 2, Tuco was left swollen and injured for multiple episodes; this confrontation was many notches above any violent scene that appeared in Breaking Bad.
Breaking Bad gave the TV audience legendary characters, but the show’s primary focus was limited to Walt and Jesse. There were a slew of supporting characters including Skyler, Hank, Walt Jr, and Gus, but all of them were simply there to be supporting cast. On the other hand, Better Call Saul has developed each of its characters in a way that they have all become a significant part of the story. Take Kim, for example: when she was introduced, she could be seen just hanging around with Jimmy, but now, she is one of the lead characters on the show. Even after five seasons of Breaking Bad, you could only remember Walt and Jesse, but only after two seasons of Better Call Saul, the show has given you a lot of characters to think of, such as Kim and Nacho. So, Better Call Saul is doing a better job at being an ensemble show than Breaking Bad was, even though Breaking Bad never intended to become an ensemble show.
The story of Walter White was a man cheating death as long as he could, so there was always an inherent urgency attached to Breaking Bad. However, Better Call Saul is not be restricted by time. Instead of running after money to leave for his family after his death like Walter did, Better Call Saul is a rather simple story (superficially though) of a man who tries to become a lawyer. He is a lost but lovable character who tries to make sense of life through his relationships. Better Call Saul may appear to be a rather uncomplicated story, but it is exactly the opposite of that. Breaking Bad was a story of a man for whom death uncovered his inner monster, but Better Call Saul creates a journey to understand much more complex characters and takes its time with it. Additionally, the comedy in the show makes the journey more interesting.
Both Walt and Jimmy desperately try to do something with their lives that they have never done before. It’s exciting to watch them strive to achieve their goals, and that’s why both the shows make for such a compelling watch. Walter’s journey is fast-paced and his goals are really not that defined; while Jimmy wants a flourishing law career, Walt wants power and money at all costs. Jimmy’s journey is more relatable than Walt’s. An average viewer may (in some twisted way) want to be Walt, but they can actually relate to Jimmy fighting for a career.
Better Call Saul, overall, is a lighthearted show in comparison to the hardcore Breaking Bad. This may be sighted as a shortcoming of the show by Breaking Bad loyalists, but this is exactly the factor that allows Better Call Saul much more growth than Breaking Bad. However, it still remains to be seen if Better Call Saul will leave a legacy worthy of being called Breaking Bad’s successor.