5 ways Better Call Saul surpasses Breaking Bad

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That’s right, the Breaking Bad spinoff is better than Breaking Bad itself. Here are five reasons why Better Call Saul upstages the adventures of Walter White and company.

When Better Call Saul debuted in 2015, expectations were high. The series was in the very long shadow of the show it spun off from, Breaking Bad, and it needed to honor its predecessor while simultaneously establishing its own identity — a feat that’s easier said than done.

Well, now in its fourth season, Better Call Saul has passed that test with flying colors. In fact, I would argue that it’s actually better than Breaking Bad. Sure, Breaking Bad was a plot-burning, riveting series that basically required its viewers to either binge it in one go or faithfully tune in every week, lest they unwittingly encounter a spoiler. It was exciting, and very watchable, but it was also easy to forget once a finale came and went.

Better Call Saul, on the other hand, stays with you. It’s much slower, more philosophical and just plain weirder than Breaking Bad, and that’s what makes it the superior series. I was as invested in Walt, Jesse, Skyler, and the rest as much as the next person, but their stories just don’t have the same impact that Better Call Saul does.

This is why:

Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler – Better Call Saul _ Season 4, Episode 6 – Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Kim Wexler

Trust me, I could write an entire essay on why Kim Wexler alone makes Better Call Saul better than Breaking Bad. But to keep it semi-brief, let me just say that Kim (Rhea Seehorn) is a smart, competent woman who is recognized as smart and competent by her fellow characters. In many ways, she is reminiscent of Skyler White, except that her partner actually respects her. Kim is also well-regarded among her peers and clients. She’s a good lawyer, she knows it and everyone else knows it, too. Not to mention her professional style has garnered many admirers.

More than that, however, Kim preserves her agency and sense of self even as she becomes closer to Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk), and subsequently, his misdeeds. Unlike the women of Breaking Bad, Kim avoids martyrdom and villainy. Jimmy hides his actions from Kim, but he doesn’t hide himself. So Kim stays with him, even though she knows his ethics are growing murkier by the day. She doesn’t lie to herself about her culpability, nor does she act as if she’s trapped. She’s not. Kim’s free to leave whenever she wants.

Kim understands herself and those around her, and is well aware of what she wants. That’s more than I can say for any female character on Breaking Bad.

The Breaking Bad carryovers

Breaking Bad‘s best characters were Saul Goodman, aka Comic Relief #1 (aka Jimmy McGill); Mike Ehrmantraut, aka Comic Relief #2; and Gus Fring, aka The Scariest Square Ever. Better Call Saul brings them all together again, so obviously it’s awesome.

To make a good thing even better, Better Call Saul gives us the chance to see these three play off of each other. We were somewhat aware of their connections during Breaking Bad‘s run, but rarely if ever witnessed them interact.

Thank goodness this has been rectified. Seeing Mike (Jonathan Banks) give Jimmy his patented, over it eyebrow arch every few episodes is one of the most delightful parts of contemporary pop culture. It’s also a treat to observe Mike’s world-weary honesty bounce off of Gus’ (Giancarlo Esposito) pragmatic, icy honesty.

I can only hope for a situation in which Jimmy spins a long-winded yarn while Gus patiently stares at him without blinking.

Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler, Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill – Better Call Saul _ Season 4, Episode 7 – Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

The best romance on TV — no, really!

I say this as someone who recaps Outlander: Jimmy and Kim are my favorite TV couple.

Being invested in a romance was pretty much the last thing I expected when I started watching Better Call Saul. And yet that’s probably the part about the show I enjoy most.

I came to this realization in season 2 when Jimmy asked Kim to start a law firm with him, named Wexler McGill. It ultimately didn’t happen — instead, the two opened two solo practices in the same rental space — but it was a touching gesture. Kim is Jimmy’s preferred partner at work and in life.

It’s easy to overlook, considering he’s often quite weaselly, but Jimmy might actually be a feminist boyfriend. He not only recognizes Kim is the better lawyer; he’s proud of her for it and encourages her professional pursuits. He’s not threatened by her ambition or her talent in the least.

We don’t know Kim and Jimmy’s full backstory, but Better Call Saul hints they dated before the events of the pilot. They got back together in early season 2, but even while they were apart they displayed a very lived-in, content dynamic together. They share a verbal (and non-verbal) shorthand, enjoy the same movies, and have similar senses of humor. They stand up for each other and do what they can to protect each other. (In Jimmy’s case, those actions can often be misguided, but it’s the thought that counts.)

Jimmy and Kim’s romance isn’t setting the world on fire, but that’s what makes it so special. It’s quiet and sweet and real. It’s what most of us want to have.