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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Which show cooked more?

‘Breaking Bad’ or ‘Better Call Saul’
Klara Dhandili

‘Breaking Bad’

“Breaking Bad” is the greatest television show I have ever watched. The storytelling, the cinematic artwork, the visuals—nothing will ever come close. I wish I could rewatch it again for the first time. But that’s not why we’re here, so why is it better than “Better Call Saul?”

It starts with the cast, especially Bryan Cranston’s main character, Walter White. The cancer-riddled science teacher-turned-meth dealer becomes one of the screen’s most prominent figures, aided by young junkie Jesse Pinkman, the two became iconic. Throw in Walter’s wife, Skylar White, drug kingpin Gustavo Fring, problem solver Mike Ehrmantraut and Drug Enforcement Administration agent (and Walter’s brother-in-law) Hank Schrader and you have a well-rounded group of important people to follow.

Throughout the five seasons, you watch White slowly go through a metamorphosis: he starts timid, quiet, reserved. By the time you reach the end of the saga, he’s not afraid to kill people, kidnap or do evil things he wouldn’t imagine doing just two years prior. It’s a beautiful case study on the deterioration of the human mind and spirit, showing how one would do anything when they are pushed to the brink of survival. 

The writing was intertwined with the story so well that the series has become legendary. You see the slow decay of White’s psyche and moral compass.

Episodes, especially in the tail end of the fifth and final season, are fast-paced, leaving viewers on the edge of their seats. It’s all about the dramatic ending of White’s meth empire and the consequences that follow.

“Better Call Saul” is amazing, there is no denying that. The reason the sequel works so well is that you already know the characters. However, in “Breaking Bad” the viewers are treated to shootout scenes in the middle of a southwestern desert, then juxtaposed against a calming scene in a baby’s bedroom. It’s the action and the storytelling — even when it’s drastic — that makes Vince Gilligan’s work of art truly shine brighter than his successor.

But that’s just it. It’s a counterpart to the original. It’s a lazy argument, but there’s truth in the notion that there  is no “Better Call Saul” without “Breaking Bad.” Bob Odenkirk’s portrayal of Saul Goodman/Jimmy McGill is only truly accentuated by his previous performance as “Breaking Bad”’s comedic lawyer.  

The world that was created just sets the stage for “Better Call Saul” to come out years later. The two shows work hand-in-hand, but it’s hard to truly watch “Breaking Bad” and not crown it the king. It’s aged wonderfully and will only continue to set the standard for television.

‘Better Call Saul’

OK, hear me out. Yes, “Breaking Bad” set the precedent, allowing these shows to exist in the universe that they do. Without “Breaking Bad,” there is no “Better Call Saul” – that is a given. But under the surface, it’s not crazy to think that Bob Odenkirk and the supporting cast have so much more to offer on an entertainment basis than what meets the ordinary eye. 

Both shows offer an extraordinary plot, but the reason why the story of “Better Call Saul” outlasts its counterpart is for one crucial reason – the viewer knows what is going to happen. In most cases, these grounds would call for a lapse in the argument. But this show is not a typical case. The viewer knows that eventually Jimmy McGill will crumble and the persona of Saul Goodman will take over. What invigorates me as the watcher is the process in which that happens.

Following the conclusion of “Breaking Bad,” Goodman finds himself a gloomy manager of an Omaha, Nebraska, Cinnabon under the new name Gene Takovic. What we don’t know is how this comes to be, or if Takovic’s past will ever catch up with him. The series of events leading to Goodman’s demise are calculated, yet riveting – and the viewer can only watch in suspense as the story unravels.

This brings me to my next point – the characters. The likes of Kim Wexler, Nacho Varga, Howard Hamlin, Lalo Salamanca and Chuck McGill join already-iconic characters like Goodman and Ehrmantraut to create a cast that is so rich in depth that the storylines flow within the show so easily. Gilligan uses these characters and their lives to develop riveting themes – good versus evil, corruption, addiction and an astounding look into the human psyche – in ways that “Breaking Bad” also excels with, but not to the extent of its predecessor. 

It is a crude argument to say that one show is better than the other because it has a more enjoyable plot or likable characters – criteria that ultimately relies on subjectivity. But it is the themes developed throughout the show that places “Better Call Saul” on its rightfully earned pedestal. 

Gilligan put the world on notice with “Breaking Bad.” With “Better Call Saul,” he was able to refine his art, rework crucial, minute touches and seize the opportunity to cash in on a goldmine of a universe in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that captivates millions. 

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Ethan Hurwitz
Ethan Hurwitz, Sports Editor

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