Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul is finally over, but which series is the best?
Played by Bob Odenkirk, the character of Saul was originally intended for only three appearances on Breaking Bad, but later became a series regular and showrunner Vince Gilligan decided to proceed with a spin-off series.
Since the release of Better Call Saul’s first season in 2015, the show has reached a level of popularity that almost eclipses its predecessor.
Now that both shows are wrapped, we can finally argue about which is the best, so without further ado…
Why Better Call Saul is a better show than Breaking Bad
There’s so much to learn here – although both shows are set in the same universe and share many main characters, there are also many significant differences that make direct comparisons difficult.
But overall, and especially after the grand finale, it looks like Better Call Saul has taken the crown from Breaking Bad.
The first thing we should take a closer look at are the characters – Walt and Jesse, played by Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, were excellent antagonists in Breaking Bad, and the tension between them was great to watch, especially in the most underrated episode of the series Series—Fly .
But even when Breaking Bad was still airing and Better Call Saul wasn’t even a wink in Vince Gilligan’s eyes, many fans agreed that Odenkirk’s Saul Goodman was the show’s best character.
With Better Call Saul, he takes center stage, gaining new levels and growing into an even bigger character as he struggles with his own nature.
Kim is also an excellent addition to the series and Rhea Seehorn was perfectly cast for the role. As Jimmy’s love interest in season one, she really comes into its own as the show progresses as the pair embark on a doomed romance.
There’s really no competition between the supporting characters in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Skyler White, Walter White Jr., and Marie Schrader all serve as obstacles to Walt’s goals, but at heart they’re just irritating with very little depth.
Saul also has his fair share of charms – Howard and Chuck, namely, but those characters were just so much more interesting, diverse and complex.
Structurally, both shows are very cleverly put together – the small teasers of a future calamity teased at the beginning of certain Breaking Bad episodes have been replaced in Saul by Gene Takovic’s black-and-white scenes.
Unfortunately for Breaking Bad, Saul has the advantage of being runner-up and can therefore play around with the timeline and make great callbacks to the earlier show.
This structure reinforces certain themes present in Saul, such as his nature as “slipping Jimmy” being predetermined – we, the audience, know that whatever good Jimmy is aiming for in Saul is him is on an inevitable path that will see him working for a killer drug lord.
Also, a major downside of Breaking Bad is that the main storyline culminates at the end of season four. Once Walt and Jesse bring about the downfall of Hector and Gus, there’s not much of a threat for season five. So the writers just introduce a bunch of neo-Nazis.
The sharp shift from the main menace, Gus, an intelligent, mysterious, and cold-blooded villain built up over several seasons, to a Nazi gang felt just a little daunting.
With Saul, the biggest threats – Hank and Lalo – are both dealt with several episodes before the end of the series, but there’s not the same sense of anti-climax. Rather than replacing Lalo with a QAnon gang, for example, the series watches as Jimmy and Kim are consumed by their own guilt and shows the different paths the two characters take. Saul, wrestling with his own conscience, feels more tense and writes much better than when Walt machine guns some Nazis – although I don’t deny that scene was hard-hitting.
When it comes down to it, both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul are fantastic shows, and both have some of the best examples of dramatic storytelling in television history. Breaking Bad wore the mantle of prestige television for six years, but in 2015 Better Call Saul took up the mantle and ran with it.