My last post focused on the trend in movies and television to generate fear through depictions of terrorist attacks and other acts of violence. Though I briefly touched on docu-dramas and documentaries which demonstrate the better side of human nature, I regret not putting more effort into a defense of Hollywood when it uses the powerful language of storytelling to help us understand ourselves and the world in which we live.
Last night I watched the final episode of Season II of “Better Call Saul,” the prequel-spinoff from “Breaking Bad.” My first reaction. If Executive Producer Vince Gilligan had been in charge of “Star Wars Episodes I-III,” they would have been monumentally better than the originals. The narrative of how aspiring attorney Jimmy McGill evolves into the ambulance-chasing shyster and drug money bagman Saul Goodman is exactly what George Lucas attempted to do with the transformation of Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader. But the resemblance ends there.
“Star Wars I-III” is a perfect example of lost opportunities when special effects and fight scenes displace intelligent writing and subtlety. In contrast, “Saul” shares seminal moments in the lives of all its characters which shape their perspectives on life and relationships. Yet, their personal journeys are neither linear nor without speed bumps. In particular, the last two episodes in Season II represent the classic intersection between nature and nurture. (I PROMISE, NO SPOILER ALERT NEEDED) The audience sees both sides, each character’s core values challenged by their life experiences.
I want to share one other observation about “Saul.” I was a late-comer to “Breaking Bad.” I never watched a single episode on its original air date, instead binge-watching the entire series in less than one month. I was more than satisfied the viewing pleasure was worth the time commitment. But Gilligan and his team also show us the power of curiosity in the creative process. They were not content Saul Goodman provided welcomed comic relief in Walter White’s dark world of drug dealing and violence. They wanted (maybe even needed) to know, “Who is this guy? Where did he come from? Why does he represent drug dealers? Why does he need a henchman? And how did the two become partners?”
This brand of curiosity may not result in another “Breaking Bad.” But it sure gets one closer than one could have ever imagined. One can only hope other film and television producers have a similar epiphany.
For what it’s worth.