Post-Mortem Breakdown Blues

I’ve said it before on this blog, and I’ll likely say it again. I don’t like to write reviews. I try to avoid it as much as possible. On a few rare occasions, I write them to support small independent films or series to help get the word out about them. But in general, I do not feel that I have the knowledge to give an expert opinion. I’m not a film or television historian. I do not have experience in the technical aspects of the various entertainment mediums. And I think to write a good review, you should have all of that. So when I write about films or TV shows that are embedded in popular culture, it tends to be with a personal slant. Less review, more random thoughts spilling out onto the keyboard.

Last night I watched the season one finale of Better Call Saul, the prequel/sequel/spin-off of Breaking Bad. This was a show that I was seriously hyped about because it promised to have my two favorite characters from Breaking Bad: Saul Goodman and Mike Ehrmantraut. I can confess to clogging my own Twitter feed with posts about this show. Now that the ten-episode season is over, I find my brain brimming with thoughts and questions that I will probably be pondering until the already-approved thirteen-episode second season makes its debut, whenever that may be.

Better Call Saul came to the table this year with a helluva lot of good will. A HELL OF A LOT! Enough to make its pilot episode the best series premiere in cable history. And though I think the audience was rewarded more often than not, in the end I think our patience was rewarded with being asked to come up with more patience. Don’t misunderstand how impressed I am every week by the talent attached to this show. The writing and acting are impeccable. The direction and cinematography continue to raise the bar for series television. These things alone are rewards for watching the show. But patience is the main audience virtue here. The writers are taking their time developing the characters, exploring the back-stories. It’s a new paradigm for television. Part of this current era of experimentation into what makes good TV. And in that sense, it is often exciting to watch. But all that audience good will and patience needs some payoff. And it does come in little bits, here and there. Occasionally a big bang. But the finale was more like one of the building block episodes in the middle of the season. The show would have been better off ending on the gut-punch of an episode the week before. Did the show take a hit to its good will because of it? I guess we won’t know until the season two premiere.

I have read/heard in multiple interviews that during the early episodes when Mike Ehrmantraut was relegated to short scenes in the parking booth, actor Jonathan Banks received notes on the bottom of his scripts from the writers/producers telling him not to worry, “Mike is coming.” As a viewer, every episode has been like that, with the writers giving up tidbits and promising, “More is coming. Next episode. Next season.” When all is said and done, will all the patience and loyalty be worth it? I hope so.

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