Ready. Set. Time for more AMC’s Better Call Saul and Fargo (FX); among the most—if not the most—highly anticipated return of all spring dramas.
Better Call Saul’s Season 3 premiere, dropping April 10, is perhaps as much awaited as its Freshman year. This is due, in large part, to Bob Odenkirk’s splendidly nuanced portrayal of the title character and it is no small feat for the prior Breaking Bad team; helmed by creator Vince Gilligan and writer turned producer Peter Gould.
This prequel—with sneak-peaks of Jimmy McGill’s (soon to be Saul?) life pre-Heisenberg era—digs into Saul Goodman’s past in ways that harbinger his future. We are presented with a man teetering between good and evil. One yearning to be thought of as honest and true, but who barely hesitates to use underhanded methods to obtain a needed result. The audience glommed onto the show as one would a reworked recipe of a favorite chocolate treat.
The com/dram’s successful entrée and sophomore year solidly confirmed to Breaking Bad fans that the Walter White/ Jesse Pinkman legacy would be respected and beyond that, followed up in a truly imaginative manner.
What Gilligan and his writers invariably put in our homes via our various visual mediums is drama, where every if, and, but or maybe is thought through.
Take the Breaking Bad run for instance: However tight the stitch that wove the five-season drama together, there remained an elasticity, within the fabric of each episode of every season, which allowed for choice and spontaneity.
Case in point: The Pinkman creation (Aaron Paul) was written as a means of introducing drive-between-the lines, chemistry teacher Mr. White (Bryan Cranston) into the nefarious world of meth-making. Although not a one-off, Jesse’s character was only recurring; not constructed to last the duration as a series mainstay. His overall impact, once the setup was established, was intended to be limited to that first season. Team Gilligan’s elasticity kicks in. Recognizing the spark and actual likeability the Walt/Pinkman matchup ignited—not to mention the young man’s mad-performance skills—they wisely chose to make use of this lightening in a bottle opportunity. An additional series regular was the outcome. It’s nigh on impossible to speak of Walter White—his transition from teacher to alt-ego Heisenberg and the totality of the journey—without wrapping Jesse Pinkman into the discourse.
Vince weighed in, on Reddit, about the decision to keep the Pinkman character during the Breaking Bad Heated Buzz era—
“My intention was that at the end of season one, Jesse would die horribly, which would make Walt feel really guilty and force him to question his criminality, but it became clear to me that Aaron Paul was an absolute asset to the show. I’d no more kill him off now than cut off one of my pinkies.”
—and in reference to Paul’s audition:
“When folks rise to the occasion and make themselves indispensable, your perception of your own show changes. Funny how that works.”
Team Gilligan is a collaborative bunch. Plots might end up on cul-de-sacs, but there is room to whip around; dead-end streets once again avoided. Stereotypes may come into view, but are quickly sidestepped. The status quo never stays so for long, as situational story lines are developed—character actions and reactions—that never feel forced nor antithetical to what we know of our heroes, the antagonists, and their lives.
This proclivity toward openness and pliability occurred with the hiring of Mr. Giancarlo Esposito in the—what was, also, originally created as limited—role of fast food chicken franchise owner/covert drug lord, Gustavo (Gus) Fring.
Gilligan on Esposito:
“Giancarlo’s not necessarily what we had in our minds when we conceived of Gus, but as soon as you laid your eyes on him in his audition, there was no one else that could play the role,” Gilligan said and continued. “It’s interesting because Giancarlo is a very animated person in real life. He’s full of emotion, he is always smiling and he greets you with a big hug. He’s a very enthusiastic, affectionate person who is just the opposite of who Gustavo Fring is. Gus is the ultimate poker player, completely unemotional and amoral and efficient and pragmatic and does not wear his heart on his sleeve. Giancarlo must dig very deep, I think, to play this role because I don’t know where he finds these elements within himself, because he is, in fact, so opposite of what Gus is.”
The manner in which Esposito brought Gus to life, with an economy of movement and self-enforced stillness, went on to inspire the already in-play pliability of the BB creative force.
“… So much of what Giancarlo brings to this character has further illuminated how we should move forward and write for this character We see certain things in earlier episodes that Giancarlo brings to this character, and we enforce that in the writing. It’s a group effort, in a sense.”
Fring’s infamous killing off scene in Breaking Bad, end of Season four, has been discussed and examined on fan sites and message boards so much so, Greg Nicotero’s Fring death mask has probably disintegrated from all the chatter.
When it came to doing Fring in, Esposito’s footprint, as the cunning, master manipulator, was firmly planted on the Breaking Bad terrain. Planning for his demise was no small thing.
From an L.A. Times interview at the time:
“I knew for sure I didn’t want Gus to get stupid in the eleventh hour just so Walt could prevail. I’m lucky that I have six brilliant writers, and we just sat around in a room for months banging our heads against the wall. In the end, Gus’ failure is not of intelligence. His Achilles’ heel is emotion, his need for revenge against this elderly, wheelchair-bound former drug lord (Tio, portrayed by Mark Margolis) for killing Gus’ business partner.”
Gilligan: “Tio (unable to speak, communicates by dinging a bell attached to his wheelchair) was never intended to become crucial to the life of the series. Neither was Gus. It happened because the writers and I loved the actors who played them so much.”
It’s with no surprise, given the impact, this villain that a whole lot of folks love to hate would be resurrected for Better Call Saul this year.
Viewers learned a good chunk about the scary drug lord during the two and a half seasons he appeared, and yet Fring’s background remained pretty much as mysterious as his thoughts which lay hidden behind an evil-cool persona.
We’ll be seeing more of the man Fring was before he transformed into The Other. In many ways, it should be as absorbing as Jimmy McGill’s before-life.
This year is poised to include a major turning point for the man himself, Jimmy McGill. At last season’s close, Jimmy was secretly recorded, by older brother Charles (Michael McKean), admitting to having committed a crime. There is a way out of this for Jimmy, in order for him to forge ahead as an officer of the court, but mixed up in this Cain and Abel-like story could be the catalyst that causes Jimmy to shed the McGill tartan for a yarmulke.
Better Call Saul, Season 3 Premiere on AMC Monday, April 10 at 10pm ET:
Check this out.
Next: Fargo Anyone…?
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