By Ben Everett | Sports Editor
It’s been five years since “Breaking Bad” fans witnessed the epic ending to one of the greatest TV shows of all time. As Vince Gilligan’s heart-pounding tale of a high school chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin still lingers fresh on our minds, the prequel series, “Better Call Saul,” has taken audiences by storm. While Breaking Bad garnered praise for its extreme drama and suspense, “Better Call Saul” is a better show because of a more likable lead character, more complex supporting characters and less moral conflict.
“Better Call Saul” started in 2015 as a spin-off series to “Breaking Bad.” The story revolves around charismatic lawyer, Jimmy McGill, and his spiral downward into his “Breaking Bad” persona, Saul Goodman. While the two shows have a similar premise, “Better Call Saul” has been more successful in its execution.
Walter White starts out as a likable character in “Breaking Bad.” His innocence and unfortunate circumstances are reasons to feel bad for him when he makes certain decisions. As the series progresses, however, White’s actions become more and more indefensible. He makes moral decisions that are impossible to defend as he continues his ascent into the drug world.
In “Better Call Saul,” McGill starts out as a clearly damaged person. His upbringing, during which he was constantly overshadowed by his brother, contributes to his questionable behavior. Despite tough breaks in his life, he tries to salvage goodness. Some of his actions, like White’s, are indefensible, but his motives are always clear to the viewer.
Minor characters can make or break a TV show. The best supporting characters in Breaking Bad are Jesse Pinkman and Hank Schrader, and after that, you’d be hard-pressed to find a character with redeeming qualities that you genuinely care about. Pinkman and Schrader are phenomenal side characters who make the show much better, but I can’t help but feel like “Breaking Bad” missed the mark with some of the other characters.
In “Better Call Saul,” the supporting characters are diverse and complex. Kim Wexler might be the most likable character out of the two shows. McGill’s brother, Chuck, is both a nemesis and a friend on whom I still don’t have a defined opinion. Howard Hamlin is a delightful break from the drama, and who can dislike Mike Ehrmantraut and his surprisingly haunting back story?
The biggest difference between “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” is the discrepancy in the moral conflict. The actions that White takes are almost impossible to comprehend. He takes lives multiple times in seemingly split-second decisions. At the end of the series, I wasn’t only rooting against White, I blatantly disliked him as a character.
“Better Call Saul,” on the other hand, is much more down to earth. The events of the prequel series are relatable. When McGill makes morally-challenging decisions, I feel for him because I can see what goes into it. He’s not dealing with drug lords, cartels and the DEA; he’s dealing with family, friends and work.
While “Breaking Bad” still stands as one of the greatest TV shows of all time due to its out-of-the-box plot and dramatic sequences, “Better Call Saul” has surpassed it in quality because of its characters and moral modesty.