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Review: Better Call Saul — spinning off Breaking Bad

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Much anticipated legal drama will leave many viewers cold and depressed — but it’s early days yet

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Breaking Bad, the hotly anticipated spin-off from the programme about everyone’s favourite US lawyer, Saul Goodman, finally reached UK telly screens yesterday evening – and it was a bit of a depressing damp squib.

The first episode, airing on Netflix, opened with a glance into the troubled lawyer’s future. A social recluse, Saul ultimately ends up working for US food chain Cinnabon, spending his evenings drinking alone, in what many might see as a hard dose of legal profession realism from the programme-makers.

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Sufficiently teased with that glimpse ahead — the episode reverted to the story of the lawyer at the start of his career — trying to make his way in poorly paid criminal defence work.

The episode quickly established that Goodman (practising under his real name, James McGill), would be a regulator’s worst nightmare. At one point, our hero even attempted to stage a car crash to secure the services of a wealthy client. The message is clear: he would do anything to make ends meet.

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The creators of the programme have developed what some might imagine is Chris Grayling’s fantasy dream — placing the lawyer in a flat with no power or running water. In those days, Saul cooked his meals by paraffin lamp and stored food in an icebox.

In addition, his office was a far cry from the one he had during the Breaking Bad series. In this early period, he conducted his legal work from the boiler room of a nail salon — without a mock Grecian pillar in sight.

A key plot line to the spin-off centres on a potential buy-out with corporate-looking law firm Hamlin Hamlin & McGill. Goodman made a dramatic speech in the firm’s plush boardroom before storming off to leave episode one ending on something of a cliff hanger.

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There are subtle nods to Breaking Bad in the form of Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), this time as a court parking attendant and the famous Albuquerque desert, which provides much of the backdrop to the original series.

Given the overwhelming success of Breaking Bad — expectations were high, but it has been a slow start for the spin-off — it’s a more serious Goodman combined with a depressing opening episode.

Fans will be hoping for a return to form in the second episode for the crooked yet loveable lawyer. Catch episode two of Better Call Saul on Netflix tonight at 9pm.

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New full-length trailer for Breaking Bad spinoff ‘Better Call Saul’ suggests we could be in for a treat [Legal Cheek]