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New Escapist Column! On “Better Call Saul” as Fitting Eulogy to the Television Antihero…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. Better Call Saul wrapped up its fifth season this week, and so it was worth taking a look at the Breaking Bad prequel.

To a certain extent, Better Call Saul seems like a show out of step with the times. It is set in the early days of the twenty-first century. It has never become the ratings or awards juggernaut that Breaking Bad became. It has a strong critical following, but never truly broke out into the wider culture in the way that Breaking Bad did. None of this is a judgment on the show itself. After all, Better Call Saul premiered at a time that television was already pushing away from those antihero dramas.

However, that status as show that exists at the tail end of a broader cultural trend allows Better Call Saul a greater degree of creative freedom. It offers a reflective meditation on the kind of antiheroes that populated so much of the so-called “Golden Age of Television.” These masculine archetypes are easy to galmourise, even when shows are unambiguous about their flaws. The beauty of Better Call Saul lies in creating an antihero who is harder to fetishise. Saul is not Walter White or Tony Soprano or Al Swearengen. He is a lot more tragic, a lot more pathetic.

This is the beauty of Better Call Saul, the angle that allows the show to feel like a true coda to the kind of stories that dominated prestige television for well over a decade. You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

 

2 Responses

  1. Better Call Saul is my favorite show. Many moments in my 20+-year legal career have echoed moments from BCS. And the show always goes to pains to get the law *right*, which other prestige shows never bothered with (LOST’s one courtroom episode was atrocious). It’s built to a slow burn over 5 seasons and I can’t wait to see how it wraps up.

    • It’s a fantastic piece of television – very much the Deep Space Nine to Breaking Bad‘s The Next Generation. It feels like a maturing and developing of themes.

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