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New Escapist Column! On the Tragedy of Nacho Varga and What It Says About “Better Call Saul”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the sixth and final season of Better Call Saul in full swing, it seemed like an opportunity to take a look at one of the show’s more under-appreciated central figures.

Nacho Varga was introduced in the first season as a potential foil for Jimmy McGill, intended to serve as the antagonist of the show’s premiere year. However, when the writers stumbled upon the idea of Jimmy’s brother Chuck as the main character’s nemesis, Nacho was left somewhat listless. However, much like the character of Kim Wexler, this initial lack of a clear arc allowed the production team to figure out a compelling approach to Nacho, who has become one of the most tragic figures in the entire show, and a character whose attempts to assert agency tie into the show’s core themes as a prequel to Breaking Bad.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Video! On the Visual Storytelling of “Better Call Saul”…

We’re thrilled to be launching a fortnightly video companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch every second Monday, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel. And the video will be completely separate from the written content. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film content – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

With the broadcast of the new season of Better Call Saul, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the show’s visual storytelling – the way in which it uses images to communicate plot, character and theme.

New Escapist Column! On How Rhea Seehorn Made Kim Wexler the Best Character on Television…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. The Emmy nominations were announce this week, and there was a lot of good news in there – with nominations for Watchmen, The Good Place and Succession. However, there was one notable and glaring omission. It was an omission all the more notable for it fifth occurrence: Rhea Seehorn was overlooked.

Over the past fives seasons of Better Call Saul, Seehorn has quietly turned the character of Kim Wexler into the most compelling and engaging character on television. This is particularly notable because Kim exists in the context of a prequel to a series in which she was never mentioned and did not appear. Kim was arguably created as a bit of padding around the show’s ties to Breaking Bad, but has emerged as the most complex character in the show: a collection of riveting contradictions with much greater depth than initially appeared. She is astounding.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

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.