Saturday, April 23, 2016

TV Review: BETTER CALL SAUL - Season 2


Back in its second season Better Call Saul continues to prove that Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, and their team of writers and directors aren't just some of the greatest people in television history, nor are they simply great filmmakers, we're talking all time storytellers here and by that I do mean it with all my heart, up to the very point that indeed they might just be entering the conversation on the side of the greats like Homerus, Shaekspeare and Dickens.

Now lets back track a second and be clear. This is not the greatest season of television I have ever seen, nor it is the best of the year so far (House of Cards season four having the title for now). Yet, that takes nothing away from my initial statement. Indeed this season, as did the first one, can feel a little stretched occasionally in the fact that it might be taking too much time, there are sporadically moments of plot points being slightly mechanical. But still, both these are the only complaints that could be moved to this masterwork and even then they might not even be complaints, let me explain.
What the writers really excel at doing is making every single story beat effective and integral to the overall arch of the characters and their story lines. These people just have a natural knack for intense and addictive storytelling. At no point ever in the series, and this is something that never happened in Breaking Bad too, you will stop and ask yourself why something is going on. The audience is always having the most clear possible view on the situation without ever being confused and at the same time the episodes keep being surprising and thrilling; shit is always going down, things continuously seem to go well when right at that point when you feel safe, they go south and all of this it repeatedly feels genuine and part of the world.

This story is a slow burn, we've understood that when season one ended and it is proving to be a choice that pays off to levels that no one could have ever imagined when a Saul spin off series was announced. All of these characters have immense complexity in them, they are thrusted into so many difficult and interesting situations, to look at them trying to figure it out, to experience the thrill of not knowing how everything will go down is so fascinating exactly because of all the choices the writers made, all of this feels important and essential to these people who we have become close to.

There's not even a conversation to be had on the acting in display here. This is stuff that should be watched on loop, that's how good it is, these actors are doing some of the best acting we have seen in a while, and just as with Breaking Bad, I am sure these performances will evolve and when it's finished they will live on as icons of acting of this period. There simply isn't a place where to start or end, Odenkirk embodies Saul in a way that still has me amazed every episode, Banks as Mike is now a legend, he portrays him in all his mix of vulnerability  and toughness plus the strange wisdom he carries, it's all there in his face on every frame he is in. Rhea Seehorn is overwhelming every time and McKean portrays the complexity of Chuck perfectly, to the point that you just can't decide who's right and who's wrong. The moral and ethical dilemmas this show puts forward in such a genuine and subtle way are the reason humans love storytelling.

But it doesn't end here, the directing of these episodes is off the charts. This is a standard of directing that isn't found even in the majority of movies. Episode 9 being the best representation of this. The editing, the blocking, the camera positioning, the overall tone and style that connects all the episodes together. It is stressing to think about it. From the tracking shot at the start of episode 8 that's one of the best homages to "Touch of Evil" we have ever seen to the way in which every conversation is cut in such a visually impressive and emphatic manner and finally the crazy montages they manage to pull off, it looks like these people can do no wrong.

As I said before it has some pacing and plot difficulties when it is watched, as it is meant to, week by week, but other than that this show is a joy that I can't wait to see develop and escalate to what it is promising.

James's Score: 8.5/10

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