Though some were at one point skeptical about the success of a show like Better Call Saul, it ended up more than justifying its existence. The trepidation was because the show had some very big shoes to fill since it was a spin-off/prequel series of the critically acclaimed show Breaking Bad, which ran for five excellent seasons between 2008 and 2013. While Breaking Bad was a crime/drama/thriller series about one man transforming from a fairly ordinary chemistry teacher into a ruthless criminal, Better Call Saul was initially conceived as a slightly more comedic legal drama, focusing on a fan-favorite supporting character from Breaking Bad.
That character was Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), the fast-talking and witty lawyer who worked for Breaking Bad’s protagonist, Walter White (Bryan Cranston), from Season 2 onwards. Much of the show took place before Breaking Bad, with Saul initially going by the name Jimmy McGill, though there were occasional glimpses of his life post-Breaking Bad teased throughout the show, and then eventually clarified in the final season. It was structurally inventive and filled with plenty of characters from its parent show, largely living up to the standards of what came before and giving viewers six compelling seasons released between 2015 and 2022. These seasons are ranked below, starting with the good and ending with the great (no seasons of Better Call Saul can be considered anywhere close to bad, after all).
6 ‘Season 2’ (2016)
Season 2 of Better Call Saul is in an interesting position. The show, like Breaking Bad, certainly had more dark comedy in its earlier days before ramping up the intensity in later seasons. With both shows, there is a good deal more when it comes to stakes, tension, and shocking moments in the later seasons, with a side effect of this being that Season 2 of Better Call Saul feels a little like it’s in a tonal no man’s land; not quite as funny as Season 1, but not white-knuckle enough to provide as much drama as later seasons.
That holds it back just a tiny bit, and it’s also notable how it doesn’t really pick up until the final two episodes of the season, with a bit of wheel-spinning going on, regrettably. But it spins its wheels stylishly and in a way that’s still watchable, well-acted, and often sharply written. It also does a solid job at setting things up for future seasons, like continuing to build conflict between Jimmy and his brother Chuck (Michael McKean), which climaxes in Season 3, and getting Mike (Jonathan Banks) interacting more with the Mexican drug cartel that plays a big part in later Better Call Saul seasons, as well as in Breaking Bad.
5 Season 1 (2015)
Some might say Season 1 of Better Call Saul is the weakest by virtue of it standing out the most from the other seasons. It does feel a tiny bit more light-hearted; not to the point where anyone would call it a sitcom or a purely comedic series, but it definitely stands in contrast to the final, often gut-wrenching final season of Breaking Bad. That show had concluded in 2013, and was therefore still pretty fresh in peoples’ minds when the slightly more comedic first season of Better Call Saul came out in 2015.
But that novelty gives it a certain charm, even if, to some extent, it makes it feel as though the show is still finding its voice. There was also something of a novel thrill in seeing the return of Breaking Bad characters in new settings (and, in the case of Saul Goodman, with a different identity). With Jimmy being a younger, struggling, and less competent lawyer, and Mike working as an attendant at a parking lot, one’s mind can get racing at just what will happen in the show to get them where they ended up for their introductions in Breaking Bad (both characters entered that show fully formed in its second season).
4 Season 4 (2018)
Season 4 feels like a bit of a transitory season, perhaps comparable to Season 2 in that regard. It is known for being a little slow, and also feeling heavy on set-up, but looking back on all six seasons of the show reveals it was necessary for things to be like this. Jimmy has to respond to a great tragedy that happens at the end of the Season 3 finale (almost exactly at the halfway point of the entire show), and many payoffs in the final two seasons had to first be established here.
Even if certain episodes feel like the TV equivalent of being made to eat your vegetables, they are pretty good vegetables, and the dessert, so to speak (the season finale) is worth the wait. That episode was “Winner,” and it’s a highlight of the show, containing a memorable flashback, a tragic end to Mike’s season-long story, Jimmy committing to his “Saul Goodman” persona, and the near-completion of Gus Fring’s meth lab, a vital location for both Better Call Saul’s last two seasons and much of Breaking Bad.
3 Season 3 (2017)
Those skeptical of Better Call Saul living up to Breaking Bad likely had their fears quelled by Season 3 of the show, which was a tremendously confident and well-executed 10 episodes of television. After two seasons of resentment building between Jimmy and Chuck McGill, things reached a crescendo in this season, particularly within the iconic fifth episode, “Chicanery,” with the two going head-to-head in court, and things ending very badly for Chuck, whose outburst represents one of the show’s most iconic moments.
Things then slow down a little before building up to another big episode by the finale, with the fallout from that final episode impacting the rest of Better Call Saul’s run. By Season 3, the show had certainly found itself, and the sort of drama it was capable of presenting week to week within this season continued (and arguably largely got better) as the show progressed past this season and into its overall second half.
2 Season 5 (2020)
Very few people will dispute the claim that throughout the final two seasons of Better Call Saul, the show was operating at Breaking Bad’s level. Characters old and new had been entirely fleshed out, the gap (time-wise) between the events of Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad was continuing to shrink, and the writers were even more aware of what they were doing, and where things were headed, making for episodes of television that were consistently very well-written and absorbing.
The show’s fifth season feels weightier and more intense than what had come before, even if, to some extent, it was still building up things that would have even more of an impact, come the show’s final season. Conflict within the Mexican drug cartel is tenser than ever before, Jimmy’s embrace of Saul Goodman leads him into murkier moral territory, and the season ends with a stunning three-episode run, with each of the three being up there with the show’s best episodes overall: “Bagman” to “Bad Choice Road” to “Something Unforgivable.”
1 Season 6 (2022)
Just as Breaking Bad saved the best for last, so too did Better Call Saul, with its sixth season ultimately being its strongest and most memorable. In every way, the show went out with a bang, and did so with a 13-episode-long season that naturally benefited from being able to fit more within it than the average Better Call Saul season, seeing as the other five were all 10 episodes each.
It feels like one shocking and dramatic event after another for much of the season’s run, and it’s hard seeing what happens to some characters after spending years getting to know them. It also takes some bold risks narratively and stylistically with its final episodes, which finally end up focusing on what happens to Saul after Breaking Bad (as glimpsed throughout various cold opens in the show), and in turn, also provides closure for some supporting characters from Breaking Bad. Therefore, as a climactic season to both Better Call Saul and its parent show, Season 6 is unrivaled in quality and represents the best of what this prequel/spin-off series had to offer.
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