Uno (Better Call Saul)
"Uno" is the series premiere of the AMC television series Better Call Saul, the spinoff series of Breaking Bad. The series takes place in 2002, approximately six years prior to the title character Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) meeting Walter White (Bryan Cranston). The episode aired on February 8, 2015 on AMC. The episode was written by series creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, and directed by Gilligan.
|Better Call Saul episode|
|Directed by||Vince Gilligan|
|Featured music||"Address Unknown" by The Ink Spots|
|Original air date||February 8, 2015|
|Running time||53 minutes|
The episode received highly favorable reviews from critics, and it also broke the record for the highest-rated series premiere for a scripted series in U.S. cable history, with 6.9 million viewers before it was overtaken by Fear the Walking Dead.
In the present, set after the events of Breaking Bad, in a black-and-white sequence, Saul Goodman, now going by the name "Gene", manages a shopping mall Cinnabon in Omaha, Nebraska (just as he predicted in his last Breaking Bad appearance). He has grown a mustache and is balding. While working, he suspects that a customer recognizes him, but this proves to be just paranoia. At night in his apartment, Saul has a cocktail and drunkenly watches a VHS of his old television advertisements.
In May 2002, James Morgan "Jimmy" McGill is a struggling public defender in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He's currently representing three teenage boys and tries to convince a jury that their actions were merely "boys being boys". In response, the prosecutor simply plays a video that the three teenagers made of them breaking into a morgue and having sex with a severed head. Afterwards, Jimmy complains about being paid too little for the defense. He gets a call from a prospective client, to whom he pretends to be his own mild-mannered Irish secretary. On his way out of the parking lot, Jimmy is stopped by Mike Ehrmantraut, the parking lot attendant, who refuses to let him exit without either a payment or a court-supplied parking sticker.
Later that day, Jimmy meets at a diner with the prospective clients, Craig and Betsy Kettleman, who are being investigated for the disappearance of county funds. They are hesitant to hire Jimmy. While trying to order flowers for the Kettlemans while driving, Jimmy hits a man on a skateboard, whose twin brother records the incident on a video camera and threatens to call the police unless Jimmy pays them hush money. In response, Jimmy kicks the "victim", calling the obvious ruse. Afterwards, he returns to his "office" - the boiler room of a Vietnamese beauty salon. In the mail, he finds a check for $26,000 from Hamlin Hamlin & McGill, his brother Chuck's law firm, which he proceeds to tear up into several pieces. Jimmy confronts the partners, accusing them of trying to cheat Chuck out of his rightful share. On his way out, he sees the Kettlemans going in and becomes agitated.
Jimmy visits Chuck, who has had a mental breakdown and believes he has electromagnetic hypersensitivity. He requires visitors to leave their keys and phone in his mailbox and ground themselves before entering his house. He also has no working lights or refrigerator and he works by lantern on a manual typewriter. Chuck refuses a buyout and suggests that Jimmy stop using the name "McGill" for his personal firm to avoid public confusion with HH&M. Upset, Jimmy tracks down the two skateboarders, Cal and Lars Lindholm, and suggests a partnership, telling them how he got his start taking "slip and falls" to get easy money. He arranges for one to be hit by a car driven by Betsy, but instead of stopping to check Cal's status after hitting him, the driver just drives off. Cal and Lars give chase, but when the car stops, an elderly Hispanic woman exits. Not realizing (or more likely, not caring) they have gotten the wrong person, they try to get money out of her and follow her into her house. Jimmy arrives moments later to try and save them by posing as an "officer of the court", but is pulled into the house at gunpoint by Tuco Salamanca.
In April 2013, the series was confirmed to be in development by Gilligan and Gould; the latter wrote the Breaking Bad episode that introduced the character. In a July 2012 interview, Gilligan said he liked "the idea of a lawyer show in which the main lawyer will do anything it takes to stay out of a court of law" including settling on the courthouse steps.
The show is filmed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Breaking Bad was also filmed. As filming began on June 2, 2014 director Vince Gilligan expressed some concern regarding the possible disappointment from the series' turnout, in terms of audience reception. On June 19, 2014, AMC announced it had renewed the series for a second season of 13 episodes to premiere in early 2016, with the first season to consist of 10 episodes, and that the series premiere had been delayed to early 2015. The first teaser trailer debuted on AMC on August 10, 2014, and confirmed its premiere date of February 2015.
In her review of the series premiere, Mary McNamara of The Los Angeles Times summarized that "the beauty of Saul was his unflappable nature; no matter how dire or dreadful the circumstances, he was able to identify the next logical step and take it. Jimmy McGill doesn't know how to do that yet; Better Call Saul will show us how he learned."
The episode received generally positive reviews. Erik Kain of Forbes said of the episode and series: "[It] isn't just a spin-off of a popular TV show. So far, it's a terrific TV show on its own merits. It covers familiar ground, but it still manages to be its own unique snowflake." Hank Stuever of The Washington Post graded it a "B+" and wrote the series "is right in line with the tone and style of the original, now-classic series" and that it "raises more questions in two hours than it will readily answer". Stephen Marche of Esquire wrote that the first few episodes were better than Breaking Bad. Kirsten Acuna of Business Insider declared the initial episodes "everything you could possibly want from a spinoff television series".
Roth Cornet of IGN gave the episode an 8.7 out of 10, saying "Can Saul compete with Walter White? No. But he doesn't have to. Better Call Saul poses one simple, but fascinating question: What happened to Jimmy McGill that forced him to transform himself into the ruthless, hardened, yet entirely entertaining *criminal* lawyer Saul Goodman? The man that we came to know and love on Breaking Bad. I, for one, look forward to watching that story unfold."
Michael Star of The New York Post gave the episode a 3 out of 4 rating, saying:
|“||Sunday's premiere episode moves along at a brisk clip, with moody cinematography that, like Breaking Bad, somehow makes the bright New Mexico sunlight, set against a brilliant azure sky, seem like stormy foreboding — lifted by Odenkirk’s confident performance and Jimmy’s snappy dialogue [...]. I'm always interested to see how/if a new show carries its premiere momentum forward, especially with a show like Better Call Saul, which was hyped so relentlessly by AMC that you began to wonder. But Monday night’s second episode does a nice job of maintaining its mojo, as Jimmy has an epiphany that will change the course of his life, and we’re in for several more surprises. It’s a good start for a series that’s already been renewed for a second season — and will have time to grow.||”|
Some critics addressed skepticism prior to viewing the episode. Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times said "It's common to dread a spinoff; some succeed, but plenty disappoint. There is absolutely no need to worry about this prequel to the Breaking Bad canon. Better Call Saul traces in loving, if corrosive, detail how Jimmy McGill, a debt-ridden, ambulance-chasing loser, changed his name to Saul Goodman and became a drug-lord consigliere. Better Call Saul is better than good: It’s delightful — in a brutal, darkly comic way, of course." Chris Jancelewicz of The Huffington Post gave the episode a highly favorable review despite his initial skepticism, saying: "It is so good, right from the get-go, that I almost feel ashamed for ever doubting creator/writer Vince Gilligan, his writers, and lead actor Bob Odenkirk (Saul). Better Call Saul is a return to the tried-and-true New Mexico environment, the sweeping shots of wide-sky desert mixed with strip-mall extravagance, the lushness juxtaposed with the dark comedy, which, as it was with Breaking Bad, both jarring and hilarious at the same time. You'll find yourself laughing in spite of yourself."
Robert Bianco of USA Today said "Face it: When AMC announced it had ordered a prequel to Breaking Bad, odds are many of us saw it as a callow move by a network bereft of new ideas to milk an old one for all it was worth. Well, we were right — but what we failed to factor in were the gifts star Bob Odenkirk and creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould would bring to Better Call Saul [...] and their ability to transform what looked to be a sow's ear into something pretty much approaching a silk purse." He ultimately gave the episode a 3.5 rating out of 4. One of few negative reviews came from Tony Wong of The Toronto Star, saying "It is beautifully and lovingly shot. It is funny and it is dark. But it's a lot to ask Bob Odenkirk to carry the show without help."
Upon airing, the episode became the highest-rated series premiere for a scripted series in U.S. cable history up to that date, with 6.9 million viewers. The show placed second for the night among U.S. cable networks, behind only its lead-in show The Walking Dead, which as of February 9, 2015, ranks as the second-highest rated entertainment broadcast with adults 18-49 in the U.S., behind The Blacklist post-Super Bowl broadcast.
Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould won the Writers Guild of America Award for Television: Episodic Drama for this episode.
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