Monday, July 20, 2015

Better Not Call Saul: Another Case of Prequelitis

As a fan of AMC's Breaking Bad (eventually) I was stoked when I heard there would be a show focusing on Walt's sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman.  Then I heard the show would be a prequel and I was a little less stoked, though they still could have pulled it out.

After episode 6 I no longer had access to AMC so it took a while to watch the last few episodes.  Not that I really missed the show.  It never really struck a cord with me.  To me this was another case of prequelitis like the Star Wars prequels or X-Men Origins:  Wolverine.  The problem in those cases was fundamentally this:  I didn't give a shit how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader and I didn't give a shit how Logan became Wolverine.  And I didn't give a shit about how Jimmy McGill became Saul Goodman.

The basic problem inherent with prequels is that it always seems to end up lessening a great character.  I didn't want to see Darth Vader as some whiny kid.  I didn't want to see Wolverine all introspective.  And I didn't want to see Saul Goodman all whiny and mopey.  Really I referred to the show as "Sadsack Jimmy" most of the time because that's what it was.  Jimmy McGill is a down-on-his luck lawyer with a tiny office in a nail salon and a shitty Nissan.  His brother is "allergic to electricity" (um, what?) but worked for this big law firm in Albuquerque where Jimmy once worked in the mail room.  Blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda, who gives a fuck?!  Where's the funny, sleazy lawyer the show is supposed to be about?  Who's this asshole gazing at his navel because he's not a bigshot lawyer?

The show teased us in the first couple of episodes by bringing in Tuco, a drug kingpin Walter White tangled with years later.  So you think, OK, maybe this is where Jimmy starts working for the scummy drug dealers.  Nope.  Nothing came of that plot.  Then later Jimmy, with help from his future PI Mike, tracks down some dope who embezzled some money.  That plot never really wound up going anywhere either.

The whole first season then concludes in the worst way possible:  Jimmy has an epiphany on the way to a job interview and decides that he's going to be evil...or something.  It's like, really?  Ten episodes and in the last five minutes he just suddenly realizes he should have kept the money from the embezzler?  Weak.

I realized how much I didn't like the show with the last episode before I lost AMC. That episode almost exclusively featured Mike, who was a cop in Philly until his son was killed and he took revenge on the dirty cops responsible.  That was the best episode of the season and it didn't even feature the main character!  Something is really fucked up with your show when I'd rather not see the main character.  If they were going to do a prequel show they should have made Better Call Mike; it would have been a lot more interesting.

Maybe it can get better in Season 2 but I doubt it.  One of the best things about Breaking Bad was you never knew what was going to happen.  I mean you suspected that Walter was going to die at the end either from cancer or drug dealing, but you didn't know what was going to happen along the way.  Whereas with a prequel show we already know that Jimmy becomes Saul Goodman (one thing the show did do was make me realize that Saul Goodman can be translated as "'s all good, man") a sleazy ambulance chaser who eventually takes on Walter White and inadvertently destroys himself until he has to live in Omaha as a manager of a Cinnabon.  Sure we don't know what will happen with his brother or his sorta girlfriend but really who the fuck cares?  The whole brother plot was just so lame.  I want to see Jimmy working his magic in the courtroom, not delivering ice to his dipshit brother!
Do as I say, not as I do!

Anyway, the message for writers is simple:  avoid the prequel!  Though actually I have written a prequel.  Really there are two prequels to the Tales of the Scarlet Knight series:  Dark Origins that details Merlin and Marlin creating the Scarlet Knight's armor and Sisterhood that chronicles the lives of witches Agnes and Sylvia.  To some extent those suffer from prequelitis too, though I would argue not as much--because I want you to buy my books.  Buy my books!

3 comments:

  1. You make a good point on why it's hard to pull off a prequel. We already know how the character is going to end up, so that's a challenge right there. Also people want strong characters..not whiny ones.

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  2. It isn't even in the same league as Breaking Bad, but I'll probably watch season two anyway.

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  3. The problem with prequels is it's hard to live up to what's in the imagination of the audience. Each person will build their on narrative in their head and it's hard to follow that. The best prequels have large amounts of exposition so it's just a matter of filling in the blanks.

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