Whisper it, but Better Call Saul has quietly become the best show on television. Some of us even consider it superior to Breaking Bad, the modern classic from which it spun off.
The transcendent prequel has been filling out the surprisingly nuanced backstory of Breaking Bad's ethically compromised lawyer, Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), who we now know better by his birth name, Jimmy McGill.
In the final moment of season four, we saw McGill finally assume the Saul Goodman lawyer persona in order to appeal to a certain kind of criminal client, much to the horror of his longtime romantic partner, Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn).
Heading into season five, Saul Goodman will take centre stage as Jimmy McGill begins to recede.
"I like where he is right now, because he's kind of in between the two [personas] a little bit," Odenkirk tells TimeOut during an interview in Los Angeles. "[He's] making a choice to be Saul. [He thinks] 'I'm going to be this guy, I'm gonna use people. That's what I should've done all along. Just be open about it and the benefit will come my way from embracing my bad side and showing the world.'"
As Kim is a "respectable" lawyer, the rise of Saul Goodman will likely threaten her and Jimmy's relationship. Which is worrying, as she feels like the last thing anchoring Jimmy to his "good" side.
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"Yeah, she's it," agrees Odenkirk. "She's his only conduit to a whole human being who reflects back the best of you, the worst of you and accepts it. So she's very important. I don't know if he realises how important that connection is."
Odenkirk stresses he doesn't know what will happen with Kim but he has his own theories.
"I don't think she's a part of his life in the Breaking Bad years but I don't really know ... I don't think she would be okay with that."
Co-creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould have repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to kill off major characters in both shows.
"I hope she's alive," says Odenkirk. "These guys are not afraid to kill an important character but they also don't do it just to do it."
Ahead of the season five premiere, it was announced that Better Call Saul had been picked up for a sixth and final season. Now that a definitive end is coming, Odenkirk is reflecting on how playing the character has affected him.
"There are things that actors used to say that I used to scoff at: 'It's hard to play a bad person', 'it's hard to play a tortured person', 'it's hard to leave them behind'. But I think now I have more of a feeling for that."
Each season of Better Call Saul has contained brief black and white glimpses of Saul/Jimmy's post-Breaking Bad life in hiding as "Gene", who manages a Cinnabon (an American chain of baked goods shops whose signature item is a cinnamon roll) store.
The character's ultimate fate remains up in the air but Odenkirk has some thoughts on that too.
"It would be neat, to me, if it was kind of the opposite of Walter White's journey of degradation," says Odenkirk. "It'd be neat if [Jimmy/Saul/Gene] learned the right lessons from all his bad choices. And I'm not sure that that can happen or that [Gilligan and Gould] think that's gripping TV. But I'd love to see it, because I like the guy."
Breaking Bad fans were thrilled when Gus Fring, the Breaking Bad villain played by Giancarlo Esposito, showed up in season three of Better Call Saul. The fried chicken restaurant magnate/secret drug lord will have an increased presence in season five and Esposito tells TimeOut playing this earlier iteration of Fring presented challenges from an acting perspective.
"I loved walking around in Breaking Bad being the guy who was essentially the danger and the edge," says Esposito. "I could sort of preen, you have that feeling that I owned everything. [In Better Call Saul], he has different emotions and feelings that I've never experienced for Gus and that the audience has never seen. So it's been a fascinating journey for me, because I don't want to play the same guy that I played before."
When TimeOut spoke to Esposito he was in the middle of shooting season two of the Disney+ Star Wars series The Mandalorian, after showing up at the end of season one in an episode directed by Taika Waititi.
"I love Taika," says Esposito. "He's an interesting guy to get to know. He seems to be in his own world, creatively. He's able to share enough of that world with you to tell you what he wants. But what a creative artist and genius he is. A very different and odd human being - but aren't we all as creative artists?"
• The first episode of season five of Better Call Saul streams on Lightbox from Monday. The second follows on Tuesday with remaining episodes weekly on subsequent Tuesdays.
FIVE MORE TOP TV SPIN-OFFS
Setting aside the endless NCIS, Law & Order and Chicago iterations, here are some other great spin-offs with slightly more organic origins.
The Simpsons (1989-ongoing)
It can be easy to forget this cultural institution began life as interludes on The Tracy Ullman Show, a variety series that featured most of The Simpsons' voices in the cast. Massively overshadowed by her animated former co-stars, Ullman unsucessfully attempted to sue for a cut of the lucrative Simpsons merchandise money.
Family Matters (1989-1998)
The series that gave the world Steve Urkel (Jaleel White) came about when the makers of Perfect Strangers decided to give elevator operator Hariette Winslow (Jo Marie Payton) her own family show. Then Urkel showed up and took over. How this didn't result in a Balki/Urkel team-up, I will never understand. I miss Perfect Strangers.
It wasn't the first show spun-off from the beloved Cheers (that would be The Tortellis, a short-lived programme about Carla's ne'er-do-well ex-husband) but Frasier was definitely the most successful, lasting as long as Cheers and providing a platform for many of that show's characters to cameo. There have been several recent attempts to resurrect the Frasier character for a third show but none have yet come to fruition.
Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001)
Cast in this New Zealand-shot series at the last minute, Lucy Lawless went on to become a queer icon thanks to her steely, textured and hilarious portrayal of a bad girl trying to do good. The show ended up surpassing its parent series, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, both in quality and cultural significance.
The Good Fight (2017–ongoing)
When The Good Wife ended, husband-and-wife creators Robert and Michelle King launched a new series centered around lawyer Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) and her adventures at a mostly black firm. The Kings embraced the freedom that being on a streaming platform gave them by leaning into Trump-era hot button political storylines and having Baranski use the F-word.