And something special is emerging
Season 1 Review
I'm number one on your speed dial right next to your weed dealerSpin off series are nothing new, though seldom do they work; however with Vince Gilligam at the helm and drawing on the side characters of his amazing and infectious Breaking Bad series and making it a prequel, of sorts, Better Call Saul has a high pedigree, and a lot to live up to. Thankfully by adhering to the same ethos that made Breaking Bad so addictive the series is off the a very strong start, but whilst it's not quite so unmissable as its illustrious forbearer, all the elements are there and it is heading very much in the right direction. The series follows Jimmy McGill, a con artist with a rich and successful lawyer brother called Chuck.As Jimmy pulls one con too many, he turns towards a straighter path, gaining his own law degree and licence and wanting nothing more than to practice law and emulate his sibling. As we follow his fortunes, his conning nature is, at times, too strong to hold back and he gets into deeper and deeper stakes, all with the best intentions and when things look like they are going well, there always seems to be an obstacle, or person, to block the way. As the series progresses we watch Jimmy McGill become the Saul Goodman of Breaking Bad fame, and boy is it entertaining to do so!
Picture QualityThe discs present a broadcast correct widescreen 1.78:1 1080p transfer using the AVC codec and are Region free.
Being filmed digitally and in 4K, the picture in just 1080p is absolutely stunning. Detail is off the scale with its clarity; skin textures, clothing weaves, grassland in suburbia, sand and gravel in the desert, paperwork, grime and finger prints on bongo balls, everything has pinpoint accuracy and you feel you can reach out and touch it.
Colouring is sublime; the warm hues given to the deserts, the cooler tones given to flashbacks; all the primaries come across with gusto showing no hint of wash or bleed. Check out the blue desert sky or the ambient blue lighting for night-time in Philadelphia, or the lush greens of the lawns, or the bold reds.
A stunning, stunning picture
Brightness and contrast are set to give amazing punch and depth to the frame, Chuck’s dimly lit house hides all sorts of information in the shadows without resorting to a murky mess, night shoots are rich and tangible; seldom does a disc show such strong and immersive blacks, a real testament to the cinematography and transfer.
Digitally there are no compression problems or edge enhancement. I may have seen some very slight banding, but if I did it was blink and you miss it. The original print is clearly free from any issues whatsoever. A stunning, stunning picture.
Sound QualityI, obviously, went for the English DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track – it too, like the picture, is a stunning use of the surround environment, rich in layers with natural, yet powerful bass. Dialogue is very natural sounding, dominated by the frontal array but given directionality when called for. Effects are near constant; not the bombastic wild surround effects from a modern movie, no, natural, ambient effects that make you feel you are in an office (chatter, paper rustling, computer keyboard clacking, printers) or a bar (glasses clinking, low music, stools creaking, drinks being poured) or in the desert (wind, sand movement, wildlife) or on the street (vehicle movement, weather, footsteps). Add to this some tight, controlled, yet powerful bass and you have a soundtrack that really packs a punch (check out trains as they pull into the station, or gun shots, how that low down thump in the chest is followed by just the right amount of reverb and echo). The score too is well layered into the mix to keep the speakers busy. Simply put a stunning track.
ExtrasAudio Commentaries – Every episode has a commentary from ‘the cast and crew’ which includes, but is not limited to: Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Bob Odenkirk, Micheal McLean, Stewart Igous, Diane Mercer, Thomas Golubic and Julie Emery.
Better Call Saul Day One – Five minute feature of behinds the scenes footage of the filming taking place on day 1, contains conversations with cast and crew on set.
Creating the First Season – At 25 minutes this feature contains a lot more meat about the concept, the makers desires to give an expanded back story to the side characters of Breaking Bad, and their overall ethos of keeping the series as grounded and entertaining as their previous show; plenty of interviews with cast and crew.
Good Cop, Bad Cop: Becoming Mike – This five minute feature looks at Mike Ehrmantraut and the ideas behind how he became the character we know from Breaking Bad.
In the Studio – Five minutes of behind the scenes filming of the ‘Better Call Saul’ song.
Better Call Saul Music Video – Full video of the above song.
In Conversation with Bob Odenkirk and Michael McKean – A 30 minute chat with these two comic acotrs as they talk about their careers, what drew them to acting, their comic roots, transitioning to ‘serious’ roles, Breaking Bad and more in what is an infections and interesting chat.
Uno Table Read – At 53 minutes this is the longest feature on the set and has everyone form the first episode going through the script reading their lines or describing the scene.
Gag Reel – 3 minutes of fluffs, things falling off walls and goofing around.
Kettleman Kommentary with Craig & Betsy Kettleman - In character commentary over the episode Bingo
Deleted Scenes – Accessed from individual episodes rather than a separated menu icon, which gives them some context and all available with commentary. What was very interesting was a scene entitled: Jimmy in the Court and was the unedited with sound courtroom montage which, in the episode, was played with a song; hilarious to hear what was actually being said!
Blu-ray VerdictBetter Call Saul is the prequel/spin off series of Breaking Bad - one of the all-time great TV shows that was as addictive as the drug made by Walter. This new series, made by the same creative force behind that incredible show, takes Saul Goodman, the lawyer who puts ‘criminal’ in ‘criminal law’ and was a side character and gives him his own show, telling the story of how he came to be who he is. This novel idea allows a familiar feel but is totally different at the same time. It also takes with it other characters allowing further exploration of their respective back stories which give a unique appeal. The story of a con artist turned lawyer trying to emulate his elder sick sibling is strong enough, but add to it the struggle, the other back stories, some darker intent and something special is emerging. Whist the show does not yet, quite, have the addictive nature held by Breaking Bad, there is enough to really sink your teeth into and this first season is off to a flying start.
Picture and sound are reference all the way
As a Blu-ray set, the package is pretty good; the picture and sound are reference all the way - with bright, detailed and deep colours, along with incredible blacks and immersive, natural ambient effects, well layered with strong and effective bass. The extras package is quite comprehensive with every episode getting an audio commentary as well as making of features and other titbits.
You can buy Better Call Saul Season 1 on Blu-ray here
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