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A Netflix Anatomy - Better Call Saul

All the inspirations behind Breaking Bad's successful spin-off

A Netflix Anatomy - Better Call Saul  All the inspirations behind Breaking Bad's successful spin-off

“In the warmer America, that of the west coast, the slow, fatty one, absorbed by the hypercaloric bibitones, invaded by Mexican cartels and the organized crime, James Mcgill is preparing to become Saul Goodman”.


Omaha, Nebraska. Black and white. In the background a music, Unknown Address of the Ink Spots. A man named Gene overweight, balding, with a thick mustache, tired, spends his days working at Cinnabon, fast food sweets, and the rest of the time, he regrets his past. The past in which his name was Saul, the guy who was better call if you needed a lawyer, Saul Goodman of Breaking Bad, the fast-talking man with flamboyant clothes.

So begins Better Call Saul spin-off of the iconic series with Walter White, before starting a long flashback that takes us back to Albuquerque, in 2002. Because it is in this period that takes place the new show created by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, the same as BB.

The showrunners duo tells the story of a young James “Jimmy” McGill (Bob Odenkirk) aka Saul aka Gene, poor and unfortunate shyster who works in the back room of a Vietnamese nail salon, burdened by economic and family problems: it is the genesis of the character we know.

Each episode is a journey that brings McGill to its future legal unscrupulous, specializing in organized crime and his redemptive purposes don’t matter.

As in Breaking Bad in Better Call Saul in the background, there is a bleak, sunny Albuquerque immortalized by a saturated photograph; there is a middle-aged man in crisis destined to become a criminal; there are symmetrical, perfect framing, inspired by Hopper’s paintings and a brilliant script.

There are continuous references and quotes to Walter White and others, as well as characters from his world, from Tuco and Hector Salamanca to Gus Fring but, as someone wrote

“No one called Saul in Better Call Saul and no one is called Walter and Jessie or Skyler o Hank, yet the series works”.


Feel like: Edward Hopper

Many film's references, from the Sergio Leone's and John Ford’s westerns to the French Connection, from The Godfather by Francis Ford Coppola in The Conformist by Bernardo Bertolucci to the character of Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters.

Another great source of inspiration is Edward Hopper’s work, to which the screenwriting duo has attracted mainly to interior scenes, reproducing the solitary figures wrapped in the painter’s lights and shadow play.

"I have a personal connection to Hopper and that school of painting" - Peter Gould tells - "My parents were both painters and they studied with a contemporary of Hopper’s, Reginald Marsh. One of my father’s paintings is my logo at the end of each episode. Most of my father’s paintings are all in that vein, where there’s a sense of urban loneliness, and there are a lot of paintings he did of old men eating in diners by themselves".


Dress like: Balenciaga by Demna Gvasalia

How to dress the past of a man famous for being a dandy who likes to wear bright clothes that attract attention?

Jennifer Bryan, costume designer who has worked with success stories such as The Vampire Diaries, The Night Shift, and Breaking Bad's fifth season, has found a winning formula: the double-breasted dress. So she takes a series of sartorial suits made in Italy and modifies them, molding them on the characteristics and personality of the man, and adapt them to reflect even the early 2000s, the period in which the series is set.

Bryan makes the silhouette squarer; changes the width of the lapel; move the jacket buttons so high that BCS writer Vince Gilligan calls them “nipple buttons”; also changes the slope of the shoulder so that the jacket fits a bit large, but not too much; move the pockets on the wrong side; takes “fake-Gucci” moccasins and disconnects the terminal and then reattach it with tape.
Everything must reflect McGill’s disagreeable condition and pragmatism, his modest means and unorthodox methods.

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Another aspect on which the custom designer has carefully worked is the choice of colors. If in Breaking Bad the green was a bad sign, in its spin-off the colors are a symbol of the categories belonging to the characters. So, good people, who behave according to law, have a palette of military, gray, green, and different shades of blue; while those on the side of illegitimacy prefer red, orange and New Mexico desert colors.

And Jimmy?
He, in balance between both sides of the law, dresses in brown, but, little by little, the story progresses, while dreaming of a flawless look like that of Howard Hamlin, introduces tune, gaudy details, ties with exaggerated fantasies and shirts by color on. An outfit that recalls the concept of “Ugly Beauty” loved by Demna Gvasalia and well expressed by suits presented in his collection for Balenciaga.


Think like: Non avevo capito niente by Diego De Silva or Better Call Saul: The World According to Saul Goodman - Attorney at Law by David Stubbs

Not Albuquerque, but Naples.

Not the Mexican cartel, but the Camorra.

Non avevo capito niente by Diego De Silva tells the story of Vincenzo, a mediocre lawyer, divorced, unlucky, and melancholy that is upset at life from a new love and from work as a defender of a Camorra.

It’s not Gene, it is not Saul or Jimmy, but it is a good read for those who love the losers characters.

If you really do not want anything but the world BCS, then the book for you is Better Call Saul: The World According to Saul Goodman - Attorney at Law by David Stubbs, the official guide to the world of the famous full of photos lawyer, advertising and anecdotes.


Sound like: Little Barrie

While James McGill takes the path that will turn him into Saul Goodman, we can listen to Massimo Ranieri’s If Burning the City, Crapa Pelada by Quartetto Cetra, Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Juan Garcia Esquivel, as well as Smoke on the Water of the Deep Purple.

A heterogeneous soundtrack that, along with original pieces composed by Dave Porter, emphasizes the fictional film created by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, without however achieving the coolness level of Breaking Bad. A special mention for the theme song with distorted guitars for the occasion by the London trio Little Barrie.


Taste like: cinnamon rolls by Cinnabon

Love like: Bob Odenkirk aka Gene aka Jimmy aka Saul

Photography, screenplay, even the ugly, but beautiful overalls.


In Better Call Saul there are many things that work, especially Jimmy Mcgill's character and his quest for ransom and redemption destined to fail. And much of it is due to the excellent interpretation by Bob Odenkirk.