Whenever someone talks about the new golden age of television, or the idea of top television, or the best of the best when it comes to drama shows in general, Breaking Bad has been the talk. The Vince Gilligan Run Show is perhaps one of the best written, best performed and best loved television shows of the 21st century. Breaking Bad told a complete story of Walter White’s descent that began and ended satisfactorily. It has dominated conversations about how to create compelling and artistic stories on television.
Except now there’s another legendary show in the same conversation. Made by the same creative team, almost everything that can be said about Breaking Bad also applies to Better Call Saul. It’s a beautifully crafted story that charts the moral descent of a man betrayed by the system that has some of the most masterful scenes to become etched in TV legend.
Those two shows are in the same conversation, so the question naturally arises: which one did it better? Which one best told the story of its antihero protagonist? On the one hand you have the show that started it all and on the other hand you have a show shaped by the experiences of the last show. Which of the two shows is the better show in the end?
Round 1: history
“Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” are both masterclass examples of storytelling on television. In fact, their storylines are so similar that it becomes difficult to disentangle them as separate stories. Both shows flow into each other, with Better Call Saul serving as a prequel and sequel to Breaking Bad. With that in mind, it becomes difficult to declare one the winner of the other in terms of storytelling as they both complement each other so well.
However, Better Call Saul owes much more to Breaking Bad for its narrative power than vice versa. While Better Call Saul’s character arcs are vastly different and take the series in a new direction, the core storytelling and plot can feel less tense than Breaking Bad, leaving you in constant fear for the lives of your favorite characters. Better Call Saul has excellent twists and turns, but most of that power comes from its characters’ arcs rather than independently. Breaking Bad has a lot more of those season-defining, shocking moments that really hit. Better Call Saul has a few of these, but it’s limited by the fact that it’s a prequel. It’s close, but Breaking Bad wins this round.
Winner: Breaking Bad
Round 2: main characters
It’s very close in Walt vs. Jimmy’s battle. Both of their stories are arcs of moral compromise that lead directly to their becoming monsters themselves. The crucial difference between the two stems from their inner motivation. Walter is a bad guy pretending to be good, pretending to be a family man, yet enjoying the power and excitement that being a drug lord gives him. Walter is an interesting character, but we’ve seen anti-heroes like him before. Dexter Morgan, a classic TV anti-hero, works on a similar principle by pretending to be a good person. There are many characters who have convinced themselves and others that they are doing the right thing and are evil at the same time. Walter White is unique in the specific turns they take with this archetype, but it’s still familiar territory.
Jimmy McGill’s archetype is much more difficult to unravel. Jimmy essentially becomes Saul as an expression of malice and bitterness towards the legal community and the world at large. Jimmy is a kind and thoughtful man who hides his own pain behind Saul, a caricature of a soulless lawyer he made because it’s easier and funnier to be the bad guy than trying to help people and failing at it . Both Walter White and Jimmy McGill are nuanced, complicated characters, but Jimmy takes it to another level. Bob Odenkirk’s masterful performance lets you see the cogs behind Jimmy’s decisions in motion, even as he tries to hide his true intentions. Jimmy McGill is a brilliantly layered character who takes everything the showrunners learned from Walter White and hones it to perfection.
Winner: Better call Saul
Round 3: Supporting Actor
While the other categories were close, this isn’t a competition. That’s not to say that Better Call Saul’s characters are inherently better than Breaking Bad’s, but to say that the way these characters are used in Better Call Saul is much better in general. Breaking Bad characters existed on the show primarily to enhance Walter and Jesse’s dramatic journey. In Better Call Saul, the show delves deep into her life and character arcs. It really feels like almost every character in Better Call Saul has a chance to have a full story.
This is where we get a lot of the memorable moments from Better Call Saul. The performances by incredible actors, great character monologues and heartbreaking scenes. That was the case in “Breaking Bad,” but in “Saul,” it was dialed up to eleven. This wealth of great supporting character writing benefits everyone, even recurring characters from Breaking Bad like Mike Ementraut or Gus. Breaking Bad was a great story, but Better Call Saul did a lot to make it feel like a larger world where people’s stories are interwoven.
Winner: Better call Saul
Overall Winner: Better Call Saul
It’s almost a shame to declare a winner in this article because both shows feel so incomplete without each other. Better Call Saul has the benefit of all the experience he’s gained writing one of the best shows on TV, so it only makes sense that he’d try to take the series to new places it’s never been before. However, if you want to get the best out of these two legendary shows, it’s better to treat them both as required reading. Better Call Saul, whatever else it is, is a sequel to Breaking Bad in spirit. These two shows should not be viewed as two separate entities, but as integral parts of the same experience.
Better Call Saul may be the winner, but Breaking Bad is still excellent, can’t miss TV. If you want stories about characters that feel real, then these two shows are both must-sees.
https://twinfinite.net/2022/11/better-call-saul-vs-breaking-bad-which-show-was-better/ Better Call Saul vs. Breaking Bad: Which Show Was Better?