Better Call Saul, the much-anticipated spin-off to the immensely popular AMC series Breaking Bad, kicked off with a bang this Sunday, attracting 6.9 million viewers to become the highest-rated TV show to debut on cable ever, according to the Daily Mail.
To make things even sweeter, Nielsen numbers say the show grabbed the attention of 4.4 million viewers in the sweet spot demographic of 18-49 year-olds. Debuting after the mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead, which itself raked in 15.6 million viewers, certainly helped – smart move, AMC. Deadline reports that the show’s second act of a two-night premiere definitely slumped off a bit, but still had impressive numbers considering it didn’t have the royal lead-in from a smash hit series for round two. Monday night’s airing brought in 3.4 million total viewers, and 2.1 million in the coveted 18-49 demo.
For those unfamiliar, the show follows the story of morally-bankrupt, swindling lawyer Saul Goodman (who we now know is actually – spoiler alert – James McGill) six years before his life is turned upside down thanks to a run-in with the notorious Walter White. Each week, it’s clear we’ll get to follow the series of events that led a seemingly once-honest lawyer to become an infomercial-toting, shady greaseball who teeters the lines of legality, but knows exactly when to back down and cover his tracks.
Goodman – er, McGill – is played by comedian Bob Odenkirk, who perfectly captures the essence of desperation (with a hint of depression and low self-esteem) that makes everyone who comes in contact with him clearly uncomfortable, or at least suspicious of his motives.
Breaking Bad managed to garner a large portion of its massive following after it originally aired, via Blu-ray and streaming services like Netflix. That show actually only managed to snag a fifth of Saul’s numbers for its debut back in 2008. Judging from the first episode of the new show, which already saw the return of known Breaking Bad characters like (spoiler alert) Mike (Johnathan Banks) and Tuco (Raymond Cruz), it’s clear that the writers are working at the top of their game to make the shows tie-in well together, yet also allow those who have never seen Breaking Bad to still follow along with the show as an independent story. Head writer for Breaking Bad Vince Gilligan, by the way, holds the same title for Better Call Saul.
Aside from the character crossovers, keep an eye out for some interesting similarities that show just how alike Goodman and White really were. In one scene, depicted above, we see Goodman looking despondent, standing in his underwear. Remind you of that iconic image of Walter White at the end of his rope in season 1? Then there are the many interactions where it’s clear that Goodman – like White – just didn’t get the respect he deserved, or at least wanted, from others. (Remember how Walter’s boss at the car wash treated him? Not to mention his ex research partner.) And finally, it appears Goodman’s start in the world of dirty lawyering is eerily mirrored to White’s initiation into the drug biz, as well. But we won’t spoil it for you.
Sure, we already know how the story ends, but we hope the journey to the ill-fated destination in store is just as thrilling as the original story. It’ll be interesting to see if the show can keep its viewer base steady through the full run.
You can check out new episodes of Better Call Saul every Monday on AMC at 10 p.m./9 p.m. Central.