Trainwreck: Woodstock '99
Rieff Was Right

Better Call Saul, The End

I'm having an unusually busy week, so instead of posting something more substantial about this great show, the last episode of which appeared on Monday night, I'll repeat what I said on Facebook after watching it:

So Better Call Saul comes to an end, and joins Breaking Bad and The Wire among great American novels on video. It's some compensation for being alive while the republic comes apart.

And this, which I said, also on Facebook, to a friend who said he'd never seen any of the three and wasn't much interested in doing so:

Personal taste is personal taste, but I think you're missing some great stuff. I'm far from alone in thinking these are the best work ever done specifically for television. I don't say "great American novels" idly, as I do think they bear comparison to great literary works in their exploration of character, and of good and evil. They're Dostoevsky-class in that respect.

Saul is a "prequel" to BB but mostly a very different kind of story, and it's pretty amazing that the producers and writers were able to produce something as good as BB.

All that said, I always warn people that BB has some very violent scenes and is generally a very dark and painful story in which some bad things happen to some good people. And some worse things to worse people. As much as I admire it, I don't really want to watch it again.

Perhaps I'll regret that Dostoevsky comparison someday. It strikes me now that I didn't say, in making the comparison, that, unlike Dostoevsky's work, the TV shows do not directly engage religious matters--not at all, as far as I can remember. And that is a major difference. For Dostoevsky, Christian belief was very much a live question, its decline a matter of grave concern, and hope for its renewal a significant element in the novels. In contemporary America as seen in the three shows I named, that struggle is over, and the characters are flailing around in a godless universe. That is not of course true of the actual America, but it's the culturally predominant worldview.

And of course it's not the exploration of big themes that makes great art--it's the skill with which the exploration is done. And it's the artistry of these shows--writing, direction, cinematography, and acting--that makes them great. If they are great. 


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Based on your gushing review I have now watched the first three of Better Call Saul. I do like Bob Odenkirk a lot. Breaking Bad I have watched one episode of, which I thought was enough. The Wire I have no interest in at all.

I have said it before, but to me the best thing I have ever seen made for TV was the final Twin Peaks series from a few years back. I may have more interest in the surreal than most people though. I also find Charlie Kaufman's movies to be some of the best ever, along with his wacky 700+ page novel that I read about a year ago and keep thinking I want to read again. LOL

I would definitely put the original Twin Peaks up there with the three I mentioned. I guess I have a reservation about it for the usual reason people do, that it kind of falls apart in the second season. The revived TP I was not all that enthusiastic about. I may watch it again sometime.

I don't know who Charles Kaufman is.

Better Call Saul is kind of a long haul, but over time the characters really grow on you. In case you don't know, the story as it goes on intersects more and more with the drug cartel characters of Breaking Bad, and I guess I should warn you that that brings some of the same kind of menace and violence that BB is full of into the Saul world. Not nearly as much, but some.

Watched the end of Ozark last night -- quite unsatisfying. Liked certain aspects of the series but wouldn't recommend it without caveats.

I'd go further than "unsatisfying." I pretty much hated the ending. Aside from just not wanting things to turn out that way I thought it was dramatically unconvincing and even in purely practical terms implausible.

I agree. Maybe I just wasn't invested enough for it to rise to the level of "hate." I felt that way about the whole last season, truth be told -- was merely hoping that the last episode or two might salvage something, but they didn't.

I agree. Maybe I just wasn't invested enough for it to rise to the level of "hate." I felt that way about the whole last season, truth be told -- was merely hoping that the last episode or two might salvage something, but they didn't.

I gave up after two seasons. I enjoyed them to some extent, but am not overly curious moving forward as to what happens with the characters since I dislike all of them.

Aw, but Jimmy is so likeable when he's not wicked. :-)

Sorry, I was speaking of Ozark. Most everyone in Better Call Saul is likable. Although I'm not overly wild about the Mike character just because he is the most cardboard of the group. Sympathetic to some degree, but not real likable. I find the sections about him tedious compared to those about Jimmy, Kim, et al

Oh, right, I was just thinking of the post itself, not the comments. I would very definitely not argue with the decision to bail out on Ozark. Funny what you say about Mike--I was just talking to somebody the other day whose favorite character is Mike. But then I think she was talking about Breaking Bad.

The thing about Jimmy is that throughout the thing--I don't think this is a spoiler--you can practically see the bad angel whispering in one ear and the good angel whispering in the other.

I really like Mike both in BB and BCS. I'm pretty sure Jonathan Banks has gotten quite a few awards/nominations for that character.

And well deserved.

Michael McKean as Chuck is a lot of fun too!

I hadn't heard of him. But when I watched that Neil Gaiman thing a few months ago I kept thinking that this one character looked familiar, and finally figured out that he was Chuck.

McKean was in a number of those Christopher Guest mockumentaries, starting with 'This is Spinal Tap.' Those are primarily what I knew him from.

Watched the first episode of 'Mare of Easttown' the other night. I thought it started a little shakily but the ending, which was basically the revelation of the crime, was beautifully handled. Looking forward to picking up with it.

I'm going to start it sometime soon. Maybe next week.

Michael McKean was Lenny of "Lenny and Squiggy" fame on the TV show Laverne & Shirley. Yes, he has primarily been in the Christopher Guest movies but I suppose lots of other stuff that I've never known about. Sort of a beloved old actor at this stage in his career.

I sort of want to re-watch Mare of E now that I know how it all ends. There's something nice about a show just being one series. I find that I tend to get worn out dealing with multiple seasons of something. Even with quality as high as Better Call Saul is, I'm taking a break now that I've finished the first two seasons!

I didn't see Laverne and Shirley more than once or twice so I don't remember that. I did see several of the Christopher Guest movies and maybe that's why Chuck already seemed slightly familiar to me.

People who watched Saul as it was being released did get that kind of break. But the problem with that for me is that I forget too much over a long break.

Finished 'Mare of Easttown' last night -- thought it was very good overall. Kate Winslet is excellent, as is most of the rest of the cast. Other than the now-requisite unnecessary gay relationship, the only thing I had qualms about was the ending, which to me seemed a little rushed. All in all a very good watch though.

Does anybody urinate on screen? If not, it must not be very good. :-)

We just watched yet another Brit series, The Responder. It's very good but of a sort of sub-genre that is growing a bit tiresome: the cop (or cops) with Major Personal Issues. He's under a whole lot of stress, and so is the viewer, but it doesn't end badly. It stars Martin Freeman, Watson to Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock, in a wildly different role. A young actress who has very few other credits to her name, Emily Fairn, plays a teenage junkie and it's a very fine performance.

Sounds interesting -- I like Freeman.

One of the things I like about the William Wisting series is that the cop is fairly normal with normal problems, and is a stand-up guy.

$20 to buy season 1 from Amazon. :-(

Well, I just watched the first two episodes of Mare of Easttown, and y'all are definitely right about it. Very very good.

Almost like it is not Kate Winslet is what I kept thinking...I plan to rewatch in the near future.

I have to admit I don't have any very clear image or expectation of her. Not much more than "very famous English actress." I know she was the girl in Titanic, and I must have seen something she's in, but I can't think of anything. But she is staggeringly good in this. I love it when actresses whose youthful beauty is a big part of their fame succeed in going beyond that, to playing women who are neither young nor beautiful. And her ability to speak American is amazing. If I hadn't known it would never have occurred to me that she's English.

I know we're not supposed to say "actress" anymore, but in this case I'm specifically talking about women.

I meant to say earlier, by the way, that so far this story is almost too sad to watch. A grim but not at all unrealistic picture of an aspect of American reality.

In the years since Titanic Winslet has appeared in several things where she has played against type and has even been virtually unrecognizable. One of the marks of a great actor/actress is the ability to enter into a role so deeply that they make the audience forget who they're watching. Winslet pulls that off magnificently in this show.

She does indeed.

I had forgotten your remark about the show including the requisite unnecessary gay relationship until it appeared in the episode I watched last night (three or four). Such a tiresome tick. It's a little odd to me that very talented people like the ones who write and direct this show fall so readily into line on this.

I had to think "Who was the gay character?" for a while even to remember - so yes, I would have to admit that it was unnecessary. What, they didn't have the time or inclination for a black/white relationship too? How lazy of them!

Actually they did. :-) The daughter's girlfriend is "of color," at least. I guess she would be considered black. The whole relationship, as far as I can tell with one episode still to watch, is completely irrelevant.

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