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.