Ten years ago, no one interested in high-profile drama television could have ignored breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan’s AMC series about an underdog high school chemistry teacher who becomes a calculating, savage crystal-meth dealer. The critical and popular success of the program was such that, less than two years after its end, it was revived in the form of You better call Saul. Main character Saul Goodman had been the lawyer for the aforementioned teacher-turned-dealer in breaking Badand the latest series, a prequel, charts the half-decade journey that got him to this point: a journey that began when he was a Chicago hustler named Jimmy McGill.
You better call Saulof six seasons (one episode more than breaking Bad) ended this week. Meanwhile, the show has received even stronger praise than whoever created it. For a sense of what makes it such a success story in a field populated by some of the most ambitious creators in popular culture today, watch the video essay above by Youtuber Thomas Flight.
Here on Open Culture, we’ve previously featured his visual analyzes of authors like Wes Anderson and Bong Joon-ho as well as shows like Thread and Chernobyl. Five years ago, he uploaded a video explaining “why You better call Saul is brilliant”; now he argues it’s a “masterclass in visual storytelling.”
“‘Show, don’t tell’ is such common advice in filmmaking and screenwriting that it’s basically a cliché at this point,” says Flight, “but it’s also much easier to say. what to do.” He continues to shoot You better call Saul a host of prominent examples of showing without telling, organized into four categories of its particular strengths: “props as symbolic objects”, “visual performances”, “characters in progress”, and “storytelling with cinematography”. You better call SaulThe creators of make rich use of objects, gestures, expressions, places, angles and more to tell – or rather show – the story of Jimmy/Saul’s transformation, as well as the transformations of those around him. But which of these characters will star in Gilligan’s next, and surely even more ambitious, series?
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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts about cities, language and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter city books, the book The Stateless City: A Walk Through 21st Century Los Angeles and the video series The city in cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshallon Facebook or Instagram.