I finally got around to watching Better Call Saul. It’s a mixed bag. Vince Gilligan is now officially the most overrated man in Hollywood. But I’m a big Bob Odenkirk fan. And I assume the show will be fine. But I doubt I’ll watch it. It’s already filled with many of the same comic book fiction problems that Breaking Bad had. But it does have the advantage of being like the early seasons of Breaking Bad in having a main character that is actually likable. Turning Walt into a monster in the fifth season of the show ruined it for me. So I assume that Better Call Saul will be pretty good for a while at least.
There was something in the first episode that totally offended me. Saul has a hugely successful lawyer brother who has not been able to work for the last year because of what seems to be a mental problem — he calls it “electromagnetic hypersensitivity.” But poor old Saul is working as a public defender because he can’t get any better work. I don’t mind fantasy. When Daredevil has a secret high tech lair that he could never have afforded, I have no problem. But Saul’s situation is something different — unbelievable in the context of the world that we know. And pernicious in the meritocratic lie that it pushes on the American worker who really doesn’t deserve to be so deceived.
Saul would not need to be out setting up skateboarding accidents to make money — much less defending three punks who cut off the head of a cadaver and had sex with it. Certainly his brother would get him a reasonable job at the big name law firm — maybe even a partnership. Maybe in episode five, we will learn some important information about how the law film could never hire Saul. But what we got in the first episode was a lecture from the brother about how much Saul will learn from taking public defender cases.
This is just not the way that corporate America works. Sure, there are some parents who might make their children work in the mail room for their summers. And after they get out of law school, those parents might make the kid work as a low level lawyer. But there is never any question that such “indignities” will be short lived and that the child will rise quickly in the company. But no. Vince Gilligan wants us all to believe that Americans make it to the top through their own grit and determination. And they do! But not when they have highly successful older brothers to help them out. The prototype is Arthur Kirkland, not Saul Goodman.
And the show itself has a perfect example of how the real world works. You see, before Bob Odenkirk became a minor star, he was known as one of the best comedy writers around. He is, after all, the brilliance behind Mr Show. Well, Bob has a younger brother, Bill Odenkirk. Now don’t misunderstand me. I think the younger Odenkirk is a brilliant comedy writer — I’ve enjoyed his work on The Simpsons and Futurama. But his first writing job was Mr Show. In fact, his first job on anything was Mr Show. Because he had a very successful older brother, Bill Odenkirk wasn’t living in his parents’ basement sending out short stories to The New Yorker. No, Bill Odenkirk got to start much higher and learn his craft from the best.
Now I don’t really think there is anything wrong with this. Or at least, I don’t think there is any way to stop this from happening. But the fact that Better Call Saul pushes a pernicious lie to a nation of people who can no long expect to live a life even as nice as their parents, is just despicable. I suppose such lies are better than keeping the masses in line by showing convicts eaten alive by lions. But it is the same thing: entertainment designed to blind the people from the unjustness of the society they live in.