Saturday, August 12, 2017

Better Call Saul Season 2

Better Call Saul Season 2 picks up right where the previous season left off, but that's part of the problem. The repetition found in the previous season is found again. We see Saul turn down the new job, take the job, want to leave the job, decides to keep it, decides to leave it, told he can't without losing money, decides a new way. In that we get several scenes of various cons that take a long time yet aren't all that entertaining. Then we have his relationship with his brother where Saul undermines Chuck, Chuck undermines Saul, they come back together, and repeat for the rest of the season, thankfully that does get somewhere in season 3, this season though is just a whole lot of wheel turning. Mike's side, where Jonathan Banks is more co-lead, is effective though technically be directly evoking Breaking Bad right down to the return of several characters. It's good though, and that's the important thing. Of course the other half isn't truly bad, there is some bad supporting acting again, yet the main players including Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn, Banks and especially Michael McKean, the visual directing also is on point. I will say it successfully set up a great third season. Its progression though would've probably been handled in less than half a season on Breaking Bad, and it is not as though it is so much richer in character or entertainment value, quite the opposite.
3.5/5

Better Call Saul Season 1

Better Call Saul comes out the seasons swinging from its bleak black and white epilogue after Breaking Bad, to its opening that evokes that original seasons so effectively. Yes there is a bit of style change even the first few episodes yet it is fairly light made out from the far less intense protagonist at the center. Saul's just trying to find his way to success, there is nothing hanging over his head as there was for Walter White. Using this though it leads to a somewhat more humorous, though Breaking Bad often was rather amusing itself, series. Again the first two episode are great amplified by the return of an old foe from that earlier series, yet it does successfully set up this alternate plight of Saul, or Jimmy,  here amplified so well by Bob Odenkirk's performance. The series though loses that earlier steam. Now it has strong elements throughout including Odenkirk but also some of the new additions particularly Michael McKean and the return of Jonathan Banks as the fixer Mike. The series though suffers though from some of the bit players, never really a problem with the original series, who are outright bad playing living cartoons. The story though also suffers from an excessive amount of repetition in its storytelling through false leads in Saul's career and con after con. Certain revelations are often obvious and underwhelming particularly the revelation of Mike's background. The strengths of the series are evident and consistent, in the performances, and the visual direction, yet it struggles to find its own path away from its properly lauded predecessor.
3.5/5

Narcos Season 1

Narcos Season 1 focuses upon the life of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar and his various wildly outrageous, but true, exploits during 1970's and 1980's. It frames the story though through the exploits of two DEA agents working with the U.S. government with the Columbian government. In one way the series is often, well, a series of fascinating anecdotes about the war drugs and Escobar's personal ridiculousness. Whether it is a particular method of trafficking, Escobar's insane acolytes, or the terrorist acts by Escobar trying to keep the government off his back. It attempts more personal stories with the DEA agents but these at best are only mildly interesting. Their arc of becoming more morally compromised is also fairly thin. The more interesting character lawful character is the ground level Colonel Carillo, as his personal battle with Escobar is often the series at its most intense and compelling. The most engaging aspect overall is Escobar played Wagner Moura. He is a consistently fascinating character but the show also manages to create an emotional investment in his story despite in no way hiding his ill-deeds. His performance is captivating as are the almost unbelievable, if they weren't true, details regarding his exploits whether it is trying to become the president of Columbia or his assassination of any one who stands up to him. Escobar's story carries the season, and though the overall series is not quite great the character study around him is.
4/5