Friday, August 24, 2012

Breaking Bad Shakespeare Friday: You Better Call Saul

    I am going to start the second part of this series with an obvious disclaimer: spoilers for a television show that has been on since 2008. I will be covering the first four seasons, since those are readily available on Netflix. I won’t delve too much into the fifth season for right now... maybe in the future. While I’m spoiling things, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde... same person. Sorry if I just blew your mind.

    You better call Saul. With those words we get introduced to Saul Goodman (played by Bob Odenkirk), the flashy criminal lawyer with flashier suits and even flashier office who manages to help Walter White further his not so flashy criminal activities.

    Whenever someone discusses a television show, movie, character or fast food franchise that they consider to be “Shakespearean” they tend to focus on certain aspects that everyone covers. The tragic hero, motifs, young Italians deciding to kill themselves... what tends to be overlooked is the fact that William Shakespeare loved his fools that were smarter than everyone else.

    From Feste to King Lear’s Fool to (some may consider) Hal Falstaff, Shakespeare littered his plays with people who were labeled “fool” that were really smarter than the rest of the characters. Some of this may have been to subvert expectations, some may have been to have someone the audience can work with. (Of course he may have done this because his company had a resident fool and he was eager to give him meatier parts.) I talked last time about many of the Shakespearean similarities, but in my opinion, the one that puts it over the top is the character of Saul Goodman.

    Saul is the stereotype of the sleazy late night lawyer with the aforementioned flashy smile, the cheesy commercials, and it seems as if he is constantly chasing an ambulance. I have not really laughed out loud too many times while watching Breaking Bad (It’s kind of a dark show, if you couldn’t tell) but if I have, it’s because of something Saul has said.

    However, Saul Goodman is easily the smartest character in the entire show (In terms of criminals. The smartest character is the one not doing the illegal activities). He is constantly using his legal expertise to not just get his clients out of trouble, but to get them actively ahead. After Walter first meets up with him, Saul is able to track him down in the school where he works (without the benefit of Walter's real name, mind you), and then starts setting up meetings so Walter can get ahead in his Meth-Cooking activities. (For a finders fee.  I never thought I’d be comparing Shakespeare so much with Meth. I always thought it would be a show based on Cocaine.) He also helps to set up money laundering, and when there’s the little incident with the car that Walt manages to blow up, well, he gets that swept under the rug, too.

    Wise fools are interesting characters. I mention before that they are the characters the audience empathize with to a certain extent. They are, because we know that Walt shouldn’t keep getting involved deeper with Gus Fring’s operation. (That sentence will make more sense soon.) We know that Walt is walking down a dangerous path, and we may choose to yell it at the screen. (Like when we yell at the Jersey Shore cast when they continue to do Jersey Shore things.)But the wise fools... they have everyone in the world of the show fooled. They are goofy. We laugh at them. Feste, from Twelfth Night, is abused by the characters, but he’s the only one who possibly knows Viola’s secret (I say "possibly" but, but no. Feste knew her secret. It's in the text if you read close enough.). Saul Goodman is the same way. He’s the one telling Walt to be careful. He’s the one who tells people “this is a bad idea” when we are thinking it. But he's the one ignored by everyone because they're the criminals, and he's just the silly lawyer.

    We laugh with the fool. And Bob Odenkirk is a funny guy. He plays the character well, and we laugh at him. But at the end of the day, when this show ends in a bloodbath (and it probably will), it’s Saul that is going to head on back to work, probably even wiser and funnier than before.

    Trouble? You better call Saul.

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