“Better Call Saul” Is the End of An Era in Television

Will we ever watch TV like we watched “Breaking Bad” again?

Will Leitch

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Tonight — and for the next five Monday nights at 9 p.m. Eastern time after tonight — I know exactly what I’ll be doing: I’ll be sitting at home watching “Better Call Saul.” The show, for my money the best show on television for several years running, is ending its six-season run with its final six episodes, beginning tonight. If you haven’t seen the show, I cannot recommend it enough, especially if you were a “Breaking Bad” fan. I think it’s better than “Breaking Bad” — it has less “action” than “Breaking Bad,” but its characters are more complex and human than they sometimes were on that (otherwise terrific) show — and rewards an extended investment tenfold. Honestly, I wish they were doing another spinoff show after this: I’d watch Vince Gilligan’s and Peter Gould’s expanded universe of Albuquerque for decades to come.

The last half-season of “Better Call Saul” ended with a huge dramatic moment that I won’t spoil here, but I’ve spend the last month since I watched it obsessing over it — what it means, how it happened, what it augurs for our character’s future. I’ve read countless theories, watched dozens of speculative videos, pored through interviews with the cast and crew for any hints of what might be coming. They’ve been very cagey: All I know is that Walter White and Jesse Pinkman will be returning briefly, and that Carol Burnett is playing a character named “Marion.” I’ll find out the rest tonight, and over the next five weeks. I can’t wait.

But what has been most exciting is that I’ve had to wait. If I were watching the show the way every other show is watched anymore — with occasional exceptions, like Apple TV’s “Severance,” another great show, which released episodes weekly at midnight — I would have watched the next episode after the last cliffhanger mere seconds later. There would have been no time for speculation, or imagination, or wonder. There’s just be a button to push, and then whoosh, I’d have my answers.

What’s the fun in that? Speculation is the fun of it. Not knowing is what makes these shows matter. And I can’t help but wonder if something is being lost, not just with the lack of waiting, but the lack of a communal experience. Even a…

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Will Leitch

Author of six books, including “How Lucky” and "The Time Has Come." NYMag/MLB.. Founder, Deadspin. https://williamfleitch.substack.com