I love poison masters, and I love lawyers even more!

At 10 am on August 16, 2022, the spin-off of “Breaking Bad” (Better Call Saul, also known as “Beautiful Lawyer”) finished its last episode and accompanied us 14 The years-long “Death” series has finally come to a successful conclusion.

"Death" series of family portraits
“Death” series of family portraits

The series was crafted by American ace producer Vince Gilligan and premiered on AMC on January 20, 2008. The popularity of the first season of ” Breaking Bad ” was not high, but because of its excellent reputation, the number of viewers grew rapidly from the second season, and by the end of the fifth season, many people thought it was eligible to compete for “the best American drama in history” ” title.

After the success of ” Breaking Bad, ” Gilligan and co-producer Peter Gould decided to single out Saul Goodman, the show’s very popular gangster lawyer. Come out and shoot a spin-off drama, let everyone see how this grumpy, greedy and lustful Sol is made.

Vince Gilligan (left) and Pete Gould
  • The following content contains spoilers, please read with caution

Generally speaking, the prequels of popular movies and TV series are the most difficult to shoot, because the ending is known and the story development lacks suspense. But “Desperate Lawyer” is different. Instead, it is very in line with the popular concept of “eat melon”. Looking at the Internet today, a new social hotspot will appear almost every few days. The favorite thing for the onlookers to do is to find out how the bad guys in the news become bad. This is too human.
The two producers used the same length as “Breaking Bad” (63 episodes, including the movie El Camino) to satisfy the fans’ wishes, because the blackening process of Jimmy McGill (Saul’s real name) is quite Slowly, there is no “decisive moment”. There are both his own personality flaws and the external world’s fueling. Every trick Jimmy came up with, no matter how good it was at first, ended up hurting him in the end. And the people around Jimmy, whether it’s his brother Chuck, who wears small shoes for him everywhere, or his wife Kim, who has always been in love with him, pushed Jimmy into the abyss step by step from both positive and negative directions.

Saul and King
Saul and King

This theme has even continued into the post-poisoner era. Gilligan revisited the theme in just a few shots in his final and penultimate episode as a director: if Gene (Jimmy’s pseudonym) sees it, let it go and stop insisting To steal that cancer patient, there would be no subsequent accident; if he had left as soon as he succeeded, there would be no subsequent accident; if Jeff the taxi driver had been calmer, he would not have been hit for a crash arrest; if Gene is no longer so confident and insists on going back to the gangster lawyer Saul, he will not be recognized by the old lady Marion… Jimmy’s impulsiveness, coupled with the loss of his friend at a critical moment Lost chains and a series of coincidences finally made him suffer.

Gilligan uses Thor’s story to tell the supreme truth of the world, that is, no one in this world is born a bad guy, and everyone’s ultimate destiny is the result of the interaction of nature and environment.

The blackening process of old white
The blackening process of old white

Some people may say that there is also an element of luck that determines a person’s fate. If Saul hadn’t been recognized by Jeff in the mall, there would have been nothing; if the police patrol car hadn’t just stopped at the door of the cancer patient that night, there would have been no later trouble; if Jeff hadn’t “It happened” to give the old lady a computer with Internet access, but if it was some other small gift, Sol’s strategy would not be so fast…

Coincidences like this have appeared many times in the “Death” series, but as long as you think about it, you will find that every “bad luck” is actually inevitable. Sol had been so high-profile to show off his wealth, and he would be recognized sooner or later; he smashed the windows of a cancer patient’s house, and sooner or later, he would be found by the police; if he just took it away, he would not be afraid of the unexpected police car…
It wasn’t his luck that saved Jimmy’s life in the end, but the soft side of his character. Jimmy has always respected the elderly very much, otherwise he would have attacked the old lady long ago. In that case, it is estimated that Jimmy may not live to today.

Older people are the soft underbelly of Jimmy's humanity
Older people are the soft underbelly of Jimmy’s humanity

Gilligan uses these seemingly coincidental but inevitable things to teach us another life truth, that is, everything that everyone does in life, no matter how trivial it seems, is not meaningless. Every adult is ultimately responsible for the consequences of every decision they make, good or bad.

There is a Chinese saying that puts it more directly: Good will be rewarded with good, evil will be rewarded with evil; it is not that the time has not come.
Someone as smart as Jimmy must know this. But he has always been lucky, thinking that he can play another role, that is, the Sol who can rely only on his own cleverness. Luckily, he finally woke up at the last minute and realized that the man he was hiding deep inside was not Sol, nor Gene, but Jimmy, and that shift was the theme of the final episode. And Kim’s transformation happened after Howard was killed, much before Jimmy, so she was given a new lease of life after paying dearly for her mistakes.

Jimmy's blackening process
Jimmy’s blackening process

In contrast, Jimmy’s old partner Mike once thought he was different from the other gangsters. It was not until after Nacho’s death that he realized that he was actually no different from them. Serving the gang, and eventually died at the hands of the old white.
There must be a discrepancy between what each of us thinks of ourselves in our hearts and what we think of ourselves in the eyes of others. All human stories come from this. In this sense, both “Breaking Bad” and “Breaking Lawyer” are essentially telling people’s stories, which have strong practical significance. Great literary and artistic works are great precisely because they tell the story of “people” so thoroughly, and in this regard, “Breaking Bad” does a better job than “Breaking Bad.”
Now let’s analyze what’s so good about “Breaking Lawyer”.

"Desperate Lawyer" Season 6 Stills
“Desperate Lawyer” Season 6 Stills
  • Four elements of a good drama

A good film and television work usually must meet four basic requirements, that is, novel elements, rigorous logic, rich details, and outstanding characters . Whether it’s “Breaking Bad” or “Breaking Lawyer”, these 4 basic requirements are not only fulfilled, but they are all done very well.
Let’s start with element novelty . Whether you admit it or not, the daily life of most of us ordinary people is boring and hard to photograph. But if a certain drama shoots those occupations that people don’t usually have access to, it will naturally bring its own traffic. The drug cartel is the basic flow of the “Death” series. As long as this element is present, the film will not be too ugly. “Breaking Lawyer” has added a lot of scenes of wits and bravery in the courtroom, as well as various tricks Jimmy used to achieve his goals, which makes it even more watchable.

The main actors of the drug cartel were photographed on the set
The main actors of the drug cartel were photographed on the set

Even better, a common feature of the two stories “Breaking Bad” and “Breaking Lawyer” is that two originally unrelated worlds were forced together by a coincidence, and conflict is bound to happen. This can not only increase the dramatic tension, but also give ordinary audiences a strong sense of substitution, imagining that they are ordinary people like Walter White or Kim, but they are forcibly pulled into the world of gangsters. The main reason why the “Fate” series is so good.

Actors Sai Hong and Banksy on set
Actors Sai Hong and Banksy on set

On this basis, Gilligan added a lot of comedy elements to this drama, which is the most unique part of the “Death” series. For example, in “Breaking Bad”, the comic elements at the beginning were provided by Hank, the old white’s brother-in-law. By the middle of the second season, Hank’s personality changed greatly after witnessing the “turtle head” explosion, and he stopped joking, so Gould, who was just a screenwriter at the time, created the character Thor and asked him to replace him. Hank, take on the hilarious task. As a result, the role of Sol unexpectedly became popular, which led to the later “Desperate Lawyer”.

What many people may not know is that Bob Odenkirk as Sol, Bryan Cranston as Old White, and Michael McGinn as Chuck McKean) are all authentic comedians, and Carol Burnett (Carol Burnett), who plays the old lady Marianne, is one of the veteran figures in the American comedy industry and enjoys a high position in the history of American comedy television. Even Anna Gunn, who played Old White’s wife, was first known for her supporting role in the hit comedy ” Seinfeld .” These comedians are almost all discovered by Gilligan. We can even say that the comedy element is Gilligan’s best secret weapon, and it is also his most different from other drama producers.

Odenkirk had a supporting role in Seinfeld
Odenkirk had a supporting role in Seinfeld

Again , logically rigorous . The rigor of the logic of the “Death” series is phenomenal, and few people can pick out flaws from it. It’s all the more difficult to do in a story with so much plot twist and so much drama. For example, the process of Lao Bai concealing his behavior in “Breaking Bad” is very in line with his character development trajectory. The fighting between him and Tu Ku and Uncle Fried Chicken is incredible at first glance, but when you think about it carefully, you will feel that it is logical, because the old man Bai is using the chemical knowledge he has accumulated over the years to deal with the two idiots who only know how to use violence. In the end, knowledge is more powerful than violence.

"Breaking Bad" stills
“Breaking Bad” stills

When it comes to “Breaking Lawyer”, the relationship between Sol and his brother Chuck is the core of the first two seasons. The logic of their behavior is very in line with their characters, especially Chuck’s attitude towards Jimmy. It’s easy to understand, but if you think about it carefully, you will understand that Chuck grew up watching Jimmy from a young age, and he knows that his younger brother has a flawed personality and is not suitable for being a lawyer. The final development also proves that all of Chuck’s doubts are justified. The reason why he can become a gold medal lawyer is that his IQ is definitely online. However, Chuck failed to see Jimmy’s progress because he was a little too smart and headstrong all his life. If he had helped Jimmy when he needed it the most, instead of getting in trouble, maybe Jimmy wouldn’t have been Thor and he wouldn’t have died so badly.

Smart Chuck predicted everything
Smart Chuck predicted everything

Since the third season, the relationship between Sol and Kim has become the main line of the story, and the behavior patterns of the two cannot be faulted either. Every choice of each person reflects their own principles and moral bottom line. Especially the role of Jin, although she has a strong sense of morality, her childhood experience left a shadow in her heart. The appearance of Jimmy awakened the wild side of her character. The two cherished each other, encouraged each other, and walked into the abyss together. Fortunately, Kim’s moral bottom line is still there, and this crucial difference ultimately saved her from prison.

The relationship between Saul and King is the main thread of "Breaking Law"
The relationship between Saul and King is the main thread of “Breaking Law”

In addition to these main lines, the grievances and grievances between Lalo, Uncle Fried Chicken, Old Mike and Nacho constitute several sub-lines of the play. Especially the fighting style of the two big drug lords, Lalo and Uncle Fried Chicken, is very enjoyable to watch. And the professionalism of the writers in dealing with many technical issues is also admirable, such as the process of making drugs, the construction of underground laboratories, Nacho and Mike’s revenge on Salamanca, the bank and nursing home litigation process. The legal issues, as well as the various tricks Jimmy used, etc., have all carefully consulted experts in various industries to ensure that the audience will not find faults.

BTW: The professionalism of the crew even saved Odenkirk’s life. He suffered a heart attack on set and his heart stopped for 18 minutes. If it weren’t for the fact that the crew had prepared a defibrillator at the scene in advance, and there were people who had received cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training among the staff, he would have died, and we would not have seen the finale of the show.

Uncle Fried Chicken vs. Lalo is the best part of the last two seasons of "Breaking Lawyer"
Uncle Fried Chicken vs. Lalo is the best part of the last two seasons of “Breaking Lawyer”

The reason why this drama can be so logical is inseparable from the serious attitude of the director. Gilligan has mentioned more than once on the podcast that a core philosophy of him and the production team is to never treat fans as fools, and never take chances. So this series has maintained a good tradition from beginning to end, that is, every detail has to be discussed and discussed again and again to finalize, and use collective wisdom to reduce errors.

Interestingly, some movie fans often post on a domestic forum questioning the illogicality of a certain plot, but it turns out that these seemingly unreasonable things are mostly misunderstandings caused by the fact that they did not watch the movie carefully and missed a small detail. . This brings us to the third advantage of this play, which is the richness of details . At this point, the “Desperate” series has few rivals in the American dramas made in the past 10 years. AMC TV gave the crew almost unlimited resources to build quality products at any cost. And the team led by Gilligan lived up to its mission, whether it was script performance or props, photography, sound effects, soundtrack editing… All links reached the level of top Hollywood blockbusters.

For example, there is a detail in the penultimate episode that speaks volumes. Sol found a bank slip in the cancer patient’s home listing $737,000. When Lao Bai made drugs to make money, he once told Jesse Pinkman that he needed $737,000. These two almost identical numbers are not a coincidence, but imply that the reason why Thor insists on stealing this cancer patient is because the man reminds him of Lao Bai, whose life was ruined by Lao Bai.

For another example, after escaping the assassination, Lalo tried to enter the United States in a truck transporting illegal immigrants. This scene was filmed at the US-Mexico border. The crew actually rebuilt a section of the country road for this short few minutes of footage. !

Lalo tries to hitchhike into America
Lalo tries to hitchhike into America

Also, the scene where Sol was kidnapped by Lao Bai and Xiaofan needed to rebuild the RV in “Breaking Bad”. The original RV scene was filmed more than ten years ago, and the prop car was long gone. In order to reproduce the classic RV as it is, the props engineer of the crew cut more than 8,000 pictures from the original material, and then compared them one by one with the prop car. This kind of extreme pursuit of details is probably not what the general crew does. can be done.

Drug master and lawyer reunited in RV
Drug master and lawyer reunited in RV

The photography in this series is especially commendable, many of which have become historical classics. For example, the scene where Thor’s face is half-real and half-mirrored when he peeks behind the wall, and the scene where Jimmy and Kim’s faces are half-bright and half-dark when they smoke together, and the scene where the candlelight flickers when Lalo breaks into the room and shoots Howard, etc. Wait, it will definitely be written into the future film and television photography textbooks.

Because there are too many wonderful details, it is far from enough to watch this drama once, which is closely related to the transformation of film and television broadcasting technology. The famous Hollywood ghost director Quentin Tarantino once said in a recent podcast that when he was a child (in the 1970s) movie tickets in the United States were very cheap, even for a child from an ordinary family like him. He can go to the cinema every day, so he has seen many movies several times, and the movies at that time are rich in details and make people never get tired of watching them. In contrast, TV at that time could only be broadcast through wireless signals, and the quality of TV sets was very poor, so TV dramas at that time were very crudely shot, because TV stations did not expect audiences to watch them a second time. However, with the advancement of streaming media technology, the status of the two has now been reversed, movie tickets have become more and more expensive, and TV series has become an art form that can be watched unlimitedly at any time. In addition, large-size high-definition flat-panel TVs are getting cheaper and cheaper. Today’s TV series are more and more exquisite, and the details are more and more complicated. level of audio-visual effects, ignoring the inherent quality of the film.
In other words, in the past, if you wanted to see good film and television works, you had to go to the cinema, but now you should watch TV series on streaming media.
As for the outstanding character , the brilliance of the character Lao Bai in “Breaking Bad” is already at a historical level, while the likes of Xiaofan, Lao Mike, Uncle Fried Chicken, Hank, Skyler, etc. The supporting roles are also very successful. When it comes to “Breaking Bad Lawyer”, the complexity of the character Sol is even an order of magnitude higher than that of Lao Bai, and the supporting roles such as Chuck, Nacho, Lalo, and Howard are also as exciting as “Breaking Bad”. “.

"Breakthrough" series main characters on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
“Breakthrough” series main characters on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

The success of characterization has a lot to do with the slow pace of the show. Because of the particularity of TV dramas, the director can work on the secondary characters very calmly, which in turn can help the main characters to play better and complement each other. There are several minor supporting roles in “Desperate Lawyer” who have gained a lot of playing time, such as the big drug lord Salamanca, the banker Kevin, the German contractor Werner, the little lawyer Bill, and the assistant manager of the fried chicken shop Lyle, As well as the three film students who have been used a lot, they all left a deep impression on people, and their performance also reflects the character development of the protagonist Sol, both of which are indispensable.

The small supporting role in "Desperate Lawyer" is also very brilliant
The small supporting role in “Desperate Lawyer” is also very brilliant

Another point worth mentioning in terms of character creation in the “Breakthrough” series is that there are some special or weird characters, such as Salamanca who spends most of his time in a wheelchair, a twin killer from Mexico, and a man with cerebral palsy. The old white son and the strangely ill Chuck and so on. For screenwriters, this kind of setting is actually very troublesome, and it seems that it is completely unnecessary, but as the story develops, you will find that this special setting greatly increases the complexity and interest of the story, and leaves the audience with Very impressive.

Finally, a special mention must be made of gold. She is the biggest surprise in “Breaking Lawyer” and the audience’s favorite character. From the perspective of the story, she is the core driving force of the show; from the perspective of characterization, she is the perfect match for Jimmy; from the perspective of perception, she is even more important than Jimmy. At the end, what everyone cares most about is not even Jimmy’s life or death, but Kim’s fate. Many viewers are said to have called Gilligan and threatened to stop him if he wrote Kim to death.

The success of this role is inseparable from the excellent acting skills of actor Rhea Seehorn, who made a lot of male audiences fall in love with her in the final episode of the fifth season. And many critics thought she deserved an Emmy just for the scene where she cried in the bus in the penultimate episode of Season 6.

Jin stepped forward to Doulalo
Jin stepped forward to Doulalo

What’s even more surprising is that prior to the role, Shoun was only a third-rate TV actor, and most of the episodes she starred in were axed during the pilot phase, so most Americans didn’t know her. who is it. On the one hand, it shows that the actor training system in the United States is really excellent, and on the other hand, it also shows that Gilligan is really very experienced in training actors.

  • The victory of the American drama production system

After praising Gilligan for a long time, in fact, the production system of American dramas is more worthy of praise. It is this system that allows us to see several impressive American dramas every year, and it is worth studying carefully.
The production system of American dramas can be discussed from many aspects, such as the separation of production and broadcasting, the producer responsibility system, the pilot system, the subscription system and the high elimination rate, etc. There are many articles in the Chinese world, so I won’t repeat them here. This article only wants to talk about one of them, and that is the process of screenwriting. The average audience may think that American dramas, like most movies, are first polished to perfection by a screenwriter or a screenwriter team, and then handed over to the film and television company, who is responsible for screening and project approval, and then starts shooting after getting the money. But American dramas do not operate like this. Instead, the producer organizes a group of writers to write while filming, and make changes while filming, which is a fairly dynamic process. The biggest advantage of doing this is that the plot can be adjusted at any time according to the state of the actors and the reaction of the audience, so that the whole story is more in line with the needs of both the TV station and the audience.

Some people may be worried, will this approach lead to inconsistencies in a long drama? In fact, as long as you think about Jin Yong’s novels, you will be relieved. As we all know, Jin Yong’s martial arts novels were first serialized in newspapers. He would modify the plots according to readers’ feedback while writing them, and even went on business trips for some reason to find someone to write them. The final effect has been seen by everyone. Not only is there no inconsistency, but it has become the ceiling of Chinese popular novels.

The “Death” series also operates like this, and it has been changed many times in the middle. Take “Breaking Bad” as an example, Gilligan didn’t plan to let Xiaofan live for too long at first, and originally planned to let him die in the first season. But Aaron Paul (Aaron Paul), who played Xiaofan, acted so well. After watching a few episodes, everyone agreed that he should be allowed to play. The most indispensable element in “Poison Master”, in the end Xiaofan not only lived longer than Lao Bai, but the producer also made a movie for him, explaining his fate in the post-poison master era.

Coincidentally, the appearance of Uncle Fried Chicken and Old Mike also came from an accident. As mentioned above, because Hank’s temperament changed drastically, the crew needed to add another comedy element, so the character Sol was created. His appearance built a bridge between Lao Bai and the drug cartel. But the actor who played Tu Ku couldn’t continue due to scheduling conflicts, so Gilligan wrote Tu Ku to death and replaced it with Uncle Fried Chicken, who quickly became one of the audience’s favorite “Breaking Bad” characters. Also, because Odenkirk joined the crew on a temporary basis, there was a conflict in the schedule, and he was unable to participate in the shooting of the later episodes of the second season, so the crew had to create the role of old Mike, instead of Sol, became the role between the old white and the gangster. As a result, the old Mike also became popular, and actor Jonathan Banks (Jonathan Banks) won several acting awards for this role.

When it came to “Breaking Lawyer”, a similar situation happened again. The main purpose of Gilligan’s original design of Kim’s character was to set a positive example for Jimmy. He planned to let Kim leave Jimmy at the end of the first season, in order to show that Jimmy’s nature is not good. But she didn’t expect Sai Hong to show a very different Jin from the pre-designed mirror. According to her understanding, since this Jin can fall in love with Jimmy, he must have a wild side in his heart, otherwise the performance will be too bad. Naturally. This treatment inspired Gilligan, so Kim’s image was soon devastated from the original setting and became Jimmy’s soul partner. This change can be said to have changed the tone of the entire show, not only making Jimmy’s blackening more credible, but also making Jin the most popular character in “Breaking Lawyer”.

Likewise, the role of Lalo is largely derived from the personal play of actor Tony Dalton. Producer Gould had planned to bring Lalo to the fore in the first season, but neither he nor Gilligan knew what kind of character the man was supposed to be, so Gilligan simply put the plan on hold for a while until The casting director chose the charismatic Dalton, who felt that Lalo should be a person who was very different on the surface from the other members of the Salamanca family, but was very similar in nature. This setting immediately Bringing Lalo to life has greatly enhanced the viewing experience of the last two seasons of “Breaking Lawyer”. Some American film critics even consider Lalo to be the most successful on-screen villain in American television history, which is a very high evaluation.

Dalton made an unforgettable screen villain
Dalton made an unforgettable screen villain

Similarly, the success of Nacho’s role is inseparable from the excellent performance of actor Michael Mando. Gilligan and Gould gave Mando a lot of freedom, and Mando took advantage of his Mexican-American identity, taking a lot of elements from South American Native culture and using it in his performances . It’s this organic interaction of director and actor that makes for such a memorable character as Nacho, whose death is one of the most moving scenes in season six.

What’s even more interesting is that the characters Lalo and Nacho are themselves the products of the screenwriter’s whim. When Saul made his first appearance in “Breaking Bad”, he was kidnapped by the old white fan because he was unwilling to cooperate. At the time, the screenwriters didn’t quite know how Saul was supposed to speak, so he let him name two random names: Lalo and Ignacio (Nacho’s full name). When filming “Desperate Lawyer”, the screenwriter remembered these two names again, and this was the birth of these two characters.

This seemingly chaotic screenwriting method of American dramas actually expresses the true meaning of creativity, that is, the truly outstanding innovation is never the result of a genius working behind closed doors, but the result of relying on collective wisdom, the courage to try and constantly revise. This will definitely lead to a high elimination rate, so we must ensure that the eliminated film and television people still have food to eat, so that they are not afraid of failure and dare to explore the path that their predecessors have not traveled.

Thinking about it carefully, the creative process of American dramas is actually more like real life. There are countless stories happening in each of us every day. No story is written in advance. Each of us will react differently according to new situations. Every accident and every encounter has the potential to change our future life. Going in a completely different direction. The creative model of American dramas simulates this process well, and the result is definitely closer to life than screenwriters working behind closed doors.

This principle applies not only to screenwriting, but to almost any industry that requires creativity. The truly great innovations do not come from the flash of a lone genius, but from the random collision of different elements and a sound screening mechanism, essentially the same as the natural selection process of biological evolution.

  • Epilogue

Finally, I would like to say that good literary and artistic works have a strong sense of “accompaniment”. Whether it is the red novels and martial arts storytelling in the early years, or the later Jin Yong Wang Shuo and “Seinfeld”, whenever I think of them, I will definitely think of myself in that period, as well as my mood and state at that time. The “Breakthrough” series accompanied me through my middle age, and the characters such as Lao Bai, Xiaofen, Uncle Fried Chicken, Lao Mike, Sol, Lalo, and Kim were as kind as real friends in my life. . When I get old, I will definitely re-watch this great American drama, and it will definitely take me back to the second decade of the 21st century, reminding me of the time when I was writing and waiting for updates. anxious and happy state.

Thank you to everyone on the “Breakthrough” crew for adding color to my life.