Better Call Saul!
First, let me apologize in advance for what will probably be a LOT of Better Call Saul related Newsposts over the next few months. The show is finally coming back, and has been one of my all-time favorites. So…BCS Lovefest incoming.
It won't be every week. Promise.
But even before it releases, as I've been watching a few old episodes of Saul and Breaking Bad, I was thinking about the character-or plot device-of “the professional”. Interestingly enough, the two main characters who came from Breaking Bad to Saul were those types of characters (slash plot necessities).
First is Saul himself - Bob Odenkirk was apparently chosen for the character in order to bring some levity into the show as it began getting darker. They needed that counterbalance. He definitely served the show well, there.
But at least as much, he served as a device for legal assistance and advice, and ‘extralegal services’ to allow the criminal Protagonists to get things done. Saul was great for supplying underworld contacts, explaining and framing the legality and other realities of situations to the characters … and therefore the audience … to allow us to understand what was at stake, why and how things were dire, and presenting problems in a specific way so we could understand what the Protagonists were up against.
You can call me Mr. Ehrmantraut
Mike was/is a different kind of professional and expert - he's the “Cleaner” when we first meet him, and knows how the police operate (being an ex-cop himself) and how to do surveillance, clean up crime scenes, and…basically how to get anything shady done right. He works as Saul's P.I. and also for the villain Gus Fring, which was a little inconsistency or confusion, nothing too serious - but I was impressed when the Better Call Saul prequel set this up logically. Very cool!
Mike solves problems (kind of like “The Wolf” character from Pulp Fiction) and kicks ass. The weathered, world-weary soldier who's seen it all, and could tell Walter White the “right move”, from the pov of a hardened professional criminal. Mike also represented the danger and power of criminal mastermind Gus.
The Better Call Saul series has another character like this in The Veterinarian, who provides criminal associates to assist our morally flexible characters with their schemes.
I'm Winston Wolf. I solve problems.
Other examples that come to mind are Cooter, the auto mechanic from The Dukes of Hazzard, and Murray, in “Flight of the Conchords”, somewhat of a parody of a music manager, and much more inept - and hilarious - than the normal example, but still a character who set up gigs and framed problems and stories for the main characters. Breaking Bad also had a couple of minor characters with more specialized niches, like the guy who sold untraceable guns, and “Ed the disappearer”.
These kinds of characters add color and realism (even if heightened realism) to a fictional world, and importantly, can also help get things done, plot wise!
Do you recognize this character type or am I just making this up? Can you think of effective “Professional” characters who serve their series/stories well?
see you next time!
Banes at 12:00AM, April 7, 2022
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