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Better Call Saul: Season Four (Blu-ray Review)

AMC delivered a bit of a bummer recently as they announced the fifth season of the acclaimed Breaking Bad prequel series Better Call Saul would be delayed until 2020 for its premiere. They cited they needed the time to accommodate actor shooting schedules. While I’m disappointed as I love this series (One of my probably Top 5 of currently airing shows on any network/streaming service), I’m glad they are getting to make the show they are intending to without compromise. In the meantime, they are sticking to the Blu-ray schedule, however, and the fourth season will be arriving on May 7th, complete with a solid haul of bonus features and a digital copy of each episode.

Season 

In the critically acclaimed drama’s fourth season, his brother’s death catalyzes Jimmy McGill’s transformation into “Saul Goodman.”  Now Jimmy steps into the criminal world, putting his future as a lawyer — and his relationship with Kim Wexler — in deep jeopardy.  Meanwhile, Mike Ehrmantraut’s work for Gustavo Fring throws the cartel into chaos, with tragic results.

Recently, I was conversing with my sister about Game of Thrones having a prequel series that will wind up airing at some point after the flagship series’ conclusion later this month. My perspective was “Eh, I’ll check it out, but I dunno if it’ll recapture the excitement of the original.” She then reminded me, “Hey, it could be Better Call Saul.” And yeah, it could be. Breaking Bad’s prequel series that chronicles Jimmy McGill’s transformation into Saul Goodman has been quite a revelation in terms of excitement and quality. It has easily lived up to Breaking Bad’s standard while carrying its own identity and also bettering it in many ways. Its not (And probably never) going to hit the cultural zeitgist the Bryan Cranston-led did, but he show has grown to a point where by the end it may be difficult to pick which one was better.

The show holds crazily on its own merits. So much so, that I honestly believe it would be just as enjoyable to someone who has never seen an episode of Breaking Bad in their life. If you have seen Breaking Bad it contains plenty of easter eggs to eat up but also adds an extra layer of impending doom to everything. We know the fate of many of the players in this story. But they’ve crafted a journey here that makes everything unpredictable, intriguing and exciting to watch as characters and events move into place. There’s no “Oh this will happen and then this, and then WAH-LAH – Breaking Bad.” It never truly lets the previous series dictate this journey and it never truly strays away or feels off course. In the word of prequel storytelling in either film or television, Better Call Saul is quite a unique marvel in what has accomplished.

This fourth season starts bringing things closer and closer and setting them up for the eventual Walter White/Jesse Pinkman era of the New Mexico-based story. And I love the way they are done with such a natural feeling; not forced, not showy, not constantly winking. These characters still hold surprises in their earlier incarnations and we are also treated to different perspectives and behind the scenes things that feel smaller but are possible catalysts to larger characters developments and stories later on.

While the show has slowly grown in to featuring more familiar Breaking Bad faces, it built its framework in the earlier years with its own cast and strong leads. In an Agatha Christie fashion, we have seen them slowly fall off the pecking order as we will one day only be left will Jimmy McGill and his Saul Goodman persona. This recent season bid farewell to Jimmy’s only biological family in the form of his brother Chuck’s death that closed season 3. In relation to that, we may be seeing the end of Chuck’s law partner Howard Hamlin as well. My biggest worry Jimmy’s partner and squeeze Kim Wexler. Rhea Seehorn has put on one of the best performances in television right now with this highly unique and frame commanding character that my viewing of the show is constantly in worry of what is going to happen to her to lead her to not being a part of the Breaking Bad storyline. And we’ve come to the point where she is, for the most part, the last dangling thread of the Jimmy McGill era before fully becoming Saul Goodman. I worry about Kim so much, its crazy. She’s a damn good lawyer, a fine person and loyal friend to Jimmy. Mad kudos to the work Rhea Seehorn has put in on this series (And I hope more people cast her in LEADS on other programming in the future beyond this show).

As I wait for the eventual fifth season in this “year off” form Better Call Saul, revisiting this fourth season was a nice refresher and built up my incredible passion for the show and now makes the wait seem like forever! Oh well, it is detriment to the quality and story they intend to tell, it’ll be here in no time. Through four seasons, we hit the ground running on a high note and have seen nothing but increased quality year in and year out. Better Call Saul is one of the best shows on television and has only enhanced and complimented the glow of Breaking Bad; one of the best shows of all time.

Episodes

Smoke

Breathe

Something Beautiful

Talk

Quite a Ride

Pinata

Something Stupid

Coushatta

Wiedersehen

Winner

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Through four season now, Better Call Saul has had a beautiful image and motion picture quality that has showcased well on these Blu-ray sets. Its a nice jump from the broadcast look with a much crisper and fluid looking image with a much richer look in its colors. The image is bold and well detailed, showing really nice looks at the textures and patterns on all of the fancy suits as well as things like carpet, tables and other objects. Its a really beautiful looking image.

Depth:  Good depth of field with the characters looking free and loose in every environment. Movements are smooth, fluid and natural. No distortions really noticeable.

Black Levels: Blacks are really well saturated and rich. They get really deep in darker rooms. Detail holds strong enough and disappears where intended. No crushing was witnessed in this viewing.

Color Reproduction: Colors are really a highlight of this release. There are many colorful pieces of clothing, shirts, ties, suits, blouses, drapes, pool balls a pink bakery box and such that really burst and pop off the screen. Another strength are the regular rustic browns, grays and such.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and maintain an consistency from episode to episode. Details like lip texture, wrinkles, dried skin, make-up, glossy/oily foreheads and more come through perfectly clear.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digtal, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Arabic, Dutch, French, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish

Dynamics: Better Call Saul is a rather straight drama, but it will contain action sequences with guns and car crashes throughout the season. This 5.1 track tracks things accurately with great sound engineering and wonderful ambiance to bring every environment to life. There is a good balance and nice intricate and detailed sound effect work, layering it into lifelike quality.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Gunfire, doors shutting, soundscape hits and other noises will bring the subwoofer to a good boom.

Surround Sound Presentation: Saul is mostly focused on a front-heavy approach with accurate movements and placement. The rear channels aren’t lying dormant, but they primarily provide ambiance while at times having activity where appropriate for unique sounds.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are the bread and butter of this track and they promote a crisp and loud clarity throughout.

Extras 

Better Call Saul: Season Four is a 3-Disc Blu-ray set that comes with a Digital Copy of every episode. All 3 discs are littered with Easter Eggs, found by going to the individual episode pages. I cannot confirm whether I found them all or not. I listed what the gallery ones were, but I’d like to keep the video clips a surprise for those who don’t want spoiled for the hidden gems.

Disc 1

Audio Commentary

  • Smoke – With Peter Gould, Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks and Minkie Spiro
  • Breathe – With Peter Gould, Patrick Fabian, Michael Mando, Mark Johnson, Thomas Schnauz and Michelle MacLaren
  • Something Beautiful – With Peter Gould, Luis Moncada and Gordon Smith

Storyboard Comparison with Introduction By Peter Gould 

  • Something Beautiful (HD, 6:37)

Easter Eggs

  • Smoke (HD, 2:11)
  • Breathe – James McGill’s resume
  • Something Beautiful (HD, 1:17

Madrigal Security Training Videos (HD, 18:36) – Jonathan Banks in character as “Mike” hosts a 5-part training video for the Madrigal company.

Short Film: No Picnic (HD, 2:53)

Disc 2

Audio Commentary

  • Talk – With Peter Gould, Michael Mando and Heather Marion
  • Talk – With Mark Hansen, Christian Diaz de Bedoya and Dennis W. Milliken
  • Quite A Ride – With Peter Gould, Skip Macdonald, Ann Cherkis and Michael Morris
  • Pinata – With Peter Gould, Patrick Fabian, Gennifer Hutchison and Andrew Stanton
  • Something Stupid – With Peter Gould, Bob Odenkirk, Melissa Bernstein and Alison Tatlock

Storyboard Comparison with Introduction By Peter Gould 

  • Pinata (HD, 3:34)

Camera Rehearsal with Introduction By Peter Gould

  • Something Stupid (HD, 2:38)

Easter Eggs

  • Talk (HD, 1:39)
  • Quite A Ride #1 (HD, :06)
  • Quite A Ride #2 (HD, :25)
  • Pinata #1 (HD, :57)
  • Pinata #2 – Sketches for Wexeler/McGill logos.
  • Something Stupid (HD, :18)

Deleted Scenes

  • Talk (HD, :51)
  • Quite A Ride (HD, 1:20)
  • Something Stupid (HD, 1:38)

Disc 3

Audio Commentary

  • Coushatta – With Peter Gould, Melissa Bernstein, Gordon Smith, Jim McKay and Russell Scott
  • Wiedersehen – With Peter Gould, Gennifer Hutchison, Jean Carroll and Judy Rhee
  • Winner – With Peter Gould, Thomas Schnauz, Melissa Bernstein, Thomas Golubic, Chris McCaleb and Larry Benjamin

Storyboard Comparison with Introduction By Peter Gould 

  • Winner (HD, 3:58)

Deleted Scenes 

  • Coushatta (HD, 1:02)
  • Wiedersehen (HD, :44)
  • Winner (HD, :59)

Easter Eggs

  • Coushatta (HD, :25)
  • Wiedersehen #1 – Image showing the scale of the Wiedersehen rock.
  • Wiedersehen #2 – (HD, :06)
  • Winner #1 – Remembering Charles McGill, 4-piece document chronicling a timeline of achievements of his life in practicing law.
  • Winner #2 (HD, :39)

Gag Reel (HD, 6:37)

Flashing Forward, Looking Back (HD, 11:15) – This featurette focuses on the flash forwards that follow “Gene” after the events of Breaking Bad as well as the flashbacks the show constructs and how they are utilized in season 4 to build depths on the characters of Jimmy and Mike. Cast, crew, showrunners and the like all give their perspective.

Constructing the Superlab (HD, 9:52) – Goes over crafting the origins of Gus Fring’s superlab that we would become familiar with on Breaking Bad. Here the set designing, crew, Vince Gilligan and others talk the challenge of showing the process of how it came together and would be feasible in the real world and to bring it along slowly into what would end up being the place that would be haunted by the likes of Walter White.

Slippin’ Kimmy (HD, 10:01) – This is a nice focus on Kim Wexler and her journey and challenges through season four (And overall the whole series so far) from the creators of the show and Rhea Seehorn.

Summary 

Better Call Saul’s fourth season continues the spiral into the madness that would become Breaking Bad, but fascinates beyond just being a connection to that show. That its connected to the former series is merely a bonus. The fourth season’s Blu-ray continues with the previous releases’ terrific video and audio performances. There are a load of Easter Eggs (These are still a thing!) on each disc as well as some nice featurettes. A definite pick up for fans!

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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