Neither A Review Of “Better Call Saul” Nor “Gone Girl”

So although most of my recent posts have involved formatting, proofing, rejecting, reformatting, reproofing, and re-rejecting the print editions of Shards and Ravels, killing trees isn’t the only thing that’s been going on around here. We’ve also been getting caught up on the first two episodes of the “Breaking Bad” spinoff prequel “Better Call Saul“, as well as the Gone Girl spinoff “Gone Girl“. Oh, and my wife has been getting caught up on her naps.


The film “Gone Girl” is, of course, based on the novel Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, which I finally got around to reading a few months ago and then passed along to my wife. She has a stack of dog training books and related materials that tend to keep her occupied, so she never actually picked up Gone Girl after I gave it to her. Instead, when the “Gone Girl” trailer appeared in front of some other movie we were watching, something like this conversation ensued:

Me: “This is the movie of that book I gave you. Did you read it yet?”
Wife: “No. Did he really kill her?”
Me: “What, you want me to spoil it for you?”
Wife: “Yes.”
Me: “Don’t you want to be surprised?”
Wife: “No.”
Me: “Really?”
Wife: “Yes.”
Me: “Are you sure?”
Wife: “Yes.”
Me: (reveals plot twists and such)
Wife: “Thanks, now I don’t have to read it.”

My wife is not one to be troubled by knowing plot twists ahead of time. In fact she is notorious for asking me, in the middle of movies where I know things about the plot that she doesn’t, what is going to happen next, thus avoiding any dangerous suspense. Douglas Adams would approve, as illustrated by Chapter 16 of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, conveniently summarized by

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Chapter 16 Summary
How It All Goes Down

* Arthur gets woken up by an argument between Ford and Zaphod. Zaphod argues that the planet is Magrathea, while Ford argues that Magrathea is just a myth.
* Zaphod tries to prove the planet is Magrathea by pointing out distinctive features, like the fact that it has two suns. What a show-offy planet.
* Arthur is amazed by the planet, but he also wishes he had a cup of tea. Tea is a drug that has ruined Britain. Just say no.
* While Ford and Zaphod continue to argue and look at the planet, Arthur adds: “The suspense is killing me”. This leads the narrator to note that stress is a serious problem, so to avoid suspense, the narrator will tell the reader a few things right now:
(A) The planet is Magrathea.
(B) Missiles are about to be launched at the Heart of Gold, but no one will be seriously hurt—though Trillian’s mice cage will get broken.
(C) Someone will get a bruise on his or her arm, but to preserve some suspense, the narrator won’t tell us who.*

Anyway, “Gone Girl” the movie arrived a month or two later, which happened to be shortly after the DVR recorded the first two episodes of “Better Call Saul”. We had to make a difficult decision: Which to watch first.

Me: “We have ‘Gone Girl’ and we have ‘Better Call Saul’. Which one is more likely to hold your interest?”
Wife: “Saul.”

So we spun up the first episode of “Better Call Saul”, which starts with some anonymous nondescript schlub working in a Cinnabon (mmm, Cinnabon) before flashing back to the halcyon days before Saul ever heard of Walter White.

Wife: “Is that Saul?”
Me: “No.” (beat) “Wait. Yes.”

Fifteen minutes later my wife was asleep, and I got to catch up on a couple more episodes of “Cowboy Bebop“. Let us now skip over a few days of no television watching, until the decision has to once again be made: Keep watching “Better Call Saul”, or fire up “Gone Girl”?

Wife: “Saul.”

Twenty minutes later my wife was asleep again, and I watched a few more episodes of “Cowboy Bebop”. (Which, incidentally, reminds me very much of “Firefly” in tone. Or I guess I should say “Firefly” reminds me of “Cowboy Bebop” given that “Cowboy Bebop” came out first. Also, as with “Firefly”, I watched the “Cowboy Bebop” movie first [“Knocking On Heaven’s Door”, vs. “Serenity” for “Firefly”] before seeing the original series. It’s like the two space Westerns were separated at birth. But I digress.)

A day or two passes.

Me: “Do you want to watch more of the first episode of ‘Better Call Saul’, or start ‘Gone Girl’?”
Wife: “Aren’t we done with ‘Better Call Saul’ yet?”

Anyway, we did end up finishing episode one of “Better Call Saul”, on the third or fourth sitting, thus setting up a new conundrum: Watch the second episode of “BCS” and resolve the cliffhanger ending of the first, or watch “Gone Girl”? Of such First World problems are our evenings made …

Wife: “I’m tired.”
Me: “What’s more likely to keep you awake, ‘Saul’ or ‘Gone Girl’?”
Wife: “At this point I’m going to say ‘Gone Girl’.”
Me: “I read a review where they said the plot in ‘Saul’ starts to come together in episode three.”
Wife: “Can we just skip to episode three then?”
Me: “No, it was only sent out to critics.”
Wife: “They’re probably lying.”

And so we began watching “Gone Girl”. Now as I previously mentioned, a month or two ago, my wife prevailed upon me to completely spoil the twists of the novel; yet as the long-time reader has no doubt gathered, she does not bother setting aside space in her brain to remember things like the plots of books and movies. (Friends have noted that my wife is lucky because she can watch a movie over and over again and it’ll be like new for her every time; comparisons have been made to Drew Barrymore in “Fifty First Dates”.) Thus, this conversation ensued towards the very beginning of the film:

Me: “That’s Rosamund Pike playing Amy. She was nominated for an Academy Award for this part.”
Wife: “How are they going to give her an acting award when she’s dead already? Will she be in flashbacks?”
Me: (careful pause) “Yes, there are many flashbacks.”

The initial viewing of “Gone Girl” put my wife to sleep in about 25 minutes, which is pretty good for a movie that “Tony Stark” is not in. But the second viewing — where the plot really kicks in — seemed to have her riveted. I’m pretty sure that if I’d left a pile of rocks next to the couch she would have started throwing them at the screen. We’re still not finished with “Gone Girl”, but I don’t expect it will take more than another sitting to finish it. Two, max**.

Final Score:
Amy Elliot Dunne 1, Saul Goodman Jimmy McGill 0

* Arthur bruised his upper arm.
** UPDATE: Since writing this post, we did finish the film in one sitting. And it’s definitely a good thing my wife didn’t have easy access to any rocks to throw at the TV for the ending.

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