Wednesday, 18 February 2015

BETTER CALL SAUL, 1.3 – 'Nacho'

Wednesday, 18 February 2015


This was a strong developmental episode, with a fantastic opening that expanded the relationship between Jimmy/Saul (Bob Odenkirk) and his brother Chuck (Michael McKean); as a flashback revealed Jimmy was once imprisoned and in desperate need of his compos mentis brother's legal help. Getting released from prison was possibly one of the reasons Jimmy decided to follow in his sibling's footsteps, but it's definitely the reason he feels indebted to Chuck and is trying to help him through his present-day mental health issues. I really like how Better Call Saul is already finding ways to surprise its audience every week, by giving us unexpected glimpses into the back-story of the future Saul Goodman.

The rest of the episode's story was separate to the cold open, and focused on Jimmy trying to do the honourable thing with the Kellermans—the couple he knows criminal acquaintance Nacho (Michael Mando) is planning to extort. It was a fun reminder Jimmy's not ready to 'break bad' yet, if you'll indulge that reference, and the prologue neatly contextualised his reluctance to team-up with Nacho—because becoming a crooked attorney would go against the promises he made his brother in exchange for his freedom.

Of course, we know Jimmy will be dragged into the city's dark underbelly sooner rather than later, but when and how is yet to be determined. We never saw Chuck McGill in Breaking Bad, so it's possible a heart-breaking fate awaits that character as a result of Jimmy's decisions over the course of Better Call Saul, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves...

One thing "Nacho" had the previous episodes didn't was a sense of mystery, and it was fun seeing Jimmy dig himself into a big hole after trying to do the honourable thing by alerting the Kellermans to an unspecified threat to their fortune... which quickly resulted in them being "kidnapped" by his client, Nacho, who wasn't guilty of that crime but nevertheless got caught casing their residence for the crime Jimmy was trying to warn about. It was all a bit of a mess, but entertaining to see Jimmy try and extricate himself and Nacho from this misunderstanding—and for the real fate of the Kellermans to slowly be revealed, with some amateur sleuthing even Mike (Jonathan Banks) had to tip his hat to.

Yes, it was also a welcome episode for giving Mike something better to do, as the comic relief of him being Jimmy's daily parking official nemesis was beginning to wear thin. And I still don't really understand why Jimmy keeps making the same mistake with the tokens he's always asked for to leave the lot, but whatever. Here, we were nicely reminded of Mike's past as a detective from Philadelphia, and it seems he's a respected figure in the police department because of his past on the force. That should come in handy for Jimmy, when Mike eventually becomes part of his team (as fixer and enforcer); applying his cop skills in nefarious ways to provide for his granddaughter's financial future and, well, just escape that hot metal booth he appears to stand in all day.

And given my comments last week about the lack of clear female characters on Better Call Saul, this hour confirmed that Jimmy's acquaintance Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) is a prominent figure and potential romantic interest. She seems like a more straight-laced lawyer (working for his brother's flashy law firm), and has clearly had sexual dealings with Jimmy in the past—although maybe that began and ended with drunken phone-sex, who knows. Either way, good to see the show has a strong female character, whose fate isn't known to the audience, and that Jimmy isn't such a lone figure. (The marketing has made it feel like the show is all about the nascent Saul Goodman, but it's already beginning to build a good ensemble.)

written by Thomas Schnauz • directed by Terry McDonough • 16 February 2015 • AMC