Wednesday, 25 February 2015

BETTER CALL SAUL, 1.4 – 'Hero'

Wednesday, 25 February 2015


Another good episode, if a little calmer than the previous three because we're further into the season and there's less need to grab viewers by the scruff of the neck. BETTER CALL SAUL is up-and-running, the audience likes it, and the critics have been kind, so while "Hero" wasn't anything to get hugely excited about, it was a important episode in terms of showing us how Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) is going to build his small-town business.

The teaser was a flashback to a time when Slippin' Jimmy was hustling on the streets, conning a guy he met in a bar with a scam involving a lost wallet and Rolex belonging to a collapsed "fat man", wherein the 'mark' feels he's tricked Jimmy into accepting $1,500 in cash while he leaves with the $3,000+ timepiece, unaware the watch is a fake and the intoxicated owner's actually Jimmy's associate . What was interesting here is that, ultimately, Jimmy would use another con to boost his business prospects by the episode's end—by paying a billboard erector to fall to his near-death, allowing Jimmy to rescue him while being filmed by two students. Next day, he's on the front page of the Albuquerque Journal and actually has seven messages waiting on his office answer-machine. Things are looking up!

The con worked, and it spoke to the idea that Jimmy's best doing things his own inimitable way (i.e. using showmanship). Before his hand was forced with the billboard stunt, he was instead trying to use the Kettleman's hush money to boost business a more legitimate way—with the aforementioned billboard advertising his services as an attorney, while blatantly infringing on the copyrighted logo of rivals Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill. Jimmy even bought the same suit as HHM's co-founder Harry (Patrick Fabian), so it's clear he has a limited imagination. We know he'll eventually dream up the kitsch 'Better Call Saul' brand, and change his name (which we learn is a favoured gag; "s'all good, man"), but that will only happen once Jimmy accepts he's never going to play with the HHM big-boys, or please his brother Chuck (Michael McKean) by becoming a success through sheer hard-work and principled commitment. He keeps news of his local celebrity a secret from Chuck, fully aware his brother would know it was a fabrication and think less of him for it.

And how wonderful was that moment in the tailors, when Jimmy briefly considered a garish orange shirt and red necktie combo? For now, he's aping his brother and looking to the slick lawyers of HHM for inspiration, and yet the unique Saul Goodman's in there somewhere, just waiting to be let out.

There wasn't too much else going on with this episode. It just put Jimmy on the slow road to success, and we saw some of the Saul Goodman magic in action. I particularly liked Jimmy's scene with the freed Nacho (Michael Mando), where he stood his ground over his client's theory Jimmy warned the Kettleman's they were in danger. He's quite rightly cautious and frightened around gangsters like Nacho, but there were glimpses here of him growing in confidence because his actions are giving him a feeling of worthiness. He has the gift of the gab, and can use his loquaciousness to tweak people's perception of him, or certain events.

There was also a brief scene between Jimmy and Mike (Jonathan Banks), which showed the men on better terms; Jimmy actually having the right parking tokens this time, and thanking Mike for his assistance with the Kettleman's. Of all the prequel-y elements to Better Call Saul, I'm most intrigued by how Jimmy is going to employ Mike as a private investigator, and how that whole relationship will work.

Four episode in, and Better Call Saul's definitely good, potentially great. I'm beginning to see it as its own quirky thing, and not just a Breaking Bad spin-off/cash-in. It has a slightly different tone, and has avoided some of the bigger pitfalls prequels can slip into.

written by Gennifer Hutchison • directed by Colin Bucksey • 23 February 2015 • AMC