One of the best features of BETTER CALL SAUL is how it's given Saul/Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and unexpected brother, so I appreciated how "RICO" took their relationship to a new and interesting place. The opening flashback revealed that Jimmy was once a humble mailroom operative at HHM, toiling away on menial tasks while his brother Chuck (Michael McKean) worked upstairs in an executive's office. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful moment when Jimmy revealed to his brother that he's managed to pass the famous 'bar exam' that effectively means he's a bonafide lawyer, having secretly invested two years of his spare time into a distance learning course. As you'd expect, Chuck was both amazed and impressed his little brother's done such an incredible thing, particularly without requesting his help, as it showed incredibly tenacity and dedication. And that's exactly what Jimmy needed many years later, when attempting to tape together hundreds of incriminating files belonging to a corrupt nursing home...
Incidentally, that flashback also elucidated us about exactly why Jimmy has such animosity towards Howard Hamlin (Patrick Gabian), as he was evidently the one who refused to reward Jimmy's hard work and devotion with an offer of work at the firm.
The majority of this hour took place in the present, during a time when Jimmy's fortunes appear ready to turnaround—having stumbled upon a case of big-scale fraud aimed at the elderly residents of the nursing home he's soliciting at. It seems the company, Sandpiper Crossing, are defrauding the old folks by overcharging for minor services (hidden in small print) and deducting from their monthly allowance. It's a class actionable offence which stands to make Jimmy millions, even if it's settled out of court, and the case certainly captures the attention of Chuck and inspires him to get involved. Much of this hour's enjoyment came from seeing brothers Jimmy and Chuck working together, as they perhaps might have done if Howard Hamlin didn't intentionally block Jimmy's attempt to join his brother's own firm.
We've had glimpses of Chuck in his prime via some flashbacks that have opened episode, but here we saw the present-day Chuck begin to exhibit some of his old enthusiasm and interest in legal affairs. He may have taken a backseat during Jimmy's confrontation with Sandpiper Crossing's attorneys at his home, where they pushed for a $20,000,000 settlement, preferring to sit in near-silence, but this was nevertheless a huge step forward. Indeed, "RICO" actually ended with Chuck being so caught up in the thrill of preparing for their court case that he absentmindedly walked outside into the glaring sunlight and, for a few moments, forgot that he's supposed to have an electromagnetic intolerance. Hopefully this will mean Michael McKean can begin to have a more active role on the show, because shutting him away indoors seems a waste.
Considering the highlight of this season's been Mike's (Jonathan Banks) showcase in "Five-O", I was surprised his subplot in this hour didn't grip me stronger. That's actually a good thing, because I don't want Better Call Saul to only feel like must-see television whenever a supporting takes centre stage. Here, Mike's daughter-in-law Stacey (Kerry Condon) was advised to keep her dead husband's bribe money, but hearing it’s not enough has forced Mike's hand in asking the vet with underworld connections if there's any "work" available. So it seems Mike's on his slippery path to... well, no spoilers in case you haven't seen Breaking Bad yet. (Apparently, there really are a few people watching this prequel first. Strange, huh?)
When I first heard about Better Call Saul, my biggest concern was whether someone in Saul's line of work is inherently interesting. I've liked legal shows in the past (The Good Wife is one of my favourites right now, in fact), but this series barely takes place in court and Jimmy's sort of a one-man renegade. I didn't really know how they were going to dramatise his working life, but "RICO" was an excellent rejoinder to my concerns. I loved all of the bits of business here, too—from the genre clichés (wrongdoers shredding evidence, piecing together said evidence ), to interesting surprises (Jimmy hastily composing a demand letter in a nursing home's toilet, in an attempt to legally stop their spoliation). Of all the episodes to have aired, this was the one that felt most indebted to the legal process, and it didn't falter.
written by Gordon Smith • directed by Colin Bucksey • 23 March 2015 • AMC