Better Call Saul continues it’s outstanding opening season with “Hero” and it’s possibly my most favorite episode to date. Slippin’ Jimmy gives us a glimpse into the past, Present-Jimmy’s resistance to the dark side cracks, and Chuck takes a terrifying journey… to the other side of the street. S’all good, man!
Apologies for the late post, but I was down with the plague. Or possibly the flu. Let’s go with the plague. It’s much more dramatic.
Hit the jump for the complete recap and review.
The cold open is great. We’re in the distant past, and Slippin’ Jimmy is taking a drunken trek through the hood with a dude he’s just met at a bar. Philes will remember this guy as Anson Stokes from the X-Files episode “Je Souhaite” (Kevin Weisman).
They head into an alley where they happen upon a wallet, flush with cash and ripe for the taking. The owner is passed out nearby. As expected, it takes no time for the duo to decide to pocket the wallet and take off with the cash. But what’s this? The barely coherent drunk on the floor is belligerent and wearing a Rolex. Jimmy calls dibs on the watch and the duo argues over its worth. Jimmy’s new friend assures him that the Rolex can’t be worth more than three grand and sweetens the deal, adding to the already hefty grand in the wallet with five hundred and eighty dollars of his own. Jimmy’s happy with the cash, his friend is happy with the Rolex, and the two part ways.
Cut to later and Jimmy and the ‘drunk on the floor’ are sharing a beer and gloating over their profit for the night. They’ve got a stash of fake Rolexes and a trail of suckers in their wake.
I’m kicking myself for not realizing the con was on. Of course Slippin’ Jimmy was up to something. I’m gonna blame it on the flu. I mean the plague. And possibly (probably) on this show’s great writing which always keeps me guessing.
Roll the credits and we’re back to the present. The Kettlemans are awful people and really inept criminals. Mrs. Kettleman does most of the talking, and it’s fairly clear she wears the pants in this family and is the mastermind of this scheme. She claims they didn’t steal the money, but that it was payment for all the hard work Mr. Kettleman did. She compares his work to human slavery. Everybody takes a minute to stop and stare/cringe.
I hate her.
Mrs. Kettleman tries to bribe Jimmy in return for his silence. He won’t take a bribe, our boy has morals, but he will take a retainer for his services as their lawyer.
"You're the kind-of lawyer guilty people hire," Mrs. Kettleman says, denying him and again offering him the hush money.
I really hate her.
Bob Odenkirk does an amazing job conveying Jimmy’s emotions as he processes what he’s just heard. But does he take the money? You gotta keep watching.
Cut to the parking lot at the courthouse and Jimmy attempts a little bonding with Mike at the gate.
Jimmy: "Not the loquacious sort, are ya?"
Mike: "We can't all be as blessed as you."
Maybe I’m just having a moment of wishful thinking, but I think the frost is beginning to thaw between these two. I sense a solid bromance in the making.
Moving on, and Nacho is being set free from jail. He’s not happy with Jimmy and insinuates that Jimmy was the rat. He’s not wrong, but Nacho doesn’t know that and Jimmy manages to talk his way out of trouble… for now. No doubt Nacho will come back to bite him in the ass sometime in the future but I get the feeling he’s being put on the back burner until a later date and I’m okay with that. Jimmy’s not quite Saul yet and I don’t think he’s quite ready for this level of foe. Besides, for the rest of the episode Jimmy is making himself an enemy out of Hamlin, and it looks to be a glorious rivalry. But I digress.
In the next scene, it’s confirmed that yep, he took the money from the Kettlemans and he has a plan for it.
"Upon this rock, I will build my church."
The next morning he’s at the tailor getting himself a fancy suit ordered. “Real mother of pearl buttons, none of that fake plastic crap,” he declares as the tailor sets off to find ties and Jimmy eyes something much more along the lines of what Saul would wear.
Mmm, orange and red. It’ll be a glorious day when the transformation is complete.
Teeth whitened, hair done, and suit complete, it’s now clear what Jimmy is up to. Hamlin and Kim are roadside, looking up. Jimmy’s gotten himself a billboard on Hamlin’s morning commute, it’s logo bearing a striking resemblance to Hamlin, Hamlin and McGill’s, right down to the copyrighted color 'Hamlindigo' blue. And that’s without mentioning Jimmy himself, who’s going for what I like to call “Hamlin-chic.”
Hamlin is not amused.
That night, Kim pays Jimmy a visit and the two chat it up and bond while indulging in the massaging pedicure chairs at the salon. But Kim’s not there just for the company and shiatsu, she’s there to deliver a cease and desist order from Hamlin and to try and talk some sense into Jimmy. Jimmy claims innocence but Kim doesn’t buy it and says she thinks he’s better than this. I love the rapport these two have and I hope the writers continue to expand on this relationship. She warns him that he can’t win and that an injunction will be next after the cease and desist order.
The next morning Jimmy and Hamlin are before a judge. Jimmy valiantly makes his case but the judge isn’t gonna bite. She orders him to take the billboard down.
The next scene is a montage as Jimmy tries to drum up some human-interest stories with the press. A big corporation is bullying him; he’s just a little fish in a big sea trying to make a living. The press isn’t biting either. Poor Jimmy. I love these little montages we get every week.
Cut to the billboard, and failing to get any legit news sources to cover his plight, Jimmy has hired his own camera crew of students from the university to document the removal of his billboard. As the camera rolls, the guy removing the billboard falls, all of it dramatically caught on camera. Jimmy, in a dramatic moment of bravery, rushes up the ladder to help, eventually pulling him to safety.
Atop the billboard and away from the cameras, the two slap each other five.
Slippin’ Jimmy? Saul? Is that you? I love it!
The media eats it up and Jimmy is all over the news as a local hero. Hamlin doesn’t buy his story but the public does, and when he returns to his office Jimmy has seven, that’s right, sevenmessages. You’ll remember that in previous episodes no matter what the poor guy did, or how hard he worked, he couldn’t buy himself a single message. Conning is just what Jimmy’s good at, and I think he’s about to the point where he realizes it.
Jimmy visits Chuck, hiding his local paper before going inside, claiming kids must have stolen it when pressed for its whereabouts. Jimmy tells Chuck he’s seen an uptick in business but doesn’t reveal how it happened, and instead asserts he just put in the hours and got a few good referrals. Jimmy appears guilty. Chuck appears skeptical.
As soon as Jimmy leaves, Chuck dons his space blanket and makes a mad dash across the street to pilfer a neighbor’s local paper. Ever the good citizen, even when suffering from the effects of his illness, he leaves a five-dollar note in return for the paper. This scene is edited and shot brilliantly, in a trippy and haphazard manner, really driving home the extent of Chuck’s problems. Michael McKean continues to be amazing in this role, perfectly playing the perhaps crazy, definitely caring, and annoyingly righteous older brother.
Back in the safety of his home, Chuck settles onto his couch to read the paper, and there is Jimmy, “Local Lawyer, Local Hero,” front and center.
Chuck is not amused and cuddles up in his space blanket.
The episode fades to black.
I know I say this every week, but bear with me while I say it again. I love this show. Better Call Saul is top-notch and has hit the ground running, in my opinion surpassing what Breaking Bad had done within the first four episodes of its run.
While Walter White’s journey seemed to be about personal desires above anything or anyone else, Jimmy’s seems to be a path of desperation, and I think that is what makes Saul so compelling. He needs to strike it big. For the money, for his brother, and I would argue in some part, to gain the recognition and perhaps protect himself from Nacho. He made some big leaps this week in making that happen. Everything depends on Jimmy winning, and it seems the only way he can win in life is to lose the code of ethics he’s fighting so hard to try and maintain. I think that lesson is beginning to sink in and I can’t wait for what’s in store next week. The writers have managed to add so much nuance and authenticity to Jimmy, without losing the humor, and I feel like this is a show which could end up having a much broader range of appeal in terms if viewership.
Better Call Saul airs at 10pm/9c on AMC.