Tonight’s Better Call Saul felt like the first ‘real’ episode. It contained a solid formula: a solvable case to keep him busy for forty-five minutes, and the setup for future episodes. “Nacho” managed to maintain a good balance of drama and humor, and like the previous two episodes, left me hanging for more.
With every turn Jimmy takes in trying to keep on the straight and narrow, he can’t help but seem to divert more and more off the path of righteousness. Having seen Breaking Bad and knowing where his character ends up, it’s both compelling and amazingly frustrating to watch. You just wanna grab the guy and smack him about the head, telling him to run! On the other hand, Saul is such a great character that you almost can’t wait for Jimmy’s inevitable downfall.
I imagine that going into this show blind, it might be slightly less compelling, but truly, this show really shines on its own and I don’t think that not having seen Breaking Bad should stop anyone from watching Better Call Saul.
Hit the jump for my full review and recap.
We open this week with a flashback version of Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) as he begs for his older brother Chuck’s help. He’s locked up in the slammer and accused of a sex crime. Jimmy claims it was a trumped-up charge; Chuck (Michael McKean) doesn’t seem too convinced. It takes much persuasion from Jimmy and a lot of skepticism and guilt-tripping from Chuck, but gives us a great peek into why present day Jimmy seems to go out of his way to help present day Chuck. I especially enjoyed the parallel between Chuck throwing his phone, wallet, and keys into the bin at the jail, and Jimmy doing the same with his belongings in Chuck’s mailbox in the present.
Cut to the credits and we’re where we left off last week.
Jimmy’s in his office getting drunk, no doubt upset after his visit with Nacho. You will recall the Kettlemans have made off with the county’s money and Nacho is hoping Jimmy will team up with him to rip them off for a ten percent finder’s fee.
Jimmy calls his friend (and maybe more) Kim (Rhea Seehorn), a lawyer at HHM, and after some small talk, hints that the Kettlemans might be in danger. It doesn’t ease his conscience much, and he tosses and turns, getting no rest.
Next thing you know, he’s rigging up a MacGyver-style voice disguiser using a paper towel roll; he’s calling the Kettlemans himself. After getting past his nerves with a few failed attempts, he finally makes the call, thoroughly freaking the Kettlemans out.
Twice now, he’s showed his hand, and I can’t help but think this won’t end particularly well for Jimmy.
The next day he’s back at the courthouse and after some brilliant/lucky negotiating with the prosecutor, Kim calls him back with some bad news. But first, he’s got to deal with Mike (Jonathan Banks) at the parking booth.
I love these scenes, and this one especially. Fueled by concern for the Kettlemans, this time he doesn’t go back for more stickers, instead reaching over and pushing the button to lift the gate himself. I look forward to the moment that will come back to bite him in the ass.
Arriving at the Kettlemans, it doesn’t look good; they’ve gone missing. Kim is there, and she’s rightly suspicious about what Jimmy knows.
Next up, Jimmy’s calling Nacho from a payphone, hinting about their previous conversation and alluding that Nacho might be involved in the Kettlemans’ disappearance. He makes several calls, each more cringe-worthy than the last.
Meanwhile, a neighbor who wrote down Nacho’s license plate information while he was casing the Kettlemans’ house spotted him and he’s now being held in jail. The police have been monitoring the calls and are soon chasing Jimmy down the street.
Claiming to be Nacho’s lawyer, Jimmy and Nacho get a meeting in jail. Nacho claims he didn’t kidnap the Kettlemans and accuses Jimmy of framing him. He demands that Jimmy gets him out of jail by the end of the day or it’s gonna be bad for Jimmy. Really bad. Dead bad.
After his meeting with Nacho, the cops and Kim gang up on Jimmy, telling him to turn on his client, but Jimmy insists on Nacho’s innocence. Jimmy suggests they go to the Kettlemans and Kim perks up, deciding that’s a great idea.
Once there, she lays the guilt down hard but Jimmy takes in the crime scene and notices the Kettleman’s daughter holding a doll in all of the family pictures. He realizes the doll is missing and proposes the Kettlemans weren’t kidnapped, instead insisting that they staged it and made off with the stolen money. The cops aren’t going for it. There was no taxi, the cars aren’t missing, and all signs point to a real kidnapping. He takes Kim outside and confesses what he’s done. Kim at least hears him out, and though she might be somewhat sympathetic to his pleas, she’s not budging; she won’t talk to the cops or the FBI. Jimmy is alone in this one.
Back at the courthouse, Mike is giving Jimmy the cold shoulder after his earlier stunt and he’s refusing to let Jimmy back into the parking lot. Jimmy hops out of the car and confronts him. He’s soon poking Mike in the chest and calling him a geezer. In short order Jimmy is pinned to the ground.
Mike and the cops try to use assault charges against Mike to make Jimmy rat out Nacho, but when Jimmy tells them his theory Mike refuses to press any charges. Questioning Mike’s motives, Mike reveals that he believes Jimmy, explaining that when he was on the job as a cop in Philly he had a similar case involving a bookie. They found the suspect two doors down because “it’s human nature to stay close to home.”
Jimmy goes to the Kettlemans’ and looks around, spying camping decals on the car and in the back yard, a gate leading to the desert. Could it be that simple? He follows the trail, taking an impromptu hike and ultimately wanders into their campsite.
Night has fallen and he finds them huddled in a tent having a sing-along as cheesy as you would expect out of this family.
“Here’s Johnny!” I laughed out loud.
Jimmy has made his entrance and tells them “it’s time to ship out”. Jimmy and Mrs. Kettleman struggle over a bag and it rips, dumping fat wads of stolen cash all over the tent floor. Judging by Mr. Kettleman’s reactions, it seems his wife is behind the scheme and I can’t help but think the Kettlemans might be Saul’s first big-money clients.
Fade to black on another excellent episode of Better Call Saul.
As always, the visuals in this episode were gorgeous and the music was exactly right. The pacing was spot on, and although this episode was a lot less thrilling than the last (Tuco brings a certain level of crazy and awesome that’s hard to top), it kept me entertained the entire way through. So far, I struggle to find fault with this show.
Of note to fans of The X-Files, this episode was written by Thomas Schnauz who was responsible for the episodes “Scary Monsters” and “Lord of the Flies”, and who wrote the story and dialogue for the video game “The X Files: Resist or Serve”.
Better Call Saul airs Mondays at 10pm/9C on AMC.