What They Say:
Better Call Saul is the prequel to the award-winning series Breaking Bad, set six years before Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) became Walter White’s lawyer. When we meet him, the man who will become Saul Goodman is known as Jimmy McGill, a small-time lawyer searching for his destiny, and, more immediately, hustling to make ends meet. Working alongside, and often against, Jimmy is “fixer” Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), a beloved character introduced in Breaking Bad. The series will track Jimmy’s transformation into Saul Goodman, the man who puts “criminal” in “criminal lawyer.”
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I am continually impressed by this show, especially in its ability to make me love a character that I know will turn to helping criminals in the six years ahead of “Better Call Saul.” The flashback at the beginning of the episode continues to emphasize Jimmy (it seems almost wrong to still call him Saul in these reviews now, especially with the humanity displayed in this episode) as the underdog. His desire to work at his brother’s–and lover’s(?)–law firm, H.H.M., and his subsequent rejection, comes as an emotional sore spot felt by both the character and the viewer. Once again, the scene in which this rejection takes place shows masterful play with sound and imagery, as the entire conversation is rendered in silence behind the mechanical whirring of an office printer. Only after H.H.M.’s Hamlin starts to leave the office and says something to the effect of, “Let’s try again in six months,” do we understand just what conversation passed between the characters, albeit we expect the rejection all along.
We flash forward to Jimmy/Saul meeting with his elderly client to finish signing for a will. During this meeting, Jimmy happens to discover that his client’s nursing home may be overcharging its clueless residents in order to pocket extra money. This later proves to be true, but the nursing home staff fight back by preventing Jimmy from entering the premises and by shredding any incriminating documents. In another scene still emphasizing Jimmy’s intense drive and work ethic, we see him crawling around in a dumpster to find the garbage bags of shredded documents. When a pair of oblivious guards throw a fresh bag of garbage into the dumpster, it explodes over Jimmy in grotesque detail–and still he manages to bear circumstances silently, without (much) complaint. This episode establishes the all-too-familiar underdog vs. big corporation plot, in that Jimmy, despite his hardships, teams up with his older brother to take down the nursing home for their fraud. It seems Jimmy is finally taking on the role of good guy/defender, if these past two episodes are anything to judge his character by.
Throughout the episode, we get small glimpses of Mike babysitting his granddaughter, advising his daughter-in-law to spend money left behind from her husband’s only criminal activity (red flag!), and preparing to take on a criminal job of his own. No doubt these short developments will come to greater fruition in the four remaining episodes. Chuck, Jimmy’s brother, also gets developments of his own in the episode’s semi-shocking cliffhanger.
“Saul” is an extremely consistent show–consistently brilliant while consistently torn between using an episodic and overarching plot structure. Once again, we get an episode that develops one aspect of Jimmy/Saul’s life into a provocative conflict, while earlier struggles that once seemed so central, such as the Kettlemans and Tuco, get pushed back again. This episode does begin to tie up plot threads between Chuck’s “electricity allergy” and Jimmy’s law work nicely, however, and I hope “Saul” can manage to tie up more loose ends before the finale hits. Regardless, said problems feel incredibly minor in comparison to the brilliant writing of the show, which only continues to get better with time.