Monday, February 23, 2015

Better Call Saul review: S1/E4 "Hero"

Warning: spoiler alerts below

If Kim Wexler can't resist Jimmy McGill's charm, how is the audience supposed to dislike him, even if he takes the bride he says he can't take?

Episode 4 of Better Call Saul was Jimmy at his scheming best, flashing back to the early 1990s for a scam to get money for beer and bong hits, trying to steal the Kettleman's back with a "retainer" fee disguised as a bribe, reasoning with Nacho that a "good Samaritan" actually saved him despite the impending consequences promised, treating himself to a makeover, drawing the ire of Howard Hamlin by dressing like his twin and posting a billboard that looks like his rivals, lobbying the local TV stations to broadcast a story about the big bad law firm in town out to get him, and staging the publicity stunt of all publicity stunts to make himself look like a hero and get new clients.

Entertaining as the final 55 minutes of this week's episode was, the initial five-minute "flashback" scene was the highlight for a second consecutive week. We learn that Saul Goodman was the alter-ego of Jimmy McGill at least a decade earlier. The name Saul is short for "it's all good." [Seriously, how long have the writers been waiting to use that line?]

What we don't know, as Vince Gilligan and his writers so deftly maneuver in non-linear storytelling fashion, is whether this week's scam came before or after last week's flashback that landed Jimmy in jail. [The guess here is this week's flashback was around 1991 and last week's was sometime in 1992.]

The other dynamic that became more pronounced in "Hero" is the importance Jimmy places on not letting down his brother. The lack of any reference to a father suggests that Charles is not just an older brother. Charles is the father figure. Charles is Jimmy's conscious. Jimmy must tell his brother about the new clients because he's desperate for his acceptance, yet he can't tell Charles the truth of how he obtained these clients.  [Since we never see Charles in Breaking Bad, does that mean his death is a foregone conclusion before Bad and Saul's storylines meet?]

Overall, Episode 4 was another well-crafted hour, filling in more blanks from the Bad puzzle, teasing us with more new questions to be answered later, and leaving us cheering for the underdog sleaze ball lawyer.

My ongoing rankings of favorite episodes: 3 ("Nacho"), 2 ("Mijo"), 4 ("Hero") and 1 ("Uno").

Additional thoughts and questions:

* The Kettleman's are like this brilliantly stupid couple from a Saturday Night Live sketch. I can't get enough of Craig and Betsy. They are the ideal antithesis to the brilliant Elliott and Gretchen Schwartz. [By the way, was Betsy Kettleman named for Betsy Brandt, who played Marie Schrader in Breaking Bad?]

* How many episodes/seasons until Kim ends up working with Jimmy/Saul? Since we never saw her in Breaking Bad, does her impending death push Saul over the edge to full-fledged do-anything-borderline-legal-and-don't-give-a-fuck lawyer? [Yes, I'm going to assume that every new character from Saul is going to eventually die if we never saw them in Bad.]

* Who was the mole that made sure Jimmy's wardrobe was exactly like Howard Hamlin's? Kim is the obvious choice, but would she know the exact details on his shirts, ties and suits? Surely, Jimmy has other sources in that Hamlin, Hamlin and McGill firm.

* How long until somebody dies? What will happen first -- Jimmy becomes Saul, or somebody dies? [I'll go with the first death forces Jimmy to become Saul.]

* Who is the next character from Bad to make a cameo on Saul? [I'll take Jane Margolis, if only because I so desperately hope to see Krysten Ritter on this show again. Or how about Jesse's parents? Or how about the 'Group Leader' from Jesse's NA meetings?]

* I want to live in the back closet of a Nails and Waxing salon.

* I'm thirsty for vodka and cucumber water.

* I really do need to put cucumbers under my eyes to make the dark circles go away. Thanks for the reminder Jimmy.

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