Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Review - Better Call Saul: Episode 1.2 - Mijo

I think it’s fairly safe to say, even at this early stage, that this second episode of Better Call Saul will not go down as one of the best. It’s not a bad episode but merely a serviceable one in a show that’s still moving its pieces into place.

The episode kicks off with the recapping of last week’s denouement from Tuco’s perspective. We know that Tuco will become the crazed, hysterical drug dealer by the time Walter White enters his life, but here he is nowhere near that level of derangement. He’s still crazy, but just not batshit crazy. He seems to accept that his grandmother is in the wrong, albeit unaware of her accidental participation in Jimmy’s hare-brained scheme. He appears to be willing to speak with our skater knuckleheads right up to the point where one of them calls his grandmother a “crazy old biznatch”. Of course they don’t know that Tuco isn’t a shining example of mental stability, but we do.

This is another example of the writers using our foreknowledge of these characters as a tool for creating dramatic situations. We know why Tuco tells his grandmother to turn up the volume on her television. We know what he’s capable of; so when we see him cleaning blood off the carpet, we know what could’ve happened to our skater bros. After Jimmy turns up, our foreknowledge also somewhat removes the dramatic tension from his conversations with Tuco, both at the house and in the desert. However, what’s so great about these scenes is watching Jimmy use every trick in the lawyer’s handbook to get him and the knuckleheads out alive, even after the knuckleheads drop him back in it.

The trip to the desert introduces Tuco’s associate Nacho (played by Orphan Black alumnus Michael Mando). Tuco still appears to be in charge of their operation but as his deputy, Nacho is able to keep Tuco’s more extravagant tendencies in check. Furthermore, he’s also able to recognise the impressive way that Jimmy not only saved himself, but also ensured that the knuckleheads escaped with nothing more than a broken leg (each).

If the first half of the episode was essentially an extension of the pilot, the second half deals with the psychological impact that the ordeal had on Jimmy. This was his first glimpse at the realities of serious crime and it scared the hell out of him. He’s haunted by the incident and it all becomes too much for him on a date in a bar where he can’t hear the sound of someone snapping breadsticks without thinking about the leg breaks he witnessed just a few hours ago.

He doesn’t want the life of crime and throws himself into his lousy but legal work down at the courthouse. Breaking Bad often did montages like no other show and here we get another absolute beauty, exemplifying brilliant work from returning Breaking Bad veterans Michelle McLaren (who directed more episodes than anyone else) and Kelly Dixon (who edited episodes on all 6 seasons). It’s funny and again shows Jimmy’s endearing side as well as his desire to give every client his full attention.

Yet despite his earnest efforts, he appears to have embarked on a road that he can’t get off. Nacho visits Jimmy in his storage room/office/home and gives him mightily tempting offer. We know that Jimmy will eventually embrace a criminal lifestyle but it will be interesting to see how long he will try to resist the inevitable career path and what will eventually send him over the edge.

Better Call Saul Episode 2 is available to stream via Netflix. New episodes uploaded every Tuesday.

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