This Better Call Saul review contains spoilers.
Better Call Saul Season 2 Episode 8
Better Call Saul may not be a show for everyone. Recently, a friend of mine reached out to enquire about Better Call Saul; he knew that I wrote favorably about the show online and wanted to pick my brain further about the series. Like me, he was a Breaking Bad devotee, and generally he exhibits a refined taste for television. However, for whatever reason, Better Call Saul just wasn’t doing it for him.
My friend summarized his frustration with the series with a phrase that I’ve heard used to describe many of my favorite programs – “nothing ever happens.” Besides being blatantly untrue, the pan from my friend bothered me because it suggested that stories about people speaking together in rooms couldn’t be as affecting or propulsive as a tale filled with explosions, car wrecks, and violence. The personal victories and defeats, the struggles of realistic people searching for self-improvement while they reckon with the fact that they may be stuck in their ways, those stories are just as viable and deserving to be told.
Now, the argument between escapist entertainment versus slice-of-life art is a topic for another editorial, and that long, ramshackle defense of Better Call Saul’s more simplistic virtues above was not the counterpoint I poised to my friend when we spoke. What I said in the moment was very simple; I liked the performances, I liked the humor, I like the bittersweet sadness of it all, but mostly, I believe that the show is superior on a technical level compared to everything else on regular cable.
If thou doth protest, then feast your eyes on tonight’s cold open, a dazzling tracking shot through customs that’ll make any film enthusiast geek. The music and the small details, like the POV shot from underneath the buried box or the decision to linger on the popsicle stick graveyard, are such a huge reason as to why I tune in every week. The show’s singular visual style is kinetic enough to liven up the very human story that is being told here.
That being said, I don’t think tonight’s episode needed to lean on any tricks to make its case. “Fifi” is a stellar hour of television with amusing highs and heartbreaking lows. Kim continues to standout this season with an arc tonight that expertly represents the thrill and tragedy of a failed audition. After Kim submits her resignation to a surprisingly mature Howard (who lets his plastic façade finally crack enough reveal a hint of Daddy issues), she’s barely out of reception before the two are racing to retain the Mesa Verde account.
Kim meets with her client to convince them to follow her to her own private practice. Unquestionably, Kim crushes her pitch with a nifty suit analogy that would make Mad Men’s Don Draper proud. Once she meets up with Jimmy to check out a potential office space, she can barely contain her excitement, she’s literally glowing with energy and enthusiasm. Jimmy and Kim share a precious moment that’s almost cute enough to forget that there’s no Kim around in Jimmy McGill’s Saul-fated future.
Unfortunately, Kim’s win doesn’t stick once Chuck gets wind of her departure and meets with Mesa Verde himself. With Hamlin by his side, Chuck delivers a masterful reverse-psychology pitch like the old pro that he is. Sadly for him, his debilitating made-up disorder causes the meeting to suck the life right out him. Jimmy is off conning his way into an impromptu commercial shoot, filming next to the famous airship Fifi with a fake war veteran he met defending in a Pee-wee case, when he gets a call alerting him that Chuck isn’t well.
Jimmy arrives at Chuck’s house and is genuinely dismayed by his brother’s condition before he notices the Mesa Verde files nearby on the floor. The look of resentment completely wipes away any trace of concern, and Jimmy then inventively but underhandedly tampers with the sensitive files so HHM loses the account.
Meanwhile, in Mike’s plot, we continue to see Mike’s obsession with evening the score with the Salamancas creep into his burgeoning domestic life with his granddaughter and daughter-in-law. If someone were to cut together all of Mike’s scenes from this season, they’d have a great melancholy, vendetta flick – something that Mickey Rourke or Clint Eastwood would star in. The thread still feels fairly independent from Jimmy’s world, but it’s definitely compelling.
So maybe an episode of TV about a hard working woman who thinks she’s achieved a big accomplishment, only to find out that she didn’t, isn’t exactly the most thrilling through line for an episode, but when it looks, sounds, and can make you feel like this? Who could ask for more?