“I’m not in the game! I promise!”
If only Jimmy McGill knew how much of a lie that was, that he’d very soon be making the transition from criminal lawyer to what Jesse Pinkman fondly referred to as a criminal lawyer. Better Call Saul might see the future Saul Goodman in his more green, naïve years, but the show still brings us a version of the character that we can recognize. Put into a life or death situation by a younger Tuco, Jimmy still lies, successfully and unsuccessfully, reads situations and how to play them incredibly well, uses appropriate amounts of flattery and ego stroking, and negotiates well in a crisis like the criminal lawyer that he’ll become.
However, knowing what he’ll become takes away a bit from that life or death situations. That’s the problem with prequels like Better Call Saul, it’s difficult to create stakes and truly suspenseful moments when we know that Saul is going to survive largely unscathed, all of his fingers and what not intact (but maybe not his hair). This episode did manage to work in some tense moments by using the twins as punching bags, with Peter Gould whipping up some of that old Breaking Bad brutality with broken legs and agonizing sound production.
As I said in my review for the premiere, Breaking Bad still rests firmly in mind when watching Better Call Saul, but in this episode, it’s more due to the cinematography, camera angles, locations, stylish sequences like Jimmy going through his daily routine at the court house, and that eclectic, at once both whimsical and ominous, tone. For instance, the way the episode handles Chuck and his illness. Though writers have guessed that he suffers from electromagnetic hypersensitivity, the episode still plays coy about what’s specifically plaguing Chuck, with Chuck giving uninformative answers to Jimmy’s questions about the space blanket. It’s a funny scene that comes after a character having a traumatic night of drinking when he can’t forget the sound of two boys’ legs being viciously broken.
I’m glad that we got to reunite with one of Breaking Bad’s villains, but I hope this doesn’t lead to a trend where we’re somehow not regulated to the Gotham-treatment, having all of Batman’s villains and no Batman. I suppose I’m happy that it’s Tuco, if only because he felt like he got a little shortchanged the first time around. It’s nice to see that he has more respect for his grandma then he does his uncle, and early on in the episode, it was weird to see Tuco try to evoke a silent, quiet intimidation technique. Perhaps we have a more measured Tuco because he’s not the kingpin that he will one day become, but that sparkplug, fiery intensity does rear its head once he’s finally let of the leash by Nacho and Jimmy and unable to get a little violent.
As I’ve said, I’m less interested in reanalyzing Breaking Bad’s world and I’m more interested in learning more about Better Call Saul’s and its new characters, like Nacho. Nacho’s measured approach and handling of Tuco suggested that he may be the Heisenberg to Tuco’s Jessie. When Nacho came knocking on Jimmy’s sad office/bedroom door, I leaned forward in my chair. His plan to rip off the Kettleman’s money that they embezzled sounds just like the type of business that Saul Goodman would love to get his beak wet in, but Jimmy McGill is appalled at the thought of more criminal behavior. I’m not so dumb to know that this means that Nacho is going to become one of Jimmy’s first “special” clients, but in true prequel nature, I’m already wondering how he’ll be dispatched or removed as to not appear in Breaking Bad’s proceedings. Does he wise up and dump Tuco, or does something a little more serious occur? Regardless, I already like the character and where the story is leading.
I was thoroughy entertained by tonight’s episode, mostly because the same team that brought you Breaking Bad is bringing you a well acted, written, directed, and edited product, and that’s entirely separate from the fact that it’s attached to that beloved program. Better Call Saul is two episodes in and already proving this isn’t just a brand cash-grab.