This Better Call Saul review contains spoilers.
Better Call Saul Season 2 Episode 5
Better Call Saul was equally invigorating and frustrating this week. Don’t be mistaken; in my eyes, this was easily the best episode of the season, however, it was perfectly representative of the show’s main problem and obstacle. The shadow that Breaking Bad casts over Better Call Saul is starting to become harder to ignore, especially as the Breaking Bad cast continues to invade the proceedings of this series.
Better Call Saul needs to start creating more distance from Breaking Bad. Audiences cannot sit around waiting for their favorite supporting characters from the former series to pop up when there is plenty of interesting characters and stories to be told away from Walter White’s world. Better Call Saul is worthy of standing on its own, the writers just need to let it happen.
That’s why the 11th hour reveal of a walking, talking Hector Salamanca didn’t send me into a fanboy frenzy, but instead made me sigh. Hector comes in to respectfully bribe Mike into helping Tuco’s sentence get reduced, which not only opens the door for a return for Tuco, but now creates the possibility for more Hector appearances. “Oh, maybe we’ll find out what put him in that wheelchair!” No, stop. I was excited that Saul was locking Tuco away because then we could get to know Nacho more, or just spend our time on new developments elsewhere. If Hector sticks around, he could become an interesting antagonist for Mike to rub up against, but I guess I’d just prefer new storytelling.
Maybe Hector’s arrival got under my skin so much because the show did so well shading two of its supporting players. We learned new information about Chuck that completely changes our perspective of him and spent quality time with Kim which reinforced how much we absolutely adore her. The episode was largely spent away from our two leads, Jimmy and Mike, and was much better for it. I don’t need the “oh it’s that guy!” rush of a cameo when there’s compelling drama happening with the characters that we already have.
In tonight’s cold open, we take a glimpse into Chuck’s past, full of domestic bliss with his wife Rebecca. Night’s of soft jazz, delicious meals, and charming banter is in complete contrast to how Chuck spends his time these days, instantly making the flashback fascinating. When Jimmy arrives, Chuck is already slightly irritated by his presence, even more so when he starts joking with and charming Rebecca. At first, it appears that Chuck is just jealous of his brother’s people skills, his ability to schmooze, but later in the episode, in a one-on-one with Kim, Chuck reveals where the real resentment lies. Chuck waxes about his honorable father and their family business before explaining how Jimmy knowingly stole and unwittingly drove his father out of business. Chuck never seemed like a complete villain, but this episode humanized him more than any yet, and it definitely has me interested in more of Chuck’s pre-electromagnetic sensitivity days.
We didn’t learn anything about Kim’s past, which I’m still anxiously waiting for, but we did reestablish things that we already know about her; she’s smart, independent, resourceful, hardworking, and persistent. Kim refuses to let Jimmy try to “save” her, and instead works her ass off of trying to land a major client to get out of the doghouse with Hamlin. After countless cold calls, Kim gets a fish on the line, a big budget client, but Hamlin refuses to acknowledge her success and sends her back to the dungeons for doc review. After a sit down with Chuck in which she’s fed more anti-Jimmy propaganda, Chuck says he’ll put a word in with Hamlin, so hopefully Kim’s hustling will have paid off, but one things is for certain, Jimmy is costing her the career she desires.
This episode was definitely a standout thus far. I’ve been waiting to get more moments with Kim, but regardless of that, the episode was just flaunting all of its best tricks. Check out the wideshot of Kim in the garage, or the time lapse B-roll, and seriously, does any show use montage more effectively? Better Call Saul may have the same cinematic style as Breaking Bad, but it doesn’t need its characters, the ones it has are already worth tuning in for.