With most works of fiction, the narrative tension comes from not knowing what’s going to happen. The unique tension of Better Call Saul comes from knowing exactly what’s going to happen, just not when or how. If there had never been a Breaking Bad, if we did not know Jimmy McGill will, only a few years hence, be knowingly representing murderers and drug dealers, and Mike Ehrmentraut will be the ruthless hit man/fixer for the Southwest’s biggest meth kingpin, an episode like this one, where really very little happens, might be enough to turn viewers off for good.
But there was a Breaking Bad, and we do know those things, and so every little thing these characters do is freighted with the... Read More
The symbolism of Kim’s gift to Jimmy in the week’s Better Call Saul – a “World’s Best Lawyer” travel cup, cheekily modified by Kim to read “World’s 2nd Best Lawyer” – was pretty hard to miss. Though it fit snugly in the cup holder of his trusty Suzuki Esteem, it does not quite fit in the cup holder of his company car, a brand new Mercedes.
Obviously, this is a metaphor for the idea that Jimmy will never really fit in at his new firm. But if you were patting yourself on the back for that little bit of ENG 210 close-reading, it’s fair to say that Jimmy probably missed it, shrugging it off by saying “Must be metric.”
While Kim likely meant Jimmy to take “World’s 2nd... Read More
Before I saw last night’s second-season premiere of Better Call Saul, I previewed the new season by asking five questions that I figured would be answered over the course of the season. Imagine my surprise when four of them were answered over the course of this first episode: Jimmy and Kim did get together, he did take the cushy partner-track gig at the bigger firm, Mr. Price did return (and is clearly going to need a lawyer), and there was a Breaking Bad cameo: Ken, the Bluetoothing investment d-bag that Jimmy and Kim fleeced out of a bottle’s worth of high-end tequila was the same dude Walt took revenge on by squeegeeing his car battery way back in season 1. To top it off, the $50-a-shot tequila, Zafiro Añejo,... Read More
“Happy Monday” is seldom said unironically, but I for one am looking forward to tonight’s season 2 premiere of my favorite new show of last season, Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s Breaking Bad prequel/spinoff Better Call Saul.
What’s interesting about this show, which follows luckless attorney Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) on a journey that Breaking Bad fans know will eventually bring him into an office with a giant U.S. Constitution on the wall, a “Saul Goodman, Esq.” nameplate on the desk, and casual suggestions of murdering witnesses bandied about in the air, is that it somehow manages to be surprising even as we all know where it’s headed.
The revelation at the end of season 1 (spoilers follow – catch up on Netflix!) that Jimmy’s brother Chuck was the... Read More
We have come to expect a certain level of fireworks from season finales: shocking revelations, reversals of fortune, betrayals, hookups, breakups. The first season finale of Better Call Saul had none of these, instead serving as a kind of quiet postscript to last week’s wrenching episode in which Jimmy was so thoroughly betrayed and rejected by his big brother and role model Chuck.
Still stinging from finding out that it was Chuck, not Howard Hamlin, who had been blocking his professional progress, Jimmy headed home to Chicago and reconnected with his old running buddy Marco for a week of cons and scams, ending with Marco dropping dead of a heart attack in the middle of a reprise of the old Rolex routine.
The first nine episodes of Better Call Saul have been far better than they had any right to be. Where fans once feared the show might tarnish the legacy of the near-perfect run of Breaking Bad, it’s turned out to be every bit as compelling, thanks to stellar writing, inventive direction of a piece with the Breaking Bad house style, and a lead performance by Bob Odenkirk that his past work has never even hinted at. Last week’s episode was probably the best of the series so far – something I think we’ve said three separate times so far – and the stage is set for a great season finale. (10pm Monday, AMC)
The war between North and South can be seen through... Read More
The beauty of Better Call Saul is in the way it manages to surprise even when you know where it’s headed. We know that Jimmy McGill is going to change his name to Saul Goodman. We know that he’s going to establish a law practice with considerable, shall we say, ethical compromises. And after last week’s episode, we had a pretty good idea that the class action suit against Sandpiper was going to be, if not the last straw, a very big one, as the show telegraphed that Howard Hamlin would somehow steal the case away from Jimmy and Chuck and leave Jimmy in the cold.
And that is more or less what happened. But I for one did not expect Chuck to be the bad guy. I thought... Read More
There are only two more episodes in a first season of Better Call Saul that has shattered all the modest expectations of a prequel series swimming in the wake of an all-time great. Last week’s episode brought the season into focus, and our expectations for this week’s episode and next week’s season finale are now properly recalibrated. (10pm Monday, AMC)
It’s been a lot of laughs, a lot of love, and a lot (a lot) of wine, but the time has come for Courteney Cox and the rest of the Cul-de-Sac Crew to say goodbye in the series finale of Cougar Town, a show that diverged even farther from its original premise than VH1. (10:30pm Tuesday, TBS)
As the shockingly great first season of Better Call Saul moves into its homestretch, it’s becoming clear how the show plans to change its protagonist from put-upon do-gooder to scheming criminal lawyer (emphasis on ‘criminal’): by demonstrating the old saw that underneath every cynic is a disappointed optimist.
I can’t say I expected Jimmy’s foray into elder law to yield anything more important than a few Matlock jokes, but this show is surprising me yet again by turning it into a potential bonanza: his keen eye for scams (as a scammer himself) notices a pattern of overbilling at Sandpiper, the assisted-living facility he’s been trolling for clients, and next thing you know he’s looking at a potential multimillion-dollar class action suit for fraud.
After filling in the heartbreaking details of Mike’s back story last week with “Five-O,” widely called the best episode yet of Better Call Saul, the show quickly wraps up the Mike-vs.-the-Philly-Cops storyline in the cold open before turning back to everyone’s favorite delusional embezzlers, the Kettlemans, and along with them, the breezy but inventive tone that has characterized the bulk of this first season.
I couldn’t help imagining how much worse Walter White’s adventures would have gotten if he had married Betsy Kettleman instead of Skyler; he probably would have gone down in a hail of machine-gun fire in Season 1.
The episode’s real delight was Mike’s method of finding the money the Kettlemans had stashed, which led to Jimmy doing “the right thing” (air quotes his), which... Read More
After reaching a new high with last week’s Mike-centric episode, Better Call Saul has now earned the right to be mentioned alongside the series that spawned it; we are more excited about this show than ever now that Mike and Jimmy are officially in cahoots. (10pm Monday, AMC)
The Cul-de-Sac Crew sets out on a mission of self-improvement on this week’s new episode of Cougar Town; Grayson wants to pay attention when people talk to him, Andy works at his self-control, and most ambitiously of all, Jules tries to read a book. CAN SHE DO IT? (10:30pm Tuesday, TBS)
If it has been more than a year since you last watched Richard Linklater’s 1993 stoner classic Dazed... Read More
Last night’s episode of Better Call Saul shifted things into another gear by putting Jimmy’s parking-garage nemesis Mike, who Breaking Bad fans know will eventually become Saul’s fixer and private investigator, at center stage and filling in the back story only hinted at previously: how Mike went from being a cop to a ruthless, unflappable assassin.
It seems that a couple of Philadelphia detectives have taken Mike in for questioning, but they can’t get any more out of him than a stonefaced, one-word reply: “Lawyer.” Jimmy owes Mike one for helping him find the embezzling Kettlemans a couple episodes back, so Jimmy’s card is the one Mike gives the detectives. When Jimmy arrives and Mike won’t tell him anything other than how he wants Jimmy to help him lift the... Read More
After ending one of the most critically acclaimed, universally loved drama series ever with its best season and a finale that pleased almost everyone, it would have been very easy for the creators of Breaking Bad to disappear to a tropical island on the SS Crystal Blue Persuasion.
Instead, they decided to stay in Albequerque and run the clock back a few years for another origin story: not how Walter White became Heisenberg, but how downtrodden public defender Jimmy McGill became flamboyant “CRIMINAL lawyer” Saul Goodman.
I have to admit that my hopes for this show were not very high. I expected it to be good, because I don’t think Vince Gilligan knows how to make bad TV, but I underestimated just how much of Breaking Bad’s panache... Read More