‘Better Call Saul’: Waiting is the hardest part
Season Three, Episode One — “Mabel”
By Brandy Dykhuizen. Better Call Saul is good at many things, the most frustrating of which is keeping the conflict at a slow simmer so we’re always left anticipating the inevitable. Whether it’s Gus Fring you were hoping to see (his grinning mug is plastered all over this season’s promos) or Saul Goodman, finally (his name is in the show’s title for chrissake), you’ll just have to wait a little longer.
That’s not to say this third season premiere wasn’t enjoyable, but it certainly opted to catch us up on the characters’ intentions rather than cut to any sort of chase.
At this point we’ve had more glimpses of Gene, the mustachioed, Icarus-post-flight version of Jimmy McGill’s personalities, than we’ve had of Saul. I’d like to think that the half-rainbow left in Jimmy and Kim’s shared practice is an indication of a changing of the guard, but Jimmy will have to shed the two relationships that ground him to himself before that can happen. Chuck and Kim won’t be able to emerge from that particular Phoenix fire unscathed.
In the other half of Better Call Saul‘s double bill, The Mike Show plodded along in its characteristically stoic and clever style. Never a man to waste words, Mike mutely lead us through his plan to turn the tables on whomever planted a tracking device in his gas cap. (Spoiler: it was Gus.) The embodiment of patience, Ehrmantraut refuses to proceed to the next step until he has all the information, a lesson that Jimmy McGill would be wise to learn.
Soon enough, we hope, Jimmy and Mike’ll be able to swap procedural notes as these two distant stories finally converge into one show.
Meanwhile, Chuck is ever eager to bring down his no-count brother, in manners as morally dubious as anything Jimmy could come up with. His sneakily taped confession won’t hold up in court or make much of a difference anywhere else, really, but that’s clearly not Chuck’s angle. It would seem that Jimmy’s brother is about to launch a big time smear campaign against him – brutal enough to make someone go so far as to change their name, perhaps? As Chuck aims to hit Jimmy where it hurts most (re: Kim) he’s also undergoing an unraveling himself, blowing up at his assistant and twisting words to cover his own ass. Chuck continues to convince himself he operates from a moral high ground.
My money is on this season picking up the pace, trimming the fat and finally transforming into a single-minded show (how could it not, with the return of Gus?). I just hope we don’t have to wait until the finale for it to get there.
“Don’t think I’ll forget what happened here today. And you will pay.” – Chuck, to Jimmy.
“You’re not getting all legal on me, are you?” – Jimmy, to an exasperated Kim.
“Always on a high horse! Always trying to make me feel like I’m…” – Jimmy, projecting his issues with Chuck onto the Air Force Captain.
BEST MOMENT: Kim’s punctuation crisis was fantastically poignant. This is probably the beginning of the end of her rope with Jimmy. What do Type As do when things don’t go their way? Obsess over the minutiae they can control. Every time Jimmy pops his head in or makes a comment about getting ready to leave, Kim replaces that semicolon with an em dash with a period, then back again. She’s lost control of Jimmy, but darn it, she can command a document.
EPISODE’S MVP: Better Call Saul is a small-ish show with an impressively heavy-hitting cast. Bob Odenkirk, Michael McKean and Jonathan Banks can command a screen with the best of them. But while the former pair capitalize on their comic loquaciousness, Banks has the ability to keep a scene moving without uttering a single word. Watching Mike’s train of thought unfold from the “DON’T” note all the way to the gas cap revelation was a joy.
– The music in Mike’s methodically-dismantling-the-car scene was distractingly bad. Like, NCIS or Bad Boys II bad.
– Speaking of music, the Omaha Cinnabon cold open was set to the tune of Nancy Sinatra’s “Sugar Town” (which has some pretty silly lyrics. What was with the music in this episode?).
– Back to the Cinnabon, Gene passing out right before applying the frosting to some buns was a pretty cute gesture – not being able to intervene while the shoplifter was carted away was quite the icing on the cake for poor Gene’s psyche.
– The cinematography in BCS remains amazing: Mike pulling over against the backdrop of a distant storm on the horizon was stunning.
– Does Los Pollos Hermanos’ “Taste the Family” slogan mean that Gus has been chicken-frying his enemies?
7 out of 10
Next: “Witness”, in one week.
Before: “Klick”, here.