‘Better Call Saul’: Jimmy ain’t clucking around
Season Three, Episode Two — “Witness”
By Brandy Dykhuizen. In this week’s opening, which would have been eye-rollingly on the nose had it not been executed so flawlessly, Chuck threw on a kettle as he prepared to blow the whistle on his brother Jimmy this week. (He then proceeded to literally whistle as he puttered around the house, for anyone who didn’t immediately catch the joke.)
Okay, so Better Call Saul can seem as stretched as those endless desert highways to which it keeps returning, but why rush the inevitable when you posses the talent to fill the silences with visual humor? The titular character may be an expeditious windbag, but Better Call Saul likes to remind us of all that can be accomplished without words.
“Witness” was chock-full of those moments; in one telling shot its focus lingered on Mike’s car parked next to a Dead End sign, the camera zoomed out to reveal the Los Pollos Hermanos logo looming over his efforts. In another scene, we waited along with Mike as he observed Gus’ stooge scramble through artistically-lit drain pipes against the bokeh of Albuquerque’s night lights. One even gets the impression that the scene didn’t need to go on for as long as it did, but it was a gorgeous shot, so why not take the time to drink it in?
Yet the episode still found time to get all the balls rolling. Jimmy fell right into Chuck’s snare (albeit a little sooner and more dramatically than anticipated), and Mike was made aware that, despite his best efforts to reverse the chase, he was still the one being tracked.
For a minute there, it seemed like the Mike and Jimmy timelines were finally converging. However, after Jimmy stomped and rampaged his way into Chuck’s home, chances are pretty high he’ll have to spend a little time in an orange suit before taking up with Mike for the long haul.
Gus wasn’t the only Breaking Bad-era introduction last night – we meet Francesca for the first time as well, who arrived to the scene sweet and “folksy” enough that Jimmy hired her on the spot, much to Kim’s annoyance. Kim would prefer to hire someone with law experience, but Jimmy just wants a worker he can mold into whatever he needs (in this case, someone who can win the trust of the elderly through extensive musings over Cracker Barrel). And boy, do we know he’ll mold the will to live right out of that poor woman in due time.
There was also a quick glimpse of Victor, puffing on a cigarette before speeding away in his shiny black SUV. Here is one of Gus Fring’s best guys, who will ultimately meet a fate shocking even by Fring’s standards, but for now functions to lure Mike down one of those interminable desert roads just to accept a phone call. The payoffs for all these long cons are slowly starting to trickle in.
“You had me at “old people.” Can you start today?” – Jimmy, to Francesca.
“Who’s got your back? Me, that’s who.” – Jimmy, to Mike.
“We’ll figure this out.” – A sadly optimistic Kim, trying to reassure Jimmy.
“No wonder Rebecca left you! What took her so long?” – Jimmy, to Chuck. Ouch.
BEST MOMENT: As Jimmy fails miserably at the subtle stakeout game, an out-of-focus Gus comes sweeping in behind him, inching ever so closer in his instantly recognizable yellow shirt. A perfect way to tease a few extra moments out of his introduction to the series, it also conveyes that, no matter how stealthily you think you’re hunting, you’ll most assuredly always be the prey when Gus Fring is around.
EPISODE’S MVP: Jimmy turned a corner this week, but not before spending an entire episode struggling with who to be. Playing it cool with Kim about his brother’s betrayal could only work for so long. Playing James Bond with Mike was an absolute disaster, but one truly delightful to behold. He was finally pushed so hard that he circled back to the real Jimmy, desperately trying to understand why his brother would want to crush him so thoroughly.
– But seriously, why would Mike think Jimmy would be a good candidate for that kind of stakeout? Mike’s smarter than that.
– Another cutesy bit of foreshadowing: When Jimmy asks Francesca if the painted “WM” looks alright, she points to the M and lets him know “you’re a little crooked there.”
– Gus’ guys are doing a word search, with the words “rocket” and “trajectory” circled.
– Kim tells Jimmy to give her the money in his pocket to officially bind them to lawyer/client confidentiality. Jimmy utilizes this tactic years later with Walt and Jesse, when we meet him for the first time in Breaking Bad. (Kim asks for a twenty dollar bill, and Jimmy asks for a one dollar bill, which seems somehow appropriate).
8 out of 10
Next: “Sunk Costs”, in one week.
Before: “Mabel”, here.