‘Better Call Saul’: Taking the plunge, side by side
Season Three, Episode Nine — “Fall”
By Brandy Dykhuizen. Better Call Saul can really crank out those thoughtful episodes – the ones that dive deep into a character’s psyche and expose them pinned and wriggling. As utterly brilliant as those moments are, I’m always grateful for these palate cleansing interludes in which we catch up with the entire ensemble. However, every once in a while, those two narrative styles combine to form the quick series of gut-punches that is “Fall”.
As Nacho has taken bold strides to cautiously wrestle his life back into control, Michael Mando has developed into a more nuanced and intriguing actor. It would be easy to overlook the secondary players in a cast full of such commanding performers, but my feelings on Nacho escalated this season from “meh” to “please, please, please don’t die in the finale.” One of the more frustrating aspects of Better Call Saul is knowing, more or less, whose number is up. Suffice it to say, Gilligan and Gould are the masters of prolonging the inevitable.
Speaking of the inevitable, Kim has become the regrettable poster child of hard work never paying off. Ever the one to take on more than she can chew, she’s made the miscalculation of thinking she can triage sleep and her own well-being out of the mix in favor of more lawyering. Her gravest mistake is looking at her work/life balance in terms of her and Jimmy as one unit, so she’s ever scrambling to pick up his slack. Will next week be the last we see of her?
The Brothers McGill, in their estrangement, have proven to be more alike than ever, orchestrating clever one-man shows towards selfish ends. In Jimmy’s case, it’s always about the money; he doesn’t want to wait for the Sandpiper case to run its course. He’d rather force a handout (which we see him literally and pathetically almost take from Howard) than go through a hard day’s work.
Chuck, on the other hand, is mostly just trying to save face, but certainly isn’t afraid to amp up the manipulation when backed into a corner. He certainly isn’t above a bit of the McGill showmanship as we watch him pretend the immersion blender isn’t tweaking his brain in front of Howard.
Mike and Gus make brief, but weighty appearances, with Mike begrudgingly sealing the money laundering deal over at Madrigal, and Gus pretending he doesn’t enjoy his power over Hector. The moment we’ve all been waiting for rears its head as Hector’s heart goes a bit wonky when he rages at Gus, but, in true Gilligan/Gould style, we’ll have to wait until later to learn what that means.
This is it, guys. One more episode left. “Fall” certainly served to work up the excitement for the season finale by making sure everyone got their turn in the spotlight. Let’s see who’s still standing and who’s down in the dirt this time next week. Someone will have to fall pretty hard and low in order to make that titular call.
“Drug dealer? If that’s all you think he is, then you don’t know Gustavo Fring.” – Lydia, to Mike.
Howard: “Is this about Chuck?” Jimmy: “Who?”
“Goddammit, Chuck.” – Howard.
“B9… let’s hope that biopsy comes back benign.” – Jimmy, laying on the Bingo cheese at Sandpiper.
“Don’t get bogged down in the details!” – Jimmy, grasping at straws to impress Kim.
BEST MOMENT: Kim’s two car mishaps stole the show. While Jimmy is doing his best to ruin the last years of an old lady’s life to score his paycheck, Kim is busy running herself into the ground. She managed to dig herself out of the dirt and take control of the wheel in time to miss a towering pumpjack by the skin of her teeth. However, getting her hands dirty with all this hard work won’t be enough, and she ends up kissing a deployed airbag, Gatwood papers falling in a whirlwind around her. Slow down, old girl. You’re heading out of your element.
EPISODE’S MVP: Bob Odenkirk did his best to turn us out of favor with Jimmy. It was downright painful to watch him so thoroughly and unapologetically manipulate Irene’s entire world. He really invested in that move (to the tune of an entire trunkful of orthopedic kicks), in what basically amounted to some pretty severe psychological abuse. I think it’s safe to say he’s finally crossed to the other side. Did Kim damage his ego enough to make him consider inflicting some nastiness on her? Does he have it in him?
– At its best, Better Call Saul is full of attention to silly detail. Watching Jimmy discard the cat cookie with the cracked ear, or how he bothers to plate it at all on cheap picnic plastic, was a perfect example of this sort of telling, subtle humor.
– For a moment there, we were all Mike, lobbing a look of loathing at that ding-dong zipping through Madrigal on a Segway.
– Leaving in the eerie hum of the pumpjacks in Kim’s scene at Gatwood was a great choice, underscoring just how strained and out of place she was there.
– Hector fiddling with the Zippo lighter was a nice visual echo of the pumpjacks behind Kim, the hammers dropping on both characters.
9 out of 10
Next: “Lantern”, in one week.
Before: “Slip”, here.