setsuled: (Skull Tree)

The season finale of Better Call Saul on Monday brought some big changes to the show, promising next season will be very different from the first three. Where Breaking Bad eventually became a Spaghetti Western, Better Call Saul is shaping up to be more of a film noir with its focus on the delicate line between luck and free will.

Spoilers after the screenshot

Chuck (Michael McKean) accuses Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) of having a fundamentally harmful nature but it's Chuck whose tragic personality hurts himself and everyone around him. In a well conceived scene, Chuck ended his life like he lived it; breaking things because he's completely out of touch with his own feelings. He seemed completely cool and confident when he told Jimmy he didn't matter much to him and Chuck probably believed it. But I don't think it's any coincidence Chuck fell into a violent, final relapse shortly afterwards.

It's fitting the last conversation between Chuck and Jimmy is about blame. Whose fault is all this? Chuck says it's Jimmy who can't help himself but it looks like Chuck is the one with less self-control. Still, laying all the blame on Jimmy, despite the pettiness and schemes Jimmy engages in, hardly seems fair because Chuck and fate seem to be dealing Jimmy an unfair hand, intentionally or not.

The episode was written by Gennifer Hutchison, my favourite writer on the series now, and mostly I think she did a great job but I couldn't buy Jimmy's solution to his troubles with Irene and her friends. I understand the point of this was to show Jimmy really does have a good heart, being willing to sacrifice that big Sandpiper payout so that Irene's friends would forgive her. But I don't see how he could be certain the plan would work--it's not like it changes any of Irene's actions her friends were upset about. Not to mention the fact that since they'd seen through his other attempts to mend their friendships there's a good chance they'd see through this one, too. But I guess it would be hard to think of another way to get Jimmy out of the elder law business and into criminal defence.

There wasn't much comedy in this episode but I loved Kim's (Rhea Seehorn) trip to Blockbuster Video, just a subtle reminder that this is a period piece. Her and Jimmy watching To Kill a Mockingbird is a nice way to underscore the standard of ethics they might be trying to live up to--it's a quiet way of showing them contemplate the reason they've chosen this career.
setsuled: (Mouse Sailor)

Despite having been written by Gordon Smith, who wrote the great courtroom episode in the middle of the season, Monday's new episode of Better Call Saul was a little sloppy, saved from being bad purely by the momentum of events.

Spoilers after the screenshot

Jimmy's (Bob Odinkirk) supposed to be almost out of money, to the point where he was reluctant to pay his camera crew a few episodes earlier. How did he afford all these shoes? Maybe he had enough leftover from the money he eventually did make from the commercial but if he's working this hard for the Sandpiper settlement he can't be out of the woods. These shoes are expensive--that's the whole point, he wants to make it look like Louise has money to burn to make her friends jealous and pressure her into taking the Sandpiper settlement. I'd say each pair is at least a hundred dollars, at nine pairs that's nine hundred dollars.

I hear Kiefer Sutherland in Fire Walk with Me in my head now, "Agent Desmond, I figure this whole office, furniture included, is worth 27,000 dollars." So okay, maybe I'm nitpicking. The biggest problem with the episode seems more attributable to the director than the writer--the car crash at the end. Kim (Rhea Seehorn) is hurrying to her appointment, her eyes look to be on the road, I noticed a Krispy Kreme in the background, and then suddenly her car's crashed into a rock, off the road, apparently in the middle of nowhere.

Wikipedia says, ". . . due to her fatigue from overwork, Kim loses her concentration and drives her car off the side of the road, crashing into a rock." Which, I guess is what happened, but seemed a lot to infer. We don't even see her eyelids drooping. I suppose the idea is that it's from her perspective so it's as sudden to us as it is to her but I've experienced sleep deprivation. I notice my eyelids drooping and my head nodding, Kim did not seem anywhere near that point.

Anyway, this means she's probably screwed as far as this side job goes, which is really bad since that's Hank Jennings she's working for--rather, it's actor Chris Mulkey who played Hank Jennings on Twin Peaks. I guess it's nice to have him on Better Call Saul since he's not on the new season of Twin Peaks.

The Mike plot continues to be dull as dirt, even with the introduction of Laura Fraser in the same role she played on Breaking Bad. The whole plot thread still feels like a pointless reiteration of things we learned on Breaking Bad.
setsuled: (Frog Leaf)

I'm continuing to enjoy the subtle shifts in Kim's character on Better Call Saul. Monday's new episode also had some nice stuff in Jimmy's continued descent and Mike continues to be really boring.

Spoilers after the screenshot.

One week, Kim (Rhea Seehorn) is explaining that all she and Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) did was tear down a sick man, the next she's telling Howard (Patrick Fabian) that all she and Jimmy did was show things for how they are. The fallout from that wonderful courtroom episode, which seems to be the centrepiece of the season, continues to bring benefits in character reaction. Kim's on such an edge she doesn't seem to know how she feels unless she has someone else's reaction to react to.

Her situation with the office she has with Jimmy is similarly ambiguous. It seems she's regretting insisting that Jimmy pay his half or they get rid of the place, but now his pride is involved so she can't cover his half. But this pushes her to take a second case, perhaps unwisely, as insurance.

Meanwhile, the descent into Saul-hood has literally resurrected Slippin' Jimmy. I wonder how much time the show's going to spend before it jump cuts to the end of Jimmy's twelve month suspension. My guess is the première of season four will be, at the very least, "Twelve month's later." It's always a pleasure watching Jimmy hustle, anyway, something I wish American Gods would emulate a bit with Mr. Wednesday. Though, it occurs to me, Saul is played by Bob Odinkirk . . .

I still don't find Nacho (Michael Mando) a very interesting character but the scene with him swapping out Hector Salamanca's (Mark Margolis) medicine was very well played, Hitchcockian with the way it ramped up tension.
setsuled: (Skull Tree)

Better Call Saul continued on a very good, solid streak with Monday's new episode, which finds Jimmy in the aftermath of a victory that turns out to have been a bit Pyrrhic.

Spoilers after the screenshot.

I really love the way the show is slowly cooking Jimmy's (Bob Odenkirk) slow decent. For some reason Kim (Rhea Seehorn) is keen to shed the extra expense of the law offices she shares with Jimmy so now he's faced with the hopeless endeavour of holding up his half of the rent when he was barely making ends meet as it was. His scheme to make money by making commercials for people doesn't seem like it's going to pan out and he has to deal with community service at the same time. By the time he breaks down in the insurance office, it does feel like he's having a death from a thousand cuts.

But how real was that break down? My guess is Jimmy was using his real emotions as a tool to get back at Chuck in some little way. Though the ugliness of what actually happened emphasises that Jimmy's not terribly justified in revenge. Kim, who can afford the introspection with her cushy Mesa Verde job, is accruing feelings in the opposite direction of Jimmy's.

It's harder to enjoy this show now after Twin Peaks since the minor characters are so important in Better Call Saul and Twin Peaks outshines it so totally. I thought the makeup girl trying to give her money back to Jimmy was sweet but no-one has that peculiar roundedness that every minor character seems to have on Twin Peaks. Anyway, I have to stop, I need to tell myself I'll be able to talk about Twin Peaks again in two weeks, one if Showtime puts up episode five on its web site a week early.

Where was I? I love the balancing act they're playing with Jimmy. You can see his heart dying under the weight of cynicism and resentment piling up. It's a much more delicate and complex moral dilemma than Walter White had though it is fundamentally similar. I'm both looking forward to and dreading Jimmy's downfall.
setsuled: (Frog Leaf)

Another good episode of Better Call Saul last night, this one written by Ann Cherkis. The drug dealer subplot still isn't lighting my world on fire but it wasn't very annoying this time and fortunately there was plenty of Jimmy stuff.

Spoilers after the screenshot

Or should I call him Saul? I loved that commercial at the end, which felt very much like Bob Odenkirk in comedian mode--there was the young man from The Ben Stiller Show. I'm still a little disappointed by the retconning of "Saul Goodman"'s origin. It would feel weird now having Jimmy create the name as a cynical ploy to prey on Jewish stereotypes but that sleaziness was what we loved about him. By and large, though, this television series has improved the character.

Meanwhile, whatever Chuck's faults are, Michael McKean really made me want some of that scotch. Macallan isn't even my favourite brand. But he really sold enjoying the aroma before finally drinking.

I'd almost forgot about Nacho (Michael Mando) who's supposed to be a main character. If he's not in next week's episode, I'll probably forget him entirely. Last night he was moderately interesting, as were Gus and Hector. The show still hasn't given me anything to justify a prequel to their rivalry on Breaking Bad.

I'm guessing the show will finally tie Saul and Gus together by the end of the season. My prediction is Jimmy will be compelled to do some kind of legal work for Gus and uses the alias to avoid violating his suspension. I guess he can't be disbarred, though, considering he's practising law in Breaking Bad. There are a lot of reasons Breaking Bad takes tension out of Better Call Saul--we know Gus, Hector, Mike, and Saul are going to make it through the series, for instance, with only Hector really being scathed. That's partly why the show's at its best when Saul is being creatively criminal.

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In papers caught in spokes of wired times.
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In amber time the questions crack to pawn.
Adrenaline adroitly pumps the eye.
The crowd was blending with a single fawn.
Before the paper's blue it needs a dye.
A sandwich drips with pepper thoughts and cheese.
Continually the sky demands its fees.
setsuled: (Skull Tree)

I'm not sure I can begin to tell you how much I loved last night's new Better Call Saul. Satisfying and cruel, its simple cleverness only half concealing a much thornier reality. Bob Odenkirk and Michael McKean deserve great praise for this one.

Spoilers after the screenshot

On the one hand, this is a story about how Jimmy (Odenkirk) escapes from and claims victory over the seemingly inescapable and petty machinations of Chuck (McKean). On that level, it feels good. Chuck manipulates the situation in order to humiliate Jimmy because of the lifelong axe Chuck's had to grind against him, Jimmy's obvious affection never being enough to satisfy Chuck's need.

On the other hand, this is a story about how Jimmy sabotaged Chuck's business and reputation and then gets away with it by publicly humiliating Chuck in a way Chuck could never have been prepared for, exposing Chuck to a truth about his own psychological state about which Chuck was firmly unaware. Whatever else may have happened, there are few things crueller than what Jimmy did to Chuck at the end of this episode, and yet what choice did Jimmy have?

The courtroom drama has all the structure of a satisfying hero versus villain story. It looks like Chuck and Howard (Patrick Fabian) have an iron-clad case and Jimmy's going to get disbarred, probably eventually dragging Kim (Rhea Seehorn) down with him, and she's clearly not ready to face directly her own complicity in Jimmy's crime. So the effect on her would be professionally and psychologically devastating. So the sudden reversal thanks to a plan Jimmy and Kim hatched to have a battery planted on Chuck has the feeling of a dramatic, last minute heroic act. Yet . . .

Theoretically, suffering professional and psychological repercussions are what should happen to people who commit fraud for personal gain. It's only that Chuck and Howard had been such dicks to Jimmy and Kim that gives us pause. This is where the show hits the same grey area as Breaking Bad with Walter's built up resentment over the success of his former business partner.

I honestly thought they'd made all the hay they could from the Chuck storyline in season one but this episode shows I was definitely wrong. Now I want to see the fallout. But I still want Jimmy to start wearing the cool suits.

On a side note, what happened to the attorney played by Kimberly Herbert Gregory, I thought she was representing Howard and Chuck?
setsuled: (Mouse Sailor)

Mexico was looking even yellower than usual in the boring first half of an otherwise nice new episode of Better Call Saul last night. For the last time, Mexico is not yellow. Well, not really the last time, I'm sure I'll complain about it every time I see it. Fortunately the episode picked up after its star showed up.

Spoilers after the screenshot

Call me jaded, but the fact that Hector (Mark Margolis) and Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) deal in drugs just isn't enough to hold my interest. And it's all their story seems to be riding on at this point aside from the rivalry between the two and Gus' backstory, both of which were covered better and in more detail on Breaking Bad. And wow, what a stupid scene in the Los Pollos Hermanos. Hector and his thugs take over the shop and not one customer or employee or passerby calls the cops?

Thirty minutes in, the show finally got good with Kim (Rhea Seehorn) and Jimmy's (Bob Odenkirk) strategising and meeting. I'm not sure what they expect to get out of Mike (Jonathan Banks) taking pictures of Chuck's (Michael McKean) door yet but it was satisfying watching Kim lure Chuck into giving her evidence that he manipulated Jimmy. I suppose Jimmy's inevitably going to fall from grace but it'll be really satisfying if he can take down Chuck too.

setsuled: (Louise Smirk)

Finally, three episodes in, the season of Better Call Saul has begun. Written by Gennifer Hutchison, who's now my favourite writer on the show, "Sunk Costs" dispensed with the loitering that characterised the first two episodes and finally dug in.

Spoilers after the screenshot

My one complaint--they went back to the Mexico is Yellow All the Time thing they used to do on Breaking Bad. It goes back to the lousy 2000 film Traffic, though--after that, lots of filmmakers thought it was a good idea to throw on a yellow filter whenever a film went to Mexico. Like the air is made of piss or something. Great statement, thanks.

I also thought Gus just looked uncomfortable in that coat but at least he had something interesting to say. I like how Mike is just sort of falling into working for him gradually and I loved Mike's clever scheme with the shoes to spill cocaine on that truck. I'm impressed actor Jonathan Banks was actually able to get those shoes to catch on the wire, I don't think I'd have ever been able to do it.

And the Jimmy plot was good, too. From the beginning--I loved how he laid it out for Chuck what it meant to betray the only family member who cared for him. There was the real difference between Chuck's neurotically driven sense of justice and Jimmy's more emotionally driven. I liked the courtroom stuff and Kim's montage getting ready for the day--as well as her subtle reaction to Jimmy not wanting her to work with him at first in defending him. It was all good, I look forward to more.

Twitter Sonnet #986

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A published book became an ancient myth.
Library hearing aids put cards in spokes.
The bluest lines o'ertook the printer card.
A tempered tin relaunched the Sampo guard.
setsuled: (Default)

And it was another exciting episode of Mike watching things. We watched Mike in the new Better Call Saul watch a guy from an overpass, we watched Mike watch from across a street, and we finally saw Mike outsource watching to Jimmy. I like a good procedural but, honestly, if I'm going to watch a Mike watching something from now on his last name better be Nelson. The episode had some good moments but mostly, like last week, it felt like it was killing time.

Spoilers after the screenshot

Jimmy and Kim picking out a receptionist was fun and I liked the Cracker Barrel joke. And the ending of the episode where Jimmy confronted Chuck was very nice. But it was a long way to go for a . . . oh, what objective should I use? How about a chicken sandwich. It was a long way to go for a chicken sandwich. Which brings me to Gus Fring.

The promos for this season were really coy about teasing the appearance of the Breaking Bad character in this season of Better Call Saul. Watching Gus appear blurry in the background of Jimmy watching in a shot that, like many others . . . was held . . . for a . . . long . . . time, I couldn't help thinking Vince Gilligan overestimated just a tad how excited people were going to be about Gus. He's a cool character, I like him, but he's not so exciting when he's sweeping and digging through the trash for someone's watch. This episode definitely demonstrated that sometimes less is most emphatically less. I guess it's fitting this episode actually involved paint drying.


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