Tag Archives: Breaking Bad

The Red Road 1.3 – “The Woman Who Fell from the Sky”

The Red Road, great as it is, is like any other show in the history of television: it has weak spots. “The Woman Who Fell from the Sky”, the third episode of the opening season, is likely the first time the chinks in the armor are visible. The writing up until this point has been largely commendable, succumbing to the occasional been-there-done-that moment, but mostly avoiding them, hinting at new roads (red ones) instead of relishing the old ones. “Woman” is a bit shakier, but thankfully Jason Momoa’s Philip Kopus, far and away the best character on the show, does what he can to save this particular episode from sliding wholly into those moments of cliché.

These days, “antihero” is like a curse word. We’re living in a post-Breaking Bad world, so the last word on the TV antihero thing has kind of been said. Does that mean antiheroes should be avoided altogether? Of course not. But is that what Kopus is? Hard to say. He has some qualities of an antihero in that he’s definitely a bad guy, robbing medical wholesalers and dealing in guns and drugs and manipulating kids, but he’s simultaneously someone you root for. It’s fun as hell to watch him do his thing, even if that thing isn’t strictly legal.

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Better Call Saul 1.6 – “Five-O”

Better Call Saul mixed things up last night by completely switching the focus onto another character. Mike Ehrmantraut was a fan favorite in the later seasons of Breaking Bad, and his presence in the prequel/spinoff up to this point has been sort of a glorified cameo. “Five-O” took the reins away from Bob Odenkirk’s Jimmy and gave them to Jonathan Banks’s tortured, pouty-faced Mike, and it was one of the most ingenious moves yet from a show that’s already pretty fantastic.

At the close of the last episode “Alpine Shepherd Boy” we saw Mike engage in a bit of a staring contest with a young woman we presumed to be his daughter. We knew Mike’s granddaughter Kayleigh is part of his motivation for moneymaking during the events of Breaking Bad, but apart from a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos we never saw much of Mike in his family life. “Five-O” broke that wide open, answering a ton of questions and raising a few more in the process.

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Better Call Saul 1.5 – “Alpine Shepherd Boy”

We’ve talked a lot over the course of the last few reviews about how Better Call Saul fares in relation to predecessor Breaking Bad. We’ve talked about Jimmy’s character, his moral standing and his concern over the presentation of his image. We’ve talked about the supporting cast and about the beautifully Bad-like cinematography, we’ve talked about the brilliant set pieces in episodes like last week’s “Hero“, and we’ve talked about how all of this adds up to something that ties into the original show but also stands alone.

We’ve also mentioned in passing that Saul has a good sense of humor, but the latest episode “Alpine Shepherd Boy” demands a somewhat more straightforward dispatch: Saul is funny. Really funny. Jimmy has the dark wit and sheer quotability we know makes Saul Goodman such a fun character (“Don’t drink and drive — but if you do, call me!”) and in Saul he obviously gets a lot more time to shine. In Bad he was kind of the comic relief (although that phrase kind of plays down his importance, doesn’t it?) and much-needed muscle relaxant amongst the insanity of Walter White’s crusade. Bad focused on the drama — Saul, while still a fledgeling series, has already found a way to play with that focus.

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Better Call Saul 1.4 – “Hero”

S’all good, man. Our lovable lawyer Jimmy McGill states categorically that he’s “no hero” during the third episode “Nacho“, and a large part of the fourth episode “Hero” seeks to play with that assertion. It also seeks to play with our expectations (much as I despise the phrase “play with our expectations”) about Jimmy’s transformation into Saul, revealing more about his past in the process.

The set-up for most of the episode is Jimmy’s purchase of a brand-spanking-new billboard advertising his fledgeling firm. He buys a new suit (the exact same suit his rival Hamlin wears) and creates a new logo (very nearly the exact same logo as the logo of Hamlin, Hamlin and McGill). He almost dyes his hair but decides to just photoshop the hairdo on the billboard picture instead. And when disaster strikes, our hero springs into action in what ends up being exactly what we’d expect from him — old dog, old tricks, new suit and haircut.

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Better Call Saul 1.3 – “Nacho”

Money makes people do crazy things. Though “Nacho” was ostensibly a slower episode than “Uno” and “Mijo“, the third hour of Better Call Saul took a deeper look into the good and the bad inside Jimmy McGill. The Kettleman Family, who are at this point kind of like Breaking Bad‘s Elliott and Gretchen in the way they relate to the larger plot, not only drew out this dark side/light side conflict in Jimmy but will almost certainly continue to do so in the upcoming episodes.

And as usual, a lot of that conflict and drama was implied or depicted through action. Allowing his conscience to get the better of him after accidentally imparting the knowledge of Nacho’s plan to rob the Kettlemans to his friend Kim — a new character and seeming love interest — Jimmy anonymously tips the unwitting family off to Nacho’s plan. But none of this is painfully obvious until it happens, and the expected epiphanic conscience-awakening moment is played down in favor of a more methodical and strangely exciting sequence.

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Better Call Saul 1.2 – “Mijo”

“Mijo” was arguably as much of an introduction to Better Call Saul as the pilot episode “Uno“, lacking only a colorless flash-forward to signify the end of an era and simultaneously herald a new one. Though both episodes introduced important new characters and quickly solidified the tone of the series, “Mijo” already began to show signs of peeling away from the influence of forefather Breaking Bad.

A certain someone popped up at the end of the pilot and played a huge role in this second episode — for the sake of those yet to watch, we’ll save that reveal until after the jump. Abandon all hope, ye who have not watched Better Call Saul!

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Better Call Saul 1.1 – “Uno”

While the most obvious question was probably about how to spin a new series out of Breaking Bad, the more infrequent dilemma considered whether Better Call Saul even should be a new series. The idea of fidgeting with Bad at all is a tricky one. If you’re Bryan Cranston it’s probably a tough situation: on the one hand if you’re asked to step into Walt’s shoes again then of course you say yes, but on the other you maybe feel you’ve already done your job. You’ve done your job incredibly well, and a return might threaten to slide you into one-trick-pony status.

Though Cranston’s nowhere to be seen in the opening episode of Saul, Walt’s influence is still apparent. A nifty black-and-white intro is certainly set after the events of Breaking Bad, and we discover that Saul’s prediction about his future employment at a Cinnabon in Nebraska was prophetic. We also discover that the guy fears for his life as he pounds cinnamon into dough hour after hour, catching menacing glances from well-meaning customers. He’s miserable, and it’s both Walt’s fault and his own.

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French Connection II (1975)

On one hand, a sequel to The French Connection is completely logical. Popeye Doyle sees things through, probably more out of psychosis than out of any loyalty to law and order, and so it does make sense that he’d track the kingpin Alain Charnier all the way to Marseilles after the events of the first film. French Connection II begins right there, not long after the first film left off, and when he pulls up in a cab it’s pretty great to see Popeye again. He pulls his hat onto his head and pays the driver, then glares at him when the driver shakes his head and insists he’s owed more. “I’m taking your number, fella — that’s in case you screwed me,” he snarls. Yes: it’s Popeye.

On the other hand, though, a sequel to the perfectly imperfect conclusion of the first film seems simultaneously illogical. The first Connection ends somewhat suddenly when Popeye accidentally shoots a fellow cop, thinking him to be the evasive Charnier (or “Frog One”). Not only is a wishy-washy ending avoided, but Popeye’s character is further complicated by the brevity of his victory. The smarmy sarcastic wave that Popeye gives Frog One on the bridge is bittersweet, and maybe even a karmic contributor to the ultimate conclusion of Connection (in the same way that Hank’s wave to Walt in Breaking Bad represents his own short-lived supremacy).

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