Tag Archives: Burn After Reading

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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Olive Kitteridge 1.1 – “Pharmacy”

We’re getting to the point where anything produced by HBO is pretty much guaranteed to be a worthwhile watch. A history of cutting funding for the likes of Deadwood, Rome and even The Wire at one point shows the premium service isn’t afraid to ditch something they’re not 100% confident in, no matter how good the early episodes are. Olive Kitteridge, of course, isn’t really a show – the four-hour miniseries spanned two nights earlier this week and will probably play on a loop for the next week, but after that no más. Still, the HBO association is evident in a high production value and a deep care taken with the characters and material that few other channels can afford to provide.

Frances McDormand plays the titular Olive, aging middle-school teacher in smalltown Maine, mother of a bratty son and wife of an irrepressibly optimistic husband (played by the always-brilliant Richard Jenkins). We meet Olive as she walks through the forest, gray ratty hair stemming out from her pale skull, and she calmly lays out a picnic blanket and removes a loaded gun from her coat. We suddenly backtrack to twenty-five years earlier, but the tone is set in that initial sequence: Ollie is unhappy, gazing longingly at the gnarled branches reaching toward the hazy sky, and maybe we’re about to see why.

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