For a season finale as understated as “Klick”, concluding the second-season run of a show as understated as Better Call Saul, an awful lot happened in one hour. Time and again we find ourselves referring to Saul in terms of a balancing act — between comedy and drama, between moral and immoral, between sympathetic and pathetic, between action and inaction. “Klick” lived in a few of those spaces, none more obvious than the space between subtlety and downright ridiculousness. Saul on the whole thrives in this balancing act, and in part it’s forced to do so by the predecessor Breaking Bad. Saul has to balance restraint with forward progress, treading lightly so as to remain interesting while not intruding on Bad‘s storylines.
Take the first scene of “Klick”, veering toward the latter on the scale spanning subtlety and ridiculousness. Jimmy and Chuck sit by their ailing mother’s hospital bed, Mrs. McGill lying unconscious as she closes in on death. It’s been a while, apparently, and so Jimmy recommends they go get hoagies. Chuck declines — he won’t leave his mother, not now. Jimmy? Yeah: Jimmy wants a hoagie. So Jimmy goes to get a hoagie. When he’s alone with his silent mother Chuck breaks down, perhaps remembering how Jimmy screwed his father over right before his expiration date. Chuck cries because if his mother dies then it will just be him and Jimmy, which in Chuck’s mind is tantamount to it just being him.
Continue reading Better Call Saul 2.10 – “Klick”
I knew while reviewing “Bali Ha’i“, last week’s episode of Better Call Saul, that I’d be eating my words not long after the following episode hit the airwaves. “Bali Ha’i” wasn’t at all a bad episode; on the contrary, it was full of tension and character development and that special Saul mix of humor and meaningful symbolism. But for the first time the Jimmy McGill storyline felt like second fiddle to the Mike Ehrmantraut storyline, mostly because the latter was about a highly personal slow-boil turf war and the former was about a file audit at a law office. Doesn’t take much to discern which one of those will be more gripping.
“Inflatable” did much more than put the focus back on Jimmy. After a cool flashback cold open showing some of the elements of the youthful genesis of Slippin’ Jimmy, “Inflatable” finally seemed to push Jimmy over the invisible threshold at the heart of the series itself. The conceit was always this: we watch Jimmy become Saul. In the same way that Walter White’s Mr. Chips becomes Scarface, Jimmy’s sensibilities are leading him toward a particular version of himself. One could argue that “Inflatable” is the episode where Jimmy finally becomes Saul.
Continue reading Better Call Saul 2.7 – “Inflatable”
Right down to the title of the show, The Leftovers isn’t necessarily one for subtlety. Any time something isn’t where it’s supposed to be, a parallel is drawn to the mysterious Departure that inexplicably claimed 2% of the world’s population. This is Drama, capital D, and these people have Problems, capital P, and sitting down to an hour of cap-D plus cap-P — especially “B.J. and the A.C.” — can end up being too much CAPS LOCK to handle if you’re not ready for it. But on one level The Leftovers sacrifices subtlety intentionally, I think, allowing for clarity instead. Supreme clarity, in fact, and one that should make nearly every other show on television envious.
Take the opening Breaking Bad-esque montage of “B.J. and the A.C.”:
Continue reading The Leftovers 1.4 – “B.J. and the A.C.”
Sometimes we don’t get to dive into each individual episode of Better Call Saul as deeply as we’d like. We have busy lives! Important things to do! Climb that mountain! Finish that novel! Make that bed! Drink that beer! Eat those chips! If there’s anything to knock routine by the wayside and demand our full attention, though, it’s Saul‘s ninth hour “Pimento”, the penultimate episode of the first season. The mountain and the novel and the unmade bed will have to wait (the beer and chips are right here, because multitasking); in this review we aim to pick apart the incredibly dense “Pimento” and put it all back together again.
First up: some self-congratulatory horn-tooting for kinda sorta predicting the big reveal of “Pimento” in our review of the previous episode “RICO“. We’ll save our discussion of that until after the jump for the sake of spoilers, but for now let it be sufficient to state that our reputation precedes us, that we have no equal on this earth, that the tales and songs fall utterly short of our enormity. Gaze upon our magnificence. We are fire. We are death.
Continue reading Better Call Saul 1.9 – “Pimento”
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.
Continue reading Better Call Saul 1.1 – “Uno”