Published on February 19th, 2015 | by Michael0
Better Call Saul – Nacho – Review
Twice is coincidence, three times is pattern. And we’ve found our pattern with the names of Better Call Saul episode titles – one word, ending in ‘o’. Unfortunately for Jimmy McGill the Nacho of the episode is not the tasty snack but the terrifying client Nacho Varga who finds himself in legal trouble, which by extension means that McGill is in mortal danger.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The episode begins with a phone and keys being dropped off before a man visits his brother but this time the roles are reversed. It’s not Jimmy visiting his stricken brother Chuck, but rather Chuck visiting his ne’r do well brother Jimmy in a Cook County lock-up. From the flashforward (or is it contemporary?) scene at the beginning of episode one we now have the flashback, presumably to the moment that Jimmy and his hilariously unconvincing wig decide to straighten up and fly right. Chuck has had to come all the way from Albuquerque at the behest of his mother to help Jimmy. Jimmy retorts that all he knows about Albuquerque is its notoriously difficult spelling and that old Bugs Bunny quote. It’s interesting to see the dynamic shift so dramatically between Chuck and Jimmy who are clearly not close at this point in their lives, especially compared to the cosy living conditions later on.
Back to…the past? The present? Well whatever time period the majority of Better Call Saul takes place in, that’s where we go next. All-round maverick and renegade Jimmy McGill takes a drink of cucumber water in FLAGRANT violation of the rules as laid down in Episode One. He tops it off with some vodka to provide him with the Dutch courage needed to call up Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), apparently a former paramour of McGill’s. The reason is that Jimmy’s conscience has been pricking him since his meeting with Nacho Varga last week and he clumsily tries to get Wexler to warn the Kettlemans that they may be targeted due to being flush with taxpayer money. Unsatisfied, Jimmy then calls the Kettlemans directly, attempting to disguise his voice with a tube (later referred to as his ‘sex robot’ voice) to again warn them. It’s probably a smart move on the part of the writers to give the Kettlemans a brace of children, because Ma & Pa are such hilariously awful people that it’s hard to believe Jimmy would care enough about their welfare as to jeopardise himself to save them.
In the day job, Jimmy once more shows to us that he’s growing as a lawyer. When his nemesis, Mr ‘Petties with a prior’ gets confused between two defendants, Jimmy is able to us that to browbeat him into a good deal for his client, an armed robber. He also gets the upper hand on Mike by operating the parking barrier himself rather than paying the $9 he owes. The various plot threads – Jimmy, the Kettlemans, Hamlin Hamlin & McGill, Nacho and Mike all converge when the Kettlemans are discovered to be missing from their home. Wexler of course is immediately suspicious after the warning Jimmy gave her but Jimmy won’t say a word. He does call up Nacho, leaving a message offering to help him ‘de-escalate the situation’ but soon both men find themselves arrested. Nacho maintains his innocence in the matter, but only in that matter. Having the police poke around his a Tuco’s business would be bad for everyone, including Jimmy, who is given an ultimatum – get Nacho out within 24 hours or be killed. With the help of Wexler, Jimmy manages to convince the two detectives that arrested him, ‘Cagney and Lacey’, to allow him to see the Kettleman house. The sharp Jimmy notices that the little girl’s doll is missing, presumably it’s still with said girl. ‘Ipso facto’ says a desperate sounding Jimmy ‘they kidnapped themselves!’. While the cops admit this is a possibility they make it clear they don’t believe Jimmy at all.
Salvation is on hand from the unlikeliest of sources for Jimmy. After another altercation with Mike, Jimmy finds himself arrested by ‘Cagney and Lacey’ once again, who hold the threat of an assault charge over his head in an effort to make him dob in Nacho. However, once Jimmy again makes his case for the self-kidnap, Mike drops the charges – he believes Jimmy’s story. Here Jimmy seems more concerned with the fact that someone, anyone, believes him than he does that he won’t be tried. Mike meanwhile shows that his belief in truth, and in his own strange way justice, is far more important than any ongoing grudge with a jumped up shyster. Once again Better Call Saul shows us the power of storytelling – Mike tells Jimmy about a case he worked as a cop back in Philly, in which a bookie skipped out with $6M. Everyone thought he’d fled the country but he was found just a few doors down from his own house. ‘It’s hard to leave home’ says the Philadelphian to the lawyer from Chicago in the middle of New Mexico.
With new insight gleamed, the rapidly evolving Jimmy is able to deduce where the Kettlemans are hiding – they’re camped out in the woods behind their home – and his Shining inspired entrance leads to the confrontation that ends what has been another splendid episode of this hugely promising series.
While I appreciate that it will take time for Jimmy/Saul and Mike to become the characters they were in Breaking Bad I’m glad we’ve finally seen a glimpse of the old/new Mike, rather than just the parking lot curmudgeon (although admittedly his dogged adherence to the rules was a lot like the Mike already knew). He shows himself to be smart and perceptive, with a loathing of being patronised as he is by the police. Jimmy meanwhile is starting to show real smarts, both as a lawyer in the traditional sense and with his actions outside of the courthouse. In going to bat for Nacho (even if it was motivated by fear) he’s also showing his famous dedication to his clients. For all that in Breaking Bad he was a ‘criminal’ lawyer, as he put it, he was also fairly trustworthy were his clients were concerned, and very reliable. How often was he entrusted with a large amount of cash, for instance?
Finally for this week, the title sequence cannot pass uncommented upon for a third week running. It appears to consist each week of a snippet of a much fuller sequence (this week it had the scales of justice being used as an ashtray) before cutting away as if badly edited. The first time I saw it I thought my Netflix was playing silly buggers.