Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Better Call Saul Season 5, Episode 10, “Something Unforgivable”

“Something Unforgivable” concludes another stellar season of Better Call Saul, one that once again has upended my expectations not only about where the series is heading, but which has also altered my notions of what the series is about more generally. All along, I’ve thought of Better Call Saul as a sister show to Breaking Bad, each of them being about the transformation of somewhat “good” characters into largely “bad” characters. And while each show is certainly about how people can change, Jimmy McGill’s transformation into Saul Goodman is revealing itself to be a more complicated story than Walter White’s transformation into Heisenberg. Perhaps even more significantly, the show is also revealing itself to be about the changes other characters undergo, particularly Kim.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Better Call Saul, Season 5, Episode 9, “Bad Choice Road”

“Bad Choice Road” is a phenomenal episode of television, easily the best yet of Better Call Saul season five. It gets its name from a speech Mike gives to Jimmy midway through the episode. Jimmy suffers from PTSD after he and Mike make it back to civilization, and when he turns to Mike for advice about how to handle it, Mike lays out the entire ethos of character arcs on both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul: “We all make our choices. And those choices, they put us on a road. Sometimes those choices seem small, but they put you on the road. You think about getting off, but eventually you’re back on it…. And nothing, nothing can be done about that.”

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Better Call Saul, Season 5, Episode 8, “Bagman”

“Bagman” finally gives Better Call Saul the kind of action-packed episode that was regularly featured on Breaking Bad, where the characters are put in a life-or-death situation and must figure out how to survive. The result is a highly rewarding suspense piece that also performs important character work, pushing forward character change and certain relationships.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Better Call Saul Season 5, Episode 7, “JMM”

Midway through “JMM,” Lalo, who has hired Jimmy/Saul to defend him in the Fred Whalen murder case, suggests that the monogram on Jimmy’s briefcase should stand for “Just make money,” rather than what Jimmy tells him it means, “Justice matters most.” The dueling mottos are emblematic of the difference between Jimmy’s and what will become Saul’s priorities as attorneys.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Better Call Saul Season 5, Episode 6, “Wexler v. Goodman”

“Wexler v. Goodman” is another excellent entry in season five of Better Call Saul, one that begins with a flashback to young Kim that reveals how unwilling Kim was to trust her very unreliable-seeming mother. It provides yet more insight into her character, but it’s bearing on the rest of the episode only snaps into focus in the final scene, when Kim is given strong cause to distrust another important person in her life: Jimmy.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Better Call Saul Season 5, Episode 5, “Dedicado a Max”

Late in “Dedicado a Max,” Gus tells Mike he’s at a crossroads, but it’s also a statement that applies to Kim, who finds herself at her own crossroads. The sentiment also applies to the series more generally, or at least, my patience with certain parts of it. While the idea of a crossroads provides this episode with some thematic unity, it’s also made me realize my feelings for a central part of this series has also come to a crossroads.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Better Call Saul Season 5, Episode 4, “Namaste”

“Namaste” finds most of the regular characters trying to clean up messes of one sort or another. Some of the messes are perfunctory: Kim literally sweeps up the mess of broken glass she made in the parking lot at the end of “The Guy For This,” while Jimmy is hired to represent the pair of idiots who were inspired to go on a meth-fueled bender by Jimmy’s 50% off sales gimmick. The most interesting mess is the one Acker made of Kim’s moral compass, both because it’s yet another step down a dark road Kim is travelling, and because it intersects nicely with what Jimmy is going through in this episode.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Better Call Saul Season 5, Episode 3, "The Guy For This"

Early in “The Guy For This,” Kim warily eyes a beer bottle Jimmy has balanced precariously on a railing. It’s an apt character beat, because both Jimmy and Kim will engaged in their own parallel balancing acts throughout this episode, regarding various aspects of their aspirations and careers. Despite both of their best efforts, they each end up tipping the scales in their least preferred direction, Jimmy by getting drawn into the cartel world, and Kim by being forced into doing Mesa Verde’s dirty work.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Better Call Saul Season 5, Episode 2, “50% Off”

In my recap of the season premiere, I questioned the extent to which Jimmy had turned into the Saul with whom we’re familiar from Breaking Bad, concluding that he still had some ways to go. Despite sporting a telltale Saul talisman in his earphone, “50% Off” illustrates even more clearly that there is still some distance between Jimmy and Saul.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Better Call Saul, Season 5, Episode 1, “Magic Man”

Season four of Better Call Saul had a slow start, but finished strong. Season five, by contrast, has come out of the gate firing on all cylinders. “Magic Man” is a crackerjack episode from start to finish, picking up right where things left off in all of the show’s serialized plots: the adventures of Cinnabon Gene, Jimmy’s transformation into Saul, and the Cartel Corner, featuring Mike, Gus, Nacho, and now Lalo.