Alex Casey recaps the third episode of Lightbox’s much anticipated Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul. //
The episode opens with the sort of flashback we have come to know and love in Breaking Bad. A good wig has got to be the single most effective time travel device in all of television. Charles goes to visit a much younger, much floppier-haired Jimmy in prison (!). He has reached out to his brother for help after some vague incident involving a Chicago sun roof. “You could be a potential sex offender” says Charles, pulling the comedy carpet out from under our feet. There’s no getting used to that tonal shift that comes with a light-hearted comedy set in a dangerous criminal world.
The wigs come off and we are back in the present after a suave bluesy intro title (that I absolutely love). Jimmy, despite organising a deal with Nacho to take the stolen money from the Kettlemans, has suddenly got a little Jiminy Cricket on his shoulder. Unwinding the entire roll of kitchen handtowel onto the floor, he takes the cardboard tube and tries to warn the family at a pay phone with an anonymous tip. It doesn’t work out.
It’s great to see Jimmy’s childlike approach to the situation, the use of kitchen roll being yet another example of him learning most of what he knows from movies and TV. He tends to mask his insecurities with cultural references. Anyway, the cardboard tube makes him sound like a “sex robot” and it’s nowhere near enough warning for the family. Jimmy turns up to the Kettleman home to find a crime scene. Most ineffective sex robot call of all time.
Panicked by the situation, Jimmy races to a pay phone (again), chanting positive affirmations to reassure himself. Better Call Saul loves to linger in the moments where Jimmy is alone – because that’s when the mask has to drop. We have spent an awful lot of time in bathroom stalls, passenger seats and mirrors so far, it’s like we need to stay in close proximity to Jimmy at all times. The cops are on his back, he’s been requested by Nacho in lock-up. Again, the constant threat of horrific violence is alleviated ever so slightly by the smallest of details – this time dealing with a villain called “Nacho”. It’s genius. But, as it turns out, Nacho is Nacho Guilty Guy.
Whilst Jimmy tries to figure out an alternative suspect other than Nacho, he realises his ass is well and truly on the line. If Nacho goes to jail, Jimmy becomes a chili con carne. “YOU HAVE AN INNOCENT MAN IN THERE” he yells with futile theatricality (again, something I think he saw in a movie once). Desperate times call for desperate measures, Jimmy storms the Kettleman’s house himself to find clues like something straight out of CSI. A missing doll gets his attention, “maybe the Kettlemans kidnapped themselves.” His theory is not met with applause and a sunglass-welcoming YEEEEEEAAAaaaaah like we are so used to seeing in crime shows, but with scoffs and bored dismissal. Things aren’t going to be as easy as they look on TV – for us or for Jimmy.
Back at the office, we get a little welcome time with Mike. Their daily sticker-based conflict comes to a head when Jimmy goes to slap Mike, who responds by pinning him down with the force of a man who has seen much more than the inside of a parking booth. We learn that he has spent an extensive amount of time “on the job” (duh), and believes Jimmy’s case that the Kettleman’s have Gone Girl‘d themselves. What a moment, right there on the concrete – a beautiful friendship and working relationship is born.
The episode ends with Jimmy’s redemption – he ventures deep beyond the Kettleman property to an upbeat Elvis jam. Just like Elvis, he does find out what’s been happening – the Kettlemans have gone on an extended camping trip, with just as much money in their duffel bags as song in their hearts. Heeeeeeere’s Jimmy, gaining the savvy of Saul with every episode: