Alex Casey recaps the fourth episode of Lightbox’s much anticipated Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul. //
Everyone is getting bloody tricked in this episode – the Kettlemans, Nacho, Jimmy, Chuck, innocent bystanders and even us plebs in the audience. The swindling is in full force, and nobody is safe as Saul Goodman slowly rises from beneath a pile of powder blue shirts to wreak havoc on the guilty and the innocent alike. In our cold open, we get a mindblowing insight into his pseudonym origins. “Saul?” “Yeah, like s’all good man.” Did everyone know this already? Am I the only one with their brains scattered dramatically across the floor?
Hurtling into the future at Camp Kettleman, Jimmy is trying to find some middle ground with the guilty family of four. Mama Kettleman resorts to some dodgy comparisons to try and get away with their monetary spoils “if you want to talk about legal, let’s talk about slavery.” Jimmy wants to represent them, but they aren’t having a bar of it. “I will be singularly devoted to you,” is met with “you’re the kind of lawyer that guilty people hire.” You can almost see the dodgy wheels turning behind his eyes as Jimmy realises this ‘guilty’ niche could well and truly be his bread and butter.
Although this episode is free from the finger-threatening secateurs of yesteryear, the pungent air of danger is silent but violent, especially around Nacho. Visiting him in lock-up, it’s clear that Jimmy is eventually going to have to face a jury of hardened criminals for ratting on the Nach-meister. One thing I enjoy is how, in his heart of hearts, Jimmy is still trying to keep everyone onside. He even tries to promote himself as some vigilante moral guardian, “whoever ratted on you – he did you favour,” he tells Nacho, floating away on a cloud of kindness.
Cue an excellent makeover sequence, where Jimmy gets some suits tailored, teeth whitened and hair dyed. He requests for his hair to gently curl like in the Spartacus bath scene, one of the more obscure and homoerotic film references we’ve encountered thus far. Turns out Jimmy, our master of mimicry, is shooting a billboard not unlike his rival Hamlin’s across town. The billboards go up, and it is not long before they are demanded to be taken down. Little do they know, this is all part of his master plan. Jimmy has learnt to mirror people until he gets good enough to absolutely shatter them.
Taking his billboard plagiarism plight to the media, Jimmy starts shooting a heartfelt documentary of his “David and Goliath story”. He reminds himself to have “gravitas” as soon as the cameras roll, bringing us yet another onscreen reminder that this show is all about construction and performance. As he does his spiel about being kicked around by the billboard gods, one of the construction workers falls off the billboard ledge and is left hanging by a single rope. What a perfect opportunity for Jimmy to save the day, it’s almost like he planned it.
Having a crew hired to capture the whole thing on tape, Jimmy executes what has got to be, for 2002, a pretty groundbreaking piece of viral video marketing. The flip phones come out, and suddenly the calls come flooding in from clients wanting to work with Albuquerque’s most heroic lawyer. The only two who remain unconvinced are Hamlin (and rightly so, Jimmy pretty much just stole his entire schtick) and Chuck, the older brother with the moral compass and the CRAZY electromagnetic condition. Surely there’s some irony there, well all know you can’t have a functioning compass if the magnetism is all out the wazoo.
Our brief encounter with Chuck at the end of the episode is like The X Files meets Upstream Colour. Some of the most heinous scraping electrical noises are used as he ventures out beneath power poles. Running back into the confines of his hovel, he wraps himself in a space blanket and lies down immediately. Chuck is literally a kebab at this point.
I’ve truly never experienced anything as bonkers as the Chuck subplot before, it’s a bizarre edition that still sits very weirdly next to white collar crime and billboard blunders.
Just like our man Jimmy, it feels like the show is slowly building towards its fully realised identity – I can’t wait to see the final product.