Better Call Saul Review – “Nacho” S1E3

Better Call Saul continues to come into it’s own. This episode was the first that was a almost a full break away from Breaking Bad, not making as many references, but still carrying its essence. Jimmy is clearly the “hero” of this show, but again, not one you want to be rooting for, but you do anyway. Vince Gilligan knew what he was doing when he thought Bob Odenkirk could carry his own show. Without further ado, analysis, musings, and a review of “Nacho”:

Pros:

Chuck and Jimmy in Cook County Jail: We get a major glimpse into Jimmy’s past in the first scene. Jimmy is in the clink for assault, property damage, and could get a sex offender charge in addition. Jimmy was clearly on criminal path before he was on a criminal lawyer path. What is best about this scene (other than learning that Chicago has sunroofs, and people have sex on them) are the parallels to other scenes. Chuck puts his keys, cell phone and wallet in the jail drop box, much like his own current mailbox situation. Additionally, when Jimmy enters the room, he says, “Here’s Johnny!” not only another movie reference, but this is repeated in a key moment at the end of the episode.

Better Call Saul - "Nacho"

The Credits: I really look forward to the credit scene because it is different every time. This one was my favorite thus far; the law scales being used as an ashtray. It’s very befitting of the show.

Lighting and wide shots: This episode, much like the first, played with lighting like crazy. My favorite? When Jimmy calls Kim about the Kettleman’s possibly being in danger. He is half way bathed in red light the entire time, a significant technique often used in it’s parent show, Breaking Bad. It could signify that Jimmy is toeing the line between good and “evil.” Additionally, the wide shot of Jimmy panicking at the pay phone to get a hold of Nacho was a great way to say show us that this guy is a small fish in a big pond, and way in over his head.

Better Call Saul - "Nacho"

Mike Ehrmantraut vs. Everyone in the Courthouse: It’s funny because Mike’s name hasn’t even been said once. But the man at the parking gate has already shown us exactly who he is with just a few lines and looks. He really takes his job seriously, despite Jimmy’s problem with the parking stickers. But he showed a different side, and the Breaking Bad side of himself, when he chose to side with Jimmy instead of the APD (Albuquerque Police Department). And he does not like being touched, by anyone.

More one-liners: I bet that people in the biz are really jealous of Bob Odenkirk. He gets some amazing dialogue, and even better one-liners. This week: “I have been inhaling your BM, which is straight from satan’s butthole, and you can’t tell one defendant from another?” Kim also got a good line, when she and Jimmy discusses the warning call he made, she asked if it was his, “sex robot voice.” Which, it was.

“I’m here to help. Everyone. All parties. But mostly you.”: This is Jimmy’s line to Nacho when he is in detainment. The line is a great way to sum up the entire purpose of this episode. Jimmy is trying to be the hero. Yeah, he knows that his life is literally on the line, but he seems to really enjoy helping people. No matter how down and dirty they are. He starts with the Kettleman’s, but when Nacho is arrested, he tries to do the righteous thing and help the criminal out. The good thing is, Jimmy realizes that Nacho is a bad, bad man. Just not for kidnapping the Kettleman family.

Better Call Saul - "Nacho"

Cons:

The Kettleman’s disappearance was predictable: Maybe it is because I’ve watched too much Breaking Bad. Maybe it’s because I think like a person who would steal over a million dollars. But as soon as it was revealed the Kettleman’s were missing, I knew it was because they had kidnapped themselves. It was frustrating to watch 30 more minutes of everyone trying to figure out what happened, and then to not have everyone believe Jimmy once he figured it out.

Easter Eggs:

Mike’s past life: Mike brings up his time as a Philly cop. This will come up again in Breaking Bad, but in a much more horrifying way. This time, Mike offers advice about where the Kettleman’s went, by telling a story about a man who did the same thing in Philly, but was living in a house two doors down the whole time. It was cool to find out more about what Mike used to be like.

Tid-Bits:

1468729: The number that Jimmy is calling Nacho from at the pay phone doesn’t work. But honestly, if it did work before the show aired, can you imagine having that number and everyone who is a nerd like me calls it just for kicks? No, thank you.

Nacho’s name: Nacho’s full name is Nacho Varga. I really hate to think his first name is really Nacho, but there is no telling yet.

The boat: The Kettleman’s boat model is the Chapparel.

The Kettleman’s Home: If you thought the area the Kettleman’s looked familiar, you wouldn’t be wrong. While the neighborhood they live in looks a lot like the one that Hank and Marie Schrader live in, it is about a 10 minute drive away. However, that hill in the background? Both neighborhoods back to South Sandia Peak, which is where the Kettleman’s camp out, too. If you are interested in more Better Call Saul locations, you can check out this map, thanks to Reddit user Trekkie45.

No one wants to leave home: Mike says this to Jimmy about The Kettleman’s disappearance. While this could just be taken at face value, the line could mean more, especially because of the first scene where we see Jimmy in Cook County Jail. Why did he come to ABQ? Time will tell.

Predictions:

The Kettleteam ain’t so nice: Ok, so we already know that. But if they were afraid about getting caught for their money, or even being robbed, I think they may have bought a gun. Hypothetically, if I had ripped off my county for 1.6 million, I’d buy a gun to protect my money. Hypothetically, of course. And anyone who sings that many camp songs so happily and calls themselves the Kettleteam… they just have to be…doing something very, very bad.

“I will never rat!”: Jimmy tells Kim he won’t rat on Nacho. I believe him. If he did, Tuco would no doubt not be in Breaking Bad. But will he rat on the Kettleman’s? I think Jimmy isn’t the type to rat on anyone. He will use the opportunity of knowing the money exists to his advantage.

 

Music from the Episode:

The song that plays while Jimmy looks for the Kettleman’s in the woods is “Find Out What’s Happening” and is sung by Bobby Bare.

Hush Comics gives “Nacho” an A- for showing us a new kind of anti-hero, even if he champions for drug dealers and killers, and for growing into it’s own little world apart from the events that happen five years later.

All images belong to AMC.

Better Call Saul Review – “Mijo” S1E2

Lucky you! You get to see Better Call Saul on consecutive days. You get to see Jimmy McGill begin his path down the dark side, and witness him save his skin from Tuco Salamanco. “Mijo” was primarily about how Saul-to-be gets out of a sticky situation with one of the most ferocious drug dealers in the Breaking Bad saga, and showcased some of Jimmy’s best verbal skills – like negotiating with a stone cold killer to follow Hummarabi’s code, while getting him to pass on the Columbian neckties.

Pros:

Better Call Saul S1E2 Mijo 3

Drugs are bad, mmkay?: We got to know Tuco Salamanca from his days as a tweaked out drug dealer who fun-dipped a little too hard into his own product. While that Tuco was a horrifying blast to watch, this calm and collected Tuco is far better to watch. He’s already a bit paranoid, and you can just see a Tony Montana-style drug binge in his future, but right now, he’s much funnier, much smarter, and I actually found myself rooting for him.

No problem, just spilled some Saul-sa: You can’t get blood out with spit, Tuco! I found it so adorable that poor little Abuelita had no idea that her son was a murdering drug dealer. The scene with the club soda was one of the funniest of the series so far; we’ve all had to hide something from a grandparent who keeps trying to be helpful. He even shoos her away to watch the rest of her telenovela. Awww! Although, with a man like Hector Salamanca in the family, I’m not entirely sure how Abuelita stays innocent. I wonder if Tio will make an appearance.

Recurring themes: Where Better Call Saul is already excelling is the continuation of themes. From Tuco’s personality to Jimmy’s blow-ups at Mike Ehrmantraut to the Public Defender montage (it’s showtime, folks!), Vince Gilligan and company know how to make something feel brand new, yet still have the feeling of familiarity. And, of course, don’t forget the desert abductions and Gilligan’s adoration for the word “bitch” – although, biznatch is a good twist on an old favorite.

Cons:

Better Call Saul S1E2 Mijo 4

Meh… uneven pacing: I was largely pleased with this episode, but the pacing between the story-driven last half of the episode and the frightening first half led to a slight loss of momentum. Luckily, the end kicked the story right back into high gear.

Jimmy is a freakin liar!: Aside from the pacing, the cons in this show are few and far between. One thing I am noticing is that things that actually happened here are not exactly how he describes them in Breaking Bad. Nothing Saul has said in Breaking Bad can be taken at face value. He might be a hard-working guy and care deeply for his brother, Chuck, but Jimmy McGill is also a natural born hustler.

Easter Eggs:

Better Call Saul S1E2 Mijo 1

Nachos grande: When Tuco calls the “clean-up” crew, he mentions Nacho by name. This guy could be a throwback reference to a line in S2E8 of Breaking Bad, where Walt and Jesse kidnap Saul and take him to the desert. When they take off the mask, Saul proclaims, “It wasn’t me, it was Ignacio!” This could be a reference to this Nacho.

Tuco has made a poor career choice: Whether it’s caring for the elderly or cooking food for those who try to play them, Tuco has a knack far beyond drug-dealing and murdering. Anytime Tuco whips up something in the kitchen, it means violence for anyone nearby that tries to punk his family. I can’t help but feel bad that his life ended up the way it did.

Stop. Helping.: You may recognize No-Doze from the junkyard in Breaking Bad. You know, the one Tuco ends up murdering with his bare hands in front of “The Heisenberg” and Jesse. I always thought that was just Tuco being crazy, but I expect there to be more hilarious exchanges like this leading up to what we say in BrBa.

Special Agent Jeffrey Steele: Saul’s genius code name is the same as that of popular country singer Jeffrey Steele. What a cowinkidink! I couldn’t find a particular reason that his inclusion could be shared as an Easter Egg, but he did release an album in 2004 called Hell on Wheels, another popular AMC show.

Operation Kingbreaker: Because it’s Vince Gilligan, nothing is coincidence. The 2010 movie, Kingbreaker, centers around a Hank, a Miriam (Marie??), a Walter and the Mexican Drug Cartel. It’s just too close to call.

“I’m a lawyer, not a criminal”: When Jimmy gets volun-told to help Nacho rob the Kettleman’s stash, his retort is one that will be twisted around when Jesse Pinkman pitches Walt that they employ Saul Goodman’s services.

Familiar Territory: The desert scene in this episode was filmed in the same location as the Breaking Bad episode “Say My Name,” where Walt and Declan come to an… understanding.

Tid-Bits:

Drug Talk: When Jimmy is pretending to be an FBI agent, he actually spouts out a whole bunch of stuff that makes sense. Title 21: Schedule II – Schedule V, Part B is suuuuper vague, but if you’d like to read all the legal mumbo-jumbo behind it, here’s the link. I’ll leave it to somebody much smarter than me to make a connection there.

Petty with a prior: While Jimmy seeks to negotiate with the prosecutor, her keeps repeating this phrase, which means that if a person has been priorly convicted of theft, his next charge can be upped to a felony.

Jimmy still had some humanity: Jimmy goes out of his way to save the stupid twins, even though they were the only reason that they all ended up in the Danger Zone. I don’t know that Saul of Breaking Bad would do that – or pay for their medical bill. “I just talked you down from a death sentence to six-months probation; I’m the best lawyer ever.” And Chuck? His electromagnetic hypersensitivity illness, which is a real thing, makes me think that he must be dead by the time BrBa happens – or at least Jimmy will be dead to Chuck.

Space Blankets: Space blankets are real things. They exist. First designed by NASA in 1964, you can buy them for like $15 now. And they look fashionable as fuck.

Calling Nacho: The number that Nacho leaves Jimmy at the end of the episode? Yeah, it’s real. 505-242-6087

Music from the Episode:Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Esquivel (1959) plays during Jimmy’s rendezvous with a sexy lady at the bar.

 

“It’s showtime, folks” is an recurring quote from All That Jazz (1979) – along with this musical number – that makes an appearance during Jimmy’s bathroom pep talk montage. “It’s from a movie!”

Hush Comics gives “Mijo” an A for the way that it continues to slowly unfold the story of Jimmy McGill. Walter White wasn’t the only one who suffered a fall from grace. “Mijo” shows that Jimmy had a dance with the devil over the subject of scamming, but his mingling with the criminal world is going to prove that he is but a fly in the spider’s web. Even as he tries to protest his identity as a criminal, he’s still at the mercy of Tuco and Nacho’s will.

Better Call Saul Review – “Uno” S1E1

*Disclaimer: This review is not intended for children, and if you are a child watching this show, and reading reviews online, you should be ashamed.*

The much anticipated prequel spin-off to Breaking Bad finally premiered, and it was worth the wait. While Better Call Saul is slower than its parent show, there were a lot of classic “Gilligan” moments, particularly through camera angles and lighting, Breaking Bad easter eggs, and a few shocking moments that kept the premiere episode rolling. Let’s dive in to what all this means:

Pros:

The cold open: The cold open showing our beloved Saul Goodman turned Gene, manager of Cinnabon was brilliant. It gave Breaking Bad fans what they wanted, without us even knowing we wanted it. It showed fans and newbs alike that this man is broken. He keeps to himself, he is scared of being found out, and he longs for his glory days. And all this is done with no dialogue. The black and white adds to the ambiance, and the song that plays (see the end of this article for more on that) makes the whole thing seem incredibly sad.

Some of the best Saul one-liners to date: “The only way that entire car is worth 500 bucks is if there is a 300 hundred dollar hooker sitting in it” and “As discreet as a stripper pole in a mosque.” They have been quoted at least 3 times each in my house since Sunday night. That’s how I know they are keepers.

Camera Angles, Lighting, and sound: There were several scenes that really highlighted the camera work that is done on this show. The cold-open, attempting to get Craig and Betsy to sign a contract with him, talking to the lawyers at HHM in the same fashion as is done in Network, the moment he shares a cigarette with the blonde lawyer in the parking garage, and the skateboarders at the park. Each had great lighting, showed the scenes in wide shots, or close-ups depending on the mood of the scene. I was most impressed with the use of “everyday” sounds, like the ice tinkling in the glass, or Jimmy swallowing when he was nervous about the contract. All this is minute, but it really adds to the effect this show, and its creators, have on its audience.

Better Call Saul - "Uno"

Jimmy, Actor at Law: The most important thing to know about Jimmy McGill is that he is an actor first and attorney second. Sure, being a lawyer is his profession, but he is a really good actor. He acts like his own assistant on the phone, practices his pitches over and over again, and is passionate about everything he does in order to get his way. He argues with his brother, Chuck, while at his home, and is very emotionally involved in his brother’s well-being. When he goes to speak to HHM over his brother’s share of the company, he takes his act straight from the 1976 movie Network, which you can see the original clip from below.

Those knuckleheads: I truly feel that the only people on cable who can even allude to a group of teenagers breaking into a morgue, cutting off the head of a corpse, and then fucking the neck hole are Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould. In addition, they allowed us to feel like these clients of Jimmy’s weren’t that bad because technically, no one got hurt. Not a soul.

The other knuckleheads: The skateboarding scamming brothers are total dicks. They are Napoleon Dynamite’s slightly-cooler brothers who live in New Mexico. And they are super annoying and really bad at acting. Who can stand up after “breaking a leg.” Why are they even a pro? Because they are written perfectly. And they are acted perfectly. And I for one can’t wait when they become collateral damage.

Pride, Greed, and everything in between: Beyond the pretty scenes, the dialogue, and the acting (which of course are all important and amazing), we dive right into motive and the reasons people do what they do. This series is supposed to be a way to dive into how a man goes from downtrodden lawyer to a very rich criminal lawyer. Jimmy rents out a crappy office space, he owes a ton of bills, his car is a piece of shit, and he is only getting paid 700 dollars for a case. And he didn’t even win. Jimmy needs money. But when he gets a check for 26,000 dollars as a stipend for his brother’s leave of absence at his firm, Jimmy tears up the check. Why? Because Pride, that’s why. Not having money and needing it desperately will lead to Greed. Jimmy is Walter White 5 years before Walter White is Walter White. Did you get that? I hope so.

Better Call Saul - "Uno"

Cons:

Number 1 on speed-dial: When Jimmy puts his number in one of the brother’s phones, he tells him that he (Jimmy) is number 1 on the speed dial. Except in 2002, number 1 on speed dial was VoiceMail. It’s a little nuance, I know. But I had to think of something for the cons section.

A lot of down time: Like its parent show (gah, it’s so hard not to compare), Better Call Saul is not all about crime and drugs and law. It’s about the monotony of life. The everyday man happens to be in some deep shit. Or at least will be very soon. The episode was an hour and 20 minutes (with commercials), but it did seem really long. Mostly talk, and and interesting camera angles. All of which are plusses, but not when it feels a little too long.

Better Call Saul - "Uno"

Easter Eggs:

Cinnabon Manager Gene: The cold-open shows Gene, the manager of a Cinnabon in quaint Omaha, Nebraska. This was a nod to the fact that when Saul Goodman (aka Jimmy McGill, aka Gene) leaves Albuquerque when shit hits the fan with Walter White, he would go manage a Cinnabon.

Better Call Saul: The videos that Gene watches after his day at work are his old “Better Call Saul” commercials that aired in Albuquerque, NM. These were the same ads featured through the series, Breaking Bad.

Mike Ehrmantraut, Parking Police: The man who demands more parking stickers from Jimmy at the courthouse is Mike Ehermantraut. Breaking Bad fans will know him as the most bad-ass cop from Philadelphia. He will become an asset to Jimmy becoming a “criminal lawyer”, it is just going to take some time.

Loyola’s Café on Central: Loyola’s is in fact a café on Central in Albuquerque. Central also happens to be Route 66. You can check out there eats here. Additionally, this is the same spot that Mike likes to eat. In Breaking Bad season 4, “Cornered,” Jesse and Mike eat in the café. Mike also visits in season 5, “Madrigal.”

Freakin’ Tuco: The grandma who gets scammed by the skateboarding brothers has a grandson who she knows will help her after “hitting” someone and driving off. When they knock on the door and demand money, they are met with a gun, and then freakin’ Tuco Salamanca. Tuco takes a liking to meth, violence and saying the word “tight” a lot.

Tid-Bits:

The date: The date on Jimmy’s paycheck from the courthouse is May 13th, 2002. This puts us about five and a half years before he meets Walter White, and seven and half years before becoming Gene at Cinnabon.

Jimmy’s address: The address on Jimmy’s paycheck from the courthouse reads “160 Juan Tabo NE.” A street maps search pulls up this:

Better Call Saul - "Uno" - Jimmy's Law Office

Other than the Weinerschnitzel, you can see a sign for a Nail and Spa salon, where Jimmy’s “law office” is.

Suzuki Esteem: Breaking Bad had some iconic cars. Better Call Saul will likely be no different. Jimmy’s car make and model is a Suzuki Esteem. Jimmy is has a lot of self-esteem, but it’s a little battered, like the red colored door in the back.

The license plate numbers: Betsy Kettleman’s license plate number was 401-PND. Abuelita Salamanca’s license number was 493-BHS.

Music from the Episode:

The song played during the opening Cinnabon scene in tonight’s episode of Better Call Saul is called “Address Unknown” by the Ink Spots.

Hush Comics gives “Uno” an A- for giving Breaking Bad fans what they need and introducing new viewers to a series that is bound to be amazing.

All images belong to AMC.