With the series now almost in full swing, is it beginning to display the qualities of parent show? Online Games and Tech Editor, Harry Shepherd investigates.
Right out of the gate in the last episode, “Mijo,” the action got underway in a fantastically tense opening. “Nacho” is then forced to pick up the pieces, but conflicting interests have exposed a split in James McGill’s character that’s intriguing for us to see play out.
Jimmy has had a real, traumatising taste of Albuquerque’s criminal underbelly, and is now straddling the line between an altruistic, socially responsible lawyer and a transgressive criminal in an albeit flawed, yet still solid new entry to Better Call Saul.
Last time we saw McGill lucking his way out of a sticky situation with the infamous Tuco Salamanca, and
his methods haven’t exactly improved in time for “Nacho.” We’re rooting for Jimmy as he’s torn between two camps; the drug dealers are pressuring Jimmy to help them get to embezzled Kettleman millions and cover their own backs while the police are investigating their friend Nacho, whereas the establishment need his help to track down the Kettleman family themselves, represented by new character Kim.
This awkward position that McGill finds himself in is emphasised with the establishment of further loyalties that he must respect in a thought-provoking flashback in the pre-opening credits sequence. Our watching of the series is driven by a desire to learn more about the character of Saul Goodman, but we get hints and allegations of a deplorable, seedier side to our protagonist that we neither expected nor wanted to know, perhaps even making us feel implicated in the events that take place.
Back to the present, and the conflicting interests of the two groups appear to be a manifestation of
Jimmy’s personal state. He both attempts to threaten the Kettleman family to claim their supposed stolen money and warns them in the same few moments. Both acts are carried out in a nerve-wracking, haphazard fashion and the stress that this internal battle is having on McGill’s psyche is there for all to see.
Neither party appears to be satisfied by Jimmy’s confused efforts; we get the feeling that McGill is digging himself into a desperate, inescapable hole. He’s receiving threats from all sides and struggling to do deals at work as his lies and tentative manoeuvres appear to be catching up with him. Again, flickers of the dodgy, but confident Saul Goodman surface as he promises Nacho, “I’m here to help everybody, but mostly you,” with a soon to be well-known comedic edge.
But, despite not achieving this state in full yet, McGill manages to repeat the good fortune of his lucky escape from Casa Salamanca. Nevertheless, we begin to get a sense of the direction that Jimmy’s character is going to take with his haunting admission, “I’m no hero.”
This episode may be compelling, but in some ways is let down by the wooden lawyer Kim and the downright nauseating Kettleman family. The threat of danger is reflected in their faces in the same way that I might realise I’ve run out of clean cutlery. However, these disappointing performances are rescued by the emergence of a slightly expanded role for Mike Ehrmantraut, and his typically stoic, snarling exterior will inevitably remain popular.
It might not have had the near relentless action of the two previous episodes, but the highlight of the episode is in the ever more interesting character study of James McGill that’s developing, and ultimately isn’t undermined by some lacklustre performances. McGill has lucked his way through once more, but how much longer can this last?
Harry Shepherd, Online Games and Tech Editorbookmark me