Previously on Better Call Saul, “Chicanery”
Now that the dust has cleared somewhat from last week’s tense proceedings, every lead has taken a respite of sorts and regain their footing after a series of shaky events. The name of the game in “Off Brand” is reinvention, as the McGills – along with Mike, Gus and Nacho – look towards the potential future of their current circumstances, and take radical measures.
After Chuck’s public meltdown, Jimmy has finally washed his hands clean of his brother. In spite of pleas from Rebecca (Ann Cusack) and Kim’s concern for Charles’ mental state, James claimed to have absolutely no qualms about leaving his brother to rot in his self-made prison. Thankfully for Charles, Howard managed to act like a normal human being once in his life and gave his partner a convincing speech about the worst being behind everyone. Jimmy wasn’t permanently barred from practicing law but he can’t solicit his services for 12 months. If he slips up once, the PPD he signed goes into effect. It may not be exactly what Charles wants, but it’s enough to empower him to seek the help he so desperately needs.
As for little brother, Jimmy managed to inform all his clients of his status and narrowly avoided a violation of his PPD by cancelling his run of commercials. What’s a man to do with $4,000 worth of TV spots? Create a small business to promote small business with the promise of free air time, of course! Per Jimmy’s slippery ways, McGill weaves through loopholes with ease, only to hit a bump in the road when it comes to filming a promo as himself. Ever the showman, Jimmy dons the ugliest fake goatee ever plastered on with spirit gum, puts on some shades and creates a pale imitation of the man that will eventually transform his entire life. He may not be fully formed just yet, but it all begins with a name. Welcome to the world, Saul Goodman.
Yet again, this episode of Saul seamlessly re-introduced minor characters from Breaking Bad; this semi-regular practice in its recent episodes has never come off as a gimmicky lure to draw in more viewers or placate to evident feelings of nostalgia. Saul’s committee of writers have masterfully woven a narrative far richer than many of us expected, seeing as many believed the well had run dry in Albuquerque back in 2013. That, as Gilligan and company have proven, is far from the case.
While it has been thoroughly enjoyable to witness Giancarlo Esposito and Mark Margolis reprise the roles that made Breaking Bad a milestone in television history, the reappearance of characters like Francesca Liddy, Domingo “Krazy-8” Molina, Tyrus Kitt, Victor, and even Lydia (!!!) adds not only to their enigmatic backgrounds but adds intricacy to Saul’s constantly evolving web of intrigue, despite the show already having a fairly large cast. Most of the focus this week was on Mike’s relationship with his daughter-in-law Stacey (Kerry Condon), who has taken to weekly group therapy sessions and shares her empathy among other bereaved.
It’s hard to tell if the earliest scenes featuring Mike and Stacey were deliberately written to be unclear and dubious in nature, but in each season as Mike’s story became a more prominent feature in Saul, the Ehrmantrauts finally jelled into a relatively upbeat family unit. Jonathan Banks continues to entertain us beyond our expectations with his portrayal of the perpetually surly yet deceptively shrewd Mike. However some of Ehrmantraut’s best moments have arisen from the growing disconnect between Business Mike and Family Man Mike. As we know, his strict code to keep civilians out of the business was violated by the deteriorating ‘Tio’ Salamanca last season, hence the alliance with Gus. True, Mike may bring more trouble into his family from jumping into deeper waters, but it’s apparent that Hector is a menace not only to him and Fring but his most trusted lieutenant.
Five episodes in and we finally have our first bona fide scenes of Nacho and it’s clear he’s shook after everything that occurred last season. Working for the cartel probably hasn’t been worth the effort for some time and the anxiety is becoming manifest. From his initial (and repeat) encounter with Krazy-8 and the time spent in his father’s upholstery shop, to his one-sided conversation with a Hector, Michael Mando put in some serious work in subtly revealing the fear and desperation Ignacio contends with on a daily basis. In season two, Nacho was establishing a side business for himself with mixed success but it wasn’t known what motivated him to branch out on his own until the Salamanca’s volatile nature proved detrimental to one’s lifespan.
Now put out by Fring’s prolonged designs for revenge, Hector wants to exploit Nacho’s father’s business to ship more product across the border. Like Mike, Nacho wants to keep work as far away from family life as possible; now that Tio is imposing his will once more, we can expect Ignacio to redouble his efforts in neutralizing Salamanca’s influence, one way or another.
Better Call Saul S3E6
Better Call Saul – S3E6 – Off Brand | Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Rhea Seehorn, Patrick Fabian, Michael Mando, Michael McKean, Giancarlo Esposito | Writer: Ann Cherkis | Director: Keith Gordon