TV Review: Better Call Saul: Season 1, Episode 1: Uno (SPOILERS)
This recap/review of BETTER CALL SAUL is written with the expectation that everyone who reads this and comments below will have seen the episode already. Thus, if you've yet to see the episode in question, DO NOT GO ANY FURTHER. SPOILERS!
EPISODE: Season 1, Episode 1: Uno
REVIEW: BETTER CALL SAUL opens very similar to the way BREAKING BAD used to, in media res, with the interesting part being that the bit depicts Saul after his dealings with Walt, doing exactly what he always said his best option at this point would be, managing a Cinnabon in Omaha. There's something fitting about showing Saul trying to make a go of things, a shadow of his former self (even his comb-over has gone to seed). While it seems that the majority of the show will be a prequel, scenes like this suggest that Saul's eventual fate will play a major part in how the show plays out.
However, as advertised most of BETTER CALL SAUL will likely focus on Saul, or rather Jimmy McGill's early career. We pick up on Jimmy circa 2001, as he defends necrophiliac teens for the princely sum of $700, before following him around as he tries to keep his practice afloat. For all of his later shady dealings, here Jimmy seems to about about 70% or so honest. Much of the pilot focuses on him trying to negotiate a buy-out for his more successful lawyer brother Chuck (Michael McKean) who suffers from a little understood (but apparently real) disease called EMF in which suffers are hyper-sensitive to electromagnetic energy (he'd likely fare much worse in our current wi-fi world). Anyways, his brother helped set up the law firm which is trying to keep him on the books to keep from paying him the millions they'd owe him, and Jimmy's trying to get him a big pay day, even though his brother can't admit his days of lawyering may be behind him.
For the most part, this first episode is all about establishing McGill, who's yet to embrace his criminal side. Yet, there is that patented swagger that comes out at times, such as him bursting into his brother's firm quoting Ned Beatty in NETWORK, or his obvious offense when politely asked by his brother to consider using another name other than McGill for his firm. We also see a little of the old (or rather, new) Saul as his almost gets suckered by some scammy skate-kids, only to turn the tables on them and making them his errand boys after telling them a story about his old pal “Slippin' Jimmy”, and elevating their game to a higher level. It all ends with McGill, who was trying to get hired by the wife of a possibly dirty county treasurer, in the hands of BREAKING BAD drug kinpin, Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz) – one of Walter White's early victims. Clearly this will be Jimmy's entree into the underworld, which, as we've seen, is just below the surface of the presumably sleepy New Mexico world Jimmy's found himself a cog in.
While this first episode of BETTER CALL SAUL is a bit uneventful, it does a good job of introducing us to this earlier incarnation of Saul Goodman. If you think back to how BREAKING BAD started, it's not really all that different, and certainly Vince Gilligan (who directed the episode) and showrunner Peter Gould have something very special, and very dark in store for us.Much of the show has that classic BREAKING BAD feel, with the visual style being similar, and composer Dave Porter's music very much in the mold of what he added to that show (although it's slightly more upbeat and energetic here). Still, even early on it feels like BETTER CALL SAUL is gonna be the rare spin-off that works. Odenkirk hasn't lost a beat and believably plays the younger Saul. Michael McKean also seems like an ideal addition to the cast. It's a promising start, and I for one am very eager to see episode two (which airs in the regular Monday night timeslot).
BREAKING BAD crossover: The brilliant teaser, set to an old 'Ink Spots' song is a direct sequel, showing us the now down-and-out Saul. Otherwise, Mike (Jonathan Banks) makes a short appearance as an overly efficient toll booth operator (he's a regular although that's his only scene in the pilot). The ending also shows old Tuco. Could Hector or even Gus Fring be part of future episodes?