TV Review: Better Call Saul: Episode 5: Alpine Shepherd Boy
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 5: Alpine Shepherd Boy
REVIEW: And the streak continues...
Right from the start, BETTER CALL SAUL's been a consistently surprising show. What's so admirable about it – as opposed to your typical spin-off – is that it consistently refuses to play off the notoriety of BREAKING BAD, establishing its own unique identity remarkably fast. However, the shows do have common ground. While BREAKING BAD was often called a “crime saga” in reality it was about one good man's descent into evil – which in this case turned out to be the ultra-violent drug underworld. SAUL's similar in that it's all about Saul – or rather Jimmy – in transition. He's not as upstanding as Walter White was at the start of BREAKING BAD, but like WW there's a nobility to him, or at least an essential goodness, which is something we're clearly going to watch be bled out of him as the show goes on.
But for now anyways, Jimmy's still a reasonably good man – whose schemes have yet to start paying off. Last week ended on a kind of triumph, as Jimmy's rescue scam granted him instant notoriety. Yet, the triumph was hollow as all of his clients so far how been cranks. This is hilariously covered in two early scenes. In one, Jimmy thinks he's about to become a millionaire when a Charles Foster Kane type magnate asks him to help him secede from the U.S. Sadly, the millions wind up being in the crank's own currency. Client two is even worse, with him designing a toilet for kids ('Tony the Toilet Buddy') that Jimmy finds remarkably suggestive (calling it a 'sex toilet').
Success with one older client (along with encouragement from Rhea Seehorn's optimistic Kim) leads to a short spell as a specialist in elder law, with a really well-directed sequence showing Jimmy stroll through a retirement home to the theme from THE THIRD MAN, with ads for his agency on the bottom of jello cups.
Meanwhile, Chuck comes perilously close to being committed after his neighbor rats on him for stealing her newspaper. Jimmy's treatment of his brother shows how “good” he still is – as by committing him he would have been able to cash-his brother out of his firm and bankrupt his nemesis, Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) although so far he's not succumbing to the temptation (which he wouldn't have thought twice about as Saul).
For the most part this is another relatively light episode, but the show takes a distinct turn in the last act, following Mike (Jonathan Banks) as he leaves his job, eyes a girl who might be his daughter, and lives his quiet, lonely life. It ends on an ominous note, with the cops showing up at Mike's door, and the promos for next week suggest a significantly darker episode as he relies on Jimmy's legal assistance, and seems to take a vengeful, very “Cartel-Mike” turn that will likely plunge the show into some very dark territory. This will certainly be interesting to see, but until then this was another amazing episode. Even if this had nothing to do with BREAKING BAD, I would consider it one of the best shows on TV.
BREAKING BAD crossover: Police investigating Chuck's home think he's a Jesse Pinkman-style tweaker. In the meantime, Jimmy continues to experiment with looks, although too much MATLOCK leads to an ill-advised white linen suit. He's still looking too respectable – but he's getting there. Meanwhile, Mike's family ties (which led to his downfall on BREAKING BAD) are hinted at for the first time.