Way back in October when Better Call Saul was just a set of promises and glint in its producers’ eyes, Bob Odenkirk made the rounds telling people that the show would have something approaching an 80/20 split between drama and comedy. Depending how you’ve slid the beans around on your abacus, the first few episodes have probably come in pretty close to that breakdown. I don’t know. Calculating it to a certainty is impossible because Odenkirk has a way of taking even straight line readings and adding humor to them, and Jimmy/Saul/Special Agent Jeffrey Steel is a funny character, in general, even when he’s begging for his life in the desert.
I bring this up because last night’s episode was funny as hell. Just about everything other than the stuff with Chuck was played for laughs (mental illness and involuntary commitment of a family member = very few lols), from Yosemite Sam and his secedin’ money, to elaborate multi-step Matlock schemes, to the weird dad with the sex toilet in his garage. The result was a really fun, breezy episode of television, which is a little weird when you remember that this is largely the same braintrust behind Breaking Bad, one of the heavier dramas you’ll ever see. And they’re using the same tools, too: the attention to detail, the revealing music montages, the slow build, the cinematography, etc. It kind of feels like an orchestra playing Hall & Oates songs sometimes. (NOTE: Not a complaint!) I’m sure they’ll tick up the drama to get the ratio back in line with their intentions at some point, but man, even if this is all the show ever is, I’m in.
That said, if I had one concern with the show right now — and it is a teeny, tiny one — it would be that we’re five episodes in and there doesn’t seem to be a big hook besides Jimmy becoming Saul. Like, first it was the Kettlemans and their million-dollar fraud case, but that looks like it might have been there just as a means to get Jimmy a chunk of cash to start scheming like Saul. Then there was Nacho, who I’m assuming will be back, but has temporarily disappeared after getting Jimmy to think like a criminal, also like Saul. At some point, I’d like to see a longer through-line develop, something or someone that comes in and gives Jimmy to struggle against. Maybe this thing with Mike will be that. A whole bunch of cops mysteriously showing up at someone’s door at the end of an episode has a way of adding drama. We’ll see, I suppose. In the meantime, I will happily settle for jokes about sex toilets.
If you want to drum up business for your burgeoning elder law practice, you could do a lot worse than dressing up like Matlock and handing out free Jell-O at nursing homes. I mean, it’s genius. And it’s a plan that only works by aging up. As much as I would very much like to see Bob Odenkirk trying to appeal to the legal interests of #teenz by handing out energy drinks at a local community college while dressed like Poochie from The Simpsons, it’s not exactly a sound plan for financial success. Kids have no money or problems and can sniff out a poser a mile away. Old people — old ladies, especially — have money and problems and they love anyone under the age of 50 who smiles at them. And they love Matlock.
Like I said, genius.
A few odds and ends:
– Does the rich secession-mad yahoo use his own money to try to buy other stuff, too? Like groceries? Imagine being a cashier at a Giant and having him berate you about the decline of personal freedom while trying to buy a gallon of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream with a $100 bill with his own face on it. “Um, I’ll need to call the manager.” “BIG BUREAUCRACY STRIKES AGAIN. I AM BEING OPPRESSED.”
– “We are going to be America’s Vatican City.” What a staggeringly sane and normal sentence to say out loud to another human.
– I want to know more about this “Frederick” character and why marrying him will get that old lady’s relative taken out of the will. Knowing Gilligan and Gould, we’ll meet him in Season 5, Episode 7 when he ends up as a one of Saul’s scoundrel clients. CALLBACK.
– “If I were 40 years younger, I’d have you buy me a pina colada.” And if you were 40 years younger, I WOULD. You seem like a fun lady.
– The thing with the doc turning on the hospital bed was a nice way to show that Chuck’s problems are indeed all in his head. We knew that already, sure, but to present it to Jimmy that way really drove it home. This situation is gonna get worse before it gets better. If it gets better. Even if Jimmy changes his mind and tries to have him committed, Chuck still appears to know the hell out of the law.
– One fun part about watching a prequel is that it’s sort of like being able to see into the future. Example: When Jimmy said “From now on I play by the rules” I started thinking “NO YOU DON’T. YOU DO THE OPPOSITE OF THAT. I KNOW. I’VE SEEN IT. YOU AND WALT HAVE ADVENTURES” like I cracked the damn code or something.
– That inventor is gonna be in for one hell of a shock when he finally figures out that his kid’s toilet is in fact a sex toilet.
– SEX TOILET.
Your thoughts below.