AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 3, Episode 6: “Off-Brand”
Directed by Keith Gordon
Written by Ann Cherkis
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Chicanery” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Expenses” – click here
We open with Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) and Nacho (Michael Mando) at their place of business, the latter counting rolls upon rolls of cash as his boss drinks coffee and reads the newspaper. Business as usual. Then one payment comes light, from the man we later know in Breaking Bad as Krazy-8 (Max Arciniega). Although Nacho lets him off with it, until his boss comments: “Who works for who, huh?”
And so Krazy-8 gets one rough beating in the kitchen from Nacho.
Cut to Nacho in back of a shop, sewing steadily until he just about sews his hand right into the garment he’s making. There’s a lot more to this dude, and I hope we’ll see this before he disappears eventually.
In court, Kim (Rhea Seehorn) pleads the case of Mr. James McGill (Bob Odenkirk), that he is a compassionate man helping his ill brother Chuck (Michael McKean) and many seniors. She paints a picture of betrayal by the older brother. He gets a 12-month sentence, I assume a time during which he can’t practise law. Definitely worthy of their celebration.
At the same time, Rebecca (Ann Cusack) goes to see her former husband in his fortress of electrical solitude. He won’t answer, he simply wastes away in darkness. So Rebecca goes to see Jimmy, who does not want to help him anymore: “I don‘t owe him squat.” She is very disappointed, believing Chuck was right about the younger brother.
Rebecca: “He‘s mentally ill. What‘s your excuse?”
Stacey Ehrmantraut (Kerry Condon) sits and talks with a support group, her father-in-law Mike (Jonathan Banks) at her side. She says she volunteered him to help with a playground at the church. We see more of that whole other side to Mike in these moments with his family, which were only short and sweet in Breaking Bad. It’s interesting to see how he got to such a desperate place in that original series through the moments in this wonderfully written prequel.
Howard (Patrick Fabian) goes to see Chuck, refusing to leave without a word. And a drink. Although the older McGill isn’t happy about anything. Not his mental state, not Jimmy’s one-year suspension. His partner tries painting a positive picture, but it’s not of much use. He wants Chuck to focus on the future, to keep being a good lawyer, so on. Saying he’s too smart a man to throw a life away on a delinquent brother.
So, can he bounce back? Or will he succumb to his unfortunate mental condition? Alone at his desk Chuck takes a battery in his bare hands, forcing himself to hold it tight and cringing the whole time.
And what about Jimmy? What’s next? He has to take care of the situation with his clients for the coming year. He calls them to let everyone know he’s taking a “sabbatical from the law.” That’s it, y’know. Plenty of the older folk will miss him, so it’s mostly a lot of chatting. He’s a slick one, that we already know. A great montage sequence of him calling his clients fits right in with his character. Perfectly placed.
He also finds out his commercial’s still running on TV, in for another $4K of ad space with it off the air. So many money issues with him leaving for a whole year. Wonder how he’s going to fund the whole venture while not working. He goes out trying to hawk the ad space, offering to shoot the commercials for the $4,000. 9 commercials, 9 airings. Or one commercial at a lower rate, airing still included. But no one’s biting at the sales pitch yet.
What Jimmy decides on doing is “off–brand” to him, though finally he comes to a decision: “We‘ll have to Karloff this thing.”
Meanwhile, the drug trade in New Mexico continues through the trucks of Los Pollos Hermanos trafficking the cartel’s meth. Men go to work taking out packages and packages of product from the trucks’ false flooring, giving it over to Nacho. We see a familiar face with Victor, one who actually takes the place of Victor later on in Breaking Bad: Tyrus (Ray Campbell). Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) gets a call when Nacho tries taking more than expected, and the boss says to give it over. All ends well, for now.
Speaking of Gus, he’s checking out the new digs at an industrial laundry facility. Oh, you know the one. He’s got an eye out for a place where he’ll construct a lab, one to make him the kingpin of meth distribution in New Mexico. Another familiar face shows up, Ms. Quayle (Laura Fraser), helping him on the search for the perfect location.
Poor Chuck, out on the streets covered under his clothes with the space blanket. He finds a payphone and calls a Dr. Laura Cruz, his former doctor. He wants to get treatment again, obviously. I feel so horrible for him, despite any of his own faults aside from his condition. It’s heartbreaking.
When Nacho and Arturo (Vincent Fuentes) get back to Hector, the old guy’s not impressed with what happened at Fring’s place. He wants to go into his own big time distributing business, hoping Nacho will convince his father to help. But the young man doesn’t want to let that happen. At the same time they find out Tuco’s in trouble for a stabbing. This prompts the old fella to nearly have an attack. Also, note the errant pill Nacho keeps under his boot.
Looks like the McGill plan has worked. He’s optimistic about the ad time. He “made a commercial for commercials” in a single afternoon. A hilarious little cheap commercial with star swipes and chunky-lettered graphics.
Finally, FINALLY – we have the pseudonym, Saul Goodman making an apperance. “S‘all good, man.” Even though he says it’s merely a name, we know better. This becomes the first time he dips into a truly other identity, his second life. His future.
What an impressive episode. I love how the writers weave together and make these little moments from Breaking Bad come to life more vivid, as well as still creating their own world of Jimmy McGill before he too broke bad. Can’t wait for the next episode “Expenses” because I smell more cartel treachery coming soon.