Better Call Saul – Season 3, Episode 1: “Mabel”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 3, Episode 1: “Mabel”
Directed by Vince Gilligan
Written by Vince Gilligan & Peter Gould

* For a recap & review of the Season 2 finale, “Klick” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Witness” – click here
Pic 1We start Season 3 with another black-and-white flash forward into the future of Jimmy McGill a.k.a Saul Goodman a.k.a Gene the Cinnabon manager (Bob Odenkirk). Nancy Sinatra croons “Sugartown” as we watch his daily life at the Cinnabon in the mall. Far from where we saw him in Breaking Bad, juxtaposed beautifully with the place we follow along in the current timeline of Better Call Saul; one of the fascinating parts of the writing and the progression of characters is how Gilligan & Co. pull off making his journey into a, at times, non-linear adventure. In turn, this keeps things fresh even though we already know where Jimmy/Saul ends up down the road.
What I’m most interested in is where Gene goes from this point post-Breaking Bad, or if he continues on in his purgatorial existence, a fitting end for a greasy guy such as himself. Eating lunch alone on a bench he winds up seeing a sketchy young man who looks to be hiding, in trouble. Rather than let the kid go on, he rats him out to the cops. Then in a burst he tells the kid to say nothing, and advises him to get a lawyer. That old Saul came loose, even for a second. Gene’s not as measured as he once seemed. Later while glazing some buns he passes out. Yikes.
Pic 1ATo the current timeline. Jimmy and Chuck (Michael McKean) are back where we left them, when the younger brother confessed to his brother believing no one else would hear. Not knowing Chuck was hiding a tape recorder the entire time. All the while Jimmy thinks everything’s well, or at least stable. A situation he can manage. The brothers reminisce about being younger, triggered by The Adventures of Mabel which Jimmy finds in Chuck’s bookcase. For the first time, they actually seem like brothers. Not for long, though. The older of the two reminds with an ominous tone: “You will pay.”
Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) is doing her best to keep her chin up, too. Despite the rollercoaster of a life she has sitting next to Jimmy. He’s not exactly a dream dude to be involved with in business, or in friendship, love, et cetera. Eventually I have to believe Kim won’t be able to reconcile her morality with being on his side. She already knows he’s not on the level, but just doesn’t realise how deep the well of deceit goes. But as always, the problem is that Jimmy’s such a likeable loser that it’s very tough not to root for him.
Jimmy: “For ten minutes today Chuck didnt hate me. I forgot what that felt like.”
Meanwhile, Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) hears Chuck’s tape of Jimmy and the confession. Certainly the secret recording isn’t enough to hold up in court; Chuck knows. So why have the tape at all? Does it involve Kim?
Of most interest to me is Mr. Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks). He was out in the desert, and found a note telling him to get away. A warning, but from whom exactly? Mike does the smart thing, speeding away from the scene then checking his car for any kind of devices; nothing. He heads to a scrapyard and has a closer look. And I mean a CLOSER FUCKING LOOK. Mike uses every last ounce of his training to look through the guts of his car, inspecting each inch with precision. Like he can smell it yet can’t seem to find the thing.
Finally, he discovers something hidden in the gas cap. THE GAS CAP! An ingenious, tedious place to hide a tracking device. That’s some next level deviousness. But now Mike has some idea, a starting point leading to whoever’s keeping an eye on him so close.


Jimmy receives a visit from Captain Bauer (Brendan Fehr), one of the military gentlemen whose eyes he pulled the wool over when needing to cut a commercial. Anyways, he’s not happy. Slick talkin’ Jimmy tries to sell him a load of horseshit, that doesn’t work. Either Jimmy takes the ad down or “therell be hell to pay.” He doesn’t dig that, so he threatens to take it to court and win. The captain advises him, in his own way of speaking, that eventually Jimmy’s going to get what he deserves. From the flash forwards and seeing Breaking Bad, we know this to be true.
With his newly acquired knowledge, Mike switches out his gas cap to head off after work. At an old warehouse he meets his friend the veterinarian (Joe DeRosa) to get himself some gear. Pricey, too: $1,000.
Back to Kim, over at Mesa Verde she’s doing great work. As always. Worse still she knows the treachery, the guilt eats her. How long before it eats her alive? Every time she hears about Chuck and his supposed mistake, it’s like a stab in the gut. Also, in the office – that rainbow… any imagery connections to that in Season 2? I’d like to revisit that.
Over at Chuck’s place, he has to get Ernesto to help him change batteries in the tape recorder. The thing is on when he changes them, he hears a bit of Jimmy confessing. This sends the old gentleman into a fit of anger, trying to make sure Ernesto won’t ever tell anybody about what he’s heard. “There could be terrible consequences,” Chuck convinces him with a torrent of quasi-threatening language.
Pic 3Mike, Mike, Mike; what will you think of next? He’s like the counter-intelligence king of the streets, using all that police knowledge from busting criminals, learning their ways, to fuel his own criminal enterprises. Except right now it’s like espionage, trying to discover who’s on the other end of the surveillance on him. He’s reversing the cat and mouse aspect of the dangerous game that’s being played, or at the least trying to do so. And he loves pistachios. Fucking loves them. I don’t blame him, either; they’re great.
After a long night of waiting, Mike sees a vehicle stop. Someone retrieves the GPS tracker from the gas cap then they’re off into the night fast as they came. So, Mike has a lead on where they’re headed.
Want to take a guess? Might have something to do with Los Pollos Hermanos, maybe?


Great start to the season! I don’t care if people say the show’s slow moving. It’s meant to; the storytelling and the character development and the plot moves are all spectacular. Great music and score, as well. Excited for “Witness” next week. Welcome back.

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Better Call Saul – Season 2, Episode 1: “Switch”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 2, Episode 1: “Switch”
Directed by Thomas Schnauz
Written by Peter Gould & Thomas Schnauz

* For a review of the Season 1 finale, “Marco” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Cobbler” – click here
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The lead-up to Season 2 is promising an even further shift in the nature of Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) – the man many of us first knew as Saul Goodman. But we’re still on our way to the days of Saul.
Season opener “Switch” begins as another flash into the future of Jimmy, the obvious change in identity which follows his business with Walter White and Jesse Pinkman throughout AMC’s Breaking Bad. I love that we see these future flashes because it parallels the flashback through Jimmy’s life that is Better Call Saul overall. In a sense, what happens in the future almost negates anything Jimmy did previously, the whole change to another person in his new life as Saul that he cultivates in this series basically becomes moot due to Walt and Jesse’s operation. There is some sort of tragic and also funny mix to the whole thing. Especially when Jimmy gets locked out where the dumpsters are at his workplace, and we can see his obvious reluctance to open the Emergency Exit; he sees on the door a note stating the police will be called if the door opens and the alarm goes off. Jimmy won’t do it because his new life working for Cinnabon is of an inconspicuous, low-key nature. Eventually he gets out when a janitor comes back, but to see him sitting there, unable to or unwilling to push that door open, it’s an excellent and powerful statement about him. Even better, a long, drawn out close-up comes up against the wall and we see what he left: “SG was here” scrawled on the paint.
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Back to where we currently know Jimmy McGill in 2002, he’s over at the office of Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) to see Clifford Main (Ed Begley Jr), as well as his associates Brian and Erin. Then before any business Jimmy calls Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) aside to ask about their relationship, and how his new case might affect any of that. “One thing has absolutely nothing to do with the other,” she tries to reassure him. Still, though, Jimmy refuses the job and walks out.
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Heading through the gate, he stops to talk with Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) about the money; the stuff he decided not to take. Mike lays down some rules of criminal code. “Well I know whats stopping me,” Jimmy tells him: “And you know what? Its never stoppinme again.” He drives off humming Deep Purple to himself, showing up at the spa from where he does all his business. I love this whole location, such an awesome look to the whole thing. Best scene so far comes quick when Jimmy wants some cucumber water but the spa owner replies, as always, it’s “for customers only“. So Jimmy lets the tap loose and drinks straight from it, letting lots spill to the floor. Is this a new James McGill? I believe so. He even rips the makeshift sign off his office door.


In other news, Mike waits in a parking garage where a terribly flashy Hummer pulls up, spinners on the wheels, huge flames all over the side, and the entire thing painted in yellow. Ehrmantraut scolds Daniel (Mark Proksch) inside his car does not illustrate “restraint“, especially considering they’re headed to a job. Daniel says fuck it, he won’t pay Mike any longer to supposedly protect him on deals against Nacho Varga (Michael Mando), he’ll go alone. Mike advises otherwise, and he’s most likely right. Out on the meet, wearing shoes to match his vehicle, Daniel meets Nacho, the latter of whom declares the Hummer “interesting” and asks to take a look. Things seem friendly, as if two buddies were checking out a car in the garage. But while Daniel counts his cash, Nacho looks in the glovebox to find the man’s registration; home address and all. Trouble’s definitely on the horizon, at least for Daniel.
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Jimmy’s busy doing his own thing now. Floating in a pool with a drink, some dip, the whole nine yards. He gets a call and claims he’s “no longer a lawyer“. Arriving soon after, Kim is pissed about Jimmy passing up the big opportunity with Clifford Main. For his part Jimmy doesn’t appear too phased: “I just finally decided to be me,” he tells her. At the bar they talk a little. Jimmy hammers home the point he went into law for all the wrong reasons. He wants to use his talents elsewhere. Across the bar while they chat, Jimmy keeps hearing an asshole stock broker (likely the same man whose car Walt blew up in Breaking Bad‘s “Cancer Man“) speaking loudly into a Bluetooth headset, swearing, laughing like a dolt. So the new Jimmy heads over and asks a question about investments on stocks, pretending they have money to put somewhere, which eggs the guy on a little. Jimmy’s essentially showing Kim his powers of persuasion, his gift of gab. And those of us who’ve followed Odenkirk from Breaking Bad to now know this guy has got the goods. He could’ve been a great, straight lawyer, but his abilities certainly tailor him to a specific line of business re: law. Funny how Kim falls in line quickly while Jimmy spins his magic. They pull a fast one on Mr. Wall Street then bounce, leaving him with a massive bill. Jimmy and Kim hook up, too, but it’s clear he wants it to become something bigger, something more.
Little Breaking Bad reference – Kim orders the trio a bottle of the fictional tequila Zafiro Añejo, which people will remember from Season 4. Love how little bits and pieces of the original show come out here, adds little dashes of spice to an already fun series in its own right.
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Not surprisingly, Daniel’s house has been broken into and ransacked. He calls the police and two officers come to investigate. His baseball card collection, “a major collection“, was taken. A bunch of cash was taken, as well. Daniel doesn’t seem too intent on revealing how much cash was taken, diverting the conversation back to his cards. The cops look pretty damn suspicious, as Daniel rambles on about his collection. They ask about what Daniel does for work – he’s an I.T. guy at a pharmaceutical company, naturally, which they find a little interesting. When the two officers discover Daniels’ couch was moved they further find a stash spot along the baseboards of the wall; inside, nothing. Clearly there used to be something important in that spot, that we already know. But the police know now.
Jimmy is over at the pool, again. He floats and makes a call on his cell, then admires a beautiful women poolside who shows up to tend to a large gold chain wearing man, who also happens to be clothed in high priced clothing. Jimmy wants to use this guy as a “mark“, the next one on his new road trip to a new life. Seems being a criminal comes naturally to a man who once tried upholding the law. Mostly, he’s calling Kim, hoping she’ll come down and have fun with him. She doesn’t call back, but he decides to call Davis & Main, obviously where Clifford practices.
Cue Jimmy at his office, checking things out. A far cry from the pool where he previously lounged. He’s always doing things for other people, not for himself, just as he stated earlier to Kim about his brother being the reason he practiced law. Now it’s as if he is only doing this for Kim; to impress her, to have her in his life. There are two ends of the rope tugging – Jimmy is a criminal at heart, but these other people in his life pull him towards a stable, more professional and most importantly legal state of living. Just seeing Jimmy at the office in front of a big desk, strange art on the wall, he doesn’t belong. No matter how hard he tries to fit on, no matter if he wants to. Regardless, the clash of his two lives brews more and more.
Most interesting is the light switch on the wall. It has a sign that declares ALWAYS LEAVE ON. But the small screaming rebel inside Jimmy won’t let it be; he tears it off. Of course, nothing really happens, not that he notices. Yet it speaks louder than words, this action: Jimmy cannot, he will not, conform to the fully straight and normal life. He will always have to tear that tape off, do things his own way. Always.


Looking forward to the following episode in this new season, “Cobbler”.