Tagged Mark Margolis

Breaking Bad – Season 2, Episode 2: “Grilled”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 2, Episode 2: “Grilled”
Directed by Charles Haid
Written by George Mastras

* For a review of the Season 2 premiere, “Seven Thirty-Seven” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Bit by a Dead Bee” – click here
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Open on the car Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) was driving at the end of the premiere. There are gun casings, shells laying everywhere. Glass. The hydraulics of the car are bouncing. Everything is desolate.
Cut to Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) explaining to the DEA office that Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz) is the new head honcho of the meth business in the ABQ. He took over from Krazy-8. But also, they discovered the two dead men at the scrapyard are involved with Tuco. PLUS – a fingerprint belonging to the man himself. So, perfect timing? I think so. Now that Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is along for a ride with Tuco, Jesse in tow. Perfect timing for the story. Terrible for Walt. Even further, Skyler (Anna Gunn) called Hank saying she hasn’t seen her husband since the night before; he left out of nowhere and never came back, still missing. A real situation is brewing for ole Walt. If he makes it out unscathed, how will he explain the disappearance? Cops are called. Hank is poking around. There are so many ways this entire thing could go wrong.
The key – Walt receiving a text on his phone before leaving. Skyler mentions it to the cop working on finding him. Remember, Walt has two cell phones. Will this come back to cause him grief, either personally or legally? It’s just the beginning.
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In the desert, Tuco gets rid of all the cell phones around him, tossing them into the weeds. He has Walt and Jesse holed up a little cabin. Or, he does after letting them free of the trunk.
At the same time, Skyler is out putting up MISSING posters with Walt’s face on them. Nobody has any idea where he could’ve gone, least of all her. If only they knew it was all a result of cooking meth. Would his wife still be out there hoping to find him? Then there’s all the cash sitting in a box of diapers, just feet from Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) who prints of more posters with his father’s face on them, teary eyed.
Over in the small cabin in the desert, Tuco’s ill uncle Hecter ‘Tio’ Salamanca (Mark Margolis) sits in a wheelchair, only able to communicate with the ringing of a bell set at his fingertip. Tuco goes about intimidating Walt and Jesse more, looking through wallets, discovering more about the Heisenberg he supposedly knew. A sad juxtaposition: Walter’s wallet holds family pictures, identification cards and more, as Jesse only has a condom in his, sort of a statement of their two lives. Regardless, the worry for these two is real now that Tuco has them stashed away out there. The DEA is after Tuco, and he’s a little suspicious about his new business partners. He plans to take Walt and Jesse with him – across the border.


Back over at the White place, Skylar finally finds out about a second cellphone. Marie (Betsy Brandt) sort of forces Hank’s hand, but out it comes. He’s further forced to hypothesize about Walt possibly having a “secret.” But nobody, and I mean NOBODY in that family has any inkling what Walt’s been up to. Not even close in the same league or ballpark or even state. Then out Hank looking for Walt, ending up at Jesse’s parents place. Naturally this eventually sparks the suspicious curiosity about why Hank, a DEA agent, might be inquiring about her son. Never have the cooking duo found themselves so close to the brink of law crashing down around them. Certainly getting risky for ole Walter.
In the desert he and Jesse are stressing out. Worst of all, Hector’s beginning to get suspicious, too. About the two men Tuco has with him. And while the crazy gangster cooks them up some food, the dynamic duo argues over how to proceed with their new plan, after Jesse fucked up their poison plans with his “chili powder” scheme. What’s most interesting is seeing how Walter, because of his own bad choices, finds himself further whipped into a downward whirling pool of even worse forced choices. Here, his mind is being further bent into criminality. Just as he gets some of the poison into a tortilla Tuco will be eating, crafty Hector sees what’s happening. He warns with his bell, though it only pisses his nephew off. Until they swap food, then Walt and Jesse get quite nervous.
This entire set of scenes in the desert is wildly tense. The suspense is amazing, made tighter by the fact Hector can only communicate via his annoying little bell. Solid writing, as usual with this series. Then, once Tuco starts to ask the right questions, at least for a moment, the pulse starts pounding. Jesse comes up with a nice little story. Just not nice enough.
When Tuco finally flips he takes Jesse and Walt outside into the desert. It’s only when Walt is confronted with either confessing or seeing Jesse die does he tell Tuco the truth. Before the duo fights against the gangster for their lives.
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Tuco: “Tell me what you did!”
Walt: “We tried to poison you. We tried to poison you because you are an insane, degenerate piece of filth and you deserve to die.”


Fate has a strange way of weaving through the writing of Breaking Bad; or y’know, they could just be solid writers. Because first Tuco keeps coming even after taking a bullet, then the unimaginable happens: Hank shows up. He’s tracked down Pinkman’s vehicle. Just never thought he’d encounter Tuco Salamanca in all his savage glory. What follows is a brief gunfight between DEA Agent Schrader and Tuco, ending in the insane meth head going down for the count with an impressive shot from Hank. Wilder still is when Walt sees his brother-in-law there.
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This is an intense ending to a great episode. Next up is “Bit by a Dead Bee”, another quality chapter in the start of Season 2.

Better Call Saul – Season 2, Episode 10: “Klick”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 2, Episode 10: “Klick”
Directed by Vince Gilligan
Written by Gilligan & Heather Marion

* For a recap & review of the penultimate Season 2 episode, “Nailed” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 3 premiere, “Mabel” – click here
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After Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) stood by as his older brother Chuck (Michael McKean) smashed his head off a counter in the previous episode, the Season 2 finale begins with the two brothers – a psych out has us feeling it’s Jimmy at his brother’s hospital bed. But it’s the Brothers McGill at the bedside of their mother. One thing I love is how the flashbacks are always in this blue-grey tone, so immediately I should’ve known this was a view back to their lives. Before all the mess, or well, before the biggest mess. The dying mother wakes a moment and calls for Jimmy, right before dying. Calling out for him, the mother wastes away, and he gone out for a sandwich. The disappointment is evident by the look on Chuck’s face. He hates his younger brother, for always taking the easy way out, for always giving up, so on. I feel bad for Chuck, at the same time I recognize Jimmy’s situation, as someone who isn’t deliberately malicious, until absolutely pushed to that point. He simply doesn’t think. When he gets back to the hospital, Jimmy finds Chuck, who refrains from telling his brother about their mother’s last words, calling out for him.
With this opening sequence, the writing and direction of Gilligan is already doing wonderful things.
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Back to the end of “Nailed” – Jimmy races inside the copy shop to try and take charge of the situation. He gets Chuck’s head elevated slightly, though, the look in his brother’s is very spacey. In the hospital, he’s unable to protect himself from all the electronics beaming into him. You can almost feel the claustrophobia, as Gilligan uses a great rig shot to show him in this really up-close and personal perspective, which sort of cements us in a first-person point of view. A truly painful sequence to watch Chuck suffer underneath the lights and around all the electronic equipment. I’ve always felt he’s mostly crazy. Here, the acting, the writing, the direction makes this almost unbearable. Seriously. Not much affects me deeply, but Michael McKean had me wanting to cry, as Chuck pleads with them not to do a CAT scan. When the whole moment is over, I sighed a breath of relief.
But Jimmy doesn’t get such a chance to sigh. A doctor (Clea DuVall) explains to Jimmy there needs to be examinations done, however, Chuck is still refusing, obviously. The younger brother doesn’t want to commit the older one. Like anyone wouldn’t want to, either. Things for James McGill are about to get far more complicated than ever before. Because it’s been clear a long while, Chuck is not fit to be living without someone to help take care of him.
Worst of all, Chuck is sure of Jimmy’s treachery. To anyone else it sounds bonkers. To us, we know the truth. At the same time, man servant Ernesto says he called Jimmy, that’s why he showed up at the copy shop. Well, that pokes a hole in Chuck’s ideas. And he’s aware of what comes next. We’ll see how well that pans out, on all ends. As for Ernesto, he says he helped out because he likes Jimmy, and it seems as if Chuck has been out to get him. Yikes. Works for Jimmy.


In other areas of town, on the outskirts, Nacho (Michael Mando) and Arturo (Vincent Fuentes) are transporting the man who’d been driving the Mexican food trucks, the one Mike snatched up. And surprise, surprise – in the distance Mike watches them. Fairly close, too. I guess Nacho’s driving, so that gives him an advantage, as well as the fact he’s driving some old beater. With the finale upon us, Mike is definitely going to do something big, and dangerous.
At the hospital, Chuck just wants someone to believe him. Instead he’s put in for a CAT scan. It’s like a horror movie for him, stuck inside the electronic tube. Again, you almost feel the electricity the way he does. Out in the waiting room Kim (Rhea Seehorn) keeps Jimmy company, like the great woman she is, and he worries. Even if he’s partly responsible for Chuck’s situation. On television, Jimmy’s newest commercial turns up – “Gimme Jimmy – ‘cause moxie is in such short supply these days,” says an elderly lady, smiling, knitting. Hilarious little infomercial.
Except after coming out of the CAT scan Chuck isn’t moving, he isn’t speaking. Not even blinking. A “self induced” state of catatonia, where he’ll remain for who knows how long.


With his arms dealing friend Lawson (Jim Beaver), Mike is testing out a sniper rifle. He gets himself a nice new rig. And for what? There’s some sort of plan on the offensive. Even Lawson wipes his prints off the gun before the final sale. We’ll see exactly what Mike is preparing soon.
Meanwhile, Chuck finally wakes up. He gets to go home, no mental asylum or anywhere similar. For the time being, the older brother’s fine. Although, I’m not sure how long that will last. After Jimmy leaves he’s out in the garage, searching for something. Must be important, right?


But back to Mike. He’s out around the desert, hiking by some rocks to a place where he can set up his rifle. In the distance is a small shack where the van Nacho drove is parked, as well as another car beside it. Arturo digs a hole nearby (side note: is that the shack Tuco later brings Walt & Jessie?). When they bring the truck driver outside, Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) appears, as well. The two cartel brothers, his nephews, are also present. But trying to get Hector in his sights, Mike finds Nacho in the way. On purpose? Hard to tell exactly. Anyways, the truck driver is toast; dead and buried. There’s an amazingly drawn out suspense and tension to this sequence. For the longest time there’s no telling exactly what will happen. Gilligan’s direction keeps you guessing from one minute to the next. Once Mike’s car alarm starts blaring back behind him, it all gets gut wrenching. On his window Mike finds a note: it reads DON’T.
Scariest thing for Mike is he thinks he’s a shadow, invisible to everyone else, working behind the scenes. Now, someone proves they are more of a shadow, more invisible, and behind the scenes even to him. Trouble’s on the horizon, or perhaps… opportunity.


Catering to some elderly clientele, Jimmy, as always, continues to impress. At the new office, he continues to receive more new clients. Then Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) is ringing, saying he needs to speak with Jimmy – about Chuck. What’s this now? As it happens, things are picking up at Chuck’s place. He’s turned the entire place into a foil casket, aluminum foil lining the walls. The whole house is a cage of aluminum. In addition, Chuck has retired – a.k.a quit – from HHM. All confidence has been shaken, Chuck feels he can’t be a lawyer anymore. He doesn’t think Jimmy’s to blame now, he blames himself. “What if I told you you didnt make a mistake?” Jimmy asks. He admits to what happened, to forgery, to all the nefarious doctoring and doings. He says he did it all for Kim.
Where do they go from here? Chuck reminds his younger brother he’s just admitted to felonious behaviour. There could be serious ramifications if Chuck were to take this thing to a legal level. And then, he stops his tape recorder after Jimmy leaves. WOW. WOW. No way, Chuck! You sly devil. Did not see that angle coming.


The end of the episode sets up an incredibly exciting Season 3 possibility. I love Better Call Saul. It is just as well written, if not sometimes better, than its sister series. Either way, Gilligan closed out Season 2 with a perfect finale and now I wonder exactly what sort of madness is in store for us moving into the next season. Can’t wait to see more and how it continues fitting into the puzzle pieces of its own creation.

Better Call Saul – Season 2, Episode 9: “Nailed”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 2, Episode 9: “Nailed”
Directed & Written by Peter Gould

* For a review of the previous episode, “Fifi” – click here
* For a review of the Season 2 finale, “Klick” – click here
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The penultimate Season 2 episode of Better Call Saul begins with a truck headed in the direction of El Paso. The man inside rocks to a bit of music; is he the same one from “Fifi”, who at the beginning stopped off for the gun in the box?
Ahead, a man is preparing something nasty. It’s Mike (Jonathan Banks). He’s put the truck out of commission with his nail-spiked garden hose. Now, he has the upper hand. What I love most about Mike is that he’s actually a smart criminal. Sure, not everyone can have their bases covered all the time. But Mike has an impressively criminal mind, one which works both ways and usually helps him cover his tracks, or think of every angle possible in a situation. Goes to show that some people develop cop-like skills that are put to use elsewhere other than law enforcement. Mike Ehrmantraut is one of those types of people.


Chuck McGill (Michael McKean) is still trying to put his least crazy foot forward, though, Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) still seems wary. Obviously. Chuck is crazy as a shithouse rat. But effective with law, all the same. He’s heading out for more business with Howard, trying not to go absolutely mental due to all the electricity everywhere. Meanwhile, Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) is up to no good, spying, waiting for them to leave Chuck’s place.
The older brother is suffering, but manages to get himself in for the hearing involving Mesa Verde. However, after a short time things get held up by the board. Neither Chuck nor Howard look happy, as the head of the board brings up some problems with paperwork. Ah, the young McGill and his tricky ways! He’s managed to muck things up, at least for the time being. Because the hearing gets rattled, as does Chuck whose mental illness starts to get worse with every negative stroke against them. Back at home, he’s inconsolable. He’s degrading. All because Jimmy pulled a fast one, and big brother might just know it.
So what’s next for Mike and his plan? He watches Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) go nuts in the groceteria, Nacho (Michael Mando) watching on. It looks like Hector stumbles, not well. Mike is very interested in that. Is this headed where I’m thinking? Is it possible that Mike is the reason Hector ends up having a stroke? Or is a more direct, violent resolution coming? For the time being, he drinks at a bar and even buys a round for the house. Hubris, Mike. Be careful.


In other news, Jimmy and Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) are digging into their new office space, clearing out all the dentist office chairs, so on. Getting the place ready for it to become their shared space, each to run their own firms across the hall from one another. It’s a wonderful life, right? Even better since Mesa Verde is crawling back to Kim after Jimmy and his recent stunt. The house of lies he’s always building will eventually come crashing down. We know that because that’s how he ends up on the trajectory to becoming Saul Goodman, to meeting Jesse Pinkman, later Walter White. The suspense going forward is all about how he balances the entire act, as the lies get bigger he’ll be taking more chances, telling larger lies, putting more and more on the line. For now, it’s a bit of document forging to help Kim, and himself, out in their new venture. Who knows how god damn wide the lies can and will get.
We now know Chuck is onto Jimmy’s little games. He’s even changed the locks, too. Chuck lays it all out for Kim, he wants and needs her to hear it. Of course, Jimmy doesn’t want her to hear a thing. He plays it off, trying to make it seem like a crazy idea. But Kim knows him a little too well. Can she look past that to believe Jimmy? Doubt it. This is about to taint every last little bit of Jimmy’s life; penultimate Season 2 closer and all. The whole act by Jimmy was meant as a “twisted romantic gesture” Chuck claims, an attempt at chivalric action. Kim will not immediately believe Chuck, though. Luckily for the younger McGill. In fact, she sort of tears Chuck down for his treatment of Jimmy. Sadly, it’s all on false pretense because we know the exact truth. Afterwards, in the car, it seems pretty obvious she suspects and likely knows the truth.


Chuck (to Jimmy): “You and Mozart, huh?”
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The makeshift commercial Jimmy’s been shooting is ready to clue up. They wait for a schoolyard to clear out, to use the American flag. Amazing, and hilarious. “You wanna be a filmmaker, grow a pair,” Jimmy explains to his cohorts. He ends up crafting another bullshit story for some teachers who come out wondering why he’s there, including “Escape” by Rupert Holmes. This part had me in stitches, simply because of how smooth Bob Odenkirk plays it and the whole sketchy part of Saul that continually peeks its head out from underneath Jimmy McGill.
Again, we’re back to Mike. He reveals being from Philly, this being his first winter in the ABQ. He seems happy. Almost too happy. Nacho gives him a call and changes all that. He reveals they were jacked “a couple hundred thousand“, as well as the fact he believes Mike did it. Due to a reluctance for murder. He’s mostly worried about any blowback that might involve him, in case Mike’s involvement is figured out. There’s a rift growing between Nacho and Mike, as the former isn’t impressed with the latter’s quest for revenge against Hector. But Mike says now he’s done. Only the scene Mike left was cleaned up, and a “Good Samaritan” took a bullet to the face. This will not sit well with the honourable criminal.


And speaking of rifts, there is one splitting between Kim and Jimmy already. She seems to accept his bad behaviour, but warns him, in a roundabout way, that caution is absolutely necessary. At the copy place, Chuck’s already got the situation being worked on. Uh oh. Inside, Jimmy bribes out some compliance from the copy shop attendant. A Band-Aid solution, though, the quick fix works this time. Soon enough the electricity sends Chuck into a downright crazy episode, ending with him cracking his head on a counter.
Jimmy watches on helplessly, hoping someone will call 9-11. But nobody does.


What a whopper of a finish to this episode. I’m dying to see the last episode, “Klick”, and to see what happens with Chuck. If Jimmy has caused the death of his brother, or made him into a vegetable, this is some dark shit. And I dig it.

Better Call Saul – Season 1, Episode 8: “Fifi”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 1, Episode 8: “Fifi”
Directed by Larysa Kondracki
Written by Thomas Schnauz

* For a review of the previous episode, “Inflatable” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Nailed” – click here
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This episode starts with some Mexican food trucks heading across the border. One of them is taken aside to be searched. The whole process is incredibly detailed, thoroughly every aspect of the truck is checked, rechecked, examined under close scrutiny. Meanwhile, the driver stands waiting for clearance. Afterwards he drives on towards his destination, which is a little more unorthodox than the strict, ordered procedure he’d just watched happen. We’re also very aware this is not the first time this man’s gone through the whole mess.

 


Funny. Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim (Rhea Seehorn) eat outside a place called the Dog House. Well, he wants Kim to get her resignation taken care of that night. But she’s setting boundaries and making sure they stick to their own type of lawyering, one way or another.
She heads over to see Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian), to get things done on her own terms. Of course he’s already heard, supposedly, about where she’s headed. He has no idea about her branching out solo, though. A nice shock to his system. Naturally, he susses out that she and Jimmy will be having something to do with each other. Either way there seems to be no hard feelings. Not off the bat, anyways. For his part, Howard has dreams that fell short despite all the things he does have. There’s a little sad boy lurking somewhere in Hamlin, crushed down by money and power. First thing he does when she’s right out the door? Starts going after the big clients she wanted to take with her.

 


In other news, the man from the truck earlier drops off product to the Mexican groceteria. The one Mike (Jonathan Banks) is staking out, where he had his meeting with Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) and the crew. Exactly what is Mike planning? We’ll sure find out soon enough. He’s watching the place like a hawk, and finally a car pulls through after hours. Sure enough it’s Hector. Who knows what Mike is about to do. Something drastic, no doubt.
Kim is busy pitching herself to the Mesa Verde folk, and doing a nice job. But it’s tough on your own. She then heads off with Jimmy to look at possible locations for their new office. Her distracted attitude catches his attention, obviously. She all but locked down the Verde deal. Things are looking really good.
At home, Chuck (Michael McKean) is, as always, sitting in the dark working. Up turns Howard, worried about Mesa Verde. Chuck’s very annoyed once figuring out Jimmy has a part to play in the whole situation. Nevertheless, Howard is focused on keeping their big client. And so Chuck readies himself. Anything in order to stop the greasy power of younger brother Jimmy. He’s even willing to forego shutting off the lights and having everyone hand in their cellphones, hoping to not appear “crazy” or anything similar. Before the meeting he struts around in his tinfoil cape. He’ll push himself through the illness all to keep the client, to screw Jimmy, and by proxy Kim, too.
Chuck lays it on real thick. He even manages to plant a seed of doubt into the whole conversation, casually turning their eyes back towards HHM. Hmm. Seems the older brother is as good as the younger brother McGill at selling the slick one. Then once they’re finished he nearly collapses. Crazy bastard.

 


On an air base, Jimmy’s got another scheme happening. We’re introduced to the titular Fifi – a large aircraft. Along with the two young men who helped film his earlier commercial at Davis & Main, McGill’s got a lot of fun going on, making things seem legit. Until they’re left alone with the big bomber. They’ve got themselves another filming going on.
Jimmy gets a call about Chuck, who’s having lots of trouble after his day at the office. It’s clear Jimmy cares about his brother. But quickly he has to get back to the bomber scheme, as some military men want pictures with the supposed war hero they’ve been wheeling around. This is one of my favourite scenes of the season on comedic value. Almost made me cry a couple times, the veteran was way too funny.
Tragedy now for Jimmy and Kim, as the verdict on Mesa Verde comes down; they’re sticking with Howard and Chuck. Now she wants to think things over, though, Jimmy would rather go forward, as a “team” and such. His optimism nearly outshines his willingness to do things outside the box.

 


Back to Mike now. He’s spying on Hector still, as they’ve arrived at a garage somewhere. It’s clear some type of deal is going down. The delivery truck shows up, too. Off to the side Mike sits in his Chrysler, laying low, watching via binoculars. What are they doing inside? And what exactly is Mike going to do with/about it?

 


The devastated Chuck lies on his couch under a foil blanket, lantern burning in the darkness. His younger brother checks on him to make sure he’s all right. Even if he doesn’t want to necessarily. And naughty, naughty; Jimmy goes through some of Chuck’s files. Particularly those marked Mesa Verde. Then again, if the older brother is ready to play underhanded ball, then I suppose we can’t blame him either.
Then the genius of James McGill comes out. He goes to a copy place and gets to work, cutting out numbers, gluing them elsewhere, scanning documents, copying. Oh, he’s got some nastiness up his sleeve. All those years as an amateur conman are proving themselves worthy in his lawyer days. Back at Chuck’s the documents are slipped into their rightful place once more.

 


Again, we’re with Mike. He helps his granddaughter doing some chores around the house. It’s so cute how he acts with her, very clear that this grandpa is a loving one. No matter if he’s involved in nefarious doings under the cover of night. But getting those glimpses of him with his family, this caring side, it fleshes out his character instead of him being totally one-dimensional.
What’s most interesting, though, is how the project his daughter helped him with is not a sprinkler for the “rhododendrons” in his backyard, but a hose he’s filling with nails, fitting them into the holes he and his granddaughter drilled. Looks like he’s planning to blow a few tires. An ambush, maybe.
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We need to wait for “Nailed” – appropriately titled – in order to figure out what Mike has in store for Hector and the crew. Stay tuned with me, fellow fans.