Jimmy makes his final leap into the skin of Saul Goodman. Mike and Gus are at odds.
Jimmy pushes his despicable self to the limit. Meanwhile, Chuck is not doing well, perhaps the worst he's ever been.
Jimmy pulls out all the stops, no matter the cost, when he faces his brother Chuck in court.
Jimmy struggles with his latest legal woes. And Mike, he meets a new business acquaintance; one who does not like Hector Salamanca.
Joshua. 2007. Directed by George Ratliff. Screenplay by David Gilbert & Ratliff.
Starring Sam Rockwell, Vera Farmiga, Celia Weston, Dallas Roberts, Michael McKean, Jacob Kogan, Nancy Giles, Linda Larkin, Alex Draper, Stephanie Roth Haberle, Ezra Barnes, Jodie Markell, Rufus Collins, Haviland Morris, & Tom Bloom. ATO Pictures.
Rated 14A. 106 minutes.
The creepy kid sub-genre (if that’s legitimately a thing) in horror is one that’s seen plenty of ripe material. Some of the classics dominate, such as The Omen and the lesser loved but awesome The Good Son featuring young Macaulay Culkin and Elijah Wood. Then there are others which aren’t as great, though still enjoyable, like Children of the Corn. What makes us so worried in general about the killer kids, the little psychopaths, young boys and girls capable of murder, manipulation, and so much more, is the idea of nature v. nurture. With any representation of evil, adult and child alike, it’s a question of whether innocence is real. If it is inherent in human beings automatically and evil becomes engrained in people throughout the course of their lives. Or if there’s no such thing as innocence, and at birth humans are part of a cosmic Russian Roulette, in which children can come out on the opposite shade of that spectrum.
Joshua examines such questions of innocence. Even after the credits start to roll and we’ve watched with dread those final moments, there are no blatant answers. It may seem like everything’s obvious. Although that’s certainly not the case if you look closely. Added to the finale and its ending there are several key moments which call into question what exactly has happened. People can say they’ve got a definitive answer, and they may offer quite a deal of evidence to that point, yet there will always be a hovering air of mystery. Considering these events, when you look back on the film as a whole you start to try piecing together various theories, moving back and forth between possibilities. Ultimately, this is a strength, as Joshua is highly likely to stick in your mind, days after seeing it, possibly longer. And after so much madness you’ll start to question whether evil really is nurtured all the time after all.
Maybe innocence is far too fleeting.
I love the natural feeling of the relationship between Brad and Abby (Sam Rockwell & Vera Farmiga). One of the biggest things about any drama, no matter what sort of genre boundaries it crosses, is that the character need to feel real. I don’t care what sort of story you’re telling, if the characters in your screenplay don’t connect with people emotionally on some level then there’s really no hope for anything else you’re attempting to do. While this movie is absolutely a (psychological)horror-thriller its main structure is an intense family drama. The foundation of which is always going to be real, honest characters. One example is early on when Brad joins Abby in bed – he’s trying to start sex, without being obnoxious, and his wife isn’t really ready yet, but he’s kissing her ass (literally), telling her how gorgeous she is, to the point of saying he loves how her armpits smell.
When the horror-thriller elements star to kick in hard there are obvious comparisons, and maybe homages, to similar films now considered classics. For instance, just Abby’s hair alone and later her pale complexion will have most people thinking of Rosemary’s Baby. As Joshua (Jacob Kogan) further manipulates his parents he becomes reminiscent of an even more actively involved Damien Thorn.
One of the eeriest scenes comes when the dog dies. The way Joshua mimics his father begins to show us how the boy might possibly be a psychopath. We know already there’s something not quite right, but this is a spooky moment. Even Brad starts to get a peek into the personality of his son, and though he soon forgets mostly about it this is a big turning point. As an audience, we’re gradually privy to more of his creepy behaviour that leads us farther and deeper into the boy’s psychopathy.
Rockwell is a fantastic actor. He does well with a variety of characters, and this is no different. The character of Brad is complex. He’s a very loving, understanding husband, and all at once a man with needs, both emotional and physical. Later on, he becomes a sort of vilified father near the end. So as an actor Rockwell has tons with which he can work. He’s easy to relate with watching him deteriorate, and this is probably why it’s all so effective. We feel for him all the way. Alongside him is Farmiga, another awesome talent. She is always watchable, even in movies where there’s nothing too exciting going on. Here, she’s saddled with playing a role similar to the ones played by Mia Farrow and Lee Remick, only this is a much more realistic portrayal of a woman driven to madness by pregnancy and/or motherhood. It isn’t easy to portray an honest character like this, but Farmiga gives us the good and bad of a new mother, one that’s already experienced the exact same thing not even a decade before. Having seen several women go through that new life as a mother, including the rocky beginnings, I find Farmiga’s performance to be extremely on point. And when Joshua further drives his mother into psychological ruin there are some good scenes between Farmiga and Rockwell, where they give us a devastating look at a corroding marriage.
The best scene of all is the last one in the park, after Brad finally snaps. Everything about it is incredibly well executed. Love the score that accompanies the moment, very ominous and psycho-thriller-esque. But just the way Rockwell goes mental, fighting the men around him, it’s so intensely emotional. The camera draws back, panning out and giving us this almost auditorium-like view of the confrontation. Overall, a wonderful sequence.
This is a 4-star film that I’d put up at the top of the pantheon of creepy kid sub-genre. Of course Joshua doesn’t come along with any of the outright bloody horror many of its counterparts boast. Nonetheless, it is horrific. A psychological thriller with enough viciousness to hold the attention of most. There are good performances, however, the writing is what does most of the work. Not every creepy kid flick has much innovative about its story. What Joshua doesn’t attain in its few missteps it gains back in an overall willingness to step outside the usual expectancies of the sub-genre and it makes up by subverting those ideas, giving us something altogether creepy and slightly original. The film avoids cliche at many turns simply due to the fact it opts for a plot that doesn’t dive into the supernatural. Everything is much too real and impressively believable.
Dig in, you’ll find a treat especially if creepy kids get to you. This is one boy I won’t soon forget.
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
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.
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 didn‘t 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.
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
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?”
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.
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
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.
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.
AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 2, Episode 7: “Inflatable”
Directed by Colin Bucksey
Written by Gordon Smith
* For a review of the previous episode, “Bali Ha’i” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Fifi” – click here
This episode begins with The Stampeders’ “Sweet City Woman” playing softly in the background. A young kid grabs himself a copy of Playboy off the shelf – young James McGill, in fact. Meanwhile, his father listens to a man at the counter with his father. This exchange pits little Jimmy against the man; one bullshitter knows another. The father, all the while is clueless. Before the man leaves he says to Jimmy: “There are wolves and sheep in this world, kid. Wolves and sheep. Figure out which one you‘re gonna be.” Afterwards, this prompts lil’ Jim to take a bit of cash from the till for himself.
Back to present series times. Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) has Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) helping him once more. He’s trying to get the whole Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz) situation cleared up, or else deal with the wrath of the cartel and Uncle Hector (Mark Margolis). Naturally, Jimmy works a bit of magic, and then slips Mike out of the room without saying too much.
On the phone later, Jimmy talks with Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn). She’s still whipping up a nice deal with Rick Schweikart (Dennis Boutsikaris). Hopefully it goes well. She has been the slave girl at HHM far too long. At the same time, Jimmy’s getting ready to resign from Davis and Main. Omar (Omar Maskati) brings up a few good points, though, about the company car, et cetera, and possible payments he’d have to make. So Jimmy switches his tune proper quick.
What’s going on in the mind of James McGill? An oddly happy look in his eyes is tough to read. Well, at home, the first look of Saul Goodman comes out. After seeing one of those big inflatable men in the wind his style comes out. Lots of wild looking colours, bright ties. His whole demeanour changes, he becomes more of who he once was, back when that man in the store told him – choose, or else the world will choose for you. Even a ridiculously funny scene where Jimmy’s busted for not flushing his shits, concerned about the local “watershed” and so on. This whole sequence absolutely slayed me. It introduces us to who Jimmy will become. Plus, he’s obviously looking to be fired, or pawned off somewhere. Finally it’s the bagpipes he plays in his office that puts Clifford Main (Ed Begley Jr) over the edge. Now Jimmy’s got himself out, bonus in tact.
Jimmy: “Hey Cliff – for what it‘s worth, I think you‘re a good guy.”
Cliff: “For what it‘s worth I think you‘re an asshole”
In other news, Jimmy has the idea of starting his own firm with Kim – Wexler McGill. He loves her, but also has huge faith in her skills as a lawyer. Together, they could be a force to be reckoned with, possibly. “Or we fail and we end up with nothing,” Kim quips. She still has doubts, clearly. Especially with Schweikart’s deal on the table, very enticing, very surefooted unlike this new enterprise with Jimmy. She wants his assurance that he’ll “play it straight” and not “be colourful” – he tries to pretend, then comes clean. He can only be himself. Ultimately, Kim wants Jimmy, as a lover, a friend. Not a partner in law.
Jimmy: “I‘ve been tryin‘ to be the person someone else wants me to be for I don‘t know how long. I mean first it was Chuck, then it was you – and that’s not your fault, that was my choice. But if we‘re gonna do this, I gotta go into it as me. So, yeah. Colourful, I guess.”
Mike’s busy trying to move daughter-in-law Stacey (Kerry Condon) into a nice place. She is very happy to be getting into a new neighbourhood, a safe place. At heart, he is a good man. An honourable one, to the fullest. Might be mixed up in some wild shit, but Mike is a decent human being. Somewhere along the line things just got complicated. Later, we find him still watching the Salamanca crew, their little diner hideout. What’s he planning?
Back at the nail salon, Jimmy is moving things in, including his cocobolo desk from Davis and Main. “Onward and upward,” he says to Omar. But without Kim and the supposed new firm, where does Jimmy go next from here? Somewhere colourful, no doubt. He starts to record a voicemail message for himself, one to lure people into believing he’s got an actual office. It’s going to something more for him to break through this way.
And Kim is meeting with Schweikart and his people. They seem fairly impressed with her, especially Rick himself, who eyes her with both admiration and maybe something else. Regardless, they’re all happy with her interview. Even after she calls Rick by the name of Howard. There’s something else going on with Kim, too. The relationship she has with Jimmy has an odd sort of stranglehold on her.
She rushes over to the salon quick. He is happy as a clam being on his own again, even if in the back o a nail shop. Then Kim reveals her decision to go “solo practice” and it catches Jimmy off guard. She proposes they find a space together, just practice law separately. A-ha. Although, it doesn’t seem to be exactly what Jimmy had hoped. It’s still good, all the same.
Nice episode that’s heading towards something big. What can we expect from Mike’s situation? And how much more of Saul Goodman is going to peek its head from under the disguise of Jimmy McGill? We’ll see in the next episode, titled “Fifi”, so stay tuned with me, fellow fans.
AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 2, Episode 6: “Bali Ha’i”
Directed by Michael Slovis
Written by Gennifer Hutchison
* For a review of the previous episode, “Rebecca” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Inflatable” – click here
With the previous episode giving us more insight into the troubled relationship between the Brothers McGill – Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Chuck (Michael McKean) – this week’s “Bali Ha’i” promises even more developments.
We start out with an image similar to where we saw Chuck in the last episode with his former wife. Except it’s Jimmy, in bed. Alone. Unable to sleep, Jimmy flicks through the channels from infomercials to C-Span to a Sand Piper commercial like the original one before he got his hands on it. Things aren’t looking so glamorous here for ole James McGill. He spends a bunch of the night throwing little decorative wicker balls around, in different ways, different made-up games. Until he can’t take it anymore. He heads over to the old spa, to the shifty backroom where he practiced law before Clifford Main (Ed Begley Jr) scooped him up, before Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) got right in the picture. Before all this. Back there, Jimmy can lay his head down and actually get some sleep. Almost heavy handed, yet love this opening sequence. Great writing, on the nose.
Meanwhile, Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) is just as interesting a character. Her whole life has been thrown for a whirlwind since Jimmy’s commercial fiasco. On her answering machine, she gets a message from Jimmy singing the titular song “Bali Ha’i” by South Pacific. He’s clearly in love, bad. Even though he screws up, even though he can’t keep from being criminal, he is charming.
Nothing is going too smooth for Jimmy right now. Not his life, not even fitting the coffee mug Kim gave him into the cupholder of his car. Back to Kim, though. She is trying to get a read of Howard now that she’s no longer banished to the boardrooms of nowhere sorting files. Howard upsets me; he’s like a robot, a soulless man who puts on a mask. Either way, they meet with Kevin Wachtell (Rex Linn) and Paige (Cara Pifko) on the new business.
Then there’s Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks). He’s greeted at home by an associate of Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) named Arturo (Vincent Fuentes) who requires an answer re: the deal from last episode. “Respectfully I‘m gonna have to say no,” advises Mike. Afterwards, he literally lays a welcome mat on his front porch. Curious.
Kim’s in court doing her thing over the Sand Piper case. At the defense table is Rick Schweikart (Dennis Boutsikaris). He takes it upon himself to talk with Kim. “You went down swinging and I admire that,” says Schweikart. He ends up inviting her out for lunch, which might possibly lead to something better career wise for Kim. Let’s hope. She acts grateful to HHM, but you know there are some bad feelings on that part. He gives her a good pitch about the life of a lawyer, and offers her a position at his firm; including helping to pay off her student debt, et cetera, all the bells, the whistles, too. And still she is reluctant. Too loyal. Perhaps says something about the way she is with Jimmy, as well. Her loyalty brings her nothing in the end, sadly.
At his place, Mike reveals the trick to his mat – underneath is a sheet of paper, helping him figure out there’s been people at the door. He checks everything carefully, rubbing the door frame, the knob, checking for any sign of people entering his home. He heads inside, gun drawn. All I keep thinking is, despite whatever’s happened since, Mike must’ve made an impressive cop once upon a time. He isn’t perfect, though, the way he does things is so methodical. And it doesn’t feel contrived as a character, like the writers are almost visible there crafting him in front of us. His character comes off as organic, especially considering how Jonathan Banks plays him.
He ends up getting the jump on two guys waiting for him. It’s Arturo and another man. “What‘s the message?” asks Mike. They were only trying to “scare” him. Nonetheless, the older man wins out, then washes the blood of his hands and gun in the sink. You can tell he doesn’t want to live this life. More than that, his hands are shaking, it’s giving him pause about all of the things he’s forced to do; all out of necessity. Even further, his granddaughter and daughter-in-law are stuck at the motel. Everything is pressing down on Mike.
The worst yet? He spies two men watching him – another Breaking Bad reference, as the Cartel brothers Marco (Luis Moncada) and Leonel (Daniel Moncada) loom in the distance. Trouble; big fucking trouble. And Mike don’t like that. Not when it involves his family. What I like is that he’s still tender with his granddaughter while stressed to the maximum, he doesn’t freak out and haul her away like a madman. The writing of his character is excellent and nuanced.
Kim does consider the offer she got earlier, sticking around the restaurant bar after Schweikart leaves. Then a man tries picking her up, which she seems to dig. At least a little. All of a sudden, she calls Jimmy: “I‘ve got a live one on the hook.” So that hook up on the verge of happening wasn’t exactly one after all. More so it’s Kim realizing she may be more like Jimmy than she’d ever imagined. They start running a con on her target. Jimmy reels out a big story about their dot-com company maybe going public, drawing out the big fish in him. Looks like Jimmy and Kim are a couple again. Momentarily, anyways.
At a groceteria, Nacho (Michael Mando) receives Mike. There, he meets with Hector, the Cartel Brothers and Arturo along as protection. Hector wants Mike to go to the D.A, to get Tuco (Raymond Cruz) off the hook for the gun possession. No more cash, either. “How about the payment is you get to leave?” Hector asks, and warns all at once. Everything starts getting tangly, with Mike reaching for his gun, starting to make everyone nervous. Seems for now a deal is struck. $50,000 and Mike takes the rap for the gun.
Hector (to Mike): “How you managed to live so long with a mouth like that, hmm?”
Luckily, Mike does have Nacho on his side. Not that it makes things better for Nacho. But Mike offers up half of the money to him; payment for a job completely improperly.
On the other side of town, Jimmy and Kim are waking up together. They pulled a fast one on their friend at the restaurant, coming out of it with free drinks, dinner, and a nice “souvenir” cheque made out to Ice Station Zebra Associates. Amazing. Also, Kim is wobbling between wanting to leave HHM, and not knowing what’s best for her. Just like her situation as a lover to Jimmy – maybe not the best thing for her, and she keeps on keeping on like an addiction. The cup she gave him not fitting in the holder is symbolic of their lives together; they do not fit. So in the end Jimmy uses a tire iron to smash the holder apart. He makes the cup fit. A perfect parallel to the relationship with Kim. They don’t fit, but he is determined to make his life fit the required structure. No matter what the consequence or price.
This is such a great season. Very excited to see next week’s episode, “Inflatable”, so stick with me as we cruise through Season 2 together.
AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 2, Episode 5: “Rebecca”
Directed by John Shiban
Written by Ann Cherkis
* For a review of the previous episode, “Gloves Off” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Bali Ha’i” – click here
With Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) recovering from his recent beating, as well as Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) licking his wounds for the time being and trying to keep Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) in his life, Better Call Saul‘s Season 2 continues on full steam ahead.
This episode begins with Chuck McGill (Michael McKean) setting up dim lights, putting on a record then getting dinner ready. His wife, Rebecca (Ann Cusack), is helping, too. They’re normal, happy, talking about work and their day. Turns out this is when Rebecca meets brother Jimmy.
What an excellent, interesting flash into the past of the Brothers McGill. A time when Jimmy was unsuccessful, the lesser brother doing nothing, and when Chuck did not have his serious affliction to the electronics around him. So what exactly happened from there to the present timeline? Regardless, Chuck gives the signal to his wife, hoping to get Jimmy out of the house, but she’s more interested in hearing the younger brother’s jokes. Later in bed when Chuck tries one out it doesn’t get near the same response.
Back to 2003. Jimmy is finding it tough to adjust to office life, from the regular everyday grind to the recycling situation. The “house style” is being introduced to Jimmy, including punctuation and so on. Something he’s not entirely interested in; too much micromanaging. At the same time, Kim is dodging Jimmy on the phone while doing the dirty work in a boardroom, her new assignment for aiding him in the commercial fiasco. He shows up soon enough suggesting she sue Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill. Jimmy’s mostly concerned with Chuck and his involvement, though she insists this is her “paying the price” for her idiotic decision to side with Jimmy. And she wants him to clean up his act, as well as to stop bullshitting.
Kim: “You don‘t save me. I save me.”
At the office, Jimmy is forced to deal with the co-worker, Erin (Jessie Ennis), he ducked the night before. Simultaneously, Kim is trying to gain more clients for HHM, either getting refused or hit on or let down easily from one call to the next. Kudos to her all the same; she’s trying, unlike Jimmy who takes frequent shortcuts.
And finally, back to Mike. He’s checking in on daughter-in-law Stacey (Kerry Condon). Grandpa Mike has put her and his granddaughter up in a hotel, having fun. He’s busy with his day job, nursing those old wounds, which he attributes to a car crash. The next chapters in the life of Mike will certainly be interesting to see.
Erin and Jimmy come up against one another when he tries to give over a Beanie Baby to get a court date. She won’t have this “bribe“, but he insists it’s simply a little gift. He’s forced to take later date than hoped, worried about Howard (Patrick Fabian) getting reports from Erin. In a bathroom, Jimmy sees an old friend who queries him on all the benefits of working at Davis & Main: “I‘d kill my mother for a fireplace,” he says after hearing Jimmy has one in his office.
A nice Spanish cover of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” accompanies more of Kim wheeling and dealing, trying to drum up some more business for herself in order to get back in the HHM good books. Not too long and she receives a positive phone call, one that has her nearly jumping for joy. Maybe things are looking up for ole Wexler.
Up at the HHM offices arrive Paige (Cara Pifko) and Kevin (Rex Linn), clearly from a large banking institution. Howard lays on the charm with stories of being a boy and his “first bank account“, along with a silhouetted cowboy banking book. What a greaser. None of what Kim’s done phases him, as he keeps up a smug demeanour the entire time. He essentially banishes her back down to the boardroom on review without looking at her twice. Ouch.
In the low light of Chuck’s place, Howard meets with him. They talk of Kim and her latest accomplishment. But she’s not “out of the doghouse“, as Howard makes that clear. A ton of work coming from what Kim has done, yet Hamlin is far less enthused than Chuck. Perhaps a further vendetta by Howard is causing this behaviour towards Kim?
In other news, Chuck arrives, lantern in hand, to the office. At his desk he whittles away the time doing work. Until a low level light starts to bother him. He finds Kim putting away some files and they chat over coffees. She flat out asks Chuck: “Do I have a future at this firm?” He goes into his own disappointment with brother Jimmy, as if trying to sabotage every bit of the life he’s trying to create for himself. There’s a discussion of the McGill father, supposedly a perfect, good man, whose hard work allowed them to survive and prosper. Until money troubles made it all difficult, prompting Chuck into an accounting position; Jimmy “pilfered” thousands of dollars, according to big brother. The start of all the woes. The start of all Chuck’s aggravation with his brother.
Chuck (re: Jimmy): “He can‘t help himself. Then everyone‘s left picking up the pieces.”
At a diner, Mike is greeted by a familiar Breaking Bad face: Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis). He wants to talk about the recent trouble with Tuco (Raymond Cruz), the old man’s nephew: “He should have shown you respect. I apologize to you, on behalf of my family.” Mike accepts this gracious offering. They talk about how long Tuco ought to stay behind bars, perhaps there’s a different way out of everything.
It’s fun to see Hector long before the stroke immobilized him, before he could only talk with a bell nailed to his wheelchair. Adds a larger dimension to him, as well as gives us things to look forward to in this series.
Can’t wait for the next episode, “Bali Ha’i”, and with all these developments it’ll absolutely be intriguing. Stay tuned, my fellow fans.
AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 2, Episode 4: “Gloves Off”
Directed by Adam Bernstein
Written by Gordon Smith
* For a review of the previous episode, “Amarillo” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Rebecca” – click here
With Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) in hot water with Clifford Main (Ed Begley Jr) over the Davis & Main commercial, is Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) about to feel blowback, too? And what about Nacho (Michael Mando) and his request to Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) at the end of “Amarillo”?
“Gloves Off” begins on Mike, which is always a treat. He comes home with a manila envelope filled with money. He has a nice sip of Blue Ribbon from the fridge and puts some frozen carrots on his aching face. Mike sits in his living room and rests. It’s clear there have been goings on. Likely major ones. Then in the light we see his face is beat to pieces; a swollen eye, cuts, Band-Aids. From his pocket he removes a silver chain of some sort, two diamond-studded boxing gloves on it. Very, very interesting.
Cut to Jimmy’s commercial – the black-and-white setup, the old woman in the rocking chair as she does a voice-over narration, then looks into the camera. Jimmy’s trying to show Cliff and the board what he came up with, though, nobody looks too pleased. At all. They couldn’t care less about money. They’re mostly concerned with their name being on it. It’s definitely cheesy. However, Jimmy reveals they’ve received a couple hundred phone calls. Above all else, it’s insubordination on his part. But Jimmy fights, he’s always fighting, he clearly only wants to get ahead. “We are a team at Davis & Main,” says Cliff, trying to make Jimmy understand. It’s a 2-1 vote to fire him. Except Cliff is a “fan of second chances” and that keeps him around a little while longer.
Jimmy tries to call Kim. But she’s in a meeting with Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian), and surprise, surprise – Chuck McGill (Michael McKean). They are not pleased either, with her involvement concerning Jimmy’s experimental commercial. So, yes, Kim is getting the blowback of Jimmy’s decision. It’s unclear how hard that will come at her.
So finally, back to Mike and Nacho. We’re likely going to see more of Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz), as he’s brought up in conversation by Nacho in reference to the new job for which they require Mike’s help. Special reference.
There is a plan in place. Mike gets tasked with the “headshot“, but he has lots of questions for Nacho. Mike’s a guy who likes to have everything planned, start to finish; he needs an exit plan, all the details. Yet Nacho says that’s he is there for – to iron all that out. What I love here is that Nacho sheds light on the character of Tuco, more than we’ve even seen from Breaking Bad, and we’re able to get a look behind the curtain of madness. We hear a story about Tuco killing a guy, which put a piece of the man’s skull underneath Nacho; a mark he still carries with him. So, this entire plan is a way to get Tuco up and out, as he’s getting hard into the crystal meth. But we know better, those of us Breaking Bad fans, about what happens to Tuco. What’s extremely fun to watch is how everything plays out, not knowing exactly how things end up the way they do. And regardless, Mike is in on the job for “fifty grand“, so I can’t wait to connect the events of the episode to our grim beginning.
At the office, Jimmy shows up after hours. He finds Kim’s desk wiped out, completely bare. Downstairs in one of the board rooms, she’s face down in a ton of work. Jimmy tries apologizing. But that doesn’t do a whole lot of good. He’s safe in his job for now, yet Kim has been knocked down a few pegs, taking the blame. Their relationship is fast degenerating. Every greasy move Jimmy makes puts them further apart. He wants to fight the good fight for her. Although, that’s not what she wants either. “If you go to Howard, you and I are done,” Kim explains to him. They aren’t finished just yet, but she tells Jimmy: “I need this job.”
Nevertheless, Jimmy does go to see Chuck. He’s about to go inside without checking his electronics at the door. Instead, being the dutiful brother, Jimmy deposits them loudly into the mailbox then heads inside. He finds his brother wrapped up in a foil blanket on the couch, in what looks like great pain. Something I love about Jimmy is that he hates how his brother treats him, hates the be underestimated and looked down upon, but STILL, he always helps Chuck, he looks after his older brother without question, even in times he’s incredibly aggravated with him. It’s noble. Tragic in a way, too.
Another Breaking Bad reference – Lawson (Jim Beaver), the man who got Walter White some of his heavy artillery later in the series, brings a sniper rifle for Mike to look at. They meet in another little hotel room, all hush-hush. Mike’s not too happy with the weight and size of the first one. Then he’s shown a smaller one, that might not be “a hernia with a scope on it“; excellent line. Love how the parent series bleeds into this one without feeling forced. These characters we see again, other than the main ones, are worked in organically, and provide that little thrill for fans who remember them. Finally, he finds the A-1 model of sniper rifle, one he seems to know well – this gives us an idea that Mike possibly served in the army, remarking someone ought to have figured out its complications before sending it into the “jungle“; highly suggests Vietnam. More character development, another thing I dig so much about this series.
Jimmy’s trying to talk with Chuck about Kim. The older brother denies his part in any of the nonsense happening. Chuck lays it all on Howard – “Can he talk when you drink a glass of water?” Jimmy asks. But Jimmy goes on white knighting, trying his hardest to take the full blame of his commercial fiasco. At the same time, Kim didn’t say a word about not knowing what was going on, and that shows she tried protecting him. “That‘s your problem,” Chuck tells his brother: “You think the ends justify the means.” Instead of trying to stand behind his brother at all, Chuck harps on about Jimmy being irresponsible, about his inability to take things seriously. Furthermore, Jimmy tries to make a deal with his brother. Chuck won’t admit he doesn’t want Jimmy in the law business. But the latter knows his older brother wants that: “I need to hear it from your mouth.” Essentially, Jimmy wants him to commit extortion, he simply can’t get Chuck to admit the real truth, despite anything that’s at stake.
Meanwhile, Mike doesn’t agree to the job Nacho offers. He doesn’t want to “draw Salamancas like flies” by killing Tuco and alerting the cartel. “Something‘s gotta give,” Nacho says: “With or without you.” Not trying to rock the boat hard enough to sink it, Mike suggests making Tuco “go away“, but how?
Now we get another Breaking Bad reference – Krazy-8 (Max Arciniega) meets with Tuco and Nacho, dropping off a fat roll of money. Interesting to see Krazy-8 not as the gangster he was when meeting Walter and Jesse, but a green little guy worming his way into the meth business. Again, love these characters reappearing and filling out the world of Vince Gilligan and Co.
Outside the restaurant where Tuco and Nacho conduct business, Mike waits across the street by a payphone. He puts a voice on, reporting a “gang thing” happening around the area. Perfect, slick little moment on the part of Mike; he wipes off his fingerprints before heading out. Pulling into the restaurant parking lot he dings Tuco’s car a little. On purpose, or no? Tuco’s not happy – you can also notice the diamond-studded pendant hanging from his neck. Mike gets confronted by Tuco, who calls him “Mr. Magoo” and gets angry when he thinks the old guy is calling him “a liar“, which then brings Nacho into the situation. The talk heads outside, with Mike getting more belligerent by the minute; he agrees to exchange insurance and so on. Tuco won’t be having any of that. But the further this goes, we can see Mike is playing a game. What is it? How will it play?
After things start to get a little physically intimidating, and Nacho looks more nervous by the second, Tuco brandishes his gun. Once Nacho leaves at the sound of sirens nearby, a fight starts between Tuco and Mike. The older man manages to keep himself from death, but gets a nasty beatdown. When the police show up, things finish. And Mike is able to live another day, albeit with a few nasty bumps and bruises.
Afterwards, he meets Nacho in their usual dark place. “Wow,” exclaims Nacho after seeing Mike’s face: “Look at you.” At least now Tuco will be out of commission for a while. “You went a long way to not pull that trigger,” says Nacho: “Why?” But no reply from Mike, no answer at all. Just a look, a bruised and beaten smile.
This way another excellent chapter in the series. I love that Mike Ehrmantraut gets as much of a backstory and dissection as Jimmy/Saul. Can’t wait for “Rebecca” next week. Stay tuned with me, friends and fellow fans.