Better Call Saul – Season 3, Episode 7: “Expenses”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 3, Episode 7: “Expenses”
Directed & Written
by Thomas Schnauz

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Off Brand” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Slip” – click here
Pic 1So what does Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) do while he’s not practising law for the next year? Well for starters, community service with the Parks Department. Paying his debt to society. Funny to see a lawyer handed an employee agreement to sign and urged that he doesn’t need to read it all. Jimmy and a bunch of others are given a mechanical grip, a fluorescent safety vest, and sent to pick up garbage. All the while Jimmy runs Saul Goodman Productions hawking commercials. Trying to, at least. He gets docked hours of service for being on his cellphone.
Pic 1AAfter they’re finished Jimmy rushes to do a quick wet wipe wash, strip down, then change, so he can rush off to do a Saul Goodman job at a furniture store. He’s good at directing commercials. Lower budget ones, anyways. Only there’s still trouble selling all the time, as hard as he tries. He and Kim (Rhea Seehorn) still have their office to manage. It’s just one bill after another bill after another. Although he manages. Just barely. He’s killing himself to keep up appearances spending the last cash he has on Chinese food for he and Kim.
Nacho (Michael Mando) goes back to his old buddy with the baseball cards, Pryce (Mark Proksch). He’s looking to do business. He wants empty pills, replicas of the ones his boss Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) takes for his health condition. For $20K. That’s a heft price tag.
Back with Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), we see his stash of money under the floorboards. A considerable size. He takes out a hunk to pay for supplies, for the church playground his daughter-in-law Stacey (Kerry Condon) asked him to help build. We see him interacting with other people for the first time ever, really. In the sense that they’re doing normal people things, rather than the criminals we usually see him around. Speaking of, he finds baseball card dummy Pryce waiting for him at work. Needs him to help on the latest job he’s been offered. Mike isn’t interested until he hears Nacho’s name, and even then he still won’t agree.
Pic 2Poor Kim’s so overworked she has to set a timer in the car for 5 minutes, catch a quick bit of shut eye. At Mesa Verde, she starts feeling the pangs of guilt about what’s happened with Chuck (Michael McKean) as her client gloats. There’s eventually going to come a time when she lets that guilt bubble over, and it’ll do something more than just end up as a passive-aggressive moment with a client. She is a good person. I can’t see her living with every last thing Jimmy’s going to put her through.
Kim: “All we did was tear down a sick man
Every single day is a routine for Jimmy now. Like he’s in prison without being IN prison. He rushes from community service work to his wet wipe bath to another commercial set with his faithful crew of industry hopefuls. They head to a music shop called ‘ABQ in tune’ where twin brothers have cold feet about paying so much for a lot of bullshit mostly. He ends up offering it to them for free with a promise they’ll pay the original rate for more commercials after business picks up. Resulting in him handing out all his money yet again. Never getting ahead, and it’s affecting him. The world keeps beating him down.
One of the women from the church (Tamara Tunie) is in the same support group Stacey attends. Mike seems to further connect with her more than they did while working earlier. A genuine relationship with another soul. I love Mike as a character because he’s a good guy. Yes, he ends up in a terrible place doing bad things. Doesn’t change that underneath it all he started as a good man, going down the rabbit hole because of a need for duty; his being to provide for his family. So seeing him and this woman connect, even if it’s only brief, it is special.
And now Mike decides he’ll help the hapless Pryce, another sense of duty calling him to keep providing for the day he’s not around to anymore.
Pic 3Like old times, Jimmy goes out with Kim for drinks. He keeps on keeping up those appearances. At a nearby table they spot someone to pull a quick grift on. Jimmy gets a bit dark, his criminal self coming out further. And in that moment Kim can kind of see the darkness, more than ever. He sort of loves it. What she sees is the lengths he’ll go, that it isn’t only talk. That he will do all sorts of things in order to keep himself above water; many of them illegal. Furthermore, it’s clear to her that even if Jimmy does feel guilt somewhere he’s buried under anger, and that road leads nowhere good. For now, she’s still by his side. Though the clock is ticking.
Nacho meets with Pryce, and Mike. The old fella knows about the nitroglycerine pills, Hector’s heart medication. He advises Nacho about what he’s getting into, then he discovers the whole debacle with Nacho’s dad. No choices left. Mike gives his best advice: once the deed is done, switch the pills back so all looks legit. Smart.
At his insurance company Jimmy meets someone about his policy, wondering about a refund. No dice. He’s paid in full and there’s just no way for them to cash out unused coverage. Not to mention after he’s reinstated the price goes up 150%. Even after his suspension is over he’ll be held down by various rules. Right now his car won’t start, he has no money, he has no family left who cares about him.
He has a use for tears. This shows us more of his duplicitous nature.
Then the younger of the McGills lets slip – yes, purposely – that Chuck had a breakdown in court. Ah, insurance issues headed for the older brother. One small bit of revenge. Only what will it bring? What does this revenge beget in turn? I hope it won’t affect Chuck’s health. That could be the turning point finally for Kim if Jimmy’s responsible for anything serious. He already nearly put his brother out once last season.
Jimmy: “I just need a break. Just one break.”
Pic 4Yikes, this was a solid episode. Intense and emotional. I’m itching for “Slip” and we’re getting close to the end of Season 3. You know that we’ll get a Season 4, there’s no way we can’t get another! The storytelling is damn good it’s ridiculous.

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Better Call Saul – Season 3, Episode 6: “Off-Brand”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 3, Episode 6: “Off-Brand”
Directed by Keith Gordon
Written by Ann Cherkis

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Chicanery” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Expenses” – click here
Pic 1We open with Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) and Nacho (Michael Mando) at their place of business, the latter counting rolls upon rolls of cash as his boss drinks coffee and reads the newspaper. Business as usual. Then one payment comes light, from the man we later know in Breaking Bad as Krazy-8 (Max Arciniega). Although Nacho lets him off with it, until his boss comments: “Who works for who, huh?”
And so Krazy-8 gets one rough beating in the kitchen from Nacho.
Cut to Nacho in back of a shop, sewing steadily until he just about sews his hand right into the garment he’s making. There’s a lot more to this dude, and I hope we’ll see this before he disappears eventually.
Pic 1AIn court, Kim (Rhea Seehorn) pleads the case of Mr. James McGill (Bob Odenkirk), that he is a compassionate man helping his ill brother Chuck (Michael McKean) and many seniors. She paints a picture of betrayal by the older brother. He gets a 12-month sentence, I assume a time during which he can’t practise law. Definitely worthy of their celebration.
At the same time, Rebecca (Ann Cusack) goes to see her former husband in his fortress of electrical solitude. He won’t answer, he simply wastes away in darkness. So Rebecca goes to see Jimmy, who does not want to help him anymore: “I dont owe him squat.” She is very disappointed, believing Chuck was right about the younger brother.
Rebecca: “Hes mentally ill. Whats your excuse?”
Stacey Ehrmantraut (Kerry Condon) sits and talks with a support group, her father-in-law Mike (Jonathan Banks) at her side. She says she volunteered him to help with a playground at the church. We see more of that whole other side to Mike in these moments with his family, which were only short and sweet in Breaking Bad. It’s interesting to see how he got to such a desperate place in that original series through the moments in this wonderfully written prequel.
Howard (Patrick Fabian) goes to see Chuck, refusing to leave without a word. And a drink. Although the older McGill isn’t happy about anything. Not his mental state, not Jimmy’s one-year suspension. His partner tries painting a positive picture, but it’s not of much use. He wants Chuck to focus on the future, to keep being a good lawyer, so on. Saying he’s too smart a man to throw a life away on a delinquent brother.
So, can he bounce back? Or will he succumb to his unfortunate mental condition? Alone at his desk Chuck takes a battery in his bare hands, forcing himself to hold it tight and cringing the whole time.
Pic 2And what about Jimmy? What’s next? He has to take care of the situation with his clients for the coming year. He calls them to let everyone know he’s taking a “sabbatical from the law.” That’s it, y’know. Plenty of the older folk will miss him, so it’s mostly a lot of chatting. He’s a slick one, that we already know. A great montage sequence of him calling his clients fits right in with his character. Perfectly placed.
He also finds out his commercial’s still running on TV, in for another $4K of ad space with it off the air. So many money issues with him leaving for a whole year. Wonder how he’s going to fund the whole venture while not working. He goes out trying to hawk the ad space, offering to shoot the commercials for the $4,000. 9 commercials, 9 airings. Or one commercial at a lower rate, airing still included. But no one’s biting at the sales pitch yet.
What Jimmy decides on doing is “offbrand” to him, though finally he comes to a decision: “Well have to Karloff this thing.”
Pic 3Meanwhile, the drug trade in New Mexico continues through the trucks of Los Pollos Hermanos trafficking the cartel’s meth. Men go to work taking out packages and packages of product from the trucks’ false flooring, giving it over to Nacho. We see a familiar face with Victor, one who actually takes the place of Victor later on in Breaking Bad: Tyrus (Ray Campbell). Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) gets a call when Nacho tries taking more than expected, and the boss says to give it over. All ends well, for now.
Speaking of Gus, he’s checking out the new digs at an industrial laundry facility. Oh, you know the one. He’s got an eye out for a place where he’ll construct a lab, one to make him the kingpin of meth distribution in New Mexico. Another familiar face shows up, Ms. Quayle (Laura Fraser), helping him on the search for the perfect location.
Poor Chuck, out on the streets covered under his clothes with the space blanket. He finds a payphone and calls a Dr. Laura Cruz, his former doctor. He wants to get treatment again, obviously. I feel so horrible for him, despite any of his own faults aside from his condition. It’s heartbreaking.
When Nacho and Arturo (Vincent Fuentes) get back to Hector, the old guy’s not impressed with what happened at Fring’s place. He wants to go into his own big time distributing business, hoping Nacho will convince his father to help. But the young man doesn’t want to let that happen. At the same time they find out Tuco’s in trouble for a stabbing. This prompts the old fella to nearly have an attack. Also, note the errant pill Nacho keeps under his boot.
Pic 4Looks like the McGill plan has worked. He’s optimistic about the ad time. He “made a commercial for commercials” in a single afternoon. A hilarious little cheap commercial with star swipes and chunky-lettered graphics.
Finally, FINALLY – we have the pseudonym, Saul Goodman making an apperance. “Sall good, man.” Even though he says it’s merely a name, we know better. This becomes the first time he dips into a truly other identity, his second life. His future.
Pic 5What an impressive episode. I love how the writers weave together and make these little moments from Breaking Bad come to life more vivid, as well as still creating their own world of Jimmy McGill before he too broke bad. Can’t wait for the next episode “Expenses” because I smell more cartel treachery coming soon.

Breaking Bad – Season 3, Episode 7: “One Minute”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 3, Episode 7: “One Minute”
Directed by Michelle MacLaren
Written by Thomas Schnauz

* For a review of the previous episode, “Sunset” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “I See You” – click here
IMG_0059We get a flashback of the Salamanca brothers as boys, their Uncle Hector (Mark Margolis) sitting in a lawn chair outside while they play. He talks on the phone, definitely about Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). When the boys get into a fight over a toy, uncle decides to teach them a lesson. When one of them grabs a beer from the cooler for him he holds his head under the water. Teaching a lesson on death, life, all the important things, before one brother saves the other.
And now, they’re nasty psychopaths, headed directly for DEA Agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), inadvertently due to Walter White (Bryan Cranston). Ah, the random, absurd chaos of the world.
Hector: “Family is all
IMG_0060Jesse (Aaron Paul) heads home after all the shit he and his old partner have been through. Not long after Hank shows up, angry beyond belief. He beats the young man within an inch of his life for the call made about Marie (Betsy Brandt); yet another inadvertent casualty of Walt’s criminal life. Instantly realising what he’s done Hank stops, knowing this could cost him his job. An ambulance is called and his career’s now on the line. Between this an El Paso, his boss George Merkert (Michael Shamus Wiles) isn’t sure what is going on anymore.
But Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) paints a great picture: “Best thing for you.” He tells Jesse that he’s home free now, after this beating. At the hospital, Walt sneaks in to see his former partner, who isn’t particularly thrilled to see the Paul to his Ringo, as their lawyer puts it. Walt isn’t King Midas, nor is he King Midas in reverse. He’s King Shit; everything he touches turns to absolute diarrhoea. Then there’s Jesse, keeping his eye on the prize: ruining Hank’s life. And cooking meth again. If anything goes wrong? He gives up Walt, even if the older of the two thinks he won’t go that far.
Hank is taken through the legal process, giving his statement to Merkert and other law enforcement. He explains the call about Marie, his bad judgement in going to Pinkman’s place. Furthermore, there are charges being pressed and Jesse looks squeaky clean, no drugs in his piss, not even taking pain meds at the hospital. Looking worse for ole Agent Schrader. When Marie comes to meet her husband he lets out a quick, rare fleet of tears. Just long enough for the elevator ride.


When Walt sees Skyler (Anna Gunn) again she asks if there’s anything he can do for Hank. She doesn’t realise how touchy the whole thing is, nor does she know the extent to which Walt is involved, either. How deep his finger is pressed on the pulse of it all. If the guy didn’t have cancer before this whole thing would give it to him.
At work things are well. Gale Boetticher (David Costabile) has coffee ready, he’s dressed professionally and has everything prepared for the cook. He isn’t so used to the help. Yet something about it pisses him off.
On the road the Salamancas meet a man with wares to sell. He has bullets, guns, bulletproof vests, explosives. They want vests, but need to test them. So they put a bullet in the seller who’s wearing one. Oh yeah – they work! The boys are gearing up for something nasty.
Walt nitpicks the temperature settings Gale used on their latest batch. He claims a different reading than what Gale wrote down. He acts very sour, shutting down production to start over. What is it bugging him so bad? Is there a purpose to the way he’s acting? Might be.
And today, Hank must face the music. His wife would rather him lie. He can’t do that, though. He made a mistake, and as an honourable man he’s got to own up to that. No matter how much it hurts. He admits that since the shootout with Tuco, he’s changed, and may be finished with law enforcement.
Hank: “It wasnt one mistakeIve been unravellingyknow?”
IMG_0065So now we know, Walt feels Gale isn’t working out. He wants to bring Jesse into the fold. Ahh, it makes sense! Bring him in on the operation, pay him, he keeps quiet on Hank’s assault. Walt argues for him best he can, that they have a “shorthand” way of working. He pleads with Gus without seeming TOO desperate. For the time being his request is granted. We’ll see how the whole thing works out. Isn’t always so easy. He presents it to Jesse, 50/50 split on the cash. Except the young man’s finished with Walt. He’s lost everything in his life that’s good, because of their relationship. After all this he’s discovered that Mr. White only cares about himself. As always, using a slithery way of speaking, the former chemistry teacher convinces him to come back to work.
Jesse: “Ive never been more alone, I have nothing, no one.”
With all the information at hand, Hank’s statement official statement given at full risk of the consequences, the DEA suspends Agent Schrader; no pay. He hands over his gun, then prepares to go on a forced vacation, of sorts. He heads down to the parking lot with one good bit of news: no charges being laid from Pinkman. One bit of hope.
On the way to his car he receives a call. Someone tells him there are men coming to kill him in one minute. He looks around, knowing he’s without a gun. In the distance come the Salamancas. They fire on him. He squashes one between his trunk and another vehicle. The other fires again, he takes a bullet in the lower back. With one of their guns in hand, Hank hides from the other brother still able to walk. Hank takes another two bullets. Instead of shooting him, the remaining Salamanca goes for his axe. Hank manages to chamber one last bullet and blows the back out of the guy’s skull, before passing out from blood loss.
IMG_0066CHRIST! One of the more intense episodes of the whole series. Can’t wait to review the next one titled “I See You” and there’s so much about to happen, between the fallout of this latest event with Hank and Gus Fring + Walter’s relationship changing fast.

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.

Breaking Bad – Season 3, Episode 2: “Caballo sin Nombre”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 3, Episode 2: “Caballo sin Nombre”
Directed by Adam Bernstein
Written by Peter Gould

* For a review of the Season 3 premiere, “No Más” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “I.F.T” – click here
IMG_3838
America’s “Horse With No Name” plays as Walter (Bryan Cranston) drives out along the highway in the desert. He sings with the tunes and has a great time. Until a cop flicks on their lights, pulling him over. Immediately his guilty conscience starts to play on him. He imagines the worst. It’s only about the cracked windshield from the plane crashes, not as if the cop cares. Hey, at least he’s not getting pinched for distributing and cooking up meth, right? You’d think Walt wouldn’t be so pushy about getting a citation.
He pushes too far and gets pepper sprayed after getting out of his car. Wow, Walt. You are a god damn genius. He pays the price, too. Pepper spray is no joke.
IMG_3840
Hank (Dean Norris) is busy with the Salamanca brothers’ murders, the fire. Of course they have no idea who it was. For his part Hank believes it’s cartel. So him, Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) and the rest of the team are going hard at their leads. That’s when Hank gets a call – he’s got a buddy to pick up from jail.
Then there’s Jesse (Aaron Paul). With a sort of new lease on life, albeit a negative one, he ends up over at the old house where he lived. It’s being renovated and revamped, as his father and mother are taking care of things. He and his dad end up chatting, which naturally results in Jesse finding himself insulted and rejected.
More and more Walt feels his ego being wounded. Hank essentially talks him out of some charges by pleading with a cop friend of his, mentioning Walt’s cancer diagnosis, and so on. Well they get a little apology out of him for the officer and on he goes. Lucky to have Hank, if not things might have ended up a ton worse. Hank’s the Tim Allen sort of classic male who doesn’t much want to talk, though Walt brings up Skyler (Anna Gunn) doesn’t want him around the kids and that sort of throws him for a loop. Oh, Hank – if ye only knew the dark depths of Mr. White!


Finally, a bit more Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). He and Walt meet to talk about his new situation. Saul spins things nicely for him. Mentioning going to the police wouldn’t benefit her at all: “blowback,” he says. Hank would get screwed over for not having noticed. All the assets gone, family on the streets. It’s quite possible, yes. Regardless, Walt is just concerned about losing her and the family. He still has a soul. Even if it’s itty bitty.
Saul also suggests Walt gets back to cooking meth. “I cant be the bad guy,” says Walt with so much irony you could nearly choke.
Even better, more Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks). We see he’s got a little granddaughter whom he loves very much. Love the juxtaposition of him with his family and him with his business. This leads to one of my favourite scenes of the entire series a little later.
Right now, we check back with Skyler. More importantly we see Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) is taking things quite hard. No wonder. It’s hard for anybody to adjust. Sad, though, that he sees his mother as a villain in the situation when he knows nothing about his father. At dinner with Hank and Marie (Betsy Brandt), Junior flips out and even calls his mother a bitch. Feisty, man. Hank really didn’t like hearing that, either. He pokes his head in a little too much before Skyler shuts him down. Still, Hank privately with Marie believes Walt’s been having an affair. Although Marie thinks it’s “something more.” God, is she so right.
Most interesting is Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis). He’s visited by the two Salamanca brothers, most likely his sons. They break out a Ouija Board for him to spell out the name of Heisenberg: Walter (motherfuckin’) White. Now the brothers are even closer.
Other trouble is on the horizon: Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins) cooking the books at his company is going to play into the White family issues, sooner or later. But Skyler asks about his kids, what if they knew he was doing something illegal. There’s a part of her, deep down, that wants to rationalize what Walt has done. Just a tiny part. Then when she gets a call from it turns out Junior has taken off to his father’s place.
This leads us up to an amazing scene. When Walt brings his son back home, he uses it as an opportunity to have dinner together, get some chemistry and conversation going again. He brings a pizza with him. Well Skyler refuses and won’t let him in. And in what’s now known to be a one-take shot, Walter tosses the pizza in frustration and it lands on the roof. A-ma-zing. Every time I watch it I laugh harder.
At the same time, Saul finagles a deal for the old house Jesse lived in. He uses the old history of meth cooking against Jesse’s parents and their lawyer. What a twist. Dig it. Because Jesse has tried to turn a new leaf, yet nobody cares to give him the benefit of the doubt. And that’s one reason why many addicts dive back in after getting clean, when loved ones and friends treat them like they’ll never be any different. So fuck his parents. He’s got the house now, at a huge discount.


Walter goes on a bad binge and wakes up face down on the floor. He gets a shitty message from Skyler, even bangs his head on the table getting up. Nothing’s working for him. A laugh out loud moment comes when Walt hears her talk about a restraining order on the message, so he grabs his crotch and screams: “Restrain this!” I mean, I almost died laughing.
The new owner of the Pinkman house strolls up and heads inside. Jesse’s parents are shocked to see it’s him. A slap in their stupid faces.
But my favourite scene of the series (almost) comes now with Skyler and Junior out of the house. Mike heads on up, accompanied by Timber Timbre’s “Magic Arrow”, and goes about bugging the house for Saul. At the very same time Walt is back trying to move himself into the house, unbeknownst to Skyler, obviously. So there’s this hilariously juxtaposed scene with Mike out back tapping the lines and setting things up, while Walt finds the locks changed and has to get inside another way. Also shows how damn sneaky Mike can get. And I guess Walt, as well.
Then another angle: the Salamanca brothers. They come wielding axes, shiny ones. Mike sees it and alerts the appropriate parties – a.k.a Victor over at Los Pollos, who in turn tells Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). Uh oh. Inside the White home, the brothers sit waiting for Heisenberg. He’s now on the verge of being annihilated once and for all. One of the most intense sequences yet, the tension is unbelievably thick, as Walt sings in the shower. So vulnerable and oblivious.
The Salamancas get a text, which quickly takes them out of there. Is this Fring intervening? The text reads: POLLOS. Walter gets out of the shower and finds the teddy bear eyeball from the pool in a different place than where he remembers it. Though, he has no idea of how close death came. Past his doorstep, right into his bedroom.

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The next episode, “I.F.T”, promises more developments in the personal and professional lives of Walter White, as well as the intermittent danger Walt brings into the lives of those around him.

Breaking Bad – Season 2, Episode 9: “4 Days Out”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 2, Episode 9: “4 Days Out”
Directed by Michelle MacLaren
Written by Sam Catlin

* For a review of the previous episode, “Better Call Saul” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Over” – click here
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Walter (Bryan Cranston) is at the doctor with his family in town. Everybody’s there, from Skyler (Anna Gunn) and Junior (RJ Mitte) to both Hank (Dean Norris) and Marie (Betsy Brandt). They’re all waiting for his next results from a PET-CT. I have to mention, I love Marie – she is incredibly annoying and ignorant at times, but she is loving, and only wants the best at all times for her family.
In the bathroom, Walt isn’t feeling so hot. Although it’s almost a good excuse to get away from the hovering presence of his loved ones. Cancer patients probably feel smothered at times by a constant need of others to be around them, worrying, fretting over the next result, the next test, the next this or that. Bad enough being put in those machines, it’s claustrophobic enough.
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Over with Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), Walt is trying to get things settled in case he dies. Or well, for when he dies. What comes of all this is a bit of financial advice from Saul, and help with money laundering. Then Walt decides it’s time to start cooking. A lot.
Skyler is back in supportive wife mode. She’s now dealing with a new lie, though one she’s obviously oblivious of currently – Walt says he wants to go see his mother. A clear ploy to get himself time for a cook in the Winnebago with Jesse (Aaron Paul).
Speaking of Jesse, his day plans with Jane (Krysten Ritter) are about to be ruined. They plan on going to see the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. However, the time for meth cooking is now, and Jesse’s assistance is required by MasterMr. White.
So Walt lies to his wife who drops him at the airport, then Pinkman picks him up in the ‘bago. They head out into the desert for a weekend full of meth. Love the tumultuous relationship between Jesse and Walt. It’s amazing how shitty he treats Jesse, over and over. The way he talks to him is awful most of the time, like lecturing a child. Either way, they get down to cooking. Only when the work is over and they decide to start back towards civilization – with 2.35 pounds of meth packaged and ready to go (netting them about $670K each) – the battery in the Winnebago has had it. Kaput. Now that is a kick in the nuts. Especially seeing as how Jesse put the keys in the ignition to keep them from getting lost, draining the damn thing.
Things get worse before they get better. They try getting Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) out to pick them up. Lot of good that does them. Some different ideas come, but nothing else happens for them. In between everything else Jesse figures out that Walt is getting sicker, closer to those final days, and lied about their batch of product going bad/needing to cook as much as possible.
Everything is looking bleak. Until another YEAH, SCIENCE! moment from Mr. White saves the day.


When they’re finally back, Walt casually asks Jesse to make sure his family gets money. Of course Jesse agrees. They part ways for now. We can see Jesse truly cares about Mr. White, even though Walter treats him like a child, or worse a dog.
But now Walt is back at the doctor’s office with the whole gang. Even better, the results of his scan are positive. Remission is possible now; his tumour shrank by 80%. A stark contrast from where he was just previously, believing he was on the verge of death. Everybody else is happy. Except for Walt. He’s happy, just not ecstatic. He almost wanted for things to go on as they were. Now he’s faced with living, moving on, and how could that work with what he’s brought into his life?
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This was a tight, contained episode that moved a lot forward in terms of the overall plot. Looking forward to watching the next one again, titled “Over”, that is also a solid chapter. Like so many of the others.

Breaking Bad – Season 2, Episode 8: “Better Call Saul”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 2, Episode 8: “Better Call Saul”
Directed by Terry McDonough
Written by Peter Gould

* For a review of the previous episode, “Negro y Azul” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “4 Days Out” – click here
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Oh, Badger (Matt Jones)! What are we gonna do with you?
Sitting on a bench unsuspectingly – one that has an add stating BETTER CALL SAUL no less – Badger is met randomly by a skinny guy looking for drugs. But smarty pants Badger judges him to be a cop, so he won’t immediately sell him anything. No way. Then as the guy pathetically wears him down Badger slips up, selling some of the good blue stuff.
And then swarm the police. Good job, dummy.
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On a television a commercial from Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) plays while nobody watches. In bed, Jesse (Aaron Paul) and Jane (Krysten Ritter) lay together. What we can already see is how he’s becoming a bad influence on her possibly. She leaves abruptly, though he can tell something’s off. Turns out she’s in Narcotics Anonymous. You can already tell he is very interested in her, attracted and maybe even falling a bit. Or a lot.
At the White household things are still in a bit of disarray. Not as outwardly aggressive, yet still passive-aggressive slightly. Skyler (Anna Gunn) is off to work, and Walter (Bryan Cranston) worries about her being back around Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins). Still, she kisses him and heads out like a normal couple.
Then Walt gets a call from Marie (Betsy Brandt). Seems things with Hank (Dean Norris) since the incident in Juarez have gotten worse. He sits around mostly, by himself, depressed and withdrawn. Naturally, though. I mean, he saw a bunch of guys get blown to bits. Tragic to see a guy like Hank, a tough dude with principals, get so shaken by his work. He tries putting on a good act for Walt, but it’s easy to see through. Perhaps Hank isn’t reacting how he hoped he would when coming up against the big terrifying stuff. Doesn’t help they think it was a little shitty he was the one to make it out of things, getting an evidence bag while the explosion went off. What’s interesting to me here is how Walt is on the opposite side of the law from Hank, yet he sits there caring for his brother-in-law, urging him to push forward. Such a darkly funny thing, and at the same time sort of awful, that Walt is there as a shoulder to lean on while heading out later to do some drug business.


Walt: “Fear is the worst of it. Thats the real enemy.”
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Jesse hasn’t heard from Badger yet, so their cash is light. Well little does he know. When he reaches Combo (Rodney Rush), he finds out what’s actually been going on. And that does nothing at all to ease the tension between him and Mr. White. So with Badger in jail and Walt worried sick, they’ve got to figure out what’s next.
Cut to Hank. He’s close to one of those panic attacks again heading into the DEA office for the first time since getting back. Yet he puts on the tough front and walks through the fire. Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) catches him up, as well as checks in on his old buddy.
In an interrogation room, Badger’s sweated by the young cop (DJ Qualls). Then Saul arrives – his lawyer! Goodman starts running his game, of course, and the tale has begun to weave. He tells Badger exactly how things are about to go; after he’s paid, certainly. He even has cheques made out to “Ice Station Zebra Associates“, which is awesome if you know that movie. Best of all, Saul goes right at the DEA even taunting Hank and his boys right to their faces.
Now we’ve got Jesse and Walt about to meet with Saul for the first time. Walt’s not at all impressed with the look of Saul’s stripmall practice. Although, the younger of the two makes a good case for having a “criminal [who’s a] lawyer” and not a Criminal Lawyer. When Walt heads in he makes the transaction. However, he’s appalled to find out the DEA is involved. Furthermore, Walt now knows the DEA is after Heisenberg. And that Saul plans on having Brandon take a deal involving talking to them about what he knows. Ironic to watch Walt on both sides of a situation once again, as Saul has no idea he’s the Heisenberg the law is after.
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Saul: “My real names McGill. The Jew thing I just do for the homeboys, they all want a pipe hittinmember of the tribe, so to speak.”


What happens next is a step up in the criminal game for Mr. White and his clueless partner. Jesse and Walt kidnap Saul and take him into the desert. They wear masks, of course. Only the cough Saul heard earlier in his office gives Walter away. Then the slippery lawyer greases out a little deal for himself, even making Jesse and Walt his clients in the process.
So Saul cooks up a deal with the DEA for Badger to give up Heisenberg. Really, it’s an old bald dude who gets paid to go to jail. He’s a lifetime ward of the system, so that’s sewed up. They set up a meet between this fake Heisenberg and Badger, on the very same bench where he was pinched at the episode’s start. Yet things get messy, and Walt ends up interjecting himself right in the middle of Hank and the boys staking things out from across the way. This is a tense and also comical moment, written well, played perfectly by both Bryan Cranston and Dean Norris; they have awesome chemistry and work great together. Through everything, the old con Jimmy gets arrested and things work out in the end for everybody. Er- not the DEA, just for Jesse, Walt, Badger, and Saul.
Hank ain’t sold, though. Not on this prison lifer being a mastermind meth cook.


Then Saul tracks Walt down in his classroom after hours. Wow. The Heisenberg persona wears thin, hey? Spells trouble for Mr. White who so relentlessly tries to conceal his true identity. But there’s nothing below board, Saul is merely looking out for his new client. First he confuses Walt with a reference to The Godfather, eventually offering up his silent partner services in their meth industry. Not blackmail. Definitely not ethical.


We’ll see how this new relationship becomes more prominent in the upcoming episodes. Next is “4 Days Out”, so stick with me for another recap and review.

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”.