Posted on Tuesday, April 18th, 2017 by Karen Han
(Every week, we’re going to kick off discussion about Better Call Saul season 3 by answering one simple question: who came out on top when the credits rolled?)
For two seasons now, Better Call Saul has been remarkable in how unafraid it’s been of quiet (particularly when it comes to setting up long sequences leading to a pay-off), and this week’s episode — directed, like the season premiere, by Vince Gilligan himself — opens with a long stretch of it. You notice, too, when there’s no music backing the dialogue, and the episode ultimately ends with silence. It’s a gut punch, an aural way of expressing just how completely the rug’s been pulled out from underneath the characters. It’s hard to crown a winner this week, as the chickens have come home to roost startlingly early, but here we go.
On Top This Week: Chuck
Last week, we saw Chuck (Michael McKean) let slip a little bit of the tape, and this week, we see it send Ernesto (Brandon K. Hampton) running to Kim (Rhea Seehorn) to tell her what he’s heard. He feels too badly for Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) — and he’s too pure of heart — not to tell Kim, who immediately makes herself Jimmy’s lawyer. In the meanwhile, Chuck has hired private investigators to stay with him under the assumption that Jimmy will try to break in to steal the tape. He’s so sure of the fact that Jimmy will go the underhanded route that he concedes to Harold (Patrick Fabian) that they might be able to cut the costs of hiring an investigator by having him just stick around at night. But Jimmy shows up in broad daylight, breaking down Chuck’s door and railing at him for having set him up. Unfortunately, he’s been set up yet again. Harold and the private investigator are on the scene as witnesses to his admission of guilt.
The difference between the McGill brothers plays out painfully clearly here. Jimmy feels too keenly (“For this, you destroyed our family? You happy now? For what? For nothing!”), and it’s his biggest weakness; Chuck isn’t emotionless, but his capacity for it usually only kicks in when he’s confronted with the consequences of what he’s done consulting solely with his head and not his heart, and his pride ultimately prevents him from acting on it, anyway. It’s a bit of a pyrrhic victory, but Chuck is still in the best position at the end of this week’s episode.
Wexler and McGill
Jimmy’s attentions are a bit divided this week. At the office, he continues making some home improvements with Kim’s input, including hiring a receptionist — though even there, Chuck’s influence can be felt. Just after Kim delivers the bad news about the tape, he assure her he’s fine, and catches himself peeling masking tape from the walls of the office as Chuck had instructed him to last week, i.e. by rolling it. In the next beat, he simply tears it off. It’s a vengeful motion, and a sad one, too. The rolled tape leaves perfect stripes of paint; the torn tape leaves a jagged, uneven line.
“Witness” features a nearly ten-minute sequence of Mike getting closer and closer to putting the puzzle pieces together. Having turned the tables on the people tailing him in the season premiere, he now uses the GPS locator to track his prey all over Albuquerque in the span of one night. It’s a gorgeous sequence that’s devoid of any real dialogue; it’s entirely visual storytelling. For the most part, it’s in either wide shots or in reflections. In other words, everything we see is indirect in some fashion, the way it would be if we were right in the middle of the action. Tracking means a certain amount of subtlety, and the visuals mirror that need. We see just enough to understand what’s going on, right up until the camera pulls away to reveal a sign we’ve been waiting for since the show began: Los Pollos Hermanos.
The big-ticket item this week is the introduction of Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) into Better Call Saul. He’s the most iconic villain in Breaking Bad, from his demeanor to his ultimate end, and his appearance in Better Call Saul doesn’t disappoint.
He appears at the intersection of Mike and Jimmy’s storylines, as Mike sends Jimmy into Los Pollos to spy for him, since he can’t go himself. He knows he’s being tracked, but Jimmy is a foreign element; there’s no reason they’d recognize him. Unfortunately, Jimmy isn’t exactly subtle, making a bit of a mess as he tries to keep tabs on the man Mike’s sent him after. As he maneuvers around the restaurant and rubbernecks, however, there’s a canary yellow shirt that appears and then reappears in the background. When Jimmy practically sticks himself into the trash can in order to see if his target’s left anything behind, the shirt reveals itself to belong to none other than Gus Fring, who’s in the warmest mode possible as proprietor rather than drug lord.
The encounter goes smoothly enough — Jimmy pretends to have lost his watch — but we already know that there’s going to be trouble. There’s the expression Gus is wearing as Mike and Jimmy take their leave (the one we became familiar with on Breaking Bad, utterly dead behind the eyes), and then there’s the discovery of Mike’s planted tracker. After visiting Los Pollos, Mike continues to follow the signal, only to find that the gas cap he planted has been left in the middle of the road along with a cellphone that rings just as he comes across it. Both Mike and Jimmy have been caught red-handed. The only question now is how things will play out.Cool Posts From Around the Web: