Better Call Saul Slip Review

(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?)

Better Call Saul doesn’t miss a beat. There’s no such thing as a wasted moment, which has never been more evident as it is in “Slip,” the eighth episode of this season. It’s so titled because it marks the definitive return of Slippin’ Jimmy, as well as significant turns in the arcs of the rest of the cast as well. Over the past few episodes, we’ve seen characters pushed past their respective breaking points; now that all of the pieces are on the same side of the board, it’s time to properly watch the fall-out.

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On Top This Week: Nacho

Michael Mando has been turning in consistently incredible work as Nacho, serving as the connective tissue between the melodrama of the cartels we’re familiar with from Breaking Bad and the more delicate dynamics that have come to characterize Better Call Saul. His storyline this week is a fine example, as we catch glimpses of Nacho’s relationship with his father and are treated to another sequence of simply watching him work, this time as he creates and then practices swapping out the false pills he means to give to Hector (Mark Margolis). The swap itself provides the tensest moment in the episode — he’s sweating just as much as we are — and the more blatant will he/won’t he tone of the scene is reminiscent of Breaking Bad more than anything else. Luckily, he gets away with it, managing to palm Hector’s bottle, empty it, fill it, and then get it back into its jacket pocket with a lucky throw.

Meanwhile, Mike (Jonathan Banks) has finally made his deal with the devil. The end of this week’s episode sees him coming to Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) to discuss the money he’s set aside for his family in the event that anything happens to him. It’s not money he can hand off legally without arousing suspicion, and since he knows just what Fring does with Los Pollos Hermanos, he asks to get in on the deal. It’s the first big thread to come full circle, if a little too neatly for comfort.

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The Return of Slippin’ Jimmy

Where Mike’s signed away his soul, we’re seeing Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) lose the last vestiges of his. If the events of the episode aren’t enough to prove it, “Slip”’s title card, which features a tarantula, should do the trick. The last time we saw that particular insect was in the fifth season of Breaking Bad, when a little boy captures one before accidentally stumbling upon a train heist and is murdered for his trouble. It was one of the more shocking acts of violence in a show that never shied away from it, and signaled a sharp turn in the characters’ morality. It’s a fitting emblem here, as we see Jimmy start to use his talent and acumen in pettier ways. He talks his (and a fellow’s) way out of community service by steamrolling his officer with talk of legal action; he even takes a fall in the music shop to leverage their lack of liability coverage into keeping them locked into the commercial deal. He gets a guitar somewhere out of the deal, and when Kim (Rhea Seehorn) finds him lying on the floor later, he’s plucking away at “Smoke On The Water,” which last came up in Better Call Saul at the end of the first season, right after Jimmy told Mike he’d never pass up an opportunity anymore.

What makes Jimmy’s devolution so hard to watch is equal parts how much we care about him, and how much Kim cares about him. Jimmy’s newfound blasé attitude towards morality sours him towards everyone, including Kim, who already has enough on her plate. She knows how much Jimmy is struggling to make money, and may be overloading herself with work as a result. Then there’s Howard’s (Patrick Fabian) resentment of her, born of the debacle that was Jimmy and Chuck’s hearing and the damage control he’s had to do since then. He patronizes her in front of her clients, but he doesn’t have enough of a leg to stand on; she does the same to him, and to better effect. It’s satisfying to watch, but one still can’t help the feeling that this isn’t what she’d do if she wasn’t under so much pressure.

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Orange Oranges

This week, we also see the first concrete steps that Chuck (Michael McKean) is taking in the aftermath of the hearing. He goes out grocery shopping, relying on an exercise to focus on anything except the electricity around him to keep from spiraling too badly. It’s a small step — electricity still bothers him, and light always seems brighter and harsher in Chuck’s scenes — but it’s still remarkable progress given how we’ve seen him living over the past two and a half seasons.

The most striking revelation, however, comes in his conversation with his doctor, Lara Cruz (Clea DuVall). He already has grand plans for the future, saying he wants to get the lights in his house back on and to throw a party — “I want to be surrounded by friends,” he says, though there’s something inherently sad in that wish as well. We’ve seen just how isolated he is, and how he’s shut himself off not just because of his condition but because of his pride. But the more he talks, the more it seems that he’s aware of that. When Dr. Cruz asks him what he makes of the battery that Jimmy had planted on him, his answer is tremulous. To him, he says, “It’s real, but what if it’s not? What if it’s all in my head? And if that’s true, if it’s not real, then what have I done?” It’s as close to an admission of guilt as he’ll ever get, and some of the first indication we’ve gotten that his formerly indestructible (and destructive) pride might have broken a little bit. Hopefully it’s not too little, too late, but if “Slip” is anything to go by, it might be.

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