(photo courtesy of amctv.com)
Better Call Saul “Uno” (Pilot) Review
Sullywood Rating: 8.5/10
Welcome fellow Breaking Bad fans to a brand new journey brought to us by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, Better Call Saul. Bob Odenkirk reprises his iconic role as Saul Goodman, the fast-talking, loophole loving lawyer and “American hero”! Without further a due, let’s dive in to the much anticipated pilot episode for Better Call Saul.
We begin with Saul, or others call him….Gene (where are my Monty Python fans at?), the manager at the Cinnabon at the local mall. Filmed and displayed completely in black and white, the first moments of BCS (yes I’m going to get lazy and possibly use this forever and bring life back to the term BCS, since we now have a college football playoff) perfectly reflected the feeling you got watching a clearly older Saul struggling with what we can assume is his new life after the events of Breaking Bad. We follow “Gene” back to his condo where he makes himself a nice drink and sips it with help from his Ron Swansonesque moustache after a hard day’s work. After a few minutes we see “Gene” pull out an old shoe box filled with pictures and other items and he chooses an old VHS tape. For all of you young ones, this is what we watched movies on before the DVD (and if I have to mention Blu-Ray for you to understand, you are far too young to watch BCS). He plops the VHS in and we hear all of the Saul Goodman commercials from the past.
We fast backward, and find ourselves in a courtroom where we seem to be waiting for someone. That someone is Jimmy McGill, which would be the Bruce Wayne to Saul Goodman’s Batman, where he is in the restroom practicing his final closing argument in his current trial. He enters the court room guns a blazing, and it didn’t take long for the viewers to see some of that Saul Goodman in Jimmy, and he gives a great closing argument for his clients. Problem is, the prosecutors have a video tape of Jimmy’s clients having sex with a human head, don’t you hate when that happens? He loses the case and collects his check from the PD’s office, a whole $700, Jimmy is not happy. Jimmy gets a call while leaving the courthouse and pretends to be his own receptionist, with a fantastic old lady British accent, (think Mrs. Doubtfire) who tells the potential clients that Jimmy’s office is being freshly painted and is closed and asks to meet them at the local diner (not just any local diner ;), an easter egg from the writers). Another nice little touch was seeing Jimmy leave the courthouse and walking to his car, passing by the white Cadillac and walking up to a crappy yellow sedan with a red door, nice foreshadowing of the classic car we see Saul with in Breaking Bad. As Jimmy nears a parking garage, ready to enter, he is told by the parking garage attendant that he isn’t fully validated and must pay the entry fee, waaaaait a second, he looks familiar. It’s good ole Mike Ehrmantraut! As usual, Mike plays hard ball and doesn’t allow Jimmy to enter.
We see Jimmy meeting with the couple on the phone and they are in need of some legal advice. You can tell from Jimmy’s impatience and nervousness about the couple signing on the dotted line that he doesn’t quite have the client list we are used to seeing from his BB (yup, abbreviating that too now, get over it) days. The couple would like to sleep on it and Jimmy gives them his card, and by card I mean matchbook. You would think the matchbook would’ve made them sign on the dotted line? We now see a flummoxed Jimmy driving through a neighborhood when all of sudden BAM!, Jimmy collides with a 2004 Fem Green Pontiac Aztek! Oh man, if only. He instead collides with a skateboarder who is thriving with pain on the ground and his fellow boarder runs over yelling at Jimmy. (Twins Basil…Twins) They are demanding $500 for the accident. They also don’t know who they are talking to. Jimmy sees right through their scam, confronts them for damages to his car, and they run off.
Jimmy enters a nail salon (another blast from the future), asking the cashier for his mail and greets everyone in the place. He walks to the back where we see a door with a sign on it that clearly shows we have arrived at Jimmy McGill Enterprises! Such a classy sign as well, printed on that old school printing paper with the tear off pieces on the sides with the holes, awww that takes me back. We enter his office which somehow is worse than the offices of the Michael Scott Paper Company, which is quite the accomplishment. While at his desk, he opens a letter from the offices of Hamlin, Hamlin, and McGill, which also contains a check for $26,000! Woohoo! Your money troubles are over Jimmy! Wait, what are you doing? You’re not going to rip that check up are….yes you are.
Jimmy takes a trip to this mysterious HHM where clearly Jimmy is very familiar with, greeting every person we see by name. I’m going to go out on a huge limb and say that the McGill in the company’s name somehow ties in with Jimmy. Remember, you heard that hear first! Jimmy enters the board room where we meet Kim Wexler, played by Rhea Seehorn, and Professor Jeremiah Laskey, played by Patrick Fabian. Oh crap wrong show 😉 Which reminds me, if you haven’t yet watched the Jimmy Fallon Saved By the Bell reunion skit, please do yourself a favor and watch it. Patrick Fabian plays Howard Hamlin, one of the Hamlins from Hamlin, Hamlin, and McGill. Jimmy asks about the check sent to him and explains that they are going to have to give him much more than 26 smackers. Hamlin probes Jimmy on his intentions and asks him if this is what “Chuck” wants. We don’t know Chuck, but we will soon. Back and forth ensues and all the audience can assume is that this will not end well. Before Jimmy leaves, he sees Hamlin meeting with the couple from earlier, clearly showing that they won’t be utilizing Jimmy’s services (but, the matchbook…..). Although we weren’t formally introduced to Seehorn’s character in the boardroom, we get a glimpse of her and Jimmy in the parking garage when he leaves the offices, literally sharing a cigarette. We can assume that there is definitely a past between these two.
The day is winding down and Jimmy arrives at a ranch home in a neighborhood, he grabs the mail and heads in, but not before putting his keys, cell phone, and watch in the mailbox. Huh? Before entering the house, he “grounds” himself and opens the door. Here we find Chuck, typing away on an old school typewriter, while Jimmy lights a lantern and fiddles around with a cooler, some deli meat, and another cooler that looked to be something used for drinking water. Jimmy argues with Chuck over what’s best for him and HHM, but Chuck won’t budge. Jimmy informs Chuck that they are at the end of their rope and he can’t take care of Chuck anymore. Chuck states he will get over his issue (something something electromagnetism) and they will be just fine since they have a stipend check worth $857 to use weekly. Who is this check from? Why Howard Hamlin of course, he stopped by to see his fellow name partner. Clearly Chuck has some trust issues seeing as he seems to side with Howard on everything, including suggesting Jimmy change his name so that the general public doesn’t associate Jimmy’s “firm” with HHM. Yikes. Jimmy’s had enough and declares war on Howard Hamlin.
Jimmy goes to a skate park where we find Shaun White 1 and Shaun White 2! Jimmy has a proposition for them but not before telling them the tale of Slippin’ Jimmy, a boy from Cicero, Illinois who would slip on patches of ice and collect off of it. I remember my Grandmother telling me the ole tale of Slippin’ Jimmy when I was younger….maybe that was the 3 Little Pigs. I digress. He takes the boys on as his helpers and he insists they utilize him as a mentor. The mark?….Betsy, one half of the couple that was seeking his legal advice earlier at the diner. His plan is to have the boys recreate their little skit, but this time Jimmy will swoop in to save the day and she’ll have to sign with Jimmy! Right? So everything is set up for the scam, we see Jimmy waiting outside Betsy’s home to give the boys the signal to get ready. (Btw, anybody else think he was ridiculously too close to her home in that shotty car?) Anyway, Betsy leaves her home and we see her driving on the street where the boys are, takes the turn, and BOOM, hits ½ of the dynamic duo as planned. The other twin runs over to fulfill his duties, YELL YELL YELL. Only problem is, Betsy don’t play those games and freaking books it! The boys follow her and call Jimmy to tell him what happened. Jimmy informs them to keep on her and that the plan has changed. The hit and run will mean more money for all of them than Jimmy taking on Betsy and hubby as clients. The boys have a quick meeting, while being pulled behind a Jeep while on their skateboards (way to steal the swag from Marty McFly), and decide that they don’t need Jimmy and can claim all of the money for themselves. They hang up on Jimmy and follow Betsy all the way to a house where she gets out of the car. Although, as the viewers see, that’s not Betsy, it’s a little old woman who doesn’t speak English. The boys do not know that this isn’t Betsy and keep badgering her for money, she insists they come inside. I had a terrible feeling about this from the get-go. Jimmy tracks down the boys and knocks on the front door. The door opens and a nice shiny pistol is pointed at Jimmy’s head and the camera turns to reveal the gunman as……TUCO!
I will not rate each aspect of the show as you’ll see below every week, but I will do so for pilots.
Writing: 9/10 – expected nothing less from the team that brought us Breaking Bad. Every scene was enthralling and the very first sequence had me on the edge of my seat. Episode had great flow to it and let us meet most of the characters, but also didn’t let us get too close…yet. Loved the ending with Tuco, so glad we get to be reunited with this crazy man
Acting: 9/10 – Bob was great as Jimmy/Saul/Gene. He brought a new level of depth to the character that he can hopefully keep up. If he does, I see an Emmy in his future. We are not used to seeing this Saul/Jimmy, until maybe the end of the BB series where he is clearly out of sorts. The rest of the cast, we’ll wait and see, nobody stood out in particular, but this episode was clearly about Jimmy
Direction: 7/10 – Great visuals so far in a town that doesn’t necessarily always provide them. I loved the first sequence being filmed in black and white and the shots from the ground looking up at the trash can and Jimmy when he’s waiting for the elevator.
Overall: 8.5/10 – The episode as a whole was everything you wanted in a pilot: great writing, great acting, and great direction. It also kept us wanting more, so thank goodness there is a new episode Monday night!
Pickup Prediction: Well, since the series has already been picked up for a second season, I can’t say I a am regular fortune teller when I say it has a great chance. I will say I do believe this show has the potential longevity of a Breaking Bad, which is to say maybe 4 or 5 seasons, but I’ll wait to see the formula and decide at a later date.