Reinvention. For those who have attended a traditional four-year college, or jail, it might be a familiar activity. The ability to replace parts of your personality wholesale is a rare opportunity, normally heralded by a change of locale or a new social environment; slipping into a new persona can be extremely cathartic, or in some cases a simply a survival tactic. In “Hero” Jimmy McGill indulges in a bit of both as the episode works to wrap up the plotlines of the first three hours and introduce more dilemmas for the wordy attorney soon to be known as Saul Goodman. We get a bit of an origin for that pseudonym in the cold open set in Jimmy’s hometown of Cicero, Illinois. As he and a new drunkard friend stumble through the alleys of the Midwest town, Jimmy tells the guy his name is Saul Goodman, as in “‘All’s good, man,” (a bit of a phonetic spin fans had joked about years ago). In this flashback “Slippin’ Jimmy” and his new friend rob a passed out boozer for more than $1000 and a nice watch. When it comes time to split up the loot, the other guy leaves the money, including $580 of his own, before taking off. Surprise! The watch is fake, and the drunk ally-sleeper is a friend of Jimmy’s. The duo retreat back to a basement to take bong rips. The friend is impressed with Jimmy’s con artistry, but Jimmy is bothered by how small time it all feels. The opening was arguably the strongest part of this week’s episode. The flashbacks to young Jimmy are kind of fascinating and have done real work in playing up the themes of survivability and adaption. As we get to know Jimmy, a man markedly different from Saul, we simultaneously learn about Slippin’ Jimmy, who himself is a proto version of the character we find in present day 2002. The scene in Cicero is executed well enough to dupe the viewer just the way the Rolex-absconder was. It’s becoming more and more apparent that Jimmy has an extremely dangerous mind when it’s moving in an amoral direction and this scene basically cements that fact. It also sets up the main segment of “Hero.” With the missing Kettleman family and their big bag of embezzled cash now found, Jimmy attempts to convince them to venture back to civilization in order to clear Nacho Varga’s name. Suggesting the husband and wife use the stolen money as a bargaining chip, the two balk in surprise. Proving herself the wearer of pants Betsy Kettleman explains that her husband had earned this money (that sounds familiar…) and she attempts to hand Jimmy a few bundles in order to secure his silence. Once upon a time (or I guess more accurately, once upon a future) Saul Goodman would have snatched the money with little hesitation and asked if there was more. Here we see Jimmy legitimately struggle with the decision, repeating several times he can’t accept a bribe and even trying to sway the couple to abandon their present lawyers at Hamlin, Hamlin, and McGill for the “passionate” services of James M. McGill (“A lawyer you can trust!”). The scene ends with Jimmy simply staring at the offering looking both desperate and distraught. Employing a decent cover story, the Kettlemans return home and thus activate the release of Nacho. Do I need to tell you he’s pissed? Of course he is. Micahel Mando gets to show off his ability to portray bottled anger during Nacho’s shakedown of Jimmy while they stand in a building full of cops. He makes it clear he knows the lawyer warned the Kettlemans about the intent to rob them and guarantees retribution. It’s a predictably tense moment, not short on energy and meaning, but adhering to a pattern set since the first time we saw a pair of trousers wafting in the wind. Then it happened. For the first time the show really popped for me. Better Call Saul is well executed, but it lacks an appetizing hook. When Nacho threatens Jimmy we see something leap up inside the main character. Instead of cowering, he politely lashes back at his client, chastising him for sloppy habits and poor tactics. He demonstrates he knows the game better than the professional thug and thus he proves his utility. For the first time we see a bit of Saul creep out and the show grows richer for it. Nacho’s response is silent and thoughtful. We’ll have to wait and see how he’ll respond to the challenge to get better or get caught. After that tense exchange we see what James does with a sudden influx of cash. Yes, he took the money offered by Mrs. Kettleman, and I’ll confess I was a little surprised, but I think I need to get used to this character growing increasingly devious. Utilizing some crafty accounting Jimmy makes a series of purchases resulting in the schemes-to-end-all-motherloving-schemes. With some Machiavellian-level shit, Jimmy uses the hush money to purchase a very visible billboard to market his services and utilizes a color, logo, and layout essentially identical to the ads of Hamlin, Hamlin, and McGill. This of course catches the ire of Howard Hamlin who uses his employee Kim Wexler (who is apparently [still?] crushin’ on Jimmy) to deliver cease-and-desist paperwork. Jimmy brushes all this off until an official mediator tells him to remove the ad immediately. After failing to gather local media attention for this slight against the small man entrepreneur The Once and Future Saul employs some college filmmakers to capture an impassioned rant. The crew is conveniently present to witness Jimmy save a worker dangling helplessly from the billboard and the act of apparent heroism garners media attention which in turn send a flood of clients to the struggling attorney. Of course it’s quickly revealed the man saved was a hired accomplice. It’s not quite a Lily of the Valley-type con but the billboard plan is an impressive feat. It feels a bit grandiose on its own, but paired with the opening scene it does seem credible that Jimmy is capable of such inspired and well-executed chicanery. He effectively uses the Kettleman’s money as a startup fund for his law practice while also sticking to it Hamlin. That’s results, folks! When he goes to visit brother Chuck it leads to one of the best shot and edited scenes of the series so far. Jimmy shares the news of recent windfall with Chuck but is vague about the change of fortune. This information coupled with a missing newspaper compels Chuck to venture outside where we see from his perspective the exact nature of his illness. Suffering from some form of technophobia the elder McGill feels acute physical discomfort from the mere sight of things associated with electromagnetic activity. As he scuffles across his residential street wearing a space blanket like a shawl we really see the depth of Chuck’s problem and how it relates to Jimmy. Though impaired by a debilitating metal illness Chuck is also still sharp enough to deduce when his brother is lying and, everything considered, still has it together. It creates an important “ticking time-bomb” that lends all great stories momentum. Chuck is only going to get worse and it’s on Jimmy to protect family interests. The creators have a lovely way of drawing things out and that’s the main detriment of “Hero” and somehow one is best qualities. It has some great moments but still needs to promote those secondary members of the cast. Still, I understand the inclination to move slowly because of the show’s weird position of a prequel with sequel potential. With next episode marking the midpoint of the season I’m excited to see things tighten up and move downhill with intent. Better Call Saul 1.04 "Hero"Jamil's Rating3.5Overall ScoreReader Rating: (0 Votes)Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.