That hit the spot. In my coverage of Better Call Saul I’ve been pretty critical of the show’s lack of… pizzazz? That’s the problem; it’s hard to define exactly what the show has been missing. It’s without a certain tenacity, a tautness that pushes forward the scenes. I’ve made pains not to mention Breaking Bad in these reviews, both shows should stand on their own, but it’s apparent that whatever magic the predecessor held, the successor is still desperately reaching for. Breaking Bad had a quality that it excelled at more proficiently than any other TV show I’ve ever seen: it was always seven steps ahead of the audience. Viewers, especially vetted ones, can see the left turn from a mile away, Bad almost always found a shortcut to advance the narrative several steps in logical, savvy ways. For the most part, Better Call Saul has lacked that. It’s not so much telegraphing its moves as it just taking its good ol’ time getting there. Due to the narrative pace, Breaking Bad was essentially great scene after great scene, to the point where it was almost necessary to rewatch because you’d barely had time to process the impact of a particular development before being jettisoned into another perfectly-executed set piece. For the first time, this week Better Call Saul succeeded in producing an episode stacked with entertainment. In the modern era of TV the cold open has become a fertile ground for memorable moments and this show has made it a motif. Keeping with the pattern, the start of “RICO” is temporally unanchored and perhaps gives us the most context yet on the life of Jimmy. We find our star in the occupation of mail clerk at Hamlin, Hamlin and McGill, a reveal that explains a lot about the odd, perhaps antagonistic, relationship between him and the law firm. We even get a little bit of a tease as to the timing and nature of Jimmy and Kim’s more-than-friends relationship. The intro does big time work in another regard too: We find out exactly how Jimmy became a lawyer. The centerpiece of the opener is the final bit. After telling Chuck about his successful passing of the New Mexico Bar Exam our hero celebrates in the mail room with a few co-workers. Howard Hamlin enters to speak specifically to Jimmy, and under the muffle of copiers we see, but cannot hear, Howard essentially torpedo Jimmy’s ambition. We aren’t privy to what’s said and we don’t need to be. It’s clear, Howard is a dick. It’s an appetizing scene because I’m happy to finally have a legit reason to dislike Howard. The show has done very little in building the main antagonist and it does great things for its depth to expand on the origins and nature of this rivalry. So yeah, the opener gripped me, and it sparked an episode that steamrolls downhill (the GOOD downhill). We move to present day where Jimmy visits his elderly clients, in particular Ms. Landry, who finds she cannot afford his fee. Upon hearing the word “allowance” Jimmy digs deeper into the situation and discovers a systematic fraud scheme perpetrated by an old folk’s home that is grossly overcharging their clients. He’s smart enough to realize that this could be a huge case and goes to Chuck for a double check. One element of Breaking Bad that was inherent to its allure was the relationship to chemistry. While science permeated some of the bigger themes (i.e. violent transformations) even on a surface level there was a certain fun to hearing Walt gush about chemicals or digress into teacher-speak. I always expected Better Call Saul to have this same type of relationship with law, and yes, we’ve received some of that, but this episode is the first time that I really felt the wild world of litigation bursting from my TV screen. The first moment of this is when Jimmy goes to Sandpiper Creek to follow up on his discovery. He finds the employees are already shredding documents, so Jimmy excuses himself to the bathroom and writes up a legal notice on the back of a notepad and a strip of toilet paper. It’s neat seeing the law bent in creative and impulsive ways and even neater watching Jimmy frantically execute it. The second happens near the end of the episode when the lawyer for Sandpiper Creek, Rick Schweikart, and his team arrive at Chuck’s house to discuss the claims made against their client. Everything about this scene is well-executed, in particular the role of Chuck. His status a “rock star” lawyer is demonstrated well in this episode, Schweukart practically falls over in his reverence, and his status is juxtaposed well with his nervousness and discomfort at the conference. As the two parties discuss a potential case Chuck remains silent, awkward even, and Jimmy is forced to do all the talking. The nursing home lawyers offer up a settlement but refuse to admit fault, and the Jimmy counters by pointing out that the old folk’s home buys supplies from out of state provider which could make any future case eligible for RICO status, a development that could lead to major federal charges and a class action lawsuit. Schweikart asks the McGills for a counter offer to which Chuck speaks up for the first time “twenty million”, he states coldly. For a moment it seems that Chuck might be slipping further into madness however as he explains to Jimmy, Schweikart mentioned several facilities operated by the Sandpiper Creek’s parent company, and if one is practicing unsavory method then likely they all are. In the interim between these two great scenes is another one. After Jimmy gets kicked out of the assisted living community for serving them papers he returns in the evening to retrieve the shredded documents. What follows is one of the show’s most visceral and powerful moments: Jimmy goes dumpster diving! Seriously, my stomach churned watching soon-to-be-Saul get doused with filthy, slimy trash, and then I laughed as the dumpster lid slammed on his head only then for him to turn the corner and find the paper recycling bin. Good stuff. Jimmy brings the shredded docs back to Chuck’s and works throughout the night to piece them back together (while the classic Coffee Cold by Galt MacDermot plays over top). When he passes out Chuck picks up the slack and helps finish the job. After the meeting with the Sandpiper lawyers Chuck expresses to Jimmy he would like both of them to work the case and the younger sibling is absolutely gleeful. This scene paired with the opener proves how much Jimmy respects and admires his brother and it seems like a working relationship is something he’s always strived for. Later, Chuck, while doing background work on the case, asks Jimmy to retrieve something from his car. Jimmy, tired and nearly napping, doesn’t immediately get it so Chuck ventures outside and grabs the requested paperwork from Jimmy’s car. It’s not until Jimmy call out to him in confusion that Chuck notices that he’s willfully exposed himself to the outside electromagnetic energy and didn’t seem to notice. The episode ends with the elder McGill standing still in shock. “RICO” did wonders for the show in terms of progression and entertainment. Injecting the law aspect into the show does wonders for its identity. I want more fast talking, manipulative dialogue and more of Chuck’s library-brain than we were getting previous. There are lots of scripted shows about the practice of law. Lots. But few operate with the superb comedy/drama balance that Better Call Saul does. Am I missing something? Oh yeah, Mike! With the sixth episode dedicated to the character it would be fantastically negligent not to continue Mike’s story. In a trio of scenes totally unrelated to Jimmy’s tale Mike takes up babysitting duties for his granddaughter. He soon finds out that daughter-in-law Stacey is struggling to make ends meet, which causes Mike to visit the seedy veterinarian that stitched him up in “Five-O.” Mike is starting his career in enforcer work and it’ll be neat to see how and when he and Jimmy will cross paths again. This episode was a savior of sorts, inserting vigor and funk into the series as it closes out the first season. Hints from the producers have disclosed that the final two episodes are built to shock and amaze and if this is true it’ll come at a great time. A strong finish could make Season One an overall success. Though I gotta ask: Where the fuck is Nacho? Better Call Saul 1.08 "RICO" Jamil's Rating4.0Overall 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.