TV Review | Better Call Saul 1.05 ‘Alpine Shepard Boy’

This surprisingly strong series strides on seemingly oblivious to the expected spin off problems of living in the towering shadow of Breaking Bad. While the former show may have been the king of bleak and the one that knocked on the door of disturbing, this series has character. And spoonfuls of it. This is a Coen brothers style experience as the heaps of kooky humour and strange characters compliment the giant heart of a story. Jimmy is still furiously endearing with his genuinely hilarious wit and underdog charm, you can’t help but root for this ringleader in the circus that is his life. He skips from one problem to the next and like the wizard of Oz desperately trying to weave his magic of charisma, or charismagic(?) on all those around him. The scene in the elderly home is a fantastic showing of this, hopping from table to table with his refreshing charm and passion falling upon the grateful dry days of the weary.

Still tightrope walking the morale line the hardest part is deciding whether you want him to fall prey to the lucrative criminal underworld or cling to his tattered thread of values for a little longer. In the first few scenes we are constantly shown his hard work and intent in the attention to these fleeting cases, taking any small reward and getting crushed by the empty promises of mad men. Meanwhile in the midst of good work such as his attention to the models of an elderly lady, the billboard sham is constantly brought up like a dark cloud of inevitable future decisions. Knowing his future should be a weakness but showing his ruthless endeavours down the straight and narrow make this a true journey and a strength rivalled only by Jimmy’s hairspray.

Jimmys relationship with Kim was unconvincing at first and still strange but is being given enough time and effort to somehow convince you like a jury swaying closing speech from our favourite lawyer himself. Chuck’s ‘illness’ was wearing thin in its relevance but was shocked back into life quite literally and the timing is superb. The acting  and hotel interactions are genuinely warm and swing on the heart strings like a sugar starved child on a piñata. These are two brothers intelligent yet isolated in a world that doesn’t understand them, whether it’s Chuck’s illness or Jimmy’s ambition. Also the decision for his brother poses yet another morale balancing act on a teetering scale of dollar bills.

This episode maybe felt the slowest so far as it is maybe less colourful or with less memorable set pieces but the characters are built up as masterfully and quickly as a budding architect with mechano this episode is none the less gripping as it’s more action packed predecessors, showing this programme can confidently rely on its pure drama and not lean on the kooky crutch too heavily. I did miss the intensity of Nacho but Mike’s story advances pleasantly with the very slow methodical intensity of his piercing stare, and a nice ending scene cliffhanger. In a few scenes Mike broods in quiet scenarios looking like a man who strived for this peaceful setting but is so out of place in the quite life he’s attained. Saul and Mike both bubble with a simmering desire to achieve more and this could be what binds them. The script is still snappy and the links between all these characters are only going from strength to strength.

The verdict: Where as Breaking Bad was an intense downward spiral this is still a an exhibition of showmanship and the moulding of a larger than life character. We continue to just sit back, watch and ultimately enjoy.



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