BY NOLE COWLIN What a lawyer. Not many attorneys could get their clients off with merely pulverized kneecaps — a slap on the wrist compared to the threatened Colombian Necktie. In part two of the two-part/two-night debut of Better Call Saul, we meet a deeply moral Saul, one who will haggle with a homicidal maniac drug dealer in a desert on his client’s behalf, a tireless public defender who runs on nothing but vending machine coffee. Gone was the scheming, small-time shyster we were introduced to in part one, and in his place is a guy trying to do the right thing. And while Saul’s moral compass may be a bit screwy, Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul creator/director Vince Gilligan is making it clear that at this moment, Saul is trying to tightrope walk the straight and narrow. Just as it took Walter White some time to become Heisenberg, it appears it will likely take some time for Jimmy McGill to evolve into Saul Goodman.
Last night, we started to see more of the narrative skeleton of Better Call Saul along with some solid indicators of where the season will be going. Gilligan brought back Tuco, a Breaking Bad All-Star, and it appears that Tuco-wrangling will be an early rite of passage for Saul just as it was for Walt. But whereas Walt opted for a show of power, (like that crazy crystallized mercury he used to blow up Tuco’s safe house) Saul has a deft touch, and displays great finesse and rhetorical might in being able to effectively reason with Tuco, who is the antithesis of reason and rationality. Walt emerged post-Tuco as a burgeoning Satan-In-Training, having learned the true meaning of ruthlessness. Only time will tell how his dealings with Tuco and his associate, Nacho, will effect Saul, but judging from early interactions it appears he may not be as easily transmuted into a meth demon.
Also, what the hell is wrong with Chuck? He was fairly peripheral in this episode, but he will most certainly turn out to be a power player, as most people entitled to over a million dollars are. What exactly is he suffering from that he is so certain he will “beat”? What is his strange beef with technology? Why no electric lights or refrigerator? And what’s with space blanket swaddling? He seems to be the angle (i.e. payday) Saul is most interested in, but I have a feeling Chuck will fall by the wayside as Nacho and Tuco bubble to the top of Saul’s financial prospects.
So far, Breaking Bad fan favorite Mike Ehrmantraut has been parcelled out in small bites. The only moments we see the former Philadelphia cop is as a municipal sticker Nazi, the bane of Saul’s public defender existence. Clearly Ehrmantraut will soon break free of his toll-troll role and become something more integral to the storyline, but when that will happen is, as of yet, a mystery. After the two night premiere, the Better Call Saul remains full of promise. There are a lot of moving parts, the plots and subplots are shooting out in a myriad of different directions, and the dedicated Breaking Bad fans have been indulged with the return of some of their favorite characters from the original series. Better Call Saul has made a strong case for itself, and will strive for a spot in the prestigious and notoriously selective Spin-off Hall of Fame. At this point, it looks to have a good shot.
PREVIOUSLY: Better Call Saul Premier Pt. 1