Better Call Saul Review: “Mijo” (Season 1, Episode 2)

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Before he even manages to return to the courtroom bathroom to practice his Roy Scheider impression, Jimmy gets a small thrill from performing in the desert. He takes the identity of a special agent from the FBI to get Tuco and his henchmen’s attentions. Even when he blows that cover due to Nacho’s interrogation, he manages to squeal out a deal. “Croaking a lawyer is bad business,” he explains. So, Jimmy walks without much more than a scratch, while the twins have to suffer one broken leg apiece. These are reduced terms, so Saul breathes a sigh of relief as he wheels the grunting twins into the emergency room.

The prolonged, inconsistently paced showdown in the desert does not just show Jimmy’s inexperience with negotiating with the darker forces from New Mexico. The length of the sequence also gives him time to try to perfect what had been an imperfect style of questioning. Just like he did to the jury in “Uno,” Jimmy finds a route toward becoming Saul Goodman through his wise appeal to emotion. He caters to Tuco’s soft family-oriented side, lying about how the twins’ arthritic mother would be sunken without “the apples of her eye.” Despite a couple of broken legs, it is a full-fledged victory for the man who will become Saul Goodman.

The rest of “Mijo” is a visceral recovery from that close showdown with Tuco and company. Jimmy has a hard time concentrating on a hot date due to the miserable man sitting to the side who keeps snapping his bread-sticks into two, reminding him of the damage to the twins. Cinematographer Arthur Albert keeps much of this scene to close-ups on the protagonist and extreme close-ups of the halved breadsticks, bringing us into Jimmy’s state of nausea.

This sequence of grimacing is offset later on by a sleek courthouse-set montage, as Jimmy commits to doing the dirty work, picking up as many cheap $700-a-day cases as he can. MacLaren cues the quick cuts to instant coffee dripping into a paper cup, dealing with the monotony of the oft-repeated “petty with a prior” sentencing and the defender’s “It’s showtime” tableau in the bathroom to chipper classical music. The old-fashioned score emphasizes the lawyer’s propensity for performance. He finally reaches a point where he can get the lines right and read the other attorneys. To the man who will be Saul, lawyering is becoming like theater to him.

The bits of Better Call Saul that still feel peculiar involve Jimmy’s brother, Chuck, and his sensitivity to electromagnetic activity. His quaint way of life and decision to clothe himself in a blanket of tin foil after coming into close contact with Jimmy’s cell phone is original, but it could become irritating if this quirk becomes Chuck’s defining characteristic – which it currently is. McKean does a fine job bristling in his “space blanket,” but the relationship between the brothers could be a bit more defined.

Nevertheless, “Mijo” finishes off strongly with an appearance from Nacho, who tracked Jimmy down. In the desert, Jimmy couldn’t help but harp about the Kettlemans and their corruptions, so Nacho re-appears to make a deal. Nacho wants to scam the $1.5 million from the husband and wife and hopes to give Jimmy a 10% finder’s fee. “I’m a lawyer, not a criminal,” Jimmy says, trying to stray further from Tuco and his cronies. Nacho doesn’t buy that plea, and it won’t be long until we do the same.

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