Monday, February 16, 2015

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

“Wow. You gotta mouth on you”

In “Uno” we saw life handing Saul lemons but his sharp lawyer but in “Mijo” we see Saul show off his ability to, in his own words “turn a death sentence to six months’ probation”

“Mijo” started where “Uno” left off as the twins talked their way into a world of trouble after the old lady (who we find out in short order is the grandmother of Breaking Bad alumni Tuco Salamanca) informs Tuco of the accident but one of the twins makes the mistake of calling the old lady a “crazy old biznatch” which instantly hit the kill switch in Tuco who we know from Breaking Bad is not one to take insults or even perceived slights lightly.

The Tuco presented to us so far seems a far calmer and sober version than the violent lunatic we saw in Breaking Bad who took meth in just about every scene we saw him in and killed for little or no reason. However, it’s not long before we see Tuco’s violent tendencies get the best of him as after he ushers his distressed grandmother upstairs and waits till she’s out of sight, he clocks both of the twins unconscious with his grandmother’s walker after getting sick of the twins disrespectful tone and constant claims for compensation.

It’s not been a great day for Saul and it gets worse as he interrupts Tuco in the middle of scrubbing the twin’s blood out of his grandma’s carpet. We hear Saul knock on the door and as soon as the door opens he’s greeted with Tuco sticking a gun in his face ushering him into the house.

After searching Saul, Tuco offers Saul a seat while pointing his gun right at his face asking him who he is. Saul, scared out of his mind, pretty much tells Tuco the truth though leaving a couple of incriminating details. When their discussion is interrupted by Tuco grandma, Saul notices the “salsa stain” on the carpet he knows full well isn’t salsa and which instills even more fear in him.

However, despite being petrified, Saul still manages to stay in full lawyer mode as he manages to talk Tuco into releasing the twins after but the twins, desperate to find a way out, undo all of Saul’s good work and incriminate Saul which earned all three of them a trip to the New Mexico desert.

When we see Saul, the twins, Tuco and three of his goons in the desert, I instantly perked up and paid attention as in Breaking Bad trips to the desert accounted for some of the best television of the last decade as characters either, died, made deals or talked their way out of the death in the New Mexico desert and this scene in “Mijo was no different. Trips to the desert in Breaking Bad often came across as a masterclass in how talk your way out of impending death as Walt and Jesse found themselves, more often than not, begging for their lives at the end of a gun and in this episode, Saul showed us he can match Walt’s world class talent for presenting rational arguments under duress.

Tuco and his crew interrogate Saul who spills the beans on his original plan to scam his way into getting the treasurer’s business that had gone woefully wrong but Tuco and his crew don’t believe him. One of Tuco’s guys makes a trip to the van to take a toolbox which only makes Saul reiterate his line which Tuco and his crew aren’t buying. Tuco then takes out pair of sharp looking pliers and motions to cut Saul’s fingers off which makes Saul talk real fast insisting he’s not a cop.

Tuco still doesn’t believe him after taking checking his business card. After Tuco cuts slightly into his fingers and realizing that the truth just might get him killed, Saul starting singing claiming to be an undercover FBI agent and insist that Tuco lets him go. Tuco is totally sold that Saul’s a fed but one of his henchmen is not so sure as he questions “Jeffrey Steel” about the apparent “investigation” but Saul, working off his wits, is running out of story. Saul’s already proven that he has a real talent for deception but the BS story about operation “kingbreaker” runs thin as Tuco’s man borrows the pliers and coldly asks him to tell the truth. Seeing that his FBI deception isn’t working on Tuco’s savvier henchman, Saul reverts back to the truth.

Probably thinking two moves ahead of his less than strategic crew leader, Tuco henchman suggests that Tuco let’s Saul go. After short exchange where Tuco’s Henchman convinces his boss that Saul is not FBI agent, he cuts Saul loose reminding him that he knows where to find him which, as we find out later in the episode, is way sooner than Saul would like.

As one of Tuco’s other henchman escorts Saul back to his car, Tuco, undoing his shirt cuffs, bears down on the twins which prompts Saul into one of great performances of his life as he goes from creating a BS story about the twins’ mother to talking Tuco down from gutting, blinding and slitting the twins throat to breaking their legs with by giving Tuco a small lecture in justice 101: proportionality.

It was truly a great feat to watch and clearly a great feat for Saul to pull off as the whole ordeal gives Saul a major shot in arm as he realizes he’s “best lawyer ever” after saving the twins from a slow and painful death. It was the stand out scene the episode and arguably the season as it will take something great in future episodes to top it.

In the last two episodes we’ve seen Saul’s ability to think on his feet but in “Mijo” his skill to react to situations quickly made this less of a painful as we watch a signature Gillianesque montage involving Saul negotiate the daily grind his profession of taking on no hope clients, an overcharging prosecutor, poor pay and a formidable toll booth operator an awful lot better than he did in the first episode.

However towards the end of the montage, we see the daily grind of his job wear him down as the shot in arm earned from the Tuco situation wears off. In the next scene we see Saul pass through the nail salon to get to his office which is isn’t much to write about but what was notable was that the ladies in the shop were much more receptive than they were in “Uno” as he glided through the shop barely noticed.

Once we’re in his office, we once again see his hesitation in checking his messages in fear he has none and once again, his fear are realized. Just before Saul opens up takes a siesta on his bed cum office sofa, his landlord inform that he has a customer but, as it turns out, it’s not a customer he’d bargained for. Tuco savvy henchman pays Saul a visit he’s less than glad to receive and propositions him to rip off  the treasurer and his wife which Saul, surprisingly, rejects swiftly stating that he’s “a lawyer,  not a criminal”.

His insistence that he’s not criminal took me aback  as it brought out of me the same “you’re shitting me” reaction it brought of Tuco’s henchman as it seemed out of character of a man who has shown he’s prepared to break the law to get clients. This was the only misstep made so far in the series as Saul in just two episodes has shown a high level of street smarts that would make Tuco henchman’s last line about Saul figuring out he’s “in the game” redundant.
Nonetheless, “Mijo” was a great episode and another sterling performance by Bob Odenkirk who once again shows he’s a great dramatic as well as comedic actor. More episodes like this and Better Call Saul just might be as award laden as its predecessor.

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