All posts by From the Couch of Kevin

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Better Call Saul “Bali Ha’i” Analysis (S2E06)

I’m kind of glad I don’t watch the teasers/promos for the next episode because watching last week’s now, that boot is just too much info. Better to let me feel the impact of Hector’s return (which is great enough) in the “Rebecca” cliffhanger rather than cloud my mind with cousins anticipation immediately after. I agree with you Steve in that the Breaking Bad cameos are starting to have a snowball effect with every episode. I like that it’s being done naturally though and makes sense as it builds without feeling like it’s being done for pandering’s sake. The cousins standing on the far rooftop was absolutely creepy. I like that their familiar thematic score from season 3 worked as a cue to their reveal about a second before it was confirmed to be them because at first glance they were just distant silhouettes. It allowed the more attentive BrBa fans to feel their inevitable presence before confirming to the fans who may not remember the score but still suspect, that it is indeed them.

The cousins were always such a mythical entity in Breaking Bad and I love that surreal weirdness that they bring. The scene was very invasive and I had to remind myself that through the perspective of someone who hasn’t seen Breaking Bad, the score is played up because of that, especially since Mike is usually very careful and precautious. He doesn’t need to know who these guys are, but he’s caught way off guard and he knows that if they tracked him here, then they definitely come from a very high and dangerous place. Not something the usual mopes that tried to get the jump on him at his house would suggest (and yeah, that scene was slick). I think what’s great about the cousins’ introduction initially being a problem for Mike here is that now when we watch “I See You”, the scene with Leonel dying and Mike leaving the hospital inconspicuously will have such a more satisfying punch.

As for Kim, I’m really feeling for her this season. I just want her to escape the light that Howard sees her in, but despite how stone cold and nightmarish he was in that tracking shot, I still get it. This is growing to be just as nuanced as the Chuck/Jimmy conflict. It’s not so much that Howard has a problem with Kim and Jimmy having their connection, but she did strongly vouch for Jimmy to get involved in such a high position at Davis & Main and with the terrible results that are occurring from that, her judgement has every right to be questioned at this point. I mean he vouches for Jimmy too because of her so he is made out to be just as much of a fool.

Besides what I touched on last week in regards to Howard’s tough position between Chuck and Jimmy and how Kim can get mixed up in that, the shit that’s happening at Davis & Main because of Jimmy is just a colossal, concrete example of something that Kim is pretty much responsible for, even if she had every intention that it would turn out good. Chuck sees what Kim is going through so at least he can sympathize and chalk it up as further confirmation that his brother will always continue to disappoint the ones that give him these chances, but Howard will not be sharing that same investment. Man, that scene where she tries to explain herself and he continues to ignore her was so excruciating and unexpected. I imagine there was some good blooper reel material from that haha.

At this point, the Schweikart & Cokely proposition is a really interesting turn or option and I can’t wait to see what happens there but I still hope she could figure out her conflict within the confines of HHM and stay loyal because there’s just something still uncertain about the direction of taking up that offer. That and if she does, the door of HHM will most likely be closed behind her forever.

At first, Erin’s involvement with Jimmy seemed light, although tough in contrast to how sloppily Jimmy operates, but now she has upped her game by being almost Professor Umbridge-like with how joyfully strict she’s being towards him. I think it’s fair to say that Cliff and the partners are most likely trying to force Jimmy out rather than shapen him up or discipline him. Best case scenario is they will get some good work out of him, but otherwise he’ll just fail. I’m reminded of when Walt vouched for Jesse to Gus in season 3 and then Jesse ended up being a problem. At the rate Erin is going to keep Jimmy in line, I wouldn’t be surprised if he approached Cliff, the partners, and Erin on a street corner before Kim barrels them down with her Mitsubishi Eclipse. All joking aside, Kim and Jimmy are not in a favorable light right now to these higher-ups, no matter how justified one’s situation is over the other.

I liked how Kim acknowledged that Jimmy knew the right place for himself in the beginning of this season and I also think her calling Jimmy in order to scam another mark is very telling that although she is a law-abiding work horse, there’s still a hint of her that is playfully corruptible or irresponsible. It’s so complicated though. I’m kind of hoping for Howard and Kim to have their own “Pimento” moment between each other at the end of this season, because there’s something so present yet unspoken about all this that needs to be addressed.

Some notes:

– I liked in the beginning the slow camera rotation when Kim was brushing her teeth. It lets us reminisce on the season premiere when Jimmy was around, only to show here that he’s missing in this picture. Then her little raise of the finger on her tooth brush was a nice nod to show that she felt this too.

– I watched the inside extra for this episode and they said that Rhea Seehorn’s first exposure to Jimmy singing on the answering machine was what we got to see on screen. Neat way to get a natural reaction for Kim.

Better Call Saul “Rebecca” Analysis (S2E05)

Another blue-shaded look into the past and yeah like Ryan I could tell what this cold open was going to do, but man, the execution and performances really carried it. Nothing overplayed about it but also comedically unashamed about how much they hammer the lawyer jokes while Chuck has to just endure it. I’m still unsure if Jimmy couldn’t help himself or if it was out of passive aggression, perhaps from sensing (whether subconsciously or not) the constant divide that he’s never of the same class. The Yo Yo Ma comment going over Jimmy’s head or just not being appreciated was awkward and I related to Chuck in that moment because that deserved a better reaction than Jimmy treating it like “why are you namedropping more culture on me?”. I think Jimmy was aware of his own clumsy ignorance though which may explain what comes next.

If there is anything true about a dinner party, it’s that there is never a more perfect time for a dance to take place in regards to deep-seeded issues. You can address things without ever actually addressing and in my opinion, Jimmy the schemer was sending a message to Chuck to “live a little” or “get a little stupid” and probably even knew that he was tapping his finger on the x-ray that Chuck’s specialty doesn’t lie in charm or delivering humor. Rebecca is swayed into Jimmy’s corner and it’s sad because Chuck isn’t even the boring sack he’s made out to be. I think it’s more of an insecurity that’s been fed in contrast to the broad intoxicating appeal that Jimmy emits.

I remember back in “Pimento” and finding that the inclusion of “because you’re funny and can make people laugh” in Chuck’s rant painted a generally accurate description of Jimmy’s ‘larger than life’ charisma, but that there is something worth exploring there and I’m glad we’re seeing that. This is more of a writers question but like Gretchen, I wonder how much more we’ll see of Rebecca because other than exploring Chuck’s psychological condition that will come to be, what more is necessary for us to know that we don’t already get? It definitely adds a fresh perspective to the story and I like that the ending of the episode kind of undercuts this by going even deeper to their father’s death and how Jimmy most probably did steal $14,000 from the business.

And yep it’s a great bookend with Chuck swaying Kim into his corner. Notice that the position of where Chuck and Kim are seated is like a mirror to Chuck and Jimmy’s “Pimento” moment. There is a hard truth being dealt and it’s more than just gaining further perspective on Jimmy. Unlike Rebecca, I think Kim realizes (despite Chuck saying that he’ll put in a good word) that ultimately she’s being used and that this is more of a rigged game than what hard, honest work will get her. Her question of “do I have a future at this firm?” is never answered. In fact, I think that’s the last time we hear her speak and all she gets is a cloud of more family McGill bullshit.

I loved the sticky notes scene (before the montage) where they weave between real-time and pasted-over dialogue. There was such a great rhythm to that and the montage that comes after with “A Mi Manera” by the Gipsy Kings playing was excellent. This was a fitting ABQ version from Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”, but obviously also fitting to Kim’s situation and yes, I did think of Mad Men’s final season when it started to play. Kim got in uniform, fixed her bayonet, and hit the parade without anyone needing to convince her and it showed such great character. Jimmy didn’t stand a chance in getting her on board with his foolish, inconsiderate plan to sue HHM.

Heck, might as well hit play on this for rest of the read:


Howard’s casual rejection of what Kim accomplished in this episode was pretty devastating but I think I see where Howard is coming from. He’s fed up with where her loyalty lies and how she always seems to be caught in the middle of the conflict that Jimmy brings when by now, you think that would be avoided. Howard has to deal with Jimmy because Chuck is an important figure to the firm and Chuck has earned that, but why is Kim, a four-year member always tending to reap the same rewards? Why is he finding himself in the same dance with her just because she’s close friends with Jimmy? From the circus with the billboard and Jimmy making Howard out to be a schmuck throughout all of season 1 and then her demanding terms in regards to the decision of Jimmy being turned away, there just seems to be this air of immunity or entitlement that she possesses which I think he’s sick of entertaining.

It’s nowhere near the sense of entitlement that Jimmy has, but there’s a hint of her implementing herself (even if unintentional) close to this complex conflict that Howard is in, where it tends to protect her. I think he might feel that she takes advantage of that and despite the Jimmy/Chuck situation being such a game, Kim getting mixed up in this is his only exercise of power where he can show that this isn’t a game he wants to play. She’s not a player in this unit and he’s trying to underline that by keeping her at a distance and putting her in her place. I think it would have played better if Kim allowed Howard to relieve her from doc review on his own terms instead of just assuming that she would be put to work on that case. It’s not that Howard is power hungry, but it’s the only thing he can control for the moment.

As for the ending with Mike, haha wow. The way Mark Margolis plays the character as an older, shakier version of the Hector Salamanca that we would see in flashbacks on Breaking Bad and with such subtlety, is all the more reason why he was deserving of the Emmy he won for his performance in season 4. I was not expecting the Tuco problem to come biting back so hard. I love how we see the bell on the diner counter when he walks away.

Something extra to note:

-In “Cobbler”, I mentioned that the song “Sicilienne” was meant to be played by two people, one on piano (Chuck) and the other on cello. Now that scene has a lot of extra weight to it after learning of Rebecca’s talents.

Better Call Saul “Gloves Off” Analysis (S2E04)

“Gloves Off” was written by Gordon Smith and directed by Adam Bernstein who were the same guys on last season’s “Five-O” and yeah another fucking awesome one, better shared with the Jimmy story too which I also thought was great. The one thing I kept thinking throughout the episode is the performances. Every little scene, these actors kill it every time. I loved watching Jimmy getting chewed out by the partners. I loved seeing Howard have an excuse to play the “bad guy” again when Kim is reprimanded. The conflict between Jimmy and Kim (being the only real reprucussion that Jimmy seems to understand), and then the strongest titular parallel of Mike’s story that climaxes with Jimmy/Chuck were all so wonderfully written, directed, acted, etc. Let’s take it step by step before I get to Mike haha.

First off, I know this is not Mad Men, but I love the office drama that the show offers. I want to see Davis & Main’s other partners get better developed throughout this season, other than Ed Begley Jr. kind of representing that front as a whole. Not saying that they need their own story or anything but just enough screen time to better distinguish who Jimmy’s pissing off when he screws up. That said, from what we got it was a great scene and was definitely something I was looking forward to after Cliff’s angry phone call last week.

Howard sending Kim down to the “corn field” last season was what the writers described in the commentary as the actual worst thing Howard did when you take away all the faux-antagonism you were lead to believe. So although I love the switch in perspective towards his character that is made at the end of season 1, I enjoyed here that he is still the boss and he’s going to be tough when necessary. One of my favorite scenes with him last season was when Kim was trying to figure out why Jimmy was turned away from HHM when the Sandpiper case was introduced. The line delivery of “…you KEEP it to yourself because I don’t care” is in my opinion one of most subtle underrated acting moments from last season (the whole scene). I remember worrying that Patrick Fabian might not get relevant screen time anymore due to the direction the show may be going, but he’s been used very well so far and this is just another reason why I’m happy the writers aren’t in any rush to leave everything behind.

Jimmy has some nerve to storm through the Chuck premises and demand that Kim gets a break, especially after Kim, pretty bluntly, asked him not to do that. Granted, Jimmy’s right. She didn’t know, but it’s Jimmy’s behavior through this scene that proves he’s not remorseful, let alone understands what he did wrong even after the partners had to spell it out for him. Up until now, the tension between Chuck and Jimmy has been subtley passive aggressive and you really feel it. Here, this episode reminded me of the fourth episode of Breaking Bad’s final season “Fifty-One” where Walt and Skyler finally step into that ring to address the major conflict in full. That’s what this was with all the subtext layed out on the table. Even when you think Jimmy is back-pedaling by offering Chuck water and an extra blanket, it ends up being a false sense of security before the first punch is thrown. (Also note that Chuck had another psychological episode after Jimmy screwed up)

Then there’s Mike! The cold open painted him in defeat so my first thought was “you should see the other guy” and if that wasn’t the case, I was pretty much preparing myself for something that can only be very hard to watch. What we got was a clever compromise and very original in execution. I loved the set up and that the writer’s wasted no time in revealing that the hit was Tuco, only adding to the “Mike’s not going to be successful” lead-on. Whenever there is a heist or mission that is introduced from the beginning, no matter how impossible, these writers know how to turn that crank in order to make everything absolutely plausible, believable, yet always surprising (something The Walking Dead can take some tips from). And Tuco wasn’t sent away rather than picked off because he’s immune from death, but because it made sense for what Mike’s willing to do and the argument of more Salamanca blood crawling out of the wood-work.

I loved seeing Lawson again. Jim Beaver and Jonathan Banks in the same room! Then Krazy-8 getting inspected by Tuco was great. I always kind of half-wished that Krazy-8 would become a character back in the day. I always liked that actor and felt you can probably get a lot of good stuff out of him if he was to be further developed. I’m grateful for the cameo we got here though. If all this crossover wasn’t already fun enough, I would never imagine that Jonathan Banks and Raymond Cruz would ever be in such an epic standoff together, let alone in a scene. Two of Walt’s adversaries colliding without making either character any less for what they’re capable of. The fact that Tuco knocked Mike out rang so true to that character and the idea that Mike had the balls to endure those blows in order to pull off the long con is exactly the only reason you would ever see Mike in such a state. Between the oblivious old man character he was playing, being completing unfazed by Tuco’s threats, and then taking the offensive by grabbing Tuco like a bear trap, my god. Everything about that scene was perfect.

The final scene with Mike and Nacho was so good. How ghoulish was that final shot? Nacho mentions that Mike will be a ‘ghost’ in regards to the original plan, but Mike still managed to disapparate into the darkness with what he ended up doing. I wonder if the wind picking up all that sand was a happy accident that was taken advantage of or if it was written in. All I know is that when I saw Mike peel out, I was thinking “please cut…please cut…please cut…” for the very moment when the dust wipes across the screen. I actually cheered from a director’s standpoint for how good that turned out.

Some afterthoughts:

-I liked that we learned with so little words of Mike’s history in Vietnam.

-Last week when Jimmy was watching Ice Station Zebra, he kept asking questions for how the story will turn out. This is exactly his character in a nut shell. Always wanting the shortcuts, without experiencing it properly. Then when he returns he asks if he missed anything (anything blow up?) which is pretty much the cherry on top.

– Any Curb Your Enthusiasm fans here? I’m so glad Alan Sepinwall requested this:

Better Call Saul “Amarillo” Analysis (S2E03)

Yeah I was definitely thinking Gus throughout that ending. Between the “Cautious guy, aren’t you?” and the silhouette teasing, Gus pretty much was in that scene until they reveal he wasn’t. I’m glad it wasn’t him though for reasons everybody said, but I was also relieved because Nacho (or Ignacio) and the cartel has been hinted to play a very important role in this series and it’s better to build on that. I keep trying to watch without the BB goggles because I always assume it must be weird for people to watch this show first and see a show about Jimmy, his brother Chuck, his colleague Kim, and….the toll booth guy. Even in Breaking Bad, a character like Mike was introduced as a wink that stayed behind the curtain. For most of season 3, his character is shown but he’s ominous and he doesn’t even truly reveal himself until those last 2 episodes, Here though he’s been put at the forefront and other than being a familiar face for 90% of the audience who have experienced him in full grace, I keep asking why?

For one, this isn’t BB. Walt’s story of climbing into the world of criminality is different from Jimmy’s and because of that, it’s going to present itself differently. I really wish I can experience the show blind but from what I can appreciate, the wise well-meaning ‘tough but fair’ toll booth guy who helped Jimmy out of the Nacho situation with the Kettlemans in season one episode 3, is the same guy who is eventually going to pull Jimmy back into the Nacho conflict. From a storytelling standpoint, there’s something devastating about that. Other than us wanting Jimmy to do good and the notion that Jimmy is destined for this road through as Chuck would say “being who he truly is”, the last thing we need is Mike calling on Jimmy for favors. The cliffhanger of seeing Nacho shouldn’t just make us go “oh who’s Mike going to have to kill?” but after the whole squat cobbler dance, it’s also “shit, Jimmy’s going to get mixed up with this guy again”. Things are getting hot.

And man, what a payoff with Cliff. I think what made that angry phone call more anxiety-ridden was that he was presented last week (seemingly through Jimmy’s eyes) as a loose, guitar-plucking, turn-over that can be taken advantage of. Jimmy flipped his switch thinking nothing would happen, but wow. I didn’t know how to feel about his character last week. He came off like there was going to be some budding relationship between the two, like the brother Jimmy never had, and perhaps Jimmy might corrupt him or something since he’s so easy-going but man, what a turn. This will be a lot more fun. Ed Begley Jr. is going to be great.

I loved the commercial stuff, not just as sort of an origin story behind the eccentric Saul commercials that will come to be, but I just love that this lawyer show tackled those incredibly boring law firm commercials that run throughout the day. I also liked that they brought those film students back (glasses guy referred to as Kid Kubrick on the dvd commentary). What I found so funny is I think Jimmy McGill is the first character in television to ever call out the snobby “that’s going to cost you extra” camera guy character. Usually that stereotype always gets the better of the protagonist but Jimmy’s well-delivered “Does anyone like you?” was so rewarding.

Other than that, I enjoyed Chuck putting Jimmy in his place in the beginning. Chuck’s presence adds so much tension and is an added challenge to a character that on his own would be invincible with a fully functioning law firm at his disposal. I’m really glad Kim put her role in vouching for Jimmy into perspective for him too. As for Mike’s story with Stacey, there’s something up about that. We see that nothing came from Mike’s little stake-out in terms of the supposed gunshots, but perhaps that “bullet mark” was there previously when gunfire actually did go off and was only noticed now? Or is Stacey just playing Mike? It’s never really answered, but it’s got me interested.

Oh and yeah the pig toy I recognized right away and it was cool how they used it in the shot when the veterinarian calls about some “next level work”.

By the way, I was going to mention this last week, but I notice we’re getting the same title sequences as last season except now midway it cuts into black and white for a good few seconds. Are Gene’s VHS tapes aging/has a bad hookup? It’s definitely a recurring thing. I wonder if it’s alluding to eventually seeing more of Gene in the present or something.

Better Call Saul “Cobbler” Analysis (S2E02)

I watched the first episode again last night before the second and I just want to say the wood aesthetic of the new firm gives me a twin peaks vibe, but even more than that, I’m picking up on this ‘monkey with a machine gun in his new habitat’ vibe. It’s a new subtle jungle gym and even Jimmy’s fire place comes off like it was specially made for a zoo exhibit. Not that an animal would need one, but there’s something very brute and obtrusive about it, yet it fits the environment of that office.

I wish I could find a framegrab of the opening shot with the metronome because (not that I’m saying this was the intention, this is just the crazy feeling I got) but the wooden decorative ridges on the piano stand (at this point I thought we were back in Davis & Main) looked like….a monkey’s tail haha and then the metronome next to it reminded me of Walt’s machine gun. Again, not commenting on symbolism or intention, it’s obviously vague but just the feeling/thought that sparked from that shot as soon as I saw it. It would in turn relate to what Chuck’s feeling throughout that whole scene. The reveal that we’re with him and he’s playing “Sicilienne” on the piano was good. This is a piece that is actually intended to be played by two people, one being on piano and the other on cello, so it was pretty fitting that Chuck would want to play that on his own.

This episode was really strong and I love what we’re getting so far. Just like in breaking bad you get these episode titles where you don’t know what the context could possibly be and by the end of the episode you’ll never forget it. It sneaks up on you too whether it’s in last week’s “switch” or a more specific title like “cobbler”. I knew this was going to be one of those episodes but even with 10 minutes left, I couldn’t tell you how it was going to work it’s way in. I love how the action is in Saul’s mouth during that scene. I actually stood up in involuntarily as if I was watching a shootout, but all it is, was just Saul killing it.

Mike and Nacho’s standoff was really good. I love how Mike plays Nacho the same way Nacho would play Price, but at the same time Nacho holds his own so it just makes it all the more fun to watch. Michael Mando is great here and I even loved his calm vocal delivery of “he thinks you should go somewhere else” (paraphrasing) while being physically blunt and intimidating behind the boss’s back in the same line. I love that this show can offer breaking bad-esque confrontations like this and then give us very well-played boardroom drama at HHM between Chuck and Jimmy. That anxiety and battle of encouragement between Chuck and Kim. Just really heavy stuff.