Netflix UK TV review: Better Call Saul Episode 3 (Nacho)
Ivan Radford | On 18, Feb 2015
This will contain spoilers for Better Call Saul Episode 1 and 2.
“Get out of here today or you’re a dead man.”
Episode 3 is when Better Call Saul gets serious – but, impressively, is also when it gets funnier. Starting with another cold open (this time a flashback to when McGill is behind bars), it’s only a matter of minutes before he’s at a payphone dialling The Kettlemans to warn them that gangsters are on their trail. And a matter of seconds before those attempts are interrupted by the cheesiest voicemail message you could imagine.
“You’ve reached Team Kettleman!” the family beams down the receiver, announcing their names in turn. “Betsy!” says one. “Warren!” says another. “And Jo Jo!”
It’s a laugh-out-loud stab of silliness in the sinister atmosphere; as far away from the world of Walter White as England are from winning the World Cup. That’s par for the course for this third outing, which nails the balance between drama and comedy like a precision nailing machine turned up to 11.
Odenkirk has previously entertained by being outlandish – and that strain of showmanship escalates steadily, from chanting “It’s showtime!” to himself in the bathroom to yelling “Here’s Johnny!” at people camping in the middle of the woods. But it’s Bob’s deadpan performance that proves the most effective here, delivering each over-the-top flourish (including a stagey rant about the innocence of his client, Nacho) with a deliberately deadpan face.
It’s that ability to play the straight man that gives this spin-off its revolving tone; on the one hand, genuine concern for the children of this family, even though their parents have apparently stolen $1.6m of county funds, and on the other, the laughable frustration of a guy too self-centred to deal with stern car park attendant Mike.
Jonathan Banks gets slightly more screen time here, teasing his future role as an enforcer in the drug-dealing world of a Goodman and Heisenberg – one that, thanks to Banks’ ambiguous presence, he could already be involved with. We also meet Kim (Rhea Seehorn), a fellow attorney with whom McGill has had equally (ahem) tense relations.
Combined with Nacho and his once-powerful brother, the gradually developing supporting cast suggest a web of potential ties for the show to explore. Even if the emotional engagement with Chuck isn’t quite there, his involvement with why and how Jimmy ended up in Albuquerque is intriguing, as the script slowly ushers Jimmy into the town’s underbelly. It’s a progression literally shown on screen, as shadowy forests and streets take over from the stark, day-lit desert and bright yellow courtrooms. But even among those shadier moments, bright spots appear – stabs of humour that never miss their mark, even when they’re unashamedly repeated over and over. That quirky, offbeat mood puts you in mind of Fargo, right down to the brazenly daft name of its location. “Give me a hundred tries,” quips Jimmy, “I’ll never be able to spell it.” McGill may be threatened to move on, but on the basis of this delightful little caper, you can see why he’s already planning to stick around for a second season. Go Team Kettleman. And Jo Jo.
New episodes of Better Call Saul will arrive on Netflix UK every Tuesday at 7am.