Netflix UK TV review: Better Call Saul Episode 7 (Bingo)
James R | On 17, Mar 2015
“The thing you have to know about me is I’ve got nothing to lose.”
That’s Jimmy talking to The Kettlemans in Episode 7 of Better Call Saul and it nails exactly why we like him: he’s a fighter, working his way up from the bottom. He’s got nothing to lose because everyone else has it – and he wants some. The difference between liking and caring, though, is significant: why should we feel sorry for a two-bit lawyer whose greed is eventually going to make him crooked?
The struggle of the common man has always been at the heart of Vince Gilligan’s melancholic Albuquerque – last week’s superb Mike episode reminded us that even good-hearted guys can, like Walter White, resort to dark deeds to help their loved ones. Everyone, given the right circumstance, is corruptible.
Jimmy McGill, destined to become Saul Goodman, is the epitome of that philosophy. Still dressing like Matlock to charm old people, we see him hosting bingo sessions, an act that gives this week’s episode its title. “Excuse me!” he calls from the stage, when his phone rings. “Someone needs legal assistance.” The rest of them look back at their cards on the table, complete with a cartoon Jimmy face and that terribly brilliant catchphrase: “Need a will? Call McGill!”
He seems to be making real headway in his quest to be clean. That progress is echoed by Chuck’s improving condition – continuing the show’s unconvincing link between Jimmy’s conscience and his brother’s health. What works better is a moment when he takes Kim (an increasingly impressive Rhea Seehorn) on a tour of his new office to woo her. The rooms are big. The windows are high. Elder law, he insists to everyone, is paying off.
But, of course, there’s The Kettlemans to consider. After dumping McGill for being “the kind of lawyer guilty people hire”, they’re encouraged to plead guilty by Hamlin’s firm – after all, there’s that missing money to account for. It’s a suggestion that shocks these oh-so-respectable suburbanites. Surely, they’re just trying to make their own way, even if that means – yes – taking a turn for the corrupt? And so they do what any guilty person (including Mike) would: call Jimmy.
All this sets up the dilemma that continually comes back to this town’s residents: how does one do the right thing? For McGill, that would mean giving up his share of the cash that he took as a “retainer” back in Episode 2.
It’s the kind of choice that Bob Odenkirk was born to make. Taking bribes with one hand and winning over people with the other, he’s already halfway to being the dodgy lawyer everyone thinks he is – a follow-on from last week’s coffee/notebook incident sees him in full showman mode, which is always fun to watch. (Jonathan Banks also gets to shine in a silent piece of breaking and entering, accompanied by a funky soundtrack.) But it’s another, quieter scene that sees Bob bring out the big guns; a breakdown behind closed doors that rivals the unravelling of Annette Bening in American Beauty.
It feels like a turning point for the show: the point where we start to have sympathy for this sleazy solicitor. Not, crucially, because of his brother, Chuck, but because of his relationship with Kim, whom he clearly respects a lot for staying straight. A nice shot from director Larysa Kondracki frames both of them standing against a wall, a sloping shadow slowly creeping over them. With Kim and Mike loitering in the wings, Jimmy faces a call that could very well dictate the direction of the whole show: on the one hand, a fancy office and a flashy but corrupt career. On the other? A poky cupboard and a non-flashy (and still not very reputable) career. Why should we feel sorry for him? Because we realise that either way, he does have something to lose after all.
New episodes of Better Call Saul arrive on Netflix UK every Tuesday at 7am.
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Photo: Ursula Coyote