Netflix UK TV review: Better Call Saul Episode 8 (Rico)
John Grisham thrills8
Ivan Radford | On 25, Mar 2015
With only a couple of episodes to go, Better Call Saul has cracked the biggest case of all: sympathy for Jimmy McGill. That was a problem for the first six chapters in Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad spin-off. Bob Odenkirk was fun to watch, but why should we care about a lawyer whom we already know will become crooked?
Episode 7 (Bingo) delivered the first blow in a killer one-two punch, as Jimmy found himself faced with the chance to get ahead in life using a slice of The Kettlemans’ stolen cash. Rather than slowly slide down the corrupt path, though, he shunned the opportunity, costing him both money, a flashy office and a potential partnership with Kim. For the first time, he had something to lose, not by doing the wrong thing – but by doing the right thing. His decision to do that wasn’t heroic, but it was certainly honourable.
Episode 8 continues in the same vein, by showing Jimmy persisting with the noble option: he ploughs on with his elder law career, helping pensioners to write their wills, even if they don’t have the funds to pay him. But that soon leads to the realisation that the reason they don’t have money is because his clients’ care home is overcharging – a cause that McGill wastes no time in supporting.
It’s a perfectly pitched idea, reminding us just how much of an underdog Jimmy is.
A flashback to his time at Hamlin’s firm as a lowly mailroom monkey demonstrates his dedication to work: he doesn’t just deliver mail, he delivers it with a smile and a knack for addressing each person by name. At the same time, he’s secretly studying to become a lawyer. When he qualifies, the reaction from everyone else is hugely revealing. Chuck is encouraging, but only when prompted, while Hamlin – aka. the winner of Miss Perm-iverse 1986 – dismisses him completely without a second thought. It’s a crushing scene that veteran Breaking Bad director Colin Bucksey shoots from the outside of the room; we listen to a photocopier, as Hamlin shoots down Jimmy’s dreams, while simultaneously taking a piece of his celebration cake.
It’s the second week in a row that we’ve had to witness Jimmy’s disappointment, and the second time we’ve done so from behind closed doors; this is a guy, Better Call Saul makes it clear, whose moments of defeat are private, who puts on a positive show to the world even when he’s being kicked between the legs.
As soon as he gets the whiff of a big break, then, Jimmy pounces: if he was forced to be an underdog before, now, you sense, he’s an underdog by choice.
And so we see him wading through bins, scribbling legal documents on toilet roll and calling in favours to take down the big boys. Even Chuck gets involved, as the care home’s defence team challenges their trashcan evidence. “You can’t say it’s private if a hobo can use it as a wigwam!” cries Odenkirk in one of several stand-out one-liners.
The brotherly bond between the two remains uninteresting, but it’s a treat to see them both on the job, piecing together clues and building a wall of evidence like a mini adaptation of a John Grisham novel. This is the kind of thing that you imagine Jimmy dreamed of doing when he was studying during those years as a postman, the kind of thing that we never usually see in the Breaking Bad universe: honest people doing happy work. After all, Albuquerque, as we’ve discussed before, isn’t a place where hard work pays off.
What does all this effort mean for Chuck’s illness? That’s the question Gilligan wants to leave us with after an hour of intense investigation, but the most thrilling question is whether the case will hold together. Why should we care? Because Jimmy will do anything it takes to win – and, even when he plays by the rules, he’s destined to lose.
New episodes of Better Call Saul arrive on Netflix UK every Tuesday at 7am.
Where can I buy or rent Better Call Saul online in the UK?
Photo: Ursula Coyote