Better Call Saul Episode 1.03: Nacho

 Posted by on February 17, 2015 at 9:41 am  Better Call Saul
Feb 172015

Better Call Saul--Nacho--Saul at the phone booth

You see? This is why people hate lawyers.

Double dealing! Excessive use of pay phones! Really bad wigs! Episode 3 of Better Call Saul, Nacho, had it all.

So, Vince Gilligan is having fun with timelines. Our “present day” for the series is 2002, but we’re getting flashbacks to really oversized mobile phones and a big poofy wig for Michael McKean, and we’re told that the series will also flash forward to the post-Breaking Bad present. Now, the downside of a master plan like this, where the showrunner knows the whole timeline, the before and after, is that the show can sometimes feel strained trying to get to its designated event at a designated point. Certainly, we’ve seen episodes of The Walking Dead that have dragged painfully because such-and-such was intended to happen in the season finale, whereas the natural flow of the script really needed it to be sooner. Equally, people have objected to the way Matthew Weiner sometimes writes Mad Men backwards from the intended season finale; it can be too much of a chess game.

No chess game in the current episode of Better Call Saul, though. Nacho plays a little like poker and a lot like speed tag, with Robot Sex Voice thrown in. It was really fun, and I laughed out loud, but it was also intriguing. Mike Ehrmantraut is now playing a significant role, and I feel vindicated in my guess that no, he is not already some big badass, he really is what he seems to be—a retired cop with a shit job. A retired cop who sees something in Jimmy, something smart if annoying, and who has planted seeds for future connections without being too ridiculously “let’s team up” too quickly. Well played.

I’m no hero.

The thing that I’m getting about Jimmy is he does have a moral code. He is trying to walk a tightrope. He’s done bad things both named and unnamed—he’s Slipping Jimmy (named), and he’s in jail and in big trouble sometime in the 1990s (unnamed). But he also doesn’t want the Kettlemans killed. At first I couldn’t understand why he was calling Kim at 2 am—was he pumping her for information to give to Nacho? But he was trying to protect people, to make sure no one got hurt, and as ridiculous and over the top as his behavior was, there’s a sweetness to that.

So, Jimmy is a guy who always has a scheme, always has an angle, always has a song and dance. Even if he wants to help someone, he’s going to do it in a schemey, dancey, Slipping way. It’s showtime!

IMDb seems to indicate that Michael Mando as Nacho Varga is going to be in every episode this season of Better Call Saul, and I applaud that. He’s handsome and kind of compelling. His face draws you in and repels you at the same time. Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler is also a series regular. Right now she’s a cypher, in that Elisabeth Röhm mold. Other people like those cool, unreadable blondes better than I do, but I’m happy to wait and see on this one. Because Robot Sex Voice.

Weigh in Basketcases! Did you get John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt stuck in your head by the Kettlemans, or was that just me?


  13 Responses to “Better Call Saul Episode 1.03: Nacho”

  1. Great flashback with Chuck having to deposit his valuables, including that HUGE cell phone, into a bin at the jailhouse which mirrors what Jimmy has to when visiting Chuck’s home (a neat little neat misdirection there).

    At the risk of being a broken record, assuming they don’t kill him off too early (I only say that because he wasn’t in BREAKING BAD), I predict that Nacho will be the break out character of the series.

    Mike Ehrmantraut’s abrupt refusal to help out his brother officers and press charges against Jimmy (despite their appeals to the thin blue line) smartly informs us that he’s put that part of his former life behind him.

    I also love the pop references the show writers throw in having faith in the audience to get it (like when Jimmy calls the two APD detectives “Cagney and Lacey”).

    My only problem was the ending’s tired cliche of people playing tug-o-war with an object until it rips open and reveals the McGuffin. It would have been much simpler (and less hacky) to have Mrs. Kettleman, realizing her and her husband are in a real jam, reveal the money on her own accompanied by a wink and a nod to Jimmy who says the same line at the end (IMHO).

  2. Actually, it was “Bee-Eye-Enn ” (probably just me).

  3. Man, VG, and crew even have their Super Bowl betting references on point!!!
    The 1979 Super Bowl Steelers vs Cowboys was the all time nightmare for Vegas and bookies.
    Most of the Steelers wagers came in at -3.5 and most of the Cowboys wagers came after the point spread moved 1 full point to 4.5.
    So basically over 80% of the bets came in as winners on both teams (Steelers 35-31 final score.) and Vegas and the bookies got ANNIHILATED.
    This Super Bowl almost turned some casino’s lights out for good.
    For those of you who are triscadecaphobic, and see some significance in #13, the 79 Super Bowl was Super Bowl XIII. 13.
    Mike would’ve been a mid-veteran cop then.
    I found this fascinating that they would mention this.
    Me and about zero other people.

  4. I’ve just seen episodes 1, 2, and 3 … love the show so far! The rich character development, dark comedy, it’s beautifully-shot, beautifully-written. I was wondering how they’d handle the ‘prequel’ part, but it worked for me.

    Bob Odenkirk has been perfect so far … genius rambling speeches, perfect comic timing (he and Jon Stewart know each other from doing standup in the old days), but he also knows how to show Jimmy’s sadness and desperation.

    Love how scenes are set using lighting, sound and visuals … television as artistic expression, rather than just pointing the cameras at the actors and having them read lines.

    Loved the unique camera angles in the whirling montage sequence of Jimmy’s day-to-day existence as an ‘officer of the court of law.’ We see the courthouse as he sees it … endless vending-machine coffees, practicing a spiel in a dingy men’s room mirror before he goes into the courtroom, the same familiar low-life faces in the hallways … loved the “petty with a prior” prosecutor gag.

    Love the banged-up Suzuki Esteem, and the office at the back of the nail salon! Jimmy has good intentions, but can’t help being sucked over to the nefarious dark side.

    I thought I saw Mike flinch ever so slightly when the cops at the station reached out to touch him as they asked him to work with them … that if he does they can catch the bad guys. If he didn’t have a constant look of disdain, I’d say he looked at them disdainfully. Anyway, betcha Mike has a beef with the thin blue line.

    Did I mention that I love this show?

    • Betcha Mike didn’t walk away with a pension from PhillyPD, cause of the shadowy circumstance of his leaving them.
      Probably another of the reasons why he doesn’t seem enamored of anything to do with ‘the job’.
      Mike basically GROWLED, at the shoulder pat from that cop.
      LOVE IT.
      Nice pick up soonerblue.

      • I’ve always assumed that his expulsion had something to do with police brutality.

        • The Philadelphia police department was notorious in the 1970’s (which I judged was when Mike was with them) for its brutality and corruption.

          I had assumed that Mike had wised up and switched sides back then. But his reaction to the cops here gave me pause. As soonerblue says, Mike seemed a bit more contemptuous of the cops, even more than his habitual air of contempt for everyone. Mike knows all about cops.He could see that the Albq detectives were cutting corners just to push around Jimmy. Is it even possible that Mike was driven off the Philly force because of that, because he was (gulp!) an honest cop? THAT would be a twist! As I’ve observed before, criminal or not, Mike lives by a code of conduct, a professional’s code.

          I’m looking forward to finding out more.

          • An honest cop? Great observation, as usual, Melville.
            Mike is the Omar Little of Vince Gilligan’s universe.
            Rough guy, who is a ‘man of honor’.
            Love that you made me think of this.

            • When Hank and Steve Gomez were interrogating Mike, they implied that there was something disreputable about the circumstances of his leaving the Philadelphia P.D….Of course they could have been told an official story.

            • Omar rocks. Even refers to his street self in the 3rd person:

              “Omar don’t scare”

              Come to think of it, Mike don’t scare neither.

          • In Half Measures (BB S-3 Ep 12) Mike recounts to Walt the incident when he was sorely tempted to permanently dispatch a serial wife beater, back when he was a Philadelphia beat cop.

            I’m wondering – given the ultimate outcome arising from his decision – if he had followed through on his impulse, whether that would have been an example of him being a “good cop” or a “bad cop.” Obviously, policemen should uphold the law, but ridding society (not to mention the beleaguered wife of the guy) could be viewed as doing all concerned, “a solid.” I am honestly of two minds, regarding the incident.

            We have not yet discovered exactly what it was that caused Mike and the police department to part ways. I hope we find out the exact circumstances surrounding that. As someone previously noted, 40+ years ago, the Philadelphia Police Department wasn’t exactly an ethically or morally or legally “pristine” organization, so I’m truly torn about his choice in the matter of offing the wife beater. Given the nature of that organization back then, it’s not surprising that there was no small amount of blurriness surrounding the distinction “good cop” and “bad cop.”

            • If Mike or any other badge does society a ‘solid’ by dispatching scumbag cowards like the wife beater, I wouldn’t bat an eye.
              In my circle that is a unanimous sentiment.
              Pretty sure it would be in the majority of the population at large, as well.

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