Moxie is in such short supply these days.
Better Call Saul episode 1.05, Alpine Shepherd Boy, proves one thing. The conspiracy-seeking fans were wrong when they said all episode titles would end in “O”.
This was an exceptionally satisfying episode in terms of the ongoing story. It might not have been action-packed in terms of Story of the Week material, being almost entirely comedy, but in terms of deepening our understanding of Jimmy and Chuck, it was fantastic. Plus, without giving anything away to the spoiler-sensitive, previews for next week promise both more action and more back story on main characters. So far, so juicy!
So, we open exactly where last week left off, a Vince Gilligan trick that means Better Call Saul can run for ten seasons without ever catching up with Breaking Bad (which ran for five seasons, but lasted exactly two years in show-time). Suspicious Neighbor Lady sees Crazy Space Blanket Chuck steal her paper and leave five bucks. Naturally she calls the cops. That’s what Suspicious Neighbor Ladies do—fun neighborhood! And naturally the cops are assholes.
I want to secede from the United States.
Meanwhile, Jimmy McGill embarks on his adventures in lawyerhood. The first client, “Ricky,” was a pile of clichés and taxidermy. That whole routine was predictable, and not quite as funny as the writers imagined it. What was delightful, though, was the aplomb with which Jimmy managed the whole thing.
But the comedy really gets going with Roland J. Cox of the Talking Toilet. That was just hilarious. That was every bit as funny as it should have been. Ooh, that’s a big one. Give it all to me. HAHAHAHA! I loved it. Did you notice the shot from below, of Roland and Jimmy looking into the toilet as seen from inside the toilet, was a classic Breaking Bad shot, from inside the meth-cooking tank? HAHAHAHAHAHA!
Hey, you know what? I hope you do make a fortune. Chandlers going to need it to pay for his therapy!
And then we meet the Hummel Figurine Lady, from whom the episode gets its title. And here’s where there’s really so much insight. Take this scene, and then consider, too, the late-episode scene at the nursing home. Saul exactly tracked what Mrs. Hummel wanted in her will; he was better than she was at remembering who got what figurine under what insane set of circumstances. He was a good listener, and he was attentive. Not only that, but while giving Kim a pedicure, we heard him mock Toilet Roland, but not the old lady. We’re used to “Saul Goodman,” all bluster and blarney, but as we get to know Jimmy, we get to know that he has a part of himself that is genuine. He likes these elderly people. He likes Hummel Lady. He’s good at connecting with them. Sure, imitating the Matlock suit was pure showmanship, and hysterical, but it was also about making a connection with his chosen audience, and by God it worked.
Speaking of the genuine Jimmy, the more we learned about Chuck, the more we learned about how Jimmy feels about his big brother. Chuck, we learn, is “allergic” to electricity. Jimmy is sincerely protective of him. He may or may not understand Chuck’s illness as entirely psychosomatic, but he is solicitous of his feelings, and takes care of him because he cares about him. It’s also obvious that he feels guilty; he thinks he’s causing Chuck’s illness. Chuck certainly reinforces that by getting up to make the coffee as soon as Jimmy swears he’s on the up-and-up. The relationship is complex. But it’s good, at last, to see that there’s a real relationship there.
The hospital scene featured veteran character actor Clea Duvall, whom I adore. You know her as the invisible girl from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as a regular on Carnivale, and from a host of other shows. Has she had work done? Her face looks less unusual, more generically pretty, which is a shame. As the doctor, she had little to do; she was a generic exposition machine.
Finally, there’s Mike Ehrmantraut. I think we’re going to enjoy seeing Mike’s shift from cop to ticket-booth worker to working for Saul. This episode teased us, and next week, we get more, and I can’t wait. This show is definitely getting better or better.
By the way, have you noticed how very particular cars are on this show? This was true on Breaking Bad as well. Everyone’s car speaks volumes about them. Saul’s yellow piece of shit. Mike’s black classic sedan. Even the nurse(?) he spies on drives the ever-practical Subaru two-tone in a way that communicates just a bit about her.