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Monday, February 16, 2015

Better Call Saul Review: The Ballad of Slippin' Jimmy.

BCS is... good. Better than I feared, but worse than I'd hoped. When everything clicks, it's not as good as Breaking Bad, because it's finally doing it's own thing. It's black and white opener in the present captures his new personal hell brilliantly. And being a general manager at a random mid-west Cinnabon is exactly that. There is beauty in making mass produced cinnamon rolls and the only reason I know that is because High Bridge's (Gilligan's company) photography is still the best in the biz.

From there we flash back to 2001 and we see a younger Saul in a different, somehow more depressing, suit. He tries his damndest to win an  unwinable case only to wind up with a third of what he expected to take home on his check. But that's just misdirection. This is not going to be about building a vast, profitable, empire. This going to be about a shell of a man finding his mojo.

Saul's life is beyond pitiful. His office is a storage closet in the back of a nail salon (wink and\or nod) He pretends to be his own receptionist, his public defense work is slowly killing him, and his brother's agoraphobic fear of electromagnetic waves means Saul's his unofficial nurse. Also the only prospective clients he's had in weeks went behind his back and signed with a much more successful firm.

The set up is decently entertaining but it feels like that's all it is. The new universe it created was fine but it took forever for the show to start telling a story with it. Thankfully, once Saul comes across a pair of competent, but short sighted, con artists I got what I wanted. A glimpse at the oily professional I came to see. From there we get to the "con gone wrong" story carried into episode 2, but I'll stop there.

What's here is good, with the potential for greatness. The handful of musical montages throughout the first two episodes remain brilliant. Instead of an incessant, irritating, motif. I mean, I'm just... done with American Horror Story.

 Odenkirk found the extra layer of humanity for Saul that the show desperately needed. The anticipation and release on his face every time he checked his empty voice mail were achingly perfect. His reaction to another lawyer walking into the courthouse bathroom while he was in the middle of his psyche-up speech "It... it's from a movie." actually got me to laugh out loud. Something I never do while wearing my serious show serious pants.

But it has to shake off those first season yips. It needs to double down on the lawyering/con artist angle and not re-tread the "in over his head with the cartel" storyline it's already set up. If it can do that, I'll be first in line every week. If it does the other thing... well, it's still a damn good show anyway. I just won't stay up to date every week.

And then I remembered I was out of pastel collared shirts...

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