Monday, May 1, 2017

REVIEW: 'Better Call Saul' - Mike Divides His Time Between Jimmy and Gus in 'Sabrosito'

AMC's Better Call Saul - Episode 3.04 "Sabrosito"

Jimmy calls in a favor from Mike. New complications disrupt the Salamancas' business. Chuck and Jimmy struggle to compromise.

Across its series run, Better Call Saul has spent it's time equally on Jimmy and Mike. They are the lead characters of the show. They both represent different prequel stories to Breaking Bad as well. Jimmy is in the legal world fighting with his brother and trying to romance Kim. Meanwhile, Mike is in the more criminal elements of Albuquerque making a mess of Hector Salamanca's drug operation. "Sabrosito" divides its time differently though. One half centers on Gus Fring while the other focuses on Jimmy. Mike is then a supporting element in both of their stories. It's different from the norm. It also reflects how the show is constantly evolving. Gus only made his debut on the series a couple of episodes ago. He's going to remain important because he's a vital part of the future for these characters. But now, he's getting just as much story time as Jimmy and Mike. That's significant. Plus, it introduces a whole new aspect to this show. One that is more directly connected to Breaking Bad than anything else.

This hour opens on a trip down to Mexico and the cartel activities going on there. It brings Don Eladio and Juan Bolsa back to the narrative. That opening scene looks like it was lifted straight out of Breaking Bad. This show has succeeded as a prequel because it has forged its own path with its own visual identity. Even though both shows exist in the same world, they look completely different. That's not the case here. Instead, it plays as bonus content for Breaking Bad. That's a very good thing. It doesn't fall into simple fan service either. It's not telling the audience anything new about these characters. It shows that Gus is doing better for business than Hector is for the cartel. Gus is the future who can bring in much more money while Hector is the past who is going out of style. That sets them up for that grand conflict later on.

Gus Fring has always been such a captivating character because he has two distinct personalities. There is the polite and reserved manager of a fast food restaurant. He's courteous, thoughtful and always caring for the other employees. And then, he's also the top drug kingpin in Albuquerque, who is forceful and very efficient with his operation. Both personalities exist within the same man. They are necessary and make him effective in bold worlds. He needs the restaurant as a front for his criminal operation. Its success allows him to blend into plain sight. That's what makes it so intense when Hector invades this world. Gus needs to keep up the pleasant disposition for his employees while also being a tough negotiator with Hector. He's able to expertly move from these different personalities with such ease. His manner and skill allows people to trust him. His employees are skeptical of what has just occurred. And yet, he manages to comfort them simply by crafting an excellent story of standing up to a bully who wants to rid America of its ideals and freedoms. That's such a strong moment. It's easy to understand why so many people trust him in his numerous endeavors.

All of this is happening to Gus right now because Mike disrupted Hector's drug smuggling operation across the border. It's an act that he believes needs to be compensated for. It shows that both Mike and Gus have humanity. They are caught up in these illegal doings but don't want the people around them to get hurt. Gus wants to care for his employees while Mike needs to ensure his family is safe at all times. Mike took this action against Hector because his family was threatened. This latest disruption makes it seem like everything is right in the world once more. Mike has a code and he's sticking to it. This was ultimately about personal vengeance instead of getting money from a rival drug dealer. But it's also fascinating to see Mike leave the door open for working with Gus in the future. It all depends on the work. He's not afraid to do vigilante justice if he can justify it through his moral code. He doesn't immediately want to be an enforcer in Gus' world. But that's exactly where this story is headed. Gus appreciates Mike's talents and will more than likely keep an eye on him moving forward.

Perhaps all of this is why Mike continues to do work for Jimmy as well. It's abundantly clear that Mike doesn't like Jimmy at all. His personality just rubs him the wrong way all the time. And yet, he's a good guy to be friends with in case Mike gets caught in a morally questionable situation. But here, Jimmy is the one who needs a favor. He needs Mike to pose as a repairman to fix the door at Chuck's house. But more importantly, he needs Mike to take pictures that could be used later on with whatever he and Kim have planned for Chuck. It's easy to understand why Mike does all of this. It's all explained in his line of it feeling good to fix something. He's been in a very chaotic and complicated world as if late. So, Jimmy's request seems reasonable and simple in comparison. It allows him to do some honest work as well. He gets in, does the job and gets out. He doesn't form an opinion of Chuck. He simply does what he's been hired to do and does a great job with it - though Jimmy would one day like to teach him the rule of thirds when it comes to photography.

Meanwhile, Jimmy and Kim's story is a little mysterious and cryptic at the moment. They've clearly crafted a game plan for how to go after Chuck. They are united and don't want Chuck to win and get Jimmy disbarred. The show just isn't revealing all the details just yet. It's playing things slow, which is one of the best qualities of this show. It doesn't rush into things. Whenever characters do that, it frequently leads to mistakes. Of course, playing things slow and cryptic have their risks as well. Both sides in this legal proceeding head into the meeting feeling very confident about their strategies. It's all about Jimmy and Kim laying the trap for Chuck to fall into. That means bringing enough attention to the destruction of the tape as possible. Jimmy pays for all of the damages in this meeting - including the extra costs Chuck has just outlined. It's Jimmy proving that he knows his brother just as well as Chuck knows him. He's using that information to manipulate the situation to his advantage.

It's all building to the reveal that Chuck did make copies of the tape with Jimmy's confession on it. Jimmy actually destroyed a duplicate while the original is still out there under lock and key. So, all of this is an elaborate show in order to get that piece of information. It's confirmation that Jimmy and Kim need right now. They need Chuck and Howard to believe that they are winning in this case. Them being overconfident and underestimating their opponents will be their downfall. Jimmy and Kim walk out of the courthouse with so much confidence and power. Everything worked exactly how they wanted it to. They are matching each other stride for stride. They are so in sync - which makes it all the more tragic knowing that Jimmy messes it all up some day. And now, the show just needs to follow through on the grand plan the two have. It's going to be a game changer and it's exciting to think about what they have planned for the bar hearing. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Sabrosito" was written by Jonathan Glatzer and directed by Thomas Schnauz.
  • So much violence is bound to happen at Don Eladio's place. The direction is keenly aware of that. And yet, nothing tragically goes awry at this moment. Hector is annoyed and frustrated but doesn't do anything until he returns to the United States.
  • That small moment of Gus all alone in the restaurant is so telling. Him rolling up trash into a ball and shooting it into the bin is something that he can only do in this private moment. His other two identities could never do something like that.
  • Lyle is the assistant manager of Los Pollos Hermanos but he's easily bullied by Hector. He's rightfully worried for Gus, not knowing who he truly is. But he's also the most receptive to Gus' story later on. He truly believes in the goodness of this man. 
  • Gus also shares with Mike that he stopped him from killing Hector because one bullet to the head would be too humane a death for him.
  • So, Mike took pictures of Chuck's house and stole information from his address book. That's probably to prove Chuck's incompetence to the board and potentially get his law license taken away as well. The address is probably to find wherever the original tape is. 
  • This is the first time Mike has interacted with Chuck. It arrives with very little fanfare. But it's still so much fun - especially once the power tools come out. But now, I also want Mike and Kim to finally meet and talk about Jimmy.