Monday, February 24, 2020

REVIEW: 'Better Call Saul' - Jimmy, Mike and Nacho Make Destructive Choices at the Expense of Others in '50% Off'

AMC's Better Call Saul - Episode 5.02 "50% Off"

Jimmy's promotional stunt has unintended consequences. Nacho takes extreme measures to earn Lalo's trust. "Saul" is a success at the courthouse, but still has yet to win Kim over. Simmering with rage and self-loathing, Mike loses his temper.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of AMC's Better Call Saul.

"50% Off" was written by Alison Tatlock and directed by Norberto Barba

Saul Goodman feels the impulse to offer a discount to his new clients in order to attract as much business as possible. It's an instinct that Jimmy McGill immediately feels the need to come clean to Kim about. She cautioned against it when he first came up with the idea. He still ultimately followed through with it. She knew that it could actually promote criminal activity given that people have such easy access to a lawyer they know will do a good job representing them. That is the mentality and image Jimmy is trying to create as Saul. He wants to be a workaholic. He wants to prove that he can effectively manage all of these clients and get them the results they need in a timely fashion. It's a new way to practice law that is exciting to him. It just comes with the risk of him having to leave his life as Jimmy McGill behind completely. That is an understandable impulse for him in some aspects. He doesn't want to be associated with that name because of all that he had to endure being Chuck's brother. He felt as if he could never amount to much or get the appreciation and respect he deserved for being a perfectly fine lawyer. And yet, his relationship with Kim comes entirely from her love for Jimmy McGill. She goes into the open house with Jimmy. She does so because it's exciting to imagine a future together. She doesn't see this as something that is attainable at the moment. It's not realistic. It may only be a waste of time in the end. However, it's also nice to dream and aspire for more out of life. It inspires the two of them to talk about the latest actions they have done and how they feel about each other. Tension is still obviously present. But that impulse for honesty and sincerity is still there. That was the foundation for this couple. As such, it can still be nurtured and appreciated. That may eventually disappear. Again, Jimmy is proving that he is willing to take on any misleading antics in order to get what he wants. Right now, that means churning over as many clients and their cases as possible. He can get them the deals that everyone can walk away happy with. He may falsely represent himself. However, the system is one that can be manipulated by a con man like him. Jimmy knows exactly how to offer the appearance of a great story that can benefit his clients simply because the prosecutors don't always have the tolerance for it all. This is a demanding and often thankless job. Jimmy is passionate and excited. He can present the narrative that he cares about his clients much more passionately than anyone else in this broken and corrupt system. That energy is lively and propels the narrative forward. However, it can be fairly damning as well. Jimmy can slyly manipulate a situation where he is trapped in an elevator with a prosecutor he wants to negotiate several cases with. However, it's absolutely clear that people feel the burden lifted so they can commit as many crimes as they want during this two week window. They don't even have to interact with Saul Goodman after he gives his card out. Their influence can be felt elsewhere in the narrative. But it all ultimately comes back to haunt Jimmy and the new version of the law he practices. He knows it's dire when Nacho pulls up to him outside of the courthouse. In that situation, he has no other choice but to get in. Jimmy is intimidated by Nacho and the world he comes from. Of course, that is an environment Nacho too has a great deal of disdain for. He wants to leave but keeps getting pulled in further and further by Lalo and Gus who believe he is a useful tool for them. That showcases just how corrosive and exponential the choices made early on can be confounded now. Mike has suppressed his feelings about his role in his son's death. Everything he does is in service to his family. And yet, he yells at his granddaughter when she is simply curious about who her father was. Mike can't handle that. That is absolutely devastating and crushing. It presents a man who is stunted in his emotional development and his ability to interact with the world. Mike never needs to say much in order for his point to get across. A stern look from him can be intimidating on its own. He is powerful and threatening in this world. He is more than that. That is the risk of him being reduced down to though. He is fighting for something more. He is just incapable of getting it because he stands in his own way. That is the fundamental identity that plagues all of these characters. They want to embrace these different lives for themselves. They are just completely blinded to the costs that will come for their loved ones. Jimmy, Mike and Nacho want to do better. But they keep getting sucked into an enthralling criminal world that will condemn them and every choice that comes afterwards. That's horrifying and continues to build the tragedy of this entire series.