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Review: ‘Better Call Saul’ Season 1 Episode 5, ‘Alpine Shepherd Boy,’ Is All About Brotherhood

Review: 'Better Call Saul' Season 1 Episode 5, 'Alpine Shepherd Boy,' Is All About Brotherhood

READ MORE: Review: ‘Better Call Saul’ Season 1 Episode 4, ‘Hero,’ Might Just Save the Day

Case Summary

Jimmy’s recent burst of free publicity, courtesy of the paper’s front page coverage of his heroism had his phone ringing off the hook last week. Well, not ringing off the hook, but he did have several messages waiting for him on his answering machine. Unfortunately, these lead to many dud clients: A crazy cliche of a “billionaire” (right down to the taxidermied endangered species decorating his lounge) looking to secede from the United States, an inventor with no ability to recognize double entendre and a few very complicated wills for the very elderly.

His bonding session/pedicure with Kim, in which Kim tells him that he might consider focusing his legal practice on elder law, gets interrupted by news that Chuck’s in the hospital after being arrested by cops investigating complaints about the theft of a neighbor’s newspaper. Jimmy comes to get him out, leading to a confrontation over Chuck’s condition resolved by Jimmy committing to the status quo, ignoring the people telling him that Chuck needs professional help and bringing Chuck home. Promising Chuck that he’s really trying to clean up his act, he starts working the nursing home set with custom-printed Jello cups and Veronica Lake jokes. (And he might be a hit.)

Oh, and our dear friend Mike Ehrmantraut is back, working a quiet night shift at the parking lot before a solo breakfast, a drive-by past who might be his estranged daughter and a visit from some old friends from far away. Fingers crossed, we’ll pick up on what this means next week.

Opening Credits Extreme Close-Up

It’s technically a glimpse at the future: A bus bench ad for the legal services of Saul Goodman. By the way, if you’ve never called the Saul Goodman voice mail line — (505) 503-4455 — you’re missing out.

The Least Legal Move

For once, Jimmy’s really staying on the right side of the law, his only potentially dangerous move being his decision to not commit Chuck. Chuck has yet to cause anyone real harm, but as his doctor (Clea DuVall, a welcome addition to the show) points out, his condition is undoubtedly problematic. How Jimmy moves forward remains to be seen, but the longer he avoids making a real decision

Remembering What Hasn’t Happened Yet (The “Breaking Bad” Tie-In)

While creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould made a big deal in the beginning of establishing a different visual style for this prequel, “Alpine Shepherd Boy” added some familiar visual flare, including a return to some of the POV/trick shots we remember fondly from “Breaking Bad.” That zoom through Chuck’s peephole? Incredible.

Also, while it’s only teased at the end of the episode, it’s clear that next week will probably have something to do with Mike’s past as a Philly cop. It’s a massive piece of backstory “Breaking Bad” never dug into, and it’s exciting to know that we might get to discover more about it soon.

Oh, That’s Right, It’s a Period Piece

Let’s talk about televisions this week. It’s not just that Mike and Jimmy both have sets that are generations behind even 2003-era technology, but while it doesn’t seem out of place for Mike to be watching old reruns on a TV with dials on it, were this set in 2015, Jimmy would be scanning YouTube clips for lawyerly inspiration. He also might not be watching “Matlock.” “Matlock’s” day, even for the elderly, might be done.

What’s Wrong With Chuck?

After five episodes, we at last get the full explanation for what has Chuck hiding away from the world. “I can’t go outside or be exposed to what’s out there” is how Chuck explains his condition to the Albuquerque officers investigating the theft of a neighbor’s newspaper. Jimmy puts it more simply: Chuck is allergic to electricity.

Do we believe him? Clea DuVall sure doesn’t, and in her mind proved her point by flipping on a monitoring device that didn’t trigger Chuck’s “allergy” in the slightest. Jimmy, meanwhile, might be on the fence, but he’s just too loyal to his brother to admit the truth, even when committing Chuck to an institution could end up netting him millions.

On The Journey From Jimmy to Saul

So far, this season, we’ve seen Jimmy try a lot of different schemes to stay afloat, but one key reason behind that is, we discover, that Jimmy doesn’t know what kind of lawyer he wants to be. His primary strategy, in that respect, appears to be “the suit makes the man.” First, he imitated Hamlin’s look. Now, he’s looking to legendary TV lawyer Matlock for sartorial inspiration. We know where this search for identity will end, but the interesting question becomes whether he’ll be copying yet another fellow lawyer’s style, or discovering his own true self.

Best Quote

We’re just going to give this to everything related to Tony the Toilet Buddy. Oh dear God. This humble writer might have had to breathe into a bag afterwards.

“It’s From a Movie!”

The biggest movie reference this week was Mike’s choice of daytime entertainment: The 1937 romantic comedy “The Awful Truth,” starring Irene Dunne and Cary Grant. Oh, Mike. We always knew you were a romantic at heart.

In Conclusion, Your Honor

For anyone feeling frustrated by “Better Call Saul’s” deliberate avoidance of revealing too much, “Alpine Shepherd Boy” was a welcome shift for the series, peeling back a lot of Jello lids to reveal the show’s wobbly gooey heart: The relationship between Jimmy and Chuck. The fact is that no matter how invalid Chuck becomes, Jimmy will always be the youngest, and desperate to please his big brother, to prove that his younger con man days are “back in Cicero, dead and buried.”

This is also the episode which made it clear what kind of show “Better Call Saul” is, at least for its first season: A profound search for identity. And that search is getting increasingly fascinating.

Grade: A-

READ MORE: ‘Better Call Saul’: Finding Its Own Voice While Haunted By the Ghosts of ‘Breaking Bad’

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