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Review: ‘Better Call Saul’ Season 2 Episode 3, ‘Amarillo,’ Goes For the Close-Up

Review: 'Better Call Saul' Season 2 Episode 3, 'Amarillo,' Goes For the Close-Up

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘Better Call Saul’ Season 2 Episode 2, ‘Cobbler,’ Triggers Something In Us All

Case Summary

Jimmy McGill has his talents, and his role in managing client relations for the Sandpiper trial is definitely making use of them. Unfortunately, his natural instincts for how to proceed in terms of signing up new victims of Sandpiper’s illicit bookkeeping turn out to be a bit ethically shaky. It’s Chuck who spots the fact that Jimmy might be bordering on solicitation, which could jeopardize the case. But it’s Kim’s disapproval that convinces Jimmy to try a different approach; specifically, targeting the 65-plus set with a TV commercial airing during an afternoon broadcast of “Murder, She Wrote.” The commercial he makes looks great and gets the phones ringing, but he didn’t get permission from the partners at Davis and Main before airing it, and the episode ends with Jimmy getting reamed out by Clifford Main for overstepping his bounds. At the end of the episode, Jimmy’s not yet officially fired, but he’s definitely in serious trouble. Worst of all, he’s lying to Kim about said trouble. That’s not going to go over well.

What’s Up With Mike?

While his relationship with granddaughter Kaylee is the loving and beautiful thing we remember well from “Breaking Bad,” Mike’s managing a few ongoing concerns, most especially a need for cash to help out his daughter-in-law, who’s getting increasingly freaked out by the sound of gunshots in the night. When Mike’s underworld contact, the shady veterinarian, offers him a mystery gig that pays “next level” money, Mike thus agrees to a meeting, which turns out to be with our old buddy, Nacho, who needs to make “a guy” go away. That’s something Mike knows a little bit about.

Opening Credits Extreme Close-Up

The scales of justice get tipped by a woman smoking a cigarette. Sometimes these tidbits feel like flash-forwards, and sometimes they feel like metaphors, and sometimes we’re just not sure. In fact, half the point of noting them every week is so that we can look back later on and see what kind of pattern emerged; to see if there’s a whole other story being told right under our noses.

(Hey, we all have our hobbies.)

The Least Legal Move

By skirting the ethical boundaries of what a lawyer is and isn’t allowed to do in seeking out new clients, Jimmy might have jeopardized the Sandpiper case (not to mention his bar membership) but of all the shady stuff we’ve seen lawyers pull on this show, it barely rates. However, seeing just how attuned Chuck was to Jimmy’s tricks made us realize that even when Jimmy’s being “good,” there’s a little bit of bad underneath.

(By the way, Chuck is definitely still wearing his space blanket underneath his suit. The rustling was even more pronounced this week. He might seem cool and collected, but never forget that there’s some crazy lurking around in there.)

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

A personal note: Last week, I started casually rewatching “Breaking Bad” from the beginning, and oh the new nuggets of trivia I’ve been picking up as a result. If it’s been a while since you sat down with “Breaking Bad,” and if you haven’t memorized every line of “Saul’s” big sister series, you’ll be regularly stunned by how many tiny references from that show are woven into its spinoff’s fabric. I highly recommend going back, if you can make the time.

Here’s a big one from this week: the film that Kim and Jimmy watch at the end, “Ice Station Zebra”? In a few years, Saul Goodman will name his holding company “Ice Station Zebra Associates” — that’s the name on the checks that Walt gives to Skyler in Season 3. Why would Saul choose a name that would constantly remind him of a relationship that seems destined to end painfully? The human heart is a mystery, but maybe we’ll get an answer to that riddle by the end of this season.

Oh, That’s Right, It’s a Period Piece

Aw, the sweet casual innocence of the VHS tape, in all its pre-digital glory. Jimmy always remembered to be kind and rewind.

Also, Jimmy’s decision to target “Murder, She Wrote” reruns is a brilliant one, though technically, “Murder, She Wrote” still actively airs in syndication, on both local TV networks as well as the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries HD channel. It’s also on Netflix, but Netflix doesn’t do Jimmy much good in this instance.

On The Journey From Jimmy to Saul

Oddly, there was nothing ethically wrong with Jimmy releasing the commercial. He just didn’t handle it properly. “Saul” has a fascination with contrasting the concept of the noble and proud legal profession with the blunt reality that a lot of times, lawyers deserve every cruel joke told about them. And in every sparring we’ve seen between Chuck and Jimmy since their relationship went nuclear last season, we’ve seen that played out.

Cocktail Hour

Honestly, Jimmy McGill sipping red wine doesn’t seem like the most natural thing, but maybe that’s just because we’re not used to Relationship Jimmy, who’s as committed to staying in Kim’s good graces as he is to any of his other endeavors.

Best Quote

“This problem… is it a who or a what?”

Mike has such a talent for cutting to the chase. In an episode loaded with set-up, it was nice to see him get directly to the point… even if it did end in one of those cut-to-blacks that has us itching to see what happens next, but feeling a bit cheated.

“It’s From a Movie!”

An extended discussion of Kim’s love for movies set on various poles (North and South) served as both a “Breaking Bad” connection (as mentioned above) as well as a callback to Kim’s thwarted effort last season to ask Jimmy out for a revival screening of “The Thing.”

Not to mention the return of “Alpine Shepherd Boy’s” Mrs. Strauss, who makes an entrance that’s not only drawn right from the cinema classic “Sunset Boulevard,” but also one that gives the commercial the cinematic edge Jimmy’s looking for. There’s something telling about how Jimmy’s love of film references seems to play into his focus on style and presentation. In a show that’s been intrigued from the beginning by the construction of identity, there’s more to it than just the casual dropping of movie quotes.

In Conclusion, Your Honor

There’s a lot to enjoy about “Amarillo,” especially the scenes spotlighting the fragile yet deepening intimacy between Kim and Jimmy, as well as Mike’s ongoing efforts to connect with his daughter-in-law. However, it suffers from the issue that, on balance, affects many “Better Call Saul” episodes. Because the show’s not afraid to take its time with the story, what we humble viewers are left with at the end of the hour is yet another step forward on a long journey. This isn’t an episode we’ll be putting on top 10 lists or even necessarily remembering by name in a few months. It’s an essential piece of the puzzle, but we can’t help but wish a little bit more had actually happened. “Saul” has rewarded our patience before. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned from this show, it’s that trust can be broken in a heartbeat.

Grade: B

READ MORE: Watch: Bob Odenkirk Charms the Elderly (And Us) in Exclusive ‘Better Call Saul’ Season 2 Clip

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