‘Better Call Saul’ Review: Watch Out, World, Because Saul Goodman is Coming

Season 3 Episode 6, "Off Brand," unveils a new persona for Jimmy — but a very familiar one.
Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill, Julian Bonfiglio as Sound Guy - Better Call Saul _ Season 3, Episode 6 - Photo Credit: Michele K. Short/AMC/Sony Pictures Television
Michele K.Short/AMC/Sony Picture

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘Better Call Saul’ Review: Bob Odenkirk and Michael McKean Spar in an Ultimate Clash of the Brothers

Case Summary

Crime in Albuquerque might be on the rise even as Jimmy McGill receives his sentence from the bar association — a year away from the law, per his suspension. Once he touches base with his former clients, the big question is “What’s next?” And he may have gotten the answer thanks to his old joke of a pseudonym, and the prepaid commercial time he needs to unload.

Meanwhile, we get even more insight into the criminal underworld that is the cartel drug trade — first, witnessing how the Salamanca gang conducts business at this stage in its operation, then observing how Gus Fring uses Los Pollos Hermanos trucks to move product across the border. (Spoiler alert: One operation is far more sophisticated than the other.) And Gus discovers the industrial facility that will become a lynchpin of his empire, for years to come.

Achievements in Cinematography

This is a small thing, and maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for “Simpsons” references, but the fact that Jimmy’s commercial featured so many star wipes tickled me a great deal.

Also, the strobed-out visual effects that accompany scenes capturing Chuck’s attitude towards electricity offer both some beautiful pops of color even as the stress rises.

The Most Legal Move

In case you didn’t know, suspended lawyers are in fact required to go through the ordeal Jimmy dispenses with in this episode — informing clients that you’ll no longer be able to serve them is a prescribed part of the process. Jimmy does seem fully committed to adhering to the law right now. We’ll wait and see how that pans out, especially given that while Jimmy acknowledges that he can’t practice the law, he doesn’t seem to be embracing the repercussions of that, like giving up his and Kim’s office and assistant.

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

Giancarlo Esposito as Gustavo "Gus" Fring - Better Call Saul _ Season 3, Episode 6 - Photo Credit: Michele K. Short/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

The cold open features a return appearance by Krazy-8, AKA Domingo Gallardo Molina, a humble young man who works at his family’s furniture store and is a few years away from a fateful encounter with Walter White. One of our earliest heartbreakers in “Breaking Bad” proves once again to be a tragic figure, if only because what the beatdown he receives reveals about Nacho’s own commitment to the drug business: Nothing good.

READ MORE: Giancarlo Esposito’s Current TV Roles, Ranked by Increasing Level of Scariness

Most importantly — special guest star Laura Fraser. One of “Breaking Bad’s” latter-day heavies makes her first real introduction into the universe, and while she only says three words on screen, it’s a thrill to see her. Hopefully we get to see more of her soon, as Gus’s empire begins to truly blossom.

Oh, That’s Right, It’s a Period Piece

Our retro technology fetish was indulged nicely by Jimmy’s VCR and tapes (while in 2003, DVDs were increasingly common, it makes sense for Jimmy’s low-rent production operation to deal in VHS). Star wipes, for the record, are timeless.

What’s Up With Nacho?

So “Better Call Saul” has always demanded a lot of patience from Michael Mando, as he’s easily the series regular given the least amount to do. But it looks like a change is coming on that front, as Mando got the spotlight in a significant chunk of this episode. And Mando’s deeply conflicted feelings towards the business — especially when Don Hector decides to incorporate Nacho’s father’s upholstery company into the cartel’s operations — were beautifully set up here. The question now is how it’s going to play out.

Michael Mando as Nacho Varga - Better Call Saul _ Season 3, Episode 6 - Photo Credit: Michele K. Short/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Brotherly Love

We’ve been saying for a while that the relationship between Chuck and Jimmy is dunzo, but you don’t get more definitive than this:

Rebecca: “He’s still your brother.”
Jimmy: “Not anymore he’s not.”

With Jimmy’s semi-triumph (acknowledging the suspension) comes Chuck’s complete defeat, which is painful to see even if Chuck is a terrible person. However, there’s a potentially intriguing consequence to what’s happened — Chuck braves the outside world to call Dr. Laura Cruz, who was the doctor (played by Clea Duvall) who treated Chuck in both Seasons 1 and 2. It’s a good indicator that Chuck may finally be seeking real treatment for his condition, perhaps even acknowledging that it may be more psychological than physical.

On The Journey From Jimmy to Saul

It’s not the first time we’ve heard the name “Saul Goodman” mentioned in this show — it’s not even the first time Jimmy has used it as an alias. But a Chicago back alley is a very different thing from a New Mexico TV commercial, and the adoption of his persona is something that seems to strike Kim very keenly. “That guy has a lot of energy,” she observes.

Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill - Better Call Saul _ Season 3, Episode 6 - Photo Credit: Michele K. Short/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Cocktail Hour

For an episode featuring a lot of tragedy, there sure was a lot of celebrating. Not only do Kim and Jimmy cuddle over glasses of champagne (honestly, I don’t think they’ve ever been cuter) but Howard and Chuck toast with some 35-year-old Macallen. How much might a bottle of that cost? Think in the four-digit range.

“It’s From a Movie!”

Your random bit of trivia (though who knows how trivial it actually is, given how much detail gets layered into this show): The revival house in downtown Albuquerque is playing “Bunny Lake is Missing,” a classic 1965 thriller directed by Otto Preminger about a young woman who may or may not have a missing daughter. (Here’s the Wikipedia link if you want to read more about it.)

Best Quote

“It’s just a name.”
— Jimmy

Sure, buddy. Sure it is. We’re looking at the beginning of a new chapter for Jimmy, one that features both good things (a renewed bond with Kim) and bad (the loss of his brother, the suspension). In some ways he’s freer than ever. But freedom might not be the healthiest thing for him.

Grade: A-

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