Jackson Ball reviews the second episode of Better Call Saul …
After a strong opening episode – and an absolute belter of a cliffhanger – we return to find Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) in the clutches if an all-too-familiar psychopath: Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz).
Warning! Spoilers Ahead – You have been warned!
In my review of the season premiere, I discussed the thin line that Better Call Saul has to walk, between celebrating its parent series, and exploiting it. So far, Vince Gilligan and co had just about go the balance right, implementing just the right mix of narrative innovation and Breaking Bad nostalgia.
This second episode, entitled ‘Mijo’, not only walks that same line again, but it basically plays jump-rope with it.
There are elements of this episode that lean so close to ‘classic’ Breaking Bad that, out of context, they could easily be mistaken for the same show. Visually, for example, ‘Mijo’ is crammed with disorientating transitions, creative camera angles, and elongated close-ups of mundane scenarios; all of which became hallmarks of the original, Emmy-award winning series. Of course, that’s not really surprising, when you realise that this episode was directed by Breaking Bad alumni Michelle MacLaren.
Even in terms of narrative, there are occasionally obvious parallels. For example, there is a very familiar stand-off-in-the-desert scene; although you could make a good argument that a desert is a pretty good place to have a stand-off, and the New Mexico setting provides abundance for these sorts of scenarios.
Despite these similarities though, ‘Mijo’ still somehow feels like a fresh product, much in the same way Better Call Saul’s first episode did. One clear part of this is obviously the lead character (and specifically Odenkirk’s performance). Jimmy McGill is a slightly different personality to the fully-formed Saul Goodman, but it never feels the same as the Mr White/Heisenberg dynamic.
The second episode of Better Call Saul provides reinforcement for the series; laying down a clear statement that, while it may rely on many of the same resources as it’s predecessor, it has the potential to grow into its own entity.
Jackson Ball – follow me on Twitter