REVIEW: Better Call Saul – “Witness”

The following is a review and recap of the second episode of the third season of Better Call Saul, available on AMC in the U. S. and on Netflix internationally. Expect story spoilers. 

In the second episode of the third season – Witness – Chuck (played by Michael McKean) lays his trap, Jimmy (played by Bob Odenkirk) and Kim (played by Rhea Seehorn) hire an assistant, and Mike Ehrmantraut needs Jimmy’s help to figure out who has been watching him. Better Call Saul co-creator (and creator of Breaking Bad) Vince Gilligan directed Witness, and the episode was written by Thomas Schnauz.

In last week’s episode review, I mentioned that it, indeed, looked like Chuck wanted Ernesto to hear the tape. And Witness confirmed our fears already in the opening of the episode. In this so-called teaser, we see Chuck checking every door multiple times, he’s got a private investigator by his side, and he is just waiting for Jimmy. Chuck was laying his trap. It’s a foreboding episode teaser that had me nervous for Jimmy for the rest of the episode.

“Welcome to Los Pollos Hermanos. May I take your order?”

Let’s just jump right into this episode’s major Breaking Bad connection. For a while now, we’ve known that Gus Fring (played by Giancarlo Esposito) was going to be a part of the show. And with both Mabel and Witness the writers took their time setting up the restaurant and character reveals. Although admittedly unsurprising – and perhaps overdone, for some – it’s a really exciting restaurant reveal.

Of course, the first time we see Fring is even better. We actually also get to see Jeremiah Bitsui’s character – Victor – who you may remember as the guy who Fring killed with a box cutter.

Mike needed someone to help him, and Jimmy was his guy. He needed someone on the inside of the restaurant to be his eyes, but I don’t think Mike was aware of how noticeable and unsubtle Jimmy was in the restaurant. Although Jimmy later expresses how excited he is about all of it, Jimmy isn’t made for this kind of work.

Sure, he notices a couple of details that he can report back with, but he does nothing but stare at the guy, and that’s ultimately what warns Fring, who, almost like a horror movie villain, suddenly creeps closer and closer to Jimmy, who is oblivious to anything other than the guy he is watching.

But even though Jimmy is – to an extent – out of his element (which is made clear by how he leans onto the soft drink dispenser machine), our favorite con-man is quick on his feet — and him taking off his watch quickly is probably the smartest thing he does in the entire episode.

“Perfection is the enemy of perfectly adequate.”

It was going to be a pretty normal day for Jimmy, though. He and Kim were going to find an assistant (Breaking Bad alum Tina Parker), and all he had to worry about was his new commercial and the Wexler-McGill logo. It sure is crooked, Jimmy. And, sorry, but it does look like a stock market crash. That is actually all I’ve been thinking about since I first saw the outline of the logo on the wall.

But the most heartbreaking moment comes during the busiest time of Jimmy’s day. Ernesto tells Kim who then informs Jimmy of the tape recording. While they’re quick to shut down their own theories about what he may be planning, they just don’t have any idea of how cruel Chuck’s plan is.

“Is this it, huh!? For this you destroyed our family! Are you happy now? For what!? For nothing!”

It’s painful for Jimmy to hear from Kim that Chuck did that. It feels like a real betrayal. Jimmy only told him the truth for Chuck’s health and sanity, and then he betrays him like that. Although he seemed to be calm in the office, he completely broke and ran off when he realized he was using Chuck’s two thumb-technique on the wall logo.

When he breaks into Chuck’s home, it comes as a surprise to Chuck. He had just said that he ‘knows his brother,’ and in saying so he also states that he’ll certainly break in at night. Chuck sees Jimmy as nothing more than a rebellious and mischievous con-man. What Jimmy’s reaction reveals to Chuck is that Jimmy feels like a betrayed brother.

Is this the straw that broke the camel’s back? Is this it for Chuck and Jimmy’s relationship? I think so. I think Chuck has crossed Jimmy’s line in the sand. This also feels like the right moment for the Saul Goodman-version of Jimmy to arrive. Not only do I think this is the moment that Jimmy loses the right to use his last name (it feels like the natural direction for this story), I also think that this is the moment that changes everything.

Witness is a standout episode that manages to not only connect the series appropriately to another important character in Breaking Bad (without feeling forced), but also manages to drive the central story forward in a big way. Our two central protagonists are left in terrible situations and one of these damages a relationship that now seems irreparable.

A

– Jeffrey Rex

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