REVIEW: Better Call Saul – “Sabrosito”

The following is a review of the fourth 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 fourth episode of the third season — Sabrosito — Hector Salamanca (played by Mark Margolis) confronts Gus Fring (played by Giancarlo Esposito), while Jimmy McGill (played by Bob Odenkirk) plans to have Mike (played by Jonathan Banks) go through Chuck’s home. Sabrosito was directed by Thomas Schnauz and written by Jonathan Glatzer.

The Breaking Bad-universe has a thing with pools. The blue water of a swimming pool in the world of Breaking Bad means plenty of things and the most referenced swimming pool in the show outside of Walter White’s very own swimming pool is probably Don Eladio’s swimming pool. Fans of the original show will know what scene the opening teaser for Sabrosito is referencing.

As Don Eladio is jumping into his pool in Better Call Saul, it mirrors his demise. In Breaking Bad, he is ultimately poisoned, and one of the last shots we see of him is him falling into the pool face first. This is yet another example of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul operating with the same characters and operating with storylines that are directly related to the main storyline of Breaking Bad. It is the kind of reference that I enjoy, as it doesn’t hit you over the head with it — it’s a visual reference that die-hard fans love. Nothing more.

The teaser is related to the Gus and Mike-storyline. Hector Salamanca and Gus Fring are fighting for Eladio’s attention, and Hector doesn’t like to be outshone. On top of that, Eladio points out how the money figure that Hector has brought him is merely cute when compared to Gus Fring’s massive Los Pollos Hermanos-related money. He sure likes to play favorites that Eladio guy, huh?

On the other side of the show’s title card, we see Mike in his element — overseeing the damage that he has done to Hector’s business, while he, on the phone, makes sure his family is safe. This is the cornerstone of his character — he just wants to keep his family safe whatever means necessary.

Arguably the best scene in the episode happens at the Los Pollos Hermanos restaurant. In a tense scene, Hector basically holds the staff hostage, and his men consider holding the customers hostage as well – though Nacho Varga (played by Michael Mando) lets the customers leave.

Seeing actual dangerous men take on innocent bystanders is terrifying, especially since we know that their safety is not the only thing at risk, Hector could also potentially reveal Fring’s criminal dealings to the staff and the local community by dropping by like that.

Hector’s demands are to be taken seriously — even though he makes them while he is cleaning his shoe with a pen on Fring’s office desk — but we all know that Fring isn’t a pushover, which is exemplified by his cool focus when he calmly throws a piece of paper into a wastebasket from far away. Fring is in control.

One really should take note of Esposito’s performance in these scenes. It’s all in the little changes in expression when Hector exits his office or the way his face is almost expressionless barring his blinking eyes when Lyle exits the restaurant earlier. Esposito is a great actor, we all knew this, but it is in these small moments, when the camera lingers on Fring for just a moment too long, that I find the most pleasure from his performance.

The way he enters his own office is also almost scarily orchestrated. He doesn’t just waltz in. He stands right outside the door and slowly pushes the door open with his left hand. In that shot, only the two characters have a light on them, all else is bathed in darkness. The cigar smoke is the icing on the cake.

In Better Call Saul, Mike is the middleman. He is the glue that holds the worlds of Breaking Bad (exemplified by Fring) and Better Call Saul (exemplified by Jimmy McGill) together, which is made evident in this episode when both Fring and Jimmy reach out to him, as they need him to do their dirty work.

The other half of the episode — the Kim and Jimmy half — focuses on their attempts to get inside Chuck’s home. Here Kim is the first to do the dirty work — as she makes calls to figure out which handyman company Chuck may have an appointment with — which is an odd sight to see. You can’t help but feel that Jimmy is dragging her down with him, which is something I’ve feared for a very long time.

Anyway, this is where Mike gets into the bigger picture. Seeing Mike and Chuck together in this handyman scene is something else. It’s a pretty humorous scene, as Mike basically uses the whirring of a power drill to drive Chuck away from him, so that he may complete the mission he was hired for — taking pictures of Chuck’s home that Kim and Jimmy may use for the hearing.

This episode is a tale of two halves. The first half is that concerning the worsening relationship between Gus and Hector, as it directly relates to the involvement of Mike. It is a, at times, thrilling half that manages to feel like just another excellent episode of Breaking Bad.

The other half of the episode feels more like the beginning of something big. The Kim and Jimmy scenes are meant to build up to a thrilling conclusion in the next episode. These scenes are very good, but they play second fiddle to the excellent Breaking Bad section of the episode. I, personally, am more interested in the McGill scenes, though, and when I first watched this episode I was worried about the extent to which these storylines would be balanced going forward in the third season.

A-

This episode originally aired May 1st, 2017, and it is being reviewed now to be ready for the season four premiere.

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen

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