REVIEW: Better Call Saul – “The Guy for This”

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

In the third episode of the fifth season — The Guy for This — Jimmy McGill (played by Bob Odenkirk) meets Lalo Salamanca (played by Tony Dalton), Kim Wexler (played by Rhea Seehorn) has to deal with a stubborn Tucumcari homeowner, and Nacho Varga (played by Michael Mando) is confronted by his father. The Guy for This was written by Ann Cherkis and directed by Michael Morris.

I’m just going to come right out and say it. I loved this episode. The Guy for This is from top-to-bottom an outstanding episode of television as its themes are expressed coherently, as the filmmaking is impressive, and as the acting is excellent. Even the episode’s teaser sequence, or cold open, is majestic. Just like how the pink teddy bear became an iconic item from Breaking Bad, the mint-chocolate chip ice cream cone lying face down on the pavement is going to become equally as iconic for Better Call Saul. In the cold open, we get a slow but creative scene where ants are coming out of the ground to inspect the ice cream. The close-up shots of the ants are extremely good, and whoever thought it was a good idea to pair yodeling with these shots deserves a raise. The ants crawling all over the ice cream may be intended to symbolize how Jimmy’s happiness is being taken apart by the criminals he works for. Perhaps the melting ice cream also symbolizes how Jimmy’s innocent delights are fleeting and that soon his entire life will be overtaken by those that he should not like to be associated with.

“Tuco told me about you. You’re the guy with the mouth.”

I love that this episode just picked up where the previous left off. After the title card sequence, we are immediately back in Nacho’s car with Jimmy nervously scanning the backseat for a way out. Sorry, Jimmy, there is no way out of this pickle. Now, the writers could’ve easily kept Lalo and Jimmy away from each other for most of the season, but, thankfully, they don’t draw the drama out for too long. Lalo is sitting right there in the garage that Nacho and Jimmy now find themselves in. Now, Jimmy’s skills as not just a people person but as a streetwise criminal were put to the test with one of the most confident antagonists this Breaking Bad-world has ever presented audiences with. It is such a disquieting but still exciting scene. Tony Dalton deserves a lot of credit for having brought Lalo to live in such a confident, charming, but still frightening way. Anyway, Lalo instructs Jimmy, who eventually figures out that this is not a situation of which he can wiggle his way out, to direct Krazy-8 and make him say what Lalo wants him to say to the authorities. Jimmy “The Guy With the Mouth” McGill also wants a good payday out of this, and it is so good to see Odenkirk play Jimmy here. Odenkirk properly makes Jimmy look both streetwise and like a rookie. Jimmy pulls a number out of nowhere ($7,925), and it is somehow both huge to Jimmy and seemingly nothing to Lalo. I do wonder what number would’ve made Lalo angry. I guess we’ll never know.

One of the things that Better Call Saul naysayers have complained about is that the show just doesn’t feel enough like Breaking Bad. I don’t really agree with that criticism, but, in any case, this episode really felt like Breaking Bad. Of course, the return of Hank Schrader and Steven Gomez had a lot to do with that. It was so good to see Steven Michael Quezada and Dean Norris back in the roles they made famous. Norris was especially fun to watch here. In fact, I think Norris was so good that it seemed like he had never left the Gilliganverse. What makes their scene with Odenkirk’s ‘Saul Goodman’ and Max Arciniega’s Krazy-8 so good is that Odenkirk does such a good job of fighting for and caring for his client. Odenkirk does the very same thing later in the episode with Lalo, and it is so nice to see. It is evident that there is still some Jimmy in Saul Goodman at this point in the show. Of course, by the end of this episode, Krazy-8 is an informant, and both Lalo and Gus Fring became aware of who Saul Goodman is. It is going to be interesting to see what the events of the episode will change for Jimmy going forward. He has to know now that there is a target on his back again.

“It’s the law, and it’s enforceable. Deal with it.”

This was a very interesting episode for Rhea Seehorn’s Kim Wexler. At this point in the show, Nacho and Kim are the most interesting supporting characters precisely because we don’t know what happens next. We know what happens with Mike. We know what happens with Jimmy. Kim and Nacho are the only characters that we root for that we don’t know the whereabouts of in the time of Breaking Bad. But we also don’t know a lot about who Kim was before she met Jimmy, and this episode perhaps gave us a few more tidbits, if, in fact, we can trust Kim’s pep-talk to Mr. Acker (played by Barry Corbin). In this episode, I think that we see Kim slowly breaking. I think she is slowly losing her spirit. She is extremely excited about doing pro bono cases, but they don’t go her way in this episode, and, frankly, it appears that she doesn’t have enough time for them. She always has to take time off from the cases that she is passionate about to instead go work for Mesa Verde. In her conversation with Jimmy on their balcony, she was actually a little bit curt as she said: “Good for Saul,” after Jimmy had mentioned that he had made a lot of money. She kept on focusing on a beer bottle that could’ve fallen off the railing easily, and, later in the episode, she threw several bottles off the balcony with Jimmy. I think that, by the end of the episode, she may have reached a breaking point. This happens, in part, due to Mr. Acker. Acker is an old man who refuses to leave his home and let the ground it stands on become the home of a Mesa Verde call-center. Kim really tries to be kind to this old man, but, when it doesn’t work and he is rude towards her, she snaps and screams at him the way she might’ve liked to scream at Jimmy sometimes. Seehorn and Corbin are excellent in their scenes together, and their final scene together in this episode is just as good as their first. Even though Acker may have been rude to her, she doesn’t want him to feel bad. So, she returned to Tucumcari and gave Mr. Acker some advice on what home to buy for himself next. It doesn’t work, and he is unimpressed when she tells him how she had a tough time in her childhood. Mr. Acker thinks she is just like every other stereotypical lawyer, and it is that haunting stereotype that may finally break Kim Wexler.

“It’s not about what you want. When you’re in you’re in.”

Although Nacho is seen with Jimmy, Lalo, and Gus Fring in major sections of the episode, one should absolutely not underestimate the importance of Nacho’s scene with his father, Manuel, who is played by Juan Carlos Cantu. At this point in Better Call Saul, although Nacho very much is under the thumb of both Fring and the Salamancas, he still has to have hope that he can save his family from being hurt by the people he works for. Nacho’s father, who is equal parts impressed by and disapproving of his son’s abode, slowly informs Nacho that he knows Nacho is trying to get Manuel to safety by making an incredible offer for the family business through an acquaintance. Michael Mando and Juan Carlos Cantu really gave us a brilliant confrontational scene in The Guy for This. In this scene, the stubbornness of Manuel Varga goes head to head with the quiet desperation of Nacho Varga, who knows that he has to get his father to safety before he makes the wrong person upset. As Nacho tells Jimmy in this episode, you cannot escape the life once you have entered into it. Nacho probably knows that he cannot run from the life he leads, but he does realize that eventually the Salamancas or Fring will make an example of him or his family. It’s only a matter of time, which is why Cantu and Mando’s scene together is so good. One thing that I am worried about is the fact that Manuel mentioned the police in their confrontational conversation. I fear that Nacho’s girlfriends, or roommates, are more loyal to the Salamancas (or Fring) than to Nacho. I worry that this mere mention of the police will put Manuel Varga in danger sooner rather than later.

Elsewhere, Mike Ehrmantraut was beating himself up about what he has done in the recent past. What he did to Werner Ziegler haunts him, and it probably also hurts him that he raised his voice in the previous episode. In this episode, a drunk Mike profusely asks a bartender to remove a postcard with an image of the Sydney Opera House from the wall. For Mike, even this is a reminder of Werner Ziegler. Not only did he take Ziegler to that very bar, but, in the episode Coushatta, Ziegler also told Mike that his father helped build the Sydney Opera House. Mike is bitter, angry, and broken. On his walk home from the bar, some thugs try to rob him, but, as one would expect, they have chosen the wrong guy to annoy and the wrong evening to annoy him. Seeing Mike take one of the thugs to the ground and, I assume, break his shoulder was equal parts impressive and frightening. Mike can snap and perhaps that is exactly what his season arc is all about this year.

The Guy for This is an outstanding episode about rude awakenings. Characters who may have started to sense that positivity was returning to their lives are suddenly reminded of just how unhappy they should be. Jimmy McGill is the lawyer that criminals hire, and here he is reminded that even violent and dangerous criminals have him on speed dial. Kim Wexler is reminded that even though she may have the best intentions, she cannot run from the drawbacks of being a lawyer. People look at you differently, and, even though you work tirelessly on pro bono cases, you have to do work that feels dirty to make the life for yourself that you have always wanted. Nacho may have won the confidence of both Lalo and Gus, but he cannot overcome his father’s stubbornness. While he may live in a big, new house, he is still stuck between a rock and a hard place. In the world of Better Call Saul, simple pleasures can have a bitter aftertaste. In the outstanding The Guy for This, our main characters are reminded of the cost of living the lives that they want to live in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

A+

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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