REVIEW: Better Call Saul – “Gloves Off”

Better Call Saul - Reviewed

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

In the fourteenth episode of Better Call Saul (“Gloves Off”), Mike goes on a mission for Nacho, someone gets beat up, and we see a couple of familiar faces return to the Vince Gilligan-Breaking Bad Universe. Gloves Off might’ve been the most well-acted episode of season two yet.

This episode was excellent, but it does feel weird to once again say that a standout episode felt more like Breaking Bad than Better Call Saul. This is the second time that has happened in Better Call Saul, with Five-O being the first episode that felt more like Breaking Bad. Actually, it is sort of a shame to say that my least favorite part of the episode was the one that felt more like this show, which is to say the story involving Jimmy and not Mike. But I’ll get to that part later.

It all started quite unnerving in the episode opening. Mike opens the door and walks into his home, but he’s moving slowly. The music here is amazing, and possibly the best use of music on the show. And then we got to the reveal. It is so smart to highlight that in the opening of the episode, as we, as viewers, never expected to see the future fixer looking like he does here in Gloves Off. It is probably the best opening of an episode not being opened in black-and-white.

I’m not sure what I expected last week, but it definitely wasn’t that Nacho wanted Mike to ‘take out’ Tuco. While the request isn’t totally unexpected, it feels like something that we wouldn’t see until the end of the show. But, against my expectations, this definitely pushed Mike into Breaking Bad-territory. Maybe we aren’t that far from seeing Saul Goodman work with the fixer, Mike.

The scene itself, which had been teased in opening, is probably the best scene yet on Better Call Saul, or, at the very least, the best scene since Mike’s ‘confession’ in Five-O. Facing off directly against Tuco was a risk, but getting the character out of the way makes sense, as Tuco would have always been brought up in the future.

Something I really enjoyed in the A-story was Michael Mando’s performance; I don’t think I’ve ever seen him better outside of Far Cry 3. I loved seeing him work with Mike, serving now as his client, and there’s definitely a good potential partnership here. I really liked how Mando looked in the Tuco-scene. He was clearly worried, and he never felt or looked comfortable. Great job, Mando! Meanwhile, Mike’s just playing the role of the unassuming ‘geezer’. I absolutely loved it.

“Perspective… You want perspective, I’ll give you mine. You’re my brother, and I love you, but you’re like an alcoholic who refuses to admit he’s got a problem. Now someone’s given you the keys to the school bus, and I’m not gonna let you drive it off a cliff.”

What happened to Jimmy was somehow relegated into the B-story spot this week as he almost got fired. I hadn’t expected Kim to be at the receiving end of a much more scolding meeting than what happened to Jimmy after the events of Amarillo, and at this point nothing he touches turns out well. It was natural for Jimmy to turn to his brother, and I’m so glad he did because those scenes functioned well as a follow-up to the infamous chimp-with-a-machine-gun scene from Pimento.

I will say, though, that I would’ve liked to have seen more of a conclusion to Jimmy trying to help Kim by maybe talking or meeting with Hamlin in this very episode. That part of the episode felt incomplete, as we didn’t see anything after Jimmy confronted Chuck at his home. Nevertheless, that scene was worth it all, as it once again gave Michael McKean an opportunity to shine as Chuck McGill. It was definitely his strongest scene on the show since Pimento.

Gloves Off was definitely the best episode of the show that we’ve seen since Pimento, and therefore is the best episode of season two so far. The standouts in this episode were definitely Michael McKean, Michael Mando, and Jonathan Banks. The incomplete nature of the B-story is the only thing that really bugged me at the end of the episode, and therefore Gloves Off is probably my third favorite episode of the show at the time of writing.

A

– I’m Jeffrey Rex

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