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Better Call Saul “Uno” Review (1×01)

9 Feb

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“There are no sides. Jimmy, wouldn’t you rather build your own identity rather than ride on someone else’s coattails?” 

It’s not a very subtle scene, but it perfectly encapsulates what this show is about. Whereas Breaking Bad detailed the rise and fall of a good man turned criminal, this show seems to be about attempting to rise above the sleaze, about how to be your own person and make a name for yourself. That, of course, places us in interesting territory because this is a prequel to Breaking Bad; we know that Jimmy McGill will end up as the sleazy Saul Goodman, and while that certainly does take a bit of suspense out of the equation, that doesn’t mean the show can’t play with expectations a bit.

As an episode of television, “Uno” is nothing special, but it’s certainly beautifully shot throughout, and it delivers several entertaining and funny sequences to bookend the episode. The first one is by far the better of the two, and it’s a courtroom scene that consists of Jimmy’s closing being matched with a video clearly implicating his clients. Not only is it hilarious, but it’s also a scene that illustrates how much Jimmy seems to be fighting an uphill battle in his world. He’s a hard worker and he’s a smart individual, but the simple fact is that money’s what controls everything, no matter whether he likes it or not. Also, the image of the prosecutor standing next to the TV is one of the funniest images I’ve seen in a while.

Aside from that scene, “Uno” still stumbles a bit in the normal pilot problems arena, but I’m not worried about that; what I hope doesn’t happen, though, is for the show to rely too much on Breaking Bad nods to keep going. Sure, I’m fine with the show bringing back Tuco, but what I want to see is a new world created for these characters and these themes. I have complete trust in this fantastic creative team, but we’ll see what happens.

One thing’s for sure, though: we have a wonderful cast to keep us company. For now, Bob Odenkirk is obviously the one who makes the biggest first impression, and as the supporting characters are fleshed out, Jimmy will hopefully become an even more complex character. What’s key about his character right now is that Odenkirk imbues him not only with a sharp wit, but also with an endearing sense of humanity, with a general belief in the good of the world aside from money. For example, we see that all come to light in the excellent scene between him and his brother, Chuck (played by Michael McKean), one that is beautifully shot and is filled with a nice balance between pathos and mystery. This is perhaps Odenkirk’s best moment of the pilot, and Jimmy’s desire to help his brother is going to be one of the more intriguing storylines moving forward.

Ultimately, this is going to be a show about Saul Goodman pre-Breaking Bad, but at the same time, what happens post-Breaking Bad certainly informs some of what will occur in the series. After all, the opening scene of the episode shows us exactly what Saul predicted back in “Granite State”: “If I’m lucky, three months from now–best case scenario–I’m managing a Cinnabon in Omaha.” This is a funny series, but the opening scene is anything but. It’s shot in black and white, a key aesthetic decision that reflects the dull, robotic nature of his work, and the opening ends with Saul/Jimmy watching old “Better Call Saul” videos while sitting forlornly on his couch. It’s a beautiful scene, one that bridges past, present, and future as it paints the picture of a man who ended up not being able to build his own identity. It’s worth it to watch him try, though.

GRADE: B

OTHER THOUGHTS:

– “Tight, tight, tight,” say the skateboarders. “Silly kids,” responds Tuco.

-Kicking the trash can=paper towel dispenser of Walter White callback? Also, the dents suggest this is not the first time Jimmy’s taken out his anger on the poor can, and the moment between him and Kim is well done by both actors. We don’t quite know the extent of their relationship or of their characters at the moment, but that can be said about most elements of the show thus far. It’s taking its time to dole out information, which is good.

-Bryan Cranston gushing about Mad Men. Brilliant.

-Chuck has electromagnetic hypersensitivity.

-Jonathan Banks is wonderful, and although I really would like to see him and Odenkirk tackle more other shows, I’m looking forward to their dynamic here.

-I kind of already see that this might be a new Fargo for me: enjoyable week to week with great performances and beautiful visuals, but not something that I look forward to every week and something that I forget soon after I watch.

-Regular coverage is uncertain at this point. I’m a fan of having Mondays off from reviewing shows, but if I have enough to say about this one–I’m anticipating I won’t, to be honest–I might pick up the full season. If not, expect a few check-ins and a review of the finale.

Photo credit: AMC, Better Call Saul

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13 Responses to “Better Call Saul “Uno” Review (1×01)”

  1. tighttighttight February 9, 2015 at 1:17 am #

    Man, poor Saul in that opening scene. That dull, robotic work is not his style at all. I teared up.

    • Justin February 9, 2015 at 6:48 pm #

      Yeah, it was heartbreaking to watch Saul fall so far from his height as the CRIMINAL lawyer. His state of mind reminds of the one Walt was in at the beginning of Breaking Bad. Love how the opening scene was done in black and white to capture how drained and mind-numbingly routine Saul’s life has become.

      • polarbears16 February 9, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

        Yeah, this creative team has always had a great eye for visuals/directing/color/etc, and that was a great way to introduce us to the show and give a nod to Breaking Bad. When, say, Michelle MacLaren is directing (like tonight’s upcoming episode), it all looks even better.

  2. Matthew Thompson February 9, 2015 at 2:26 am #

    I enjoyed it. Not blown away, but it was pretty solid. I think I expected it to be funnier, but I think it picked up in that regard with the scenes involving the final scam. The opening scene was really cool too. Can’t wait for more Mike!

    • polarbears16 February 9, 2015 at 7:01 am #

      Yeah, those final scenes were pretty fun, and the opening was really well put together. Looking forward to more Mike, too; Jonathan Banks could read the phone book and he’d still be great.

  3. JustMeMike February 9, 2015 at 7:09 pm #

    PB, You liked it far better than I did. I will try to see the next episode later tonight. So for Jimmy McGill to become Saul Goodman and then a Cinnebon Manager must mean that a disbarment is somewhere in the mix. Or maybe it is a witness protection thing.

    Or was that included in Breaking Bad?.

    • Flemming Erik Carlson February 13, 2015 at 1:57 am #

      I believe it was included into Breaking Bad just the info of him changing his name, we don’t know why. But it’s gonna be fun to find out. I’m ready for more episodes!!

  4. Mel February 9, 2015 at 8:30 pm #

    I absolutely loved this first episode. From the paranoid mall worker that he becomes after BB to the sleazy defense lawyer with one major client, his father. And Bob Odenkirk’s acting. This is origin story and possibly (if they continue flashing forward to “witness protection” Saul) his ending. I’m psyched. It isn’t played for comedy. His life in both timelines is screwed. It is Saul’s nature to laugh everything off. To make a joke. I’m glad it is not a comedy. But a tragedy with a very funny dude at the center. Bob Odenkirk will probably get an Emmy.

  5. sarah9461 February 10, 2015 at 1:56 pm #

    Episode 2 was better than Uno.

    • polarbears16 February 10, 2015 at 3:22 pm #

      Good to hear! Will watch ASAP.

      • sarah9461 February 11, 2015 at 8:06 am #

        Yes, it was LOL funny. Of course, my husband is a lawyer, so he loves “Better call Saul.”

  6. #peggyatthemovies February 25, 2015 at 8:52 pm #

    What you noted here kinda summed it up for me..”-I kind of already see that this might be a new Fargo for me: enjoyable week to week with great performances and beautiful visuals, but not something that I look forward to every week and something that I forget soon after I watch.” I’ve watched all the eps. but haven’t been overwhelmed by it, aka it’s no Breaking Bad.. but then nothing ever will be. It’s watchable & somewhat enjoyable so far. I’m still watching and it’s the 4th eps. so it’s not all bad.. (pun intended) ha!

  7. sarah9461 March 11, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

    Polar Bear, please tell me you watched Monday’s night’s episode – the story of “Mike,” and Jonathan Banks at his best.

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