Better Call Saul 1.03: Nacho
After an encouraging opening salvo last week, it was time for the true test of Better Call Saul's mettle - having delivered a strong introduction to Jimmy McGill's world in the first two episodes, the prequel was faced with proving how it could handle itself on a week-by-week basis. Did episode three, Nacho, keep the standards up?
Nacho continued on from the titular character’s promise last week that he would raid the Kettlemans’ embezzled cash – and soon enough, the family’s house was found ransacked and empty… except Nacho himself was actually innocent. The episode centred around Jimmy’s efforts to clear Nacho’s name – and while the pace was still a little on the slow side (though slow-burning drama from the makers of Breaking Bad is as entertaining as most action programmes), it was encouraging to see a more observant and competent side of the lawyer emerge as he figured out the real reason the Kettlemans had left the house. As before, Bob Odenkirk continues to nail the role of Jimmy – effectively conveying the character’s desperation to vindicate Nacho while delivering the comedic moments he proved so strong at pulling off in Breaking Bad (the ‘Here’s Johnny!’ scene at the end of the episode was perhaps the show’s highlight so far). The character trajectories of Walter White and Jimmy may look similar at first glance (from do-good civilian to criminal), it's intriguing to see the vast differences in the two leads emerge as the spinoff unfolds.
Besides Jimmy and Chuck, the first two episodes were light on complex characters – but episode three managed to flesh out a few of the show’s supporting characters. Fellow lawyer Kim was briefly glimpsed last week, but stepped into the spotlight here as she helped Jimmy solve the murder – and while her role as something of a long-suffering ally isn’t entirely original, Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn displayed an amusing dynamic here that will be enjoyable to see unfold over the course of the ten episodes. Nacho, though locked up for the whole of the episode, also remains a measured yet sinister presence thanks to Michael Mando’s quietly intimidating performance – he may not possess the all-out insanity Tuco has, but it’s clear that Nacho is a formidable antagonist for Jimmy.
After last week’s outing with Tuco, episode three saw another old face step into the spotlight – future associate of Walter White’s and current parking attendant, Mike. Mike’s appearances in episodes one and two were fleeting, so to see Mike step into the fray to help Jimmy here was great fun to watch. Jonathan Banks has perfected the role by now, and to see Mike’s skills he acquired as a former cop in action marked a nostalgic throwback to Breaking Bad (though Mike was used just sparingly enough to let Better Call Saul’s original characters flourish) without feeling like a pale imitation of the parent show.
Nacho was another very strong episode for a series that’s been as good as this reviewer had hoped for – there may have been some trepidation beforehand, but with these first three episodes, the Breaking Bad spinoff has more than proved its worth.