Better Call Saul 1.04: Hero

When we met Saul back in season two of Breaking Bad, he was introduced as a ‘criminal lawyer’ – a sleazy, corrupt attorney fully comfortable with his dabblings into the criminal underworld – but the Jimmy McGill we’ve seen thus far has been a fairly moral person, more inclined to do the right thing rather than the thing that will bring him the most money. But how long can Jimmy stay Jimmy, before he gets pulled under into the world of criminality and corruption?

This week’s episode, Hero, began with a fun flashback showing Jimmy back in his conman ‘Slippin’ Jimmy’ days, stealing money from a dumb local crook in a very clever con – and the idea of Slippin’ Jimmy resonated throughout the episode, as Jimmy began to slip back into his old conman ways. If that sounds a little introspective and grim to you, Better Call Saul is here to subvert that – Hero was the funniest episode yet, with Jimmy’s attempts to one-up his former employer Hamlin genuinely funny in their seeming pettiness, and his ‘creative accounting’ to justify his sudden influx of cash (read, bribe) showing a light-hearted but subtly dark look at Jimmy’s more amoral side emerging. This lightness of touch kept the episode entertaining and breezy despite the lack of action – if the previous episodes could occasionally feel a tad stodgy at points, Hero avoids that problem and keeps the entertainment factor up from start to finish.

Likewise, the renewed focus on Jimmy as an underdog fighting against ‘the man’ is a smart move, allowing viewers to root for him despite his beginning slide into moral muddiness by pitting him against a far larger villain in something of a David v Goliath story. The central con involving a billboard and a convenient rescue from Jimmy was an example of how this new focus works rather well – Jimmy has very little at his disposal, and must rely solely on his wits to climb up the ladder of the legal world. When he counts out his small pile of cash and says ‘On this rock, I will build my church’, it’s clear that Jimmy’s road to becoming Saul Goodman, criminal lawyer won’t be an easy one – but thankfully for the viewers, a difficult journey fraught with difficulties and battles against those larger than Jimmy is an awful lot of fun to watch.

In addition to this, we had a great stylized sequence to set up some intriguing conflict later on down the line – as Jimmy’s ill brother Chuck makes a rare and terrifying journey outside to recover a paper exalting Jimmy’s ‘heroics’ with the billboard. It’s a terrifically directed sequence, allowing the viewer to peek into Chuck’s very different point of view in a sequence that’s both faintly amusing (a shot of a neighbour looking in on confusion at the bizarre image of Chuck scampering back to his house covered in his foil ‘space blanket’) and utterly disorientating (the shaking, juddering camerawork and the buzzing of the power lines) – a visually striking highlight, it’s the sort of well-directed sequence that Breaking Bad was famous for.

Hero saw Jimmy embrace his identity as ‘the kind of lawyer guilty people hire’ – a major step in the evolution we’ll see unfold throughout this series – and while seeing Jimmy as a more morally righteous and down-on-his-luck individual in the first couple of episodes was interesting, his change this episode into a slightly seedier lawyer getting by on his wits is most welcome. Whatever happens next, this reviewer can’t wait for more.

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