NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of Better Call Saul are present in this review.
While Better Call Saul aired its pilot episode the day before, it will actually air on AMC’s Monday night timeslot, albeit still at 10 P.M. EST. This proved to be a very smart tactic, as the massive viewership behind The Walking Dead, returning for its midseason premiere this past Sunday, shattered ratings records for Better Call Saul‘s pilot, and helped to kick off a two-night event, with the second episode of the series airing in the proper timeslot the next day.
Appropriately, “Mijo” picks up immediately where the pilot left off as well. Jimmy is yanked into the house of unstable drug lord, Tuco, who has captured and bound Jimmy’s accomplices in the botched grift attempt. After Tuco doesn’t take kindly to the news that Jimmy and his accomplices were trying to con his grandmother, the three are driven out into the desert, and Jimmy is left to plead for all of their lives.
This kicks off the episode with a superb baptism-by-fire for the future Saul Goodman, whose argument will decide the fates of the three men. It doesn’t take long for Jimmy to talk his way out of his own death, but he has a much harder time convincing Tuco that the two skateboarders deserve to live. After a lengthy scene where Tuco announces several grisly deaths that he is debating for the accomplices, Jimmy eventually negotiates a single broken leg for each skateboarder. He then must watch Tuco break the legs of both men, before everyone can be transported back to town, with only Jimmy escaping unharmed.
The next scene really hammers home another glimmer of Jimmy’s future as Saul Goodman as well. As one of the skateboarders screams at Jimmy that he’s a terrible lawyer, Jimmy offers the rebuttal that he got them a single broken leg from a very bloodthirsty drug dealer, and that makes him a great lawyer. Well played, Jimmy.
As with the early days of Walter White however, we see the toll that the violence takes on him pretty quickly, under similarly accidental circumstances. While Jimmy attempts to chat up a woman in a bar, he can’t escape the sound of people breaking breadsticks. Escaping to the bathroom and eventually vomiting, Jimmy tries to see through the rest of his evening, ultimately collapsing on his brother’s couch in a drunken stupor, with no pants and no car. It would no doubt embarrass Saul Goodman, but for Jimmy McGill, it makes sense, considering that he hasn’t yet entered the world of criminal violence.
In the next scene, we learn that Jimmy’s brother claims to have electromagnetic hypersensitivity, i.e. a severe aversion to cellphones for example, which leads to him tossing Jimmy’s phone outside with a pair of tongs, and subsequently wrapping himself tightly in a space blanket. It’s not a scene that has any bearing on the story at this point, but it helps to give both Jimmy and his brother a sense of dysfunctional character. Jimmy’s brother also reveals that Jimmy had a history of scamming people when he was younger as, “Slippin’ Jimmy”, and correctly suspects that Jimmy is starting to slip back into his old ways.
The past indeed catches up with Jimmy, as one of Tuco’s associates comes into his office, inquiring more about the prospective clients that Jimmy was attempting to scam. Apparently, he has even bigger plans for them, and if Jimmy assists, he’ll get a sizeable cut of $100,000. This does veer more into Breaking Bad territory, with desperation pushing a man into criminal activity, but there’s still some distinction, as Jimmy initially turns down the offer. The man tells Jimmy to think on it however, and leaves a number, telling Jimmy that he’ll be killed if he utters a word of what’s going on to anyone. Thus, the slippery slope to the world of Saul Goodman begins…
“Mijo” is a sophomore episode that effectively piggy-backed off of the pilot, no longer burdened by initial establishment, and wasting no time laying the groundwork for Jimmy’s actual descent into criminal law as Saul Goodman. It was very well-paced, exceptionally directed, and Bob Odenkirk is still a wonderful leading man, not facing any growing pains at all from the move from being a supporting character in Breaking Bad. Even better than the pilot episode, “Mijo” continues to demonstrate that Better Call Saul can easily stand on its own, as an equal re-imagining of the universe that Breaking Bad started, and certainly not a lesser consolation prize for Walter White’s tragic end.
- Excellent direction and pace
- Jimmy having to argue for the lives of him and his grifters
- Great character given to Jimmy and his brother's interaction