NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Better Call Saul” are present in this review
With the big legal face-off between Jimmy and Chuck now being complete, resulting in likely Season Three’s best episode to date last week, Better Call Saul focused on exploring the aftermath of those events in this week’s episode. “Off Brand” started to bring out the long-awaited dark side of Jimmy in a whole new way this week, at least for those who aren’t already familiar with where this character goes by the events of Breaking Bad, while an equally strong subplot unfolds through the growing animosity between Hector and Fring.
Mike also showed up periodically in this episode, though he wasn’t really put to much use in this particular offering. Instead, Mike was allowed to take something of a breather, attending grief counseling with his daughter-in-law, while also agreeing to take on more civilian-friendly work. This feels like something that’s likely going to end in tragedy later, but for now, it’s sort of nice to get Mike out of the frying pan for a bit, without immediately depositing him into the fire with Fring. That said though, the Mike scenes did feel a bit like filler, and didn’t necessarily need to be here, considering that the episode had plenty of other key developments to chew on.
What were those developments, specifically? Well, the primary storyline of the episode naturally explores what happens after Chuck’s attempts to sic the bar on Jimmy are over. Jimmy isn’t disbarred in the end, which is going to be very predictable to Breaking Bad fans, though he does nonetheless lose his law license for a year. This forces Jimmy to suspend his clients and his practice, while Kim grills him about how they’re going to keep their joint office open. It really does seem like Jimmy is in a bind, since he doesn’t want to give up the honest practice that he worked so hard to build, though I suppose it’s fair enough when he says that Kim can harass him about the office when he stops showing up with his half of the rent.
Even so though, what is Jimmy going to do while he can’t practice law? Well, when he fails to offload his ad time that he originally purchased for his law practice ads, which he can obviously no longer run, he decides to try and sell the time to small businesses. When that fails, he then comes up with another idea, whereupon he’ll make an advertisement about advertising. This is a legitimately clever loophole that once again effectively taps into how resourceful Jimmy can truly be when his back is against the wall. He even makes a manic commercial that he shows to Kim at the end of the episode, though also with a hastily thrown-together disguise to avoid casting doubt on his future return to the law. This comes complete with operating under a pseudonym, and if you’re a Breaking Bad fan, then you already know what that pseudonym is; Saul Goodman!
This is the first time that Jimmy has made use of the alternate ‘Saul Goodman’ identity, and seems to signal his proper descent into darkness, motivated by Chuck ironically trying to set him straight. Speaking of Chuck, he was also the focus of another subplot, as he starts hiding from Rebecca (though eventually meets with Howard for a bit), and eventually tries to start pushing his electromagnetic sensitivity symptoms by holding batteries and venturing outside. It’s effectively dramatic and gripping to see just how much Jimmy’s defense has rattled Chuck, who is now determined to overcome his alleged disability. Both of the McGill brothers are more desperate than ever to rise above increasingly difficult circumstances, and this seems to be tragically pitting them on the path to destroying each other.
Speaking of that all-too-important tragic path, Nacho was the subject of the remaining subplot, as Hector starts pushing him to take more supply from Fring’s business. Fring is letting it go for now, but you can tell that he’s starting to get very suspicious of Hector’s unprofessionalism. Seeing Nacho caught between these two powerful forces certainly seems to spell trouble for him later, and might also explain why he’s not around during the events of Breaking Bad. Also, on one last note regarding this subplot, it was also awesome to see Fring get into a car that happened to be being driven by Lydia, another familiar face from Breaking Bad. Could she be entering the ongoing drug-fueled cold war between Hector and Fring soon?
“Off Brand” is effectively getting the back half of Better Call Saul’s third season off to a strong start, as characters begin moving towards new tragic destinations, in the wake of Jimmy’s year-long suspension, and Chuck’s supposed legal ‘victory’. The growing rivalry between Hector and Fring is also proving to be compelling, especially when it looks like Nacho is somehow going to be an important casualty from it. Most exciting of all though is Jimmy finally pioneering his future identity as Saul Goodman, even if it’s simply as a goofy advertising personality for now. As usual though, what should prove most exciting about these developments is how they will lead to shocking and unexpected consequences down the line.
- Jimmy pioneering his Saul Goodman identity in a surprising way
- Chuck working to push himself beyond his supposed limits
- Nacho getting caught in the middle of Hector's and Fring's conflict
- Mike's scenes feel a bit too much like filler
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