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Better Call Saul: Season 2, Episode 3 - "Amarillo"

Sean Fennell

In a slow, but narratively important, episode, Jimmy take a big risk in order woo clients, while Mike does his best to protect his daughter-in-law.

Better Call Saul

Airtime: Mondays, 10pm
Cast: Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn, Jonathan Banks
Subtitle: Season 2, Episode 3 - "Amarillo"
Network: AMC
Air Date: 2016-02-29

No one’s ever complained that AMC’s Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul is too interested in the minutiae of mid-level southwest law practice, but "Amarillo" may be its most nuts-and-bolts episode to date. That being said, it’s all in keeping with the goal of nudging Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) ever closer to his eventual transformation, the one that results in him loudly reminding viewers to consider justice, and consultations from the closest television set.

This week’s episode opens in Texas as Jimmy continues to perform his duties as head of client outreach, albeit in a very singularly Jimmy manner. Dressed in a ten-gallon hat, cream-colored suit, bolo tie, and some rough leather brown boots Jimmy enters a bus full of Sand Piper residents on their way to a local early bird special.

Fast-talking and congenial as ever, Jimmy quickly woos the bus with his metaphor of over-charged buttermilk biscuits, placing himself as the helpful nephew who sets it right. The old folks on the bus are mesmerized, eager, and excited to fill out Jimmy’s forms and become clients of the helpful and benevolent people at Davis & Main.

Clifford Main (Ed Begley Jr.), ever the Jimmy supporter, is quick heap the compliments on him for the impressive haul. Nearly as quick, it turns out, as Chuck (Michael McKean) is to call into question just how Jimmy was able to increase the client pool so quickly. Chuck may have reason to be wary, considering Jimmy’s techniques do lean a little too generously toward solicitation than is likely smart in such a high-profile case, but if anyone has become the big bad on Better Call Saul, it's Jimmy’s scheming, jealous, and always questioning big brother.

One character who'll likely never become one of the bad guys -- although on a Vince Gilligan show, no one's necessarily safe -- is Kim (Rhea Seehorn). She admonishes Jimmy for whatever went down in Texas, reminding him once again that this kind of rule-bending could lead to disbarment. She even goes a step further, reminding him just how far she stuck her neck out for him, and how much they both stand to lose if he can’t play by the rules.

"We both know you can do this job," she assures Jimmy with the confidence that makes her such an attractive character. "Just please do it right."

Filled with this new-found confidence, Jimmy sets in motion a plan that'll inform his persona until the fateful day he meets Walter White (Bryan Cranston). Determined to do everything above board, Jimmy decides his next plan of attack for client outreach will be to make a commercial and throw it right after the first act of Murder, She Wrote: the perfect time-slot for the throngs of elderly fans he wishes to get in on the class-action lawsuit.

The resulting commercial, which he shoots with the local film students from season one, is predictably campy as well as awesomely on-point. It's an ad we’ve all seen on late night television: an elderly women looking forlorn, a voiceover talking about dead husbands and lost nest eggs, all culminating in the voice of the angel of justice himself, Jimmy, telling you exactly who to call to recoup the money stolen by the nefarious people of Sand Piper Reality.

The ad’s a hit and Jimmy is soon rolling in clients from the previously untapped market in Colorado Springs. The only problem is, he didn’t exactly get permission run said ad. Jimmy clearly lives by the adage, "It’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission", assuming the spike in clientele will smooth over any unfortunate artistic differences Main and team will have with the commercial in question.

Not so much. Again, Jimmy's sense of accomplishment is short-lived, after he receives a call from Main just as he and Kim are celebrating his successful foray into the advertising world. Main has yet to even see the ad, but the simple fact that Jimmy failed to get a confirmation has left him angrier than we have seen thus far, reaming Jimmy out on the phone before setting up a meeting with all the partners in the morning. Not the best sign for Jimmy’s future at Davis & Main.

Our other protagonist, Mike (Jonathan Banks), is facing similar uncertainty about his future. Now decidedly done with Mr. Wormald (Mark Proksch), Mike's searching for more work with the help of his seedy veterinarian buddy. First, though, he does a little unpaid freelancing after his daughter-in-law Stacey (Kerry Condon) complains of hearing gunshots around her neighborhood at night. Mike’s stakeout, one he acts out unbeknownst to Stacey, results in nothing; the only alarming sound turns out to be nothing but the thud of a fresh Albuquerque Journal smacking the front walk.

Mike’s relieved until Stacey calls him in a panic, telling him that she once again heard gunshots; she believes a chip in the outer wall of her home was caused by a ricocheting bullet. It’s here that Banks does a great job of expressing, non-verbally, his shift from fear for his daughter-in-law's safety, to fear for her sanity in the face of her obviously overwhelming anxiety. From what we learned last season, Stacey does have good reason to worry, but that doesn’t mean her paranoia won’t put her and her daughter at risk if unchecked.

Despite his misgivings, Mike agrees to help get Stacey out of her neighborhood and into a safer home. The only problem? His meager security guard/parking-sticker czar salary will obviously not foot the bill for a brand new home. Thus, Mike is thrown back into New Mexico’s seedy underworld by way of our unnamed veterinarian. Mike wants some bigger jobs, but also doesn’t want to break arms or play intimidator for a loan shark, making it difficult for him to make any real money. That is, until the vet gets a call from a client who asks for Mike directly, offering the kind of big job he’s looking for. Mike shows up not knowing exactly who this mystery client is, but the list of suspects is not long. It ultimately turns out to be who you’d most expect: Nacho Varga (Michael Mando), in need of someone to help make an enemy go away, one of Mike’s specialties.

Better Call Saul has one defining characteristic that makes it different from any other prestige drama currently on television; it has an end point. We know that Jimmy will one day become Saul (partnering with Walter White) who’ll one day become Gene and live out his days in Omaha. The show's central mystery is not the destination; it's the journey. This means that Gilligan and team often narrow their focus so acutely to elucidate every minute change, push, and pull.

This may lead to some episodes where very little actually happens, as is the case with "Amarillo", but that doesn't mean it’s not worthwhile. After Jimmy McGill's arc is complete and we take a step back, "Amarillo" won’t be an essential or even a great episode. The beauty of a show that takes its time to get where it's going is that journey, making each moment as indispensable as the last.


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