Title: Better Call Saul: “Gloves Off”
Airdate: March 7th, 2016
Genre: Crime, Drama, Comedy
Better Call Saul has always been a series that focused more on the smaller moments in life rather than the grandiose epic that was Breaking Bad. Thankfully this works largely to this series’ benefit, as it allows us a more intimate look into the characters and what pushes them to who they become later in life. (We will get back to this point later.) “Gloves Off” was very much about showcasing small cracks in our main characters, teasing us with possible turning points throughout. While a few small issues crept up, overall tonight was a largely successful episode.
First off before we jump into the major arcs, can we talk about Supernatural’s Jim Beaver appearing once more? You have to hand it to Better Call Saul for the consistency they keep to both the world and character’s around them. Though he only appeared in two or three episodes of Breaking Bad, it’s nice to see the gun dealer Lawson appear once again to sell some more tools of destruction. This is a character I would love to see him become a full cast member in future seasons.
Getting back to the more important narrative arcs this week, it’s good to see that Mike (Jonathan Banks) is still getting much-needed development. Mike has always been an interesting character to watch progress due to him ending up a pretty cold guy down the road. That has been one of the best strengths of this series as we know just how bad and eventually what happens to Mike later down the road. Seeing how far he still had yet to fall only illustrates the fantastic writing and story he has received. His interactions with Nacho (Michael Mando) all had signs pointing to this being the tipping point for Mike, yet in there was fantastic misdirection throughout. As simple as he may appear, Mike’s complexity as to why he would rather get beat up than just shoot someone is fascinating to watch. He hides his emotions and to a fair point everything from both us and world letting it unfold more organically to the viewers.
Speaking of getting beat up, it’s always awesome to see Tuco (Raymond Cruz) show up once more to add much-needed levity and tension to the series. Though he has only appeared in three episodes so far, Tuco is probably the least changed over time. That’s not to say Nacho willing to off Tuco for the sake of his own safety and business was surprising because it’s truthfully amazing how anyone would consider him a good person to work with. I am, however, slightly divided on Tuco in the show at all. On one hand, he does serve as a needed connection to the future series Breaking Bad, but his zany unhinged personalities almost undermine the series. All-in-all Better Call Saul has not been filled with extensively colorful characters that are quite over the top…Yet. In a way, Tuco feels like he more belongs down the line when Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) becomes Saul not before.
Jimmy certainly had some interesting twists and turns this week, as he was seemingly confronted by everyone his knows! While I understand why Davis & Main would be annoyed he made a commercial without their consent, I found myself on Jimmy’s side. He showed results, which really is the only thing that should matter when trying to win a case, right? It’s nice to see that Jimmy cannot talk his way out of everything, regardless of how much of a silver tongue he may have. While I do agree with the initiative, it was also great to see that even the great Jimmy McGill cannot win everything. Including apparently Kim (Rhea Seehorn,) who was more than willing to let things go between them if he went to Howard (Patrick Fabian.) This was the other issue I had with “Gloves Off” as Kim just willing to end it with Jimmy felt rushed. If anything has been clear this season so far, it’s how much Kim and Jimmy care about each other. Yes, Jimmy lied to her but Kim’s choice felt irrational and a little bit forced in order to progress the story.
The confrontation between Chuck (Michael McKean) and Jimmy was by far the highlight of this week. Having the fight follow Jimmy spending the night with Chuck to make sure he was okay only added to the clear emotional disconnect they have. If anything has been clear about Jimmy is despite his methods, he truly loves Chuck. Even if the feeling from his own brother might not be the same sometimes. Seeing Jimmy try his hardest to push Chuck into just giving in and firing Jimmy for Kim was glorious. There were moments when it was unclear what exactly he would choose, which only showcased how divisive these two really are. Chuck and Jimmy couldn’t be more different, yet even when given a choice to fire his brother (a man he believes is a joke of a lawyer!) he cannot. Though the nod to Jimmy eventually changing his name to Saul was a nice touch, but it only makes me wonder what will be Jimmy’s tipping point.
Overall, Better Call Saul delivered another fantastic episode and continues its hot streak. With some amazing moments for series staples Mike and Jimmy, it only begs the question as to what will truly make these men go over the brink. “Gloves Off” was just that, a full blown attack both emotionally and physically for both characters. Going into next week we are still left with the “Why?” as to Mike’s choice, but something tells me we may need to wait a bit longer to find out.
- Characters: This week saw some fantastic development for both Mike and Saul, offering some hard hitting moments. (Literally in Mike’s case!) While Kim and Chuck also had some great sections, Tuco was the only odd man out. Coming off as a bit too cartoonish and overblown for this series tone.
- Cinematography: Just like Breaking Bad, the beautiful shots, use of color, and design have always brought this rich world to life.
- Story: With the focus more on teasing us with how exactly Jimmy and Mike may end up in the future, it was a great way to progress the narrative further. While Jimmy’s was a bit stronger than Mike’s, overall both arcs this episode were exceptionally well crafted.
- Acting: Odenkirk and Banks churn out more stellar performances that the series has come to be known for. Though seriously AMC….Can you guys bring Jim Beaver back more? I find his character almost as fascinating as Nacho or Hank.
- Mike's Story Arc
- Chuck's Relationship With Jimmy
- Jim Beaver's Gun Seller
- Fantastic Art Direction
- Tuco Still Feels Out Of Place
- Kim's Choice Felt Rushed
A recent graduate of Arcadia University, Collin MacGregor is a freelance video editor and writer. He covers video games, television, and film for The Nerd Stash. Collin currently is the head film/television reviewer for the site.