How much stress can one man take? How far down must he fall before he throws in the towel and embraces that darker side of himself, the one we all have within us? In “Smoke”, Jimmy truly begins that journey, the one that has been coming through three seasons, and it’s in the ashes of his now deceased brother Chuck (literally) that Saul Goodman begins to rise.
Already reeling from Chuck’s revelation of just what he thought of him in season three, Jimmy must now also deal with his death, something that he indirectly had a hand in. Watching Bob Odenkirk play the myriad of emotions fighting their way out of Jimmy right now is truly something to behold. The scary thing is Rhea Seehorn (Kim Wexler) is even better, showing true range in both verbal intensity and quiet moments that make one wonder just how she has yet to win an Emmy.
These two play off each other so well, in so many different ways, that watching how they both deal with the death of Chuck and the immediate aftermath is something to behold. Jimmy is feeling the range of emotion anyone would feel in the death of one’s brother but because of their complicated relationship and recent falling out, this seems even harder to deal with. You can literally see the range of emotions playing out on Jimmy’s face, a credit to Odenkirk and his ability to play this character so well. Kim is frustrated, both in her ability to help Jimmy and in terms of reconciling her own personal feelings about Chuck and the brother’s strange relationship.
Meanwhile. Mike new role at Madrigal is not exactly what it seems and being the man he is, he takes matters into his own hands. Jonathan Banks chews up every scene he’s in with gleeful abandon, and it looks like the actor is enjoying every minute of it. It is interesting to see what he does to grab the attention of his ‘boss’ and while this might not have worked in some shows he pulls it off brilliantly here.
We also get to witness Gus Fring take some more small steps towards his eventual rise to power. Giancarlo Esposito still has the killer stare and Fring has some moments in this episode that are a great combination of calm and evil. While he might not be as important as other things going on at the moment, he is still a force to be reckoned with.
As always, the writing is superb, giving so many characters wonderful lines and moments that I guess they have come to expect right now. Gilligan, Gould and the writers have created such a rich environment in which to work, the actors much think they have died and gone to heaven. As we’ve seen through the first three seasons and the season four premiere, the actors are up for the challenge.
The show makes no apologies in the fact there are two stories to follow, which is Jimmy’s transformation into Saul and Mike working his way up the food chain, which happens to be on a collision course with Gus. It is amazing to watch because both storylines are so powerful, filled with such great acting and moments, that I don’t know of any other show that has pulled this off besides Breaking Bad. I guess the comparisons between Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul will always be there and I am not ashamed to admit I do it on a regular basis. I find it amazing to say the Better Call Saul has almost reached that pinnacle that Breaking Bad reached, something I thought was unreachable.
“Smoke” was full of sublime quiet tension and an excellent start to what looks to be another fantastic season of Better Call Saul.
Four and a half stars out of five
- Acting is again top notch
- Writing is subtle and sublime
- Rhea Seehorn and Bob Odenkirk and magic together
- Slow burn feel of the episode makes it feel far too short (seriously, I had to really reach for a negative)