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Better Call Saul Episode 4 Review – “Hero”
Some spoilers for Episode 4 ahead.
In a scene in Monday night’s exciting new episode, Jimmy describes the battle with his new enemy as being “like David vs Goliath.” At least Jimmy knows he’s the underdog and like David he reckons he can defeat his new-found enemy. But Jimmy doesn’t use a smooth rock and hurl it into Goliath’s forehead nor does he use the power of God. No, Jimmy uses the power of wit.
This clever fourth episode (Hero) sees Jimmy becoming his own hero as he takes on a more personal conflict that sees him move away from trying to outsmart Mexican drug cartels, to trying to defeat the smarmy and highly successful Howard Hamlin of Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill law firm (quite a mouthful). This episode illustrates why we love watching Jimmy so much even though, on paper, his character is grayer than the skies of England.
The episode kicks off with another flashback to the mullet haired street hustling Jimmy. It’s another peek into the very different person we know him as in the present day, and like last week’s prologue it has significance in more ways than one. The scene sees Jimmy and a flatmate con a man out of $500 using fake money and a fake Rolex. It’s not much of a revelation in terms of character development but it showcases why, perhaps, in the present day, Jimmy can relate to these street hustlers and why he always finds himself representing them or, as the Kettlemans put it: “You’re the kind of guy who represents guilty people.” At first it seemed that Jimmy and his ‘friend’ just wanted to mug a rich drunken guy, but when you find out the drunken guy and Jimmy were scamming this ‘friend’ you realize it was a classic rug pull, which foreshadows the whole episode.
This fourth episode was also foreshadowed by the prologue last week when we saw that Jimmy was once in jail and Chuck was the highly successful lawyer. We got a glimpse of Jimmy’s true motivation as to why, in present the day, he wants to become successful and prove all the doubters wrong. Both these prologue scenes pay off this episode as we see why and how Jimmy thinks.
After the opening credits we’re back to the present day. Jimmy is facing a bribe from the Kettlemans to keep their little money scheme ‘hush hush’, but this isn’t street hustler Jimmy anymore. His jail time has set his mind for the straight life; but the bribe is too tempting, you can see Odenkirk making Jimmy’s eyes twitch, as Jimmy starts to see opportunity and once slippin’ Jimmy … always slippin’ Jimmy.
Jimmy could so easily have turned down the money and gone to a boring law firm and worked his way up like an average Joe. But the prologue scene’s influence becomes relevant as to why he now takes the money. Jimmy’s inner motivation is to become a highly successful lawyer like his brother and to prove that Howard Hamlin was wrong to brush him of when he tried to get work there. The money is the first step to taking Hamlin and his firm on, but Jimmy won’t do that by knuckling down and rising in another law firm, no that’s too passive; Jimmy beckons the street hustler within him and devises a big scam that creates some great moments between him and Howard Hamlin.
The chemistry between Patrick Fabian as Hamlin and Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy really combines well as this yarn unfolds. They rub each other the wrong way, but never full on argue, and it’s what they don’t say, and the expressions on their faces, that make this conflict so enjoyable.
The idea of Jimmy copying Hamlin’s firm by getting a suit and hair to match Hamlin allows for a more comedy-centric episode. The argument over font size and color scheme is the standout squabble between Hamlin and Jimmy. The billboard scene where Jimmy becomes the local hero uses a modern-day truth of how people love an everyday person performing an immense act of bravery. The episode got bigger and funnier as it went on, and while this was a change of pace from the last three more drama-centered episodes, this episode will have the biggest consequences: the good times will end for Jimmy, and that is mainly his own fault.
If you think about it, Jimmy is extremely gray and he always has been. There’s no doubt he’s particularly good fun to watch; however when he sees opportunity he gets carried away; he jumps without weighing who it will affect and then performs his acts with no moral compass. That’s why Jimmy will never be out of conflict, because he defeats one enemy like Howard Hamlin, but a new one arises out of his actions i.e. Chuck.
Chuck was the victim of Jimmy’s moral actions this week. Jimmy never thought through what his actions would mean for his ‘ill’ and paranoid older brother when he took on Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill. Only when he comes to visit Chuck at the end do we see a realization on Jimmy’s face that morally his actions may have been naïve. As always though, Jimmy’s actions result in a brilliantly written scene which topped off this knock about, more comedic episode.
Chuck’s point-of-view shot was a great choice to show how the fear of the outside world is a seemingly dangerous place for him. The ray of bright sunlight, the strange electronic noises he hears as he runs in his space blanket and looks up at the telephone lines is imaginatively directed by Colin Bucksey. Chuck’s paranoia quickly turns into sheer laughter when the POV changes to an elderly lady looking out the window at Chuck in his space jacket. The comedic scene quickly transitions into apprehension though, because Chuck now knows Jimmy’s been lying to him. Now the conflict is getting even more personal with Chuck involved. We’ll soon find out if Chuck’s illness is real or in his head, because he’s going to have to take action now that Jimmy is taking on his firm.
This episode showcased why Jimmy is not a very good person on paper, with his immoral actions, but it also proved why he is likable in other respects. His motivation and will to topple dishonest foes and backstabbers, whilst at the same time trying to achieve greatness, is something which makes Jimmy worth rooting for. Also, his quick thinking under pressure keeps the audience watching to see what he comes up with next. But it’s going to be hard to beat this week’s billboard trick.
It was also a relief this week to see a conflict that was not about cops and drug cartels. It was a personal conflict that showed what drives Jimmy to prove naysayers wrong.
Overall a great episode foreshadowed beautifully by the rug pull prequel scene. While going on to set up some big conflicts that will unfold in the weeks to come.
Make sure you tune in next Monday for the fifth episode of Better Call Saul – “Alpine Shepherd Boy” as alarming news disrupts Jimmy’s efforts at drumming up new business.