If anything defines Better Call Saul, it’s work. In any given episode you can bank on extended sequences of Mike, Kim, Jimmy, and/or Nacho putting in the hours to pull off some elaborate stunt or grueling legal procedure, underpinning every one of the show’s flashier moments with a ground-level view of how it came about. ‘Namaste,’ for example, opens with Jimmy perusing a junk shop, weighing object after object in his hands for minutes on end before settling on a trio of unremarkable bowling balls. The reason for the scene, shown out of sequence with the rest of the episode’s timeline, isn’t made apparent until over half an hour later.
Speaking chronologically, the episode’s other “first” scene covers the aftermath of Kim and Jimmy throwing beer bottles from their balcony at the end of last week’s ‘The Guy for This.’ The two lawyers walk across their building’s parking lot through fields of glittering broken glass. Jimmy tells Kim not to sweat it, that the building management will clean it up. She agrees, then stays behind to sweep the glittering shards into the trash. No shining “fuck you” moment comes without a price, and not paying it means passing it on to the next poor shmuck to happen along, floating your part of the quotient of human misery as Jimmy does when he tells his scumbag clients to hit up their grandparents for the money to cover his fees.
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Jimmy’s bizarre overture to Mr. Acker, the stubborn tenant of the land Kim’s employers at Mesa Verde want to snatch up, is more such leg-work, beginning with Jimmy somehow using a picture of a man fucking a horse to convince the guy to become his client. Other shows might skip from Kim’s guilty conscience to Jimmy representing Acker in court, but Better Call Saul makes a meal of its procedural elements, stretching each one out into its own quiet, visually engrossing vignette. This decompressed storytelling technique gives audiences plenty of time to linger on the little things.
The junk shop’s cluttered labyrinth of an interior, pierced by dusty shafts of light. The pristine post-lunch-rush emptiness of Howard’s favorite restaurant where he meets Jimmy to offer the younger man a job. The floodlit culvert beside which Hank and Gomez sit in their darkened SUV, discussing the probable etymology of the geological feature. It’s a show of meaningful silences and expansive tone, letting each of its overlapping stories unfold at its own pace while it builds a slow, inexorable sense of tension. You’re never quite sure which scene of characters rifling through paperwork or driving along deserted streets is going to take the sudden, vicious turn we all know waits at the end of Jimmy’s journey.