“Better Call Saul” Sn1 Ep3 “Nacho”

With this episode “Better Call Saul” is doing exactly what I hoped it would, creating a voice of its own unique enough so that those viewers, like me, unfamiliar with “Breaking Bad” would still be able to sink their teeth into.  Just to reiterate, for the last time, I didn’t really connect with the first episode, but found the second episode full of great writing and potential that appealed to me.  “Nacho” continues to cement that hope and make it even more tangible.

Nacho (Michael Mando), you may remember, is a member of Tuco’s crew and the man who intervened thus saving James McGill’s life in the desert.  Nacho and James have a complex relationship in this episode.  James revealed that the Kettleman’s stole $1.6 million and Nacho wants to know where the money is so he can steal it from them.  In a moment of drunkenness James warns the Kettlemans of impending danger and then all hell breaks loose.  The Kettleman family is kidnapped, Nacho is suspect number one as he was seen staking out their home, and some suspicion is cast on James as he called his friend Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) who is one of the lawyers representing the Kettlemans.

Now, McGill must find a way to prove his client’s innocence before the law enforcement’s digging uncovers any other misdeeds.  AND Nacho suspects McGill has undercut him by giving the score to another crew.  The combination of a pissed off drug dealer and angry suspicious law enforcement, plus an increasingly hostile parking enforcement official in the personage of Mike Erhmantraut (Jonathan Banks) means James McGill has a full plate and tragically little time to sort it all out.

The level of tension is exceptionally high throughout pretty much the entire episode.  I’m beginning to learn what makes James McGill such an exceptional character is his fabulous resourcefulness.  He’s highly adaptive, quick on his feet, and a man of tenacious intellect.  At first he may seem to be just a skeevy lawyer, a low class parasite almost ready to start chasing ambulances.  Instead he is a being in transition.  Many of you know who he will become and that is exciting.  I don’t and the mystery of that is just as exciting.

James McGill isn’t the only interesting aspect of the show though.  The writers and creators, like Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, have populated this world with bold and complex characters like Nacho, Kim, and James’s brother Chuck.  So far none of the characters have been wholly one thing or another.  Nacho, for example, is so riled up because this entire situation puts him into a vulnerable position.  His anger and hostility is exacerbated by the real danger to his criminal enterprises.

Mike becomes more than just a stone-cold machine of bureaucracy this episode, what we learn and how we learn it is amazing.  The quiet intensity he brings to his role is intriguing and I haven’t yet discovered if it conceals threat or dread, either way in “Nacho” he demonstrates that he is more than a formidable force.

I am thrilled that “Better Call Saul” is demonstrating a strong unique voice of its own.  This identity is exactly what I was hoping for and why I started watching despite my lack of familiarity with “Breaking Bad.” It would seem that my gamble is paying off.  The excellent writing, storytelling, pacing, tone, and characters I had heard so much about from fans of “Breaking Bad” is already present in “Better Call Saul.”  James McGill is demonstrating that he is an interesting character, full of depth, wonder, and ingenuity.  It is too early to call myself a fan, but I am already deeply engaged in this world of James McGill, and the complex negotiations that he has to contend with in “Nacho” showcase both his abilities and his tendency to be shortsighted. 

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