Better Call Saul: “Gloves Off” Season 2 Episode 4 Review

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“Gloves Off” is an episode that features a number of great moments and more interesting build-up to whatever is coming. Still, there’s a sense that Better Call Saul is going through the motions before it gets to the really good stuff. This same feel was present in “Amarillo,” but at least this entry pushed things a little farther forward.

But “Gloves Off” didn’t quite get off to the right start, concluding the cliffhanger from last week with an extended wag of the finger at Jimmy. There were no consequences for going above his superiors’ heads as of yet, and he and Kim are still together. What this episode did do was make both of these far less stable, making us wait for another mistake to send Jimmy’s life crumbling down.

However, at the end of his rope of who to blame, Jimmy pays Chuck a late-night visit. These two haven’t had a one-on-one scene that lasted more than 30 seconds all season. But the setting was private, finally letting them unleash on each other. A lot has changed between them since the end of last season, and all that weight felt appropriately tacked on. Once again, Chuck has Jimmy inches away from quitting the law altogether. There’s no satisfying end to this match. Chuck remarks that Jimmy is late to work, to which he storms out the door. Even when Jimmy tries to solve his problems, all he does is create new ones. That’s the basis of his character this season, and we just patiently wait for it to all blow up.

All that said, the true star of “Gloves Off” was Mike. Accepting Nacho’s offer, Mike is now forced to find a way to deal with Tuco, whether that means killing him or putting him someplace else. Listening to Mike negotiate the specifics of Tuco’s elimination with blunt logic proves to be entertaining. Nacho is far more level-headed than his psychotic cousin, but even he needs to be sold on Mike’s expertise. Jonathan Banks continues to excel in the role, using the material in this episode in particular to make Mike both vulnerable and even more cunning than previously thought.

The whole climax here was brilliantly orchestrated. Mike faces off with Tuco, two men who’s fates are very far from each other as we know from Breaking Bad. This scene was fun, intense, and did this world some service. It was becoming something of a problem how often Tuco was mentioned on Better Call Saul without showing up. Now we have Tuco off in prison for beating up Mike and pulling a gun on him. He’ll do five to ten years and get out sometime before he starts doing business with Walt and Jessie. He’s no long in this show’s way, allowing Nacho to stand on his own.

“Gloves Off” was an episode that needed to do some narrative leg work to get around some stuff and point to the future. It felt very much like exactly that but still managed to have a lot of strong dramatic moments. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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