Better Call Saul: “Off Brand” Season 3 Episode 6 Review

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“Just a name.” Not really, Jimmy. That name is destined to go on to define Jimmy McGill. It’s the one he’ll leave behind at the Cinnabon. It’s the only name Walt and Jesse will ever know. It’s the name that’ll be getting Jimmy into a hell of a lot more trouble in the future.

“Off Brand” is a new beginning for Better Call Saul. Chuck and Howard literally toast to it. The direction the show goes in now will set the course for the end of the series. The culmination of Jimmy and Chuck’s rivalry might have just been the first act. The road is now clear, and boy does the show suddenly feel so liberated.

Essentially acting as a season premiere, a much better one than we actually got for season three, the episode integrates us with what these characters’ lives are going to look like now. Chuck has to regroup and find a way to take back control of his life. Mike might have a chance to spend time with his family. Gus is arming himself for the war to come with Hector. And Jimmy, sweet Jimmy, has to figure out what he’s going to do for the next year after the court suspended his license to practice law for 12 months.

His answer for now is to sell the ad space he can’t use for his law firm to locals, for which he also creates an ad; thus, Saul Goodman is born. The introduction to Saul is pretty perfect, especially with Kim’s reaction afterward, but what elevates this moment beyond the fan service is Jimmy’s rejection of his new alter ego. Knowing where he takes Saul, it’s emotional to see Jimmy ashamed of him. This moment feels like justification for Better Call Saul‘s whole existence, as we see the person who has to slink back in his chair, watching himself be ridiculous on television. We now know Jimmy McGill, and that not only proved to be a great story all on its own, but also breathed new layers into Breaking Bad. What fan will be able to rewatch the original series now and not see the tragedy in Saul’s eyes?

“Off Brand” also spends a great deal of time with Nacho, a character I honestly thought the show forgot about (which was kind of fine with me…?). But this episode, being a new beginning, shows an avenue for Nacho to have a great impact on where this series is heading. Connected to Mike, Hector, and now Gus, Nacho’s role finally feels essential to the series. Caught in the middle of Gus and Hector’s soft war, Nacho has been asked to involve his father, who owns a meager, honest upholstery business. Where this goes, whether he asks Mike to help, or if he’ll try to start working for Gus, Hector looks to be heading to that wheelchair we met him in on Breaking Bad by the end of the season. Nacho even stole a dropped pill of his medication. Whatever is cooking in his brain, a lot of damage can be done with that.

And so a new beginning starts with a lot of exciting new possibilities. Better Call Saul, as great as it was up to this point, finally feels like it’s getting somewhere closer to Breaking Bad. Jimmy has started using Saul’s name and Hector Salamanca is looking weak, inside and out. The future looks bright for this series as these downward spirals continue to evolve in engaging and emotionally rewarding ways. Grade: A-

Some Other Notes:

  • Chuck’s quest to get better is so emotionally complicated. He might be this show’s best villain, but now that he’s trying to get better for himself, not to erase Jimmy off the planet, the show has me rooting for him again.
  • Oh, hi Lydia.
  • And Krazy 8, while we’re at it.
  • That shot of Jimmy smoking outside the office with the full moon in the background was so, so, so pretty.
  • I can’t say enough about Bob Odenkirk from these past few episodes. He may be earning himself an Emmy right now (though competition is tough if the Academy decides to give The Leftovers everything we all know it deserves).

By Matt Dougherty

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