Better Call Saul – Alpine Shepherd Boy

                  Alpine Shepherd Boy - Episode 5

Finding a balance between comedy and drama was the evident challange from the get go with Episode 1 ‘Uno.’ Five episodes in and the balance has been found. With previous episodes hitting either comedy or drama stronger ‘Alpine Shepherd Boy’ delivers a responsible equilibrium that Nicole Kassell frames excellently. Building on the near perfect outdoor sequence from ‘Hero‘ directed by Colin Bucksey we open at Chuck’s house following a fairly innocent theft of a neighbour’s newspaper. Unaware that there would be consequences for Chuck’s actions the police arriving at the door cause instant feelings of fear. The point of view shots and hum of electricity coarsing through that scene accentuate Chuck’s condition. Demanding he open the door we’re scared for Chuck’s safety and before long our worst fears unfold in a screaming flash of light.

Juxtapose this with the ‘wind-in-his-sails’ Jimmy McGill, snug in a rich estate owner’s armchair and the comedy is found again. Overtly present in the entire conversation, Jimmy’s way out of his comfort zone with this one. All the anti-government and secession talk adds to an already amusing scene in which Jimmy isn’t sure whether to laugh or run.

Moving swiftly on to his next voicemail, a small time inventor, Jimmy dabbles in patent law. Now, this is by far the funniest scene from the show so far. An awkward one-on-one pitch in a suburban garage, with a talking toilet at the crux. It’s a far leap from Breaking Bad‘s seriousness but Better Call Saul is quickly carving it’s own course and all the better for it. “Meet Tony the Toilet Buddy.” Now, the innocence in the poor inventor’s heart makes this whole scene perfect. He has no idea his invention sounds like a sex robot and Jimmy can hardly contain his professionalism.

Jimmy’s patience is beginning to wear thin and his next call, with a payout of a measly $140 is the most financially stimulating take of the day. Featuring the eponymous Alpine Shepherd Boy, a small Hummel figuirine, providing a link to Breaking Bad, this scene is amsuing in it’s own way and accentuates Jimmy’s wearing patience with an amusing stairlift shot. Providing the quote of the episode – “I pride myself on my moxie.” – Jimmy begins to identify with his clients by proving his know-how with brio and wit.

Hitting the viewer hard the first half of ‘Alpine Shepherd Boy’ provides ample comedic value to feast on, filling us up for a far more serious second half. With a lighthearted salon scene involving Jimmy and Kim serving as a smart barrier between the two conflicting genres of the episode we jump to Chuck, eyes staring up at hospital lights in severe discomfort. Shocking the viewer out of our comedic haze we’re reminded of Jimmy’s personal attachments and how his lyrical flow is stumped in the face sadness and anger.

When Chuck returns home looking a little worse for wear Jimmy begins to plan out his next move, Elder Law. After his chat with Kim he realises there’s a gap in the market for a genuinely nice lawyer to take care of the elderly. Queue Jimmy’s next marketing campaign, Jelly. Jimmy’s rhetoric is a fine balance between charm and persuasion and his court room swagger steals the show to the sound of ‘The Harry Lime Theme’ from The Third Man. To the unknowing ear it sounds fun and bouncy but beneath the zither (instrument) lies a mystery about this strange man all dressed in white.

Whether Jimmy’s white knight ploy will payoff remains to be seen but with the episode closing with the focus entirely on Mike our focus is turned to his back story and the mystery surrounding his leave from Philadelphia. My best guess is the woman in the car at the end is his daughter, potentially wife but she seems a little young for that. Given Mike’s Breaking Bad history, involving his granddaughter daughter sounds like a fair guess but we’ll have to wait and see.

Something is definitely brewing for the second half of the series so hang tight until next wednesday when I’ll bring you a recap of Episode 6: ‘Five-O.’

Balancing between comedy and drama is tough but Nicole Kassell finds it if a little heavy in sections. Worthy of * * * * but episode six needs to pick it up a little as we draw to the closing stages.

Happy Viewing

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