Quick and Dirty TV Recaps: Better Call Saul s5ep1-2, Hunters s1ep1-3, Briarpatch s1ep1-3

Better Call Saul, Season 5 Episode 1&2

We needed a kind of perfunctory first episode back, we are reminded of who all is on this show, who it’s about. Where Jimmy/Saul (Jimmysaul?) is in his black and white furthest continuity, still at a cinnabun and finally at risk!

Mostly the stakes were just stress and depression before (the vacuum man really worked his magic and found a good spot, RIP to Robert Forster who the episode is dedicated to) but we finally see what it’s like to be spotted. It really hammers the source of all the Jimmysaul stress, to be so recognizable even after the years and that mustache here yet states away from where he first made his bones as a lawyer.

Episode 2, just the most gorgeous thing. So beautiful. Just the actual images.

A great episode that moves the ball forward with Kim. For a show that takes its time, Kim being confronted with multiple things, seeking closure for regrets from the first episode and throwing her a bone with the rare Jimmysaul apology that feels real and legitimate- all this stuff feels more compelling, more complete and immediate than the previous seasons. She’s not having fun anymore which is how they teased the relationship in the earlier seasons, when she lies to her client, it hurts. “For the greater good” of a plea deal doesn’t make that cosmic nagging sense within stop. That’s what makes her different from Jimmysaul.

At this point, they both have the money and power to make good decisions, get enough rest and be as respectable or disreputable as they want. The crucial brush off with Howard in the courthouse hallway (some understated but exciting and effective camera movement here, they never go full Birdman thank goodness) is the kind of association choice, the kind of time management choice that goes to Jimmysaul’s character. They say we re hat e continually do. He really is being Saul in how he lives here, criminal defense legal churn with an angle always for getting it over quick and getting one over too.

I’m not even to the Nacho subplot stuff yet. I love how he finally converges with Saul at the end. The taste of the much darker work for Saul to come, I wanted the next episode to play immediately.

I do want to call out really simple cause and effect, character choice stuff here that sounds like a no-brainer but is so crucial to writing and plotting. Characters make decisions based out of their needs and desires. Those choices interlock and have an effect that slots in as a place for another character to reveal their need or desire. This then has its own effect that’s a new context for a new character choice.

It sounds really dumb when I say it like that. You might be thinking any child could write a cause and effect chain like that. Is this essentially the skillset that it takes to play that old video game series The Incredible Machine but trust when you’re looking at an empty FinalDraft or Celtx doc, it can be hard.

Hunters, Season 1 Episode 1-3

Ripping the band-aid off, this series can be cartoonish at times. It’s not aided formally by the gun, bullet, blood and gore fx that call to mind less than stellar action VOD offerings. The bodies sitting around and in the pool as a result of the immediate and shocking turn in the first episode ARE effective but the Goldeneye 64 ass sequence that gets us to that horror is maybe not uhh politically correct? This isn’t Schindler’s List.

There’s the problematic thing where the actual Nazis were essentially bad enough and some of the dramatization to make them “worse” is just more exploitation-y (however self aware this exploitation aesthetic is, lmao at the character intros in the next couple episodes, wtf is Josh Radnor doing in this, just with the jokes nonstop).

But if you’re happy that 80s movies/shows had really bad cartoon Russians and are ready for Nazis to get a kind of similar spy meets crime meets procedural treatment- this is your show. Maybe it’s me maturing or something that the real surface pleasure of watching a really really bad person die within the context of genre just doesn’t sit right with me when there are these actual bad guys in the real world.

The most real thing in the first episode was the drug deal gone wrong. There’s violence but it’s just unpleasant at first, most about masculine and interpersonal jockeying. It evolves closer to “bullying,” there’s a slur and the kind of assault a regular person would endure, not some super assassin beat down.

By the third episode I did have favorite characters. Surprise, they’re the younger characters who work at a comic book shop. For all the genre tropes that can be pitfalls, getting the audience aggressively and early on the side of the relatable POV character was the best choice they made.

I hope they stick the landing. It seems like the show may become a bit more self aware and ultimately judge the Nazi hunting rather than indulge it, probably both if I had to guess.

Briarpatch, Season 1 Episode 1-3

This is a really fun watch if you watch it looking for moments that would probably fit better in the late 40s or 20s, you know, something with noir guys in fedoras.

It’s an adaption. As a genre exercise and as something transposed from another time onto ours, it is fascinating. The exact story is still taking shape. Heavy serialization means that after 3 episodes of 10 I really do feel like I barely have 30% of the whole story. That gives me hope for the rest. Can it deliver? Each episode introduces new characters and more details, hard to say if it’s going to reward us down the line. It’s making promises right now that feel like they’re setting up dominoes for later. I’ll keep watching.

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