How has Better Call Saul ended already? Didn’t the season just start? No? Well, back to the dregs for me, but not before one last sparkling review of yet another terrific episode. After 39 episodes, Saul Goodman has officially arrived. He arrived unrestrained at the head of one of his biggest con jobs yet. It was the perfect ending to season 4. Things will never be the same for anyone involved.
S’all Good, Man
Towards the end of this episode, I wondered if Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan were backing off the idea of revealing Saul this season. Yes, Jimmy spent most if it trying to use his brother’s death for sympathy and good word of mouth ahead of his appeal to the Bar regarding his license. It was gross to watch. By the end, though, Jimmy seemed to have gone through a long-delayed emotional breakdown.
The scholarship fund meeting seemed to have snapped something in him. Seeing the fund’s board deny some girl over past shoplifting seemed to have woken a lot of repressed emotions in Jimmy. His breakdown and ugly sobbing in his car afterwards struck me as the grief over Chuck finally coming home. Reading his brother’s farewell letter seemed like Jimmy accepting the complicated nature of his relationship with his brother.
Of course, I know Jimmy becomes Saul. I know his end fate in this struggle for his soul. When Jimmy stopped reading Chuck’s letter, though, I thought Chuck himself might at least be sacred. However terrible Jimmy becomes, he would stop using Chuck. Then he left the hearing and made clear the depths of his immorality.
It was the perfect ending to the season.
He wasn’t alone, either. Mike’s manhunt for Werner served much the same purpose as Jimmy’s exploitation of Chuck’s death. Jimmy and Mike are undoubtedly the main characters of Better Call Saul, and both completed their final plunge into the darker temptations around them. They certainly still have a ways to fall. The time will come when Jimmy is advocating murder and Mike is killing guys like Werner without hesitation. What this finale represented was the moment they stopped dipping their toes in the water and finally jumped in.
As usual, Better Call Saul did a terrific job with these moments for both characters. They still have these vestiges of something better in them. It speaks to the skill of this show’s storytelling that, even knowing where these two eventually end up, I still questioned what decision they would make. Maybe Mike would make one last stand and let Werner go. Maybe Jimmy would try one more time to go legit. I don’t know, maybe? Possibly?
And I think there’s still a possibility for both. I still see those lingering glimmers of something better in them. Jimmy using the name Saul Goodman at least protects his brother’s name from the stain of Jimmy’s future law career. Mike was not particularly happy about killing Werner. Some friction with Gus may occur because of the killing.
In the end, I guess I’m just like Kim. Kim still believed in Jimmy’s good side despite spending the entire episode helping him exploit Chuck’s death. She can’t help but see the guy we met in season 1; eager, loyal, dedicated to making Chuck proud. Actually, she can’t help but see the Jimmy McGill who worked in the HHM mail room with her. That’s the Jimmy she loves, and she can’t help but believe that Jimmy still lies deep inside Saul Goodman.
It doesn’t really matter in the end, though. We know who Saul and Gus eventually become. Here’s hoping Jimmy can escape this moral tar pit when in the Gene flash-forwards. And this episode made Jimmy’s reasons completely clear.
The scholarship fund, while obviously part of the overall con, was really THE moment where Jimmy makes his decision to be Saul. He saw himself in the girl the board turned down. He saw how they held her one mistake against her, despite all the good she had done since. And this was some teenager with just that one mistake. If even she doesn’t have a chance, what hope could Jimmy possibly have? He realized he could never make people like that believe in him. He could never make the Bar accept him as anything other than the shady, immoral little brother of Chuck McGill, someone unworthy of their trust or belief.
It hurts. It really hurts. I still want “Gene” to come out of this okay. Unfortunately, that day is a long ways away, if it happens at all.
- The karaoke opening was amazing. Ernest slayed “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and Michael McKean called back on David St. Hubbins for Chuck’s duet with Jimmy.
- By the way, of course Chuck has to upstage Jimmy even during karaoke. No wonder Jimmy feels so inadequate.
- Werner’s final conversation with Mike has a lot of similarities with the Walt/Mike scene during the season 3 finale of Breaking Bad.
- Oh, that poor TravelWire employee. Having to deal with both Mike and Lalo? Yikes.
- Mike’s gum trick on the ticket machine was one of my favorite things he has ever done. I swear he has a trick for everything.
Season 4 of Better Call Saul had a tall task ahead of it from the beginning. Season 3 was so powerful and remarkable, with some of the best scenes in recent TV memory. With Chuck’s suicide, the show lost the dynamic at its heart. Better Call Saul had been the story of Jimmy and Chuck. How could they replace such a powerful dynamic? Where would they go without Chuck standing stalwart across from his brother? Who could fill the acting void left in Michael McKean’s wake?
Ultimately, I don’t think season 4 was quite as good as season 3. How could it be? It’s like holding it against a season of The Wire for not being as good as season 4.
Season 4 handled the questions I asked not only well, but easily. How do they replace Chuck’s role in the story? By giving his death a central role in the story and replacing the tension between him and Jimmy with tensions between Jimmy and Kim. As anyone who read my previous reviews has noticed, both characters dominate season 4. I honestly didn’t miss Chuck’s role in the story at all because Kim did such a great job filling the void left behind.
I felt every bit the emotional stakes between Kim and Jimmy as I did between Jimmy and Chuck. Possibly more, in fact. Even at their closest, Jimmy and Chuck always maintained a noticeable distance. Most of their relationship consisted of a rivalry where they openly despised each other. Jimmy and Kim had no such relationship. They’ve been close since the beginning and always supportive. Whatever conflict pops up between them is typically resolved quickly because they want to resolve it.
This made their gradual degradation throughout season 4 really effective, as effective anything Jimmy and Chuck ever went through.
A big reason for this comes down to another question; who will replace Michael McKean’s considerable acting prowess? Rhea Seehorn takes on the challenge with ease. Well, not without ease, because you can’t be that good at acting with ease. Seehorn has always been fantastic, but she takes on the added burden and not only matches the challenge, she exceeded it. I know by this point not to expect anything from award shows at this point, but Seehorn should be a frontrunner at the next Emmys.
Rhea Seehorn stepped up and the result was Kim’s best season yet, right when Better Call Saul really needed it. Seeing Kim try so hard to be a good girlfriend and friend to Jimmy while he inevitably spiraled towards Saul Goodman made for absolutely fantastic scenes. Their parking garage confrontation from last week was as hard-hitting as anything from previous seasons. Kim’s reaction to Jimmy’s speech to the Bar and subsequent confession about it being fake was just as strong.
It also means a lot when Bob Odenkirk is as good as he is. The transition from, sweet, loveable Jimmy to the selfish Saul we end season 4 with is a hard transition to make, but he did so without issue. Odenkirk absolutely owns this role at this point.
You’ve probably noticed I’ve spent a lot of time talking about Jimmy and Kim, but not so much about Mike, Gus, and the cartel stuff. That’s true not only for this review, but throughout the season. There’s a good reason; it was easily the weakest part of the season. The one real flaw in Better Call Saul’s design continued this season, which was its struggle to reconcile its two halves.
I found the origin of the meth super lab interesting, for sure. If nothing else the storyline gave Mike good content to dig into. Thing is, it was relatively uneventful. Compared to the consistently gripping stakes of the Jimmy/Kim scenes, watching Mike pal around with German architects and construction workers didn’t match up. The conflict wasn’t really there until the end, and too late by then.
I also felt like the cartel stuff didn’t really go anywhere besides with Mike. Nacho randomly fell into obscurity once Lalo was introduced. Lalo felt more like an introduction than a contained plot of any kind. The super lab wasn’t even finished. Tuco’s cousins left the season rather abruptly.
I also have a pretty decent problem with the Gus/Hector Salamanca stuff this year. I know this opinion will be unpopular, but I’m not a fan. Tying everything in Hector’s life back to some machination by Gus felt like the kind of prequel sin you’d see in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. The incessant need to make even the most inconsequential things important somehow often cheapens the effect. Hector’s bell doesn’t need to be important. It’s just a freaking bell.
My biggest problem is in how cartoonishly evil this has made Gus. Is he really not evil enough for simply mocking and torturing a disabled man? He has to be responsible for stopping Hector’s medical treatment to make sure Hector stays in the wheelchair, unable to speak? I’m not a fan. Plus, this also doesn’t really lead to anything. It likely will next season since Hector has likely communicated to him what he wants done to Gus. For now, though, it was somewhat unsatisfying compared to the amazing Jimmy/Kim storyline.
I stress the word “compared” here. It’s like saying, “Tuco wasn’t quite the villain Gus Fring was on Breaking Bad,” as a negative. It’s not really much a negative and Tuco was still great TV.
While failing to reach the memorable heights of season 3, Better Call Saul still had one hell of a 4th season. Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan continue to head one of the very best shows on TV, and almost certainly the best character-driven show. What Better Call Saul manages in the character-development department floors me more with every season. I honestly don’t believe anything else matches their work. They have their style down to a science, and so does everyone around them, from the other writers to the directors to the actors to the set and costume design.
Better Call Saul remains a show working on a level few can compare with. Why is this season over already?
Images courtesy of AMC
Away In A Manger: Black Lightning 2×09, “Gift of Magi”
Well, my friends, we’re nearing the end of Black Lightning S2, and I think it’s time to declare a sophomore slump. Anyone here with me? Let’s get into this week’s episode and discuss.
Jen and Kahlil are still on the run, but Kahlil was cut with one of Cutter’s Special aka Poison knives, so he’s quickly succumbing. The pair find a barn, where there’s a lot of soft lantern light and Kahlil can curl up in the hay. At first they swap cute-funny stories about when they first met, but soon Kahlil can’t manage talking let alone breathing well, so Jen goes out to steal some antibiotics from a hospital. (They don’t yet know that it’s poison, they assume his wound is infected). Jen is getting really good not only at controlling her powers, but using them for specific tasks, and I’m here for it although I really wish it wasn’t in the context of this storyline.
She manages to get the antibiotics and injects Kahlil with it, but it doesn’t work. She grows increasingly desperate, and as Kahlil’s death seems imminent, she goes outside for some air and a good cry. That’s when she goes back to her brain-salon, where she sees Perenna (her brain-version of Perenna, not the real one) and a twin version of herself. Mind-Perenna tells Jen that she already has everything she needs inside of her; it’s very Inside Out. Together with her brain creations she figures out that Cutter is actually *right there* watching them through binoculars. She manages to capture her and tie her up, tasering her with her hands as a form of torture in order to get her to tell her what she did to Kahlil. It’s not long before she figures out it was a poison knife, and cuts Cutter with it so that she’ll be forced to show Jen where on her person the antidote is. Turns out, it’s in that very obvious vial on her necklace!
Jen goes to a dark place when she’s torturing Cutter, which is kind of hard to watch. Again, I’d be more interested if this whole thing didn’t revolve around Kahlil. Anyway, Jen gives both Kahlil and Cutter the antidote and they’re on their way again. But only after they declare their undying love for each other.
I’m happy to report that no one left Kahlil’s aunt for dead in her house, as Black Lightning, Thunder, and Gambi have set up camp there to help her recover from what turned out to be one of Kahlil’s pain pills and try to figure out how to find Jen. They know Kahlil is hurt so they check hospitals, and end up being in the same hospital as Jen at the same time!
Jefferson and Anissa figure out Jen was there because she left a trail aka scorch mark in her path, but the fact that she keep eluding them is driving Jefferson to be irrational and reckless. Gambi and Anissa manage to keep him under control, but Lynn is losing it too. When she’s not crying in the wreckage of Jen’s room that she destroyed, she’s trying to get Kahlil’s mom, and then his dad, to give her clues as to where they might be.
Of course neither of them can help, but along the way she grabs a gun from the Inner Sanctum aka Gambi’s basement so that’s concerning, considering her emotional state.
In a parallel storyline, Tobias has set his sights on a kid named Todd, an academic prodigy who has just been rejected for a research grant in favor of the white kid whose rich dad just funded a new wing of the university. It’s unclear what Tobias wants Todd to do, and Todd seems dubious at best until Tobias deposits $100,000 into his bank account. Money is the root of all evil, amirite? I mean, capitalism is. But that’s a discussion for another place.
Lastly, this episode ends with a scene in which a mysterious someone murders everyone in a bar in Texas before getting a phone call from his boss telling him that his next job is in Freeland. I feel like we’re about to meet a bigger bad than Tobias, but time will tell! Just someone end this Kahlil-Jen nonsense and give us our family back kthanks.
What do you think is in store for the final episodes? Are you happy with this season so far? Black Lightning is going on hiatus until the end of January, so I’ll be back then to see where we’re at. Enjoy what’s left of the year, friends!
Images courtesy of The CW
Winter Hiatus Blues
Even in December with the broadcast networks hiatus for scripted series starting, and pilot season underway, there’s so much to discuss!
The continuing behind the scenes drama of Les Moonves’ ouster from CBS, ABC’s entertainment president Channing Dungey stepping down, NBC’s Greenblatt moving on, and FOX setting up for its new leadership once the merger goes through…every big 4 network has a lot to deal with between now and the TCAs in early February. The exec panels will sure be a time… Especially if ratings come up at all.
As of this Tuesday, and as always, I’m talking about scripted ratings: FOX is number 1 with a 1.13 average followed by NBC, ABC, and CBS. CW of course is last with .35. Last month, four of the five networks had six shows at or above their overall average.
Now, ABC has eight shows, the CW has five, and the rest have six.
Across the five networks, only a third of new shows are performing above the average on their network. The Connors (considered a new show), FBI, The Neighborhood, Last Man Standing, New Amsterdam, and Manifest. The highest rated new show on The CW, Legacies hovers right below the network’s average.
Interestingly, across the board, long running shows are still high rating performers (or what’s high now) for the networks. The exception to this is SVU at a tenth below the average.
Their “success” indicates that we probably won’t lose any of the longest running shows anytime soon. Still, the network with the largest average season length (including shows yet to premiere) is FOX at 5.3 followed by CBS at 4.5. Removing the shows already cancelled and predicted as canceled doesn’t make an impact because of The Simpsons‘ whopping thirty seasons! (Unrelated but with the announcement for Crisis on Infinite Earths, DCTV isn’t going anywhere either.)
Of course some of this will shift when the rest of the new slate premieres begin in January. I do not envy the folks in charge of scheduling spring shows, especially as more time slots are lost to winter reality or competition shows.
You can put whatever new show after strong shows and still have a dud in the ratings race.
On The CW, ableist In The Dark has had zero promotion beyond the scheduling announcement that it starts after Supernatural. Their other new show Roswell: New Mexico or Roswell: TVD received the coveted post Flash slot plus actual promo. Except for The 100, their other spring shows already received cancellations, so ratings definitely don’t matter.
FOX only has two newbies to premiere, with The Passage starting after The Resident and Proven Innocent taking the 9PM slot after Cool Kids. I don’t know that people watching an hour of comedy will stick around for a procedural, but anything can happen these days.
ABC on Wednesday revealed that in a vote of confidence (or in hopes to increase viewers or to get Whiskey Cavalier onto the schedule earlier) is moving the last bit of A Million Little Things behind Grey’s leaving current slot holder Station 19 off the schedule until March. Considering AMLT hit a .7 last week… The Fix is the only other newbie to get a spring slot, starting in March in The Good Doctor‘s place. Grand Hotel is now a summer show. ABC what are you doing?!
NBC and CBS have yet to fully unveil their new schedules so more on that in January! However, pilot development is in full swing and reboots (and spin-offs) continue to rule the pack.
Predicting what pilots will make it to series this early is silly, but I do think that a chunk of the reboots in development will definitely make it to air. If they’ll get renewed is another question. Even though this year, only Charmed received a back 9 order (Last Man Standing was ordered with 22 episodes). Last year, all the shows that received fewer than 9 episodes in the fall except for Good Doctor were cancelled. So now in May, that trend continues, or the new trend is that any back order indicates a renewal.
Which is why even though I think it’s silly to bank on so many reboots in development, I know that networks are still going to do it. I won’t list all of the shows in development because there are a lot and many will die by January. The CW has three alone! And NBC already has a series order for Law and Order: Hate Crimes or as my friend calls it, “SVU but grittier” making it the seventh L&O series.
By late January, early February, the big entertainment sites will have lists of all the pilots in contention and then we can really get into the details. Until then, what shows are y’all waiting to see for the first time (or again)?
‘Legends of To-Meow-Meow’ Cranks the Insanity up to Eleven
It’s that time year of again. The Arrowverse crossover, but the Legends misplaced their invites. While Kara, Barry, and Oliver were getting acquainted with Batwoman and dealing with body switching, the Legends were dealing with their own alternate reality issues. Or should I say the Custodians were dealing with their own issues. Or, should that be the Sirens? Or the Puppets?
Yep, this was one of those kinds of episodes. ‘Legends of To-Meow-Meow’ didn’t just surpass the insanity of every other episode this season. It multiplied it, as Charlie and Constantine broke the timeline more with each attempt to fix it.
At first, Charlie hits the town on her own, going to Las Vegas to stretch her newly returned powers. Going out as Marilyn Monroe, she runs into a prison buddy, a leprechaun. She barely has the chance to warn him about faulting his powers when Mick, Nate, and Ray strut in dressed like they just walked out of an 80’s action show. Which they did, apparently, as they introduce themselves as the Custodians of the Chronology and we get ‘A-Team’ style opening credits. They kill the leprechaun without hesitation, which is a big clue for Charlie that not everything is right.
She returns to the Waverider with cat-Zari to figure out why the team is suddenly so murder-happy. She transforms into Sara, planning on just ordering them to stop. But it doesn’t work because in this timeline, without help from Constantine, Sara was killed by the unicorn at Woodstock. The team attacks her, recognizing her as a shapeshifter. Charlie makes a quick retreat from the ship, taking cat-Zari along to find John.
He’s being kept imprisoned at the Time Bureau. Because he was the epicentre of the timeline shift, he has memories from both timelines and his brain isn’t keeping up very well. When they find him, John turns Zari back into a human. Only to turn her right back when she’s against his and Charlie’s idea to save Sara instead of fixing their alteration. Charlie breaks John out, with some help from Mona and a very emo Ava. Some of the Lege- Custodians die in their fight out, but everything will be fine once they save Sara. At least that’s what Charlie and John tell themselves.
They travel to Woodstock, blasting the unicorn into rainbow gloop before it can gore anyone. But this time, when they return to their time Nate, Ray, and Mick are the ones with the memorial plaques. Plus, without the guys around, Sara, Ava, and an android?Gideon have formed a Charlie’s Angels style team that assassinates fugitives. Charlie attempts to infiltrate the team as Amaya, but her cover is blown almost instantly. She does learn the boys were killed by the Fairy Godmother. The fairy is also the reason Zari’s a cat.
John and Charlie go to Salem for their next patch job. Charlie transforms into the Fairy Godmother to trick Prudence into releasing the fairy before she can kill the boys. It seems to go off without a hitch until she returns to the jumpship. Good news, Zari is no longer a cat. Bad news, she’s now a puppet.
So is the entire team, as John learns when he boards the Waverider. They aren’t just puppets. They’re puppets that sing their own intro and have a historical figure of the day. Since the Fairy Godmother didn’t kill Mick, he became her new charge. She turned the team into puppets before Mick took her along on a crime spree.
Charlie and John keep trying to Band-Aid the timeline, but each fix ends with someone else dead in the new timeline. Yet, even when they get to a point where no one has died, John’s mind has so many timelines clashing in his mind he collapses from the strain.
He finally agrees with Zari that they need to fix the timeline properly and stop Dez from leaving. When Charlie refuses to help they leave her behind, but she’s not giving up without a fight. She transforms into Ava, heading to the Waverider to clue the team in on the magical ongoings in New Orleans. But there’s something still wrong with this timeline. All the Legends are alive. No one is made of cloth. But they still have a ‘shoot first ask questions never’ policy when it comes the fugitives. Gideon picks up on the three Constantines at that point in time. The team assumes the extras are shapeshifters, sending Mick and Ray to blast them.
Charlie finally realizes it wasn’t just John’s absence from the team that caused the changes. It was her absence. Without her, the Legends don’t learn fugitives aren’t all unicorns with a taste for hearts or Fairy Godmothers that sing about murder.
In New Orleans, this-episode’s-John stops Desmond after last-episode’s-Constantine broke up with him. He tells him he’s sorry for all the pain he’s going to cause him and wipes his memory just before still-in-a-relationship John can return. As Mick and Ray fire on this-episode-John, past-John and Desmond share a kiss which becomes the point from which the timeline fixes itself. Reality is right once again, where the only puppet person is the possessed Professor Stein and the Legends aren’t mythical creature murders. Ava and Mick even heal their rift from the last episode, finding some common ground.
John comes clean to Sara about their misadventure. He even tells her about Neron. Sara promises to help him take down his demon. So all’s well that ends well. Except, there’s no word on what happens to Mona after she met the business of the Kaupe’s claws. Nor is Hank happy the Kaupe escaped, which he learns about in the middle of a golf game with someone… something wearing Desmond’s face.
Was this the strongest’s episode of Legends? Probably not. It sacrificed some substance for the sake of 80’s spoofs and sing-alongs. But that’s not to say this episode wasn’t good. Far from it. The alternate timelines were laugh out loud funny and the Puppets of Tomorrow song is going to be stuck in my head. They were so good I’m willing to overlook characters like Ray, Nate, Sara, and Ava feeling so drastically different in their respective spoof realities. I’ll chalk up to the discrepancies in their characterizations to time being so broken.
It could have easily become frustrating watching John and Charlie patch broke timeline after broken timeline while they ignored the obvious answer. But it never got to that point because every step of the way you knew John was doing this to keep Desmond alive. John Constantine, always the tortured soul, willing to let his mind be torn apart by multiple timelines before he gives up on his love again. It’s a tragedy the timeline being fixed has to come at the cost of Dez’s soul. But maybe it isn’t lost forever.
The scene between John and Desmond pulled at the heartstrings. As did the moment when Charlie finally realized she was the missing the link for the Legends. It’s always a good moment when a Legend finds their place on this mismatched, rag-tag team. It’s hard not to compare this episode to ‘Here I Go Again’, when Zari found her place on the team. Which is a glowing compliment when that episode is one of the best of Legends entire run.
The brief callbacks to the earlier episodes was a nice way to tie off the first half of the season as well. The Unicorn was only eight episodes ago. Yet, monsters, magic, and pure insanity feel like they’re always been a part of Legends of Tomorrow. Well, pure insanity has been a fundamental part of Legends since season two.
It just shows how this series isn’t afraid to shake up its own formula. Thus far it’s worked every time, with each season being better than the last. It’s still early to call season’s four place for certain. Season’s three back half had some heavy ringers, but so far this season is on the right tracks to be the most memorable one yet. They’re sure to come back strong when they return in April.
Only Legends Could
- “You missed calls from Barry Allen, Oliver Queen, and Kara Zor-El,”
“Sounds like the annual crossover,”
“Yeah, that’s going to be a hard pass,”
This whole exchange is amazing. Easily wins favorite lines of the episode.
- You can tick off Sara Lance’s annual dalliance with death. Sara dying, almost dying, or faking dying should be a running gag at this point, but for some reason, I can never find it funny.
- Everyone just understands cat-Zari. No explanation needed. Much like when Nate understood pig-Ray.
- The CW tradition of bad wigs continues with emo Ava. (Kate Kane, by some miracle, avoided the curse.)
- In the Siren’s reality, Sara’s wielding Mick’s gun and Gideon has Rip’s.
- I want more of DC’s Puppets of Tomorrow.
- There’s a timeline where Nate and Hank die from a Garden Gnome.
- Why yes, Legends did give us the true love’s kiss fixes everything. And yes, it was a kiss for a mlm couple. Legends never ceases to amaze.
- I got a flirty vibe from Charlie and Zari at the end. Time will tell where that goes.