TV Series: Better Call Saul (S3)

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This is it! Any notions that Better Call Saul is a cash grab exercise after the illustrious Breaking Bad is totally dispelled in S3 for even the remotest BB fan. For me, I had no idea why Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould would even take an interesting but sidelined character and weave a series around him, but count me humbled and awed. Just like BB, every season of BCS just improves by leaps and bounds; every major and minor character grows with new layers peeled away. BCS is no longer a cool looking prequel accompaniment to BB, it has come into its own. And if you watch TV series day in day out, you will know that there’s nothing quite like BCS out there.

The payoff of all the storylines culminates here in S3. I have begun to love the slow and deliberate build-up which will be challenging for most people, but it does feel like Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould are weeding out the fake pretenders who came in here thinking it is another BB. The art of storytelling is marvellous – sometimes I have no freaking idea why characters do what they do, like Mike throws a pair of red shoes on a telephone wire or Jimmy throws a drumstick on the floor or the camera holds on Kim for a few seconds longer than necessary and then WHAM! The revelation arrives like a thunderbolt and it knocks one out of the ballpark. My mind starts to scroll through an encyclopedia of scenes from past TV series and movies, and nothing resembles what I have just witnessed. That is a miracle in itself. Most TV series tend to breed familiarity, characters react fast and move like sequenced plot-points. Nobody gets mentally challenged by writers who just wrap a new colourful paper around some regurgitated plot and say it’s a new product.

I can already see the stuff moving towards the events of BB. The suspense is sublime – it teases you, then it slowly squeezes your throat. You will want it to squeeze you faster, but it doesn’t listen to you. It squeezes you till you are out of breath at its own time. There’s a scene of Hector Salamanca telling, more like commanding, Nacho that his dad’s shop will be used as a conduit for his drug shipments. You will see Nacho saying “please no” because he has to give it a shot, but you, like Nacho, already know it is hopeless. You can literally feel the moment Nacho hatches a plan in his head to kill his boss. The scene breathes with potency and authority. You will surrender to its power as more players come in and the plan is executed, all at its own time and then you will start to breathe again.

S3 is also the season that finally brings Gus Fring to the fold. He is such a cool as cucumber character – a drug lord disguised as an everyday man masked behind the veneer of a manager of a fast food chain. S3 plants the seeds of relationship between Gus and Mike, and I am rubbing my hands in glee as the their bond becomes binding.

S3E5 is one of the best episodes ever! And I am not even saying it’s the best episode of BCS, I think it is one of the best episodes of any series ever. All the deliberate build-up culminates in this one helluva an episode. The whole of Singapore are embroiled in the 38 Oxley Road saga between two brothers and a sister (I can’t believe this has its own a Wikipedia entry now). It is so surreal that this episode is about two brothers going head to head in a battle of wits. The gloves are off, no one will be the same anymore, one loser, zero winner, brotherhood is dead. The writing is stellar, the acting sublime and that final shot, chockful of symbolism.

There is still so much I want to say, but I think I should shut up. You know it is the mark of a great series when you suddenly realised you have been rooting for multi-layered shady characters. You would want the worst to happen to them, but you will want the story to take its time. Knowing how all the players will eventually end up gives me such a sense of melancholy, especially with Jimmy, who lands up as a manager of a Cinnabon outlet. He doesn’t deserve that or does he? Time will tell.

 

 

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