Martin Carr reviews the ninth episode of Better Call Saul season 2…
By Christ Odenkirk is one complex actor. Now I don’t mean to blaspheme because such things are unnecessary until provoked and genuine in their delivery, but come on. If anything or anyone manages to blindside you more than Jimmy McGill then I want pointing in that direction. Let me throw a few examples into the wind.
John Doe from Se7en. Possibly the most disturbed incarnation of a serial killer in recent times, delivered by Kevin Spacey with intellect, understatement and substance. Frank Underwood, another Spacey creation, is equally underhanded, morally bankrupt and borderline sociopathic in motivation. And not even Anthony Hopkins as Lecter measures up to Spacey’s John Doe, whereas Brian Cox’s interpretation in Manhunter comes closer. You see I mention these performances because I consider them great both in execution, control and subtlety. That two of the four come from the same actor is coincidence nothing more. If anything it shows the level of bravery each actor possessed to visit these parts of themselves for their art.
I make comparisons not because I consider Jimmy McGill either a killer, madman or overly sociopathic, but because Odenkirk deserves to be put in that class. There are things which occur in ‘Nailed’ that take this character to another level. Now I am not doubting these things were in the script, but not everything Odenkirk does had to be on that page. His resignation, manipulation, betrayal and likeability are held together by a series of glances. Michael McKean who is the only one with a true window into Jimmy’s mind plays it perfectly. He knows what his brother can do when pushed and has him hands down, but the reasons behind his actions are sincere if misguided.
Rhea Seahorn is the unsung hero as accomplice to McGill’s actions and complicit in her knowledge even though there is no proof of wrong doing. Their personal and professional partnership is one which rises and sets on an ability to trust each other. But the subtlety with which Odenkirk plants doubt in the minds of those around him, makes ‘Nailed’ an easy watch. Elsewhere Jonathan Banks remains the ice-cold presence at the centre of this season in his pursuit of Salamanca.
His ability to strip emotion from the scene and remain unconcerned by anything is a great asset. For the audience this means that any portrayal of emotion in any form throws you off balance. He pulled that trick a while back in a simple two person dialogue scene set at night. There was such emotional control from a character perpetually at the point of losing it, you felt more for him in those few minutes in spite of the things you knew he had done.
I have said it before but Saul works beyond the confines of this series due to Breaking Bad obviously. What Gilligan and others have done is muddy the water, meaning these people have become more real, less honest and inherently human as a result. As Jimmy, Kim and Mike edge closer to imperfection so we the audience recognise elements of ourselves reflected back. That then is the greatest trick Saul has to offer, in holding a mirror up to our reality and reminding us where true drama comes from.