TV Episode Review: “Better Call Saul” “Bingo” (01.07, 2015)

Directed by Larysa Kondracki

After “Five-O” put Mike’s backstory into sharp relief, that entire plot thread basically got shut down in the first few minutes of “Bingo.” We already knew that Mike was going to get away with it from Breaking Bad, but it was still interesting how the series essentially shut it down immediately after opening it. His daughter-in-law isn’t going to say anything, and I think we all knew that beforehand, so saying, “If she doesn’t have anything to tell us, this basically ends here” is really a message to the audience: that episode was a one-off, and this storyline was just our way to show you that bit of Mike’s past. It’s over now. It was like the psychic dust in the “Amy’s Choice” episode of Doctor Who–a way of making that episode something outside of all that occurs around it. It’s an economical bet of storytelling, something that should always be rewarded.

What follows is a less economical but more satisfying wrapping up of a season-long plot thread in the story of the Kettlemans. They blackmail Jimmy into representing them. Jimmy turns them in and blackmails them into silence. Again, for all that he can’t get ahead, Jimmy is the smartest person here, and is always a step ahead of everyone around him. I think we are beginning to see the way this series is going to operate long-term, with the magician James McGill at its center as the smartest guy in the room. Continue reading

TV Episode Review: “Better Call Saul” “Five-o” (01.06, 2015)

Written by Gordon Smith

Directed by Adam Bernstein

Last episode, we finally got some more definition of the secondary players in Better Call Saul‘s drama, but this episode we got essentially nothing but a fill-in of Mike Ehrmantraut’s back story. Like “Hermanos” on Breaking Bad (04.08, 2011), this is an episode that gives us a ton of insight into one character (and gives that actor his Emmy submission episode) but doesn’t really move forward the primary storyline.

We already had quite a bit of information about Mike’s history from veiled clues in the past, but this episode made it all clear: Mike was a dirty cop whose son was killed for failing to go along with a protection scheme. In response, Mike killed his son’s murderers and moved immediately to New Mexico, where his daughter-in-law (h/t, Chase had that right last week.), Stacey, had taken his granddaughter, Kaylee (He also had the spelling right–Kayleigh looks much better, though, doesn’t it?). None of this is earth-shattering information–it’s pretty close to what we could have gathered from what clues we had in the past. Instead, it’s just adding some depth and specifics. Continue reading

Movie Review: “Whiplash” (Damien Chazelle, USA 2014)

First point: The director has a truly awesome name. Anyone named Damien is awesome.

The ballroom at the student center at the University of Colorado is named the Glenn Miller ballroom, after one of the most prominent swing and big bandleaders in history who briefly attended the school in the mid 1920s before dropping out. If you visit a small town named Fort Morgan to the northeast, you will see on the sign as you enter town, “Boyhood home of Glenn Miller.” Roughly an hour away from Fort Morgan, bordering the city of Greeley, is a very small town named La Salle. Miller once asked a man from La Salle to be his drummer as he struck out on tour, years before fame hit, but my great grandfather felt it was irresponsible to leave his railroad job, what with having a family and all. Or so the family story says, anyway. I have not followed in his footsteps at all. I’ve played guitar for 13 years now, but I have no interest in drums and little interest in or understanding of jazz. The fact that this tangential connection to Glenn Miller, never one of the favorites of jazz aficionados, is as close to jazz as I can get should be enough to explain that. Continue reading