Written by Aaron Sarnecky
‘MARCO’ PLOT SUMMARY:
After a stunning betrayal, Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) takes an abrupt vacation to Cicero, Illinois, the birthplace of “Slippin’ Jimmy.” As he meets up with an old friend, Jimmy is tempted to go down the road that once led him astray.
I’m filling in for Al this week for Better Call Saul. In a way, it’s strangely appropriate; it fits in with the theme of substitution. For many people, Better Call Saul is a substitute for Breaking Bad, the masterpiece of Better Call Saul creator Vince Gilligan. Anyway, my opinions are bound to be somewhat different from Al’s, but I will try to copy his review style to the best of my ability. He doesn’t mind writing about spoilers, so as a heads-up, SPOILERS BELOW.
Last week’s episode, “Pimento,” was hard to top. The revelation that Chuck (Michael McKean) never wanted Jimmy to be a lawyer and was working against him completely shattered Jimmy’s perception of his brother. Jimmy had been trying to please Chuck for years, but it turns out Chuck never had that much faith in him. Chuck said it himself: “People don’t change.”
It’s Jimmy’s epiphany that leads him to officially give the Sandpiper case to HHM, seeing no point in working on it alone. This gives us the rare opportunity to see Howard (Patrick Fabian) be honest with Jimmy. His smugness is gone, and it’s instead replaced with a surprising somberness. Howard is actually fairly fond of Jimmy, and he lets him know that. It’s a nice, quiet moment that capitalizes on how defeated Jimmy feels.
After all the drama with Chuck, Jimmy feels a change of scenery is in order; he’s sick of the desert. He packs his bags and heads off to the bar he frequented in his hometown of Cicero, Illinois. It’s here that we are reunited with Marco (Mel Rodriguez), who was first introduced in a flashback in “Hero.” Because Marco and Jimmy used to be partners-in-crime, this episode gives us a great chance to see what Jimmy was really like before he moved to Albuquerque. We kind of already knew what Slippin’ Jimmy was like, but we never got a full picture. Now it’s very clear that Jimmy used to be one of the best con artists around, swindling people out of their money with great precision. We’re not talking about just a few instances either. He ran that town.
Seeing Jimmy and Marco rob their victims blind is definitely the highlight of the episode. It largely has to do with how the show presents it. It was clear from the show’s start that Vince Gilligan and his fellow writers love classic cinema, given how many times Jimmy references old movies. Well, this episode takes that love to whole other level. It’s a little jarring at first, but once you get into the swing of it, it’s a lot of fun.
Despite all the praise I’ve given the episode so far, there are some moments where it falters. There’s a moment fairly early in the episode in which Jimmy suffers a meltdown at the bingo hall, and it overstays its welcome. While I appreciate the explanation of a “Chicago sunroof” and how Jimmy landed in prison, the circumstances of his meltdown come across as so ridiculous that it feels almost like a dream. In addition, Marco abruptly exits the episode and it feels a little off. It seems like it’s supposed to be an emotional moment for the audience, but we just haven’t spent enough time with him to care that much.
The episode does end on an interesting note though, with Jimmy deciding he’s done doing the right thing and getting too little for it. Personally, I might have ended the episode on a more ambiguous note. Not every finale needs a sweeping statement to define it. But then again, it makes it clear where the show is headed, and that’s kind of exciting. Jimmy could still change his mind in next season’s premiere though. Breaking Bad pulled a few bait-and-switches like this, so it’s not out of the question.
Viewers expecting some grand climax to this season are likely to be disappointed by this episode; it does not have a huge cliffhanger. It also doesn’t resolve the inconsistent attention given to Mike (Jonathan Banks) or tie up the loose end that is Nacho (Michael Mando). Still, it’s sort of like the season 1 finale of Breaking Bad. That season had a climax in its penultimate episode, leaving the falling action to the finale.
With all that said, I find myself struggling with how to rate this episode It drags on a lot in the middle and leaves some loose ends. But then again, it’s a season finale, so it doesn’t have to wrap up everything. And there are some fun moments in it too.
The jury’s still out whether it’s as good as its five season-long predecessor. However, I’ll definitely be watching Better Call Saul come its next premiere.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (Good)