Better Call Saul – Off Brand Review
Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad highlighted that nearly everyone has two personas: one public, one private. Jimmy, per his history, is known for his antics and showmanship to con people. Season one finale Marco showed exactly what Jimmy is capable of. He brings a sense of theatricality to a side that he tries to keep buried. Nacho’s machismo is hitting a brick wall. His facial expressions throughout the season showed contempt for his actions.
Stresses of Living a Double Life
He looks numb, going through the motions of what a stereotypical mafioso should do. Even after letting Krazy Eight off the hook for being short on cash, Nacho is forced to chase after him to mercilessly beat him. Nacho struggles with his frustrations with his line of work. Working at his father’s textile job is when his numbness is pulled to the forefront. Michael Mando’s contemplative expressions show his wanting to leave his life in the Cartel. Facing down the barrel of a gun is an extension of his numbness. The last straw comes Don Hector orders him to use his father’s business as a drug front.
Mando plays Nacho with a reserved machismo. Nacho has never been the one to flaunt his money, gun, or his bravado – like, say, Tuco. His reservation comes off as professional, but in Off Brand, it comes off as someone at their last resort. Mike oozes a bit of that emotionality, too. In Sabrosito, Mike utters the line, “It’s nice to build something for a change,” a sign of the criminal lifestyle waning on him. As Mike goes deeper and deeper into the criminal underworld, his reasons for entering is slowly fading away. Giving a faint smile, Mike is reminded of a carport he built years before his descent into the criminal underground. Stacey’s story of how Mike’s son, Matty, looked up to him is convincing enough for Mike to assist in the building a local playground. Is this possibly the playground Mike leaves his granddaughter in his final Breaking Bad appearance Say My Name?
“I’s all good, man!”
They may have good intentions but Nacho and Mike have lost pieces of themselves.
That duality argument carries over to Jimmy with a proper introduction to Saul Goodman. Goodman’s cheery and upbeat personality stuns Kim; Goodman is a completely different person. Jimmy’s comfortability being Goodman is probably what’s shocking to Kim. Kim knows of his ability to lie his way out of damning situations but this is the first time she’s seen that side of him personified. Jimmy loses a part of himself when he has to face the world as Jimmy, but once the mask comes off and he’s able to be Saul Goodman, he becomes whole.
For lack of a better comparison, Jimmy is the anti-Batman: his daytime persona is just there to get him through life and his nighttime persona allows for him to be himself, 100 percent.
Off Brand may just be a sly way of referring to these character’s dual lifestyles. Of the two personalities these people share, one is the authentic brand and the other is generic, Off Brand. The episode’s theme extends to Chuck and Gus. Chuck’s darker side, the side only seen by Jimmy, has finally unraveled. Chuck is at his most vulnerable with his mental instability and losing the case not only hurt his ego but may be a wake-up call for him to get help.
Chuck-ed to the Side
Chuck is the character you love to hate but there is still a level of empathy present as he walks through Albuquerque donning a space blanket. Peering from the outside in, we know Chuck is suffering from a bout of mental issues, possibly stemming from his divorce from Rebecca, and her being in town isn’t doing well for his psyche.
Though his actions and attitude towards Jimmy may cross an ethical line, his semblance of mental instability beckons professional mending. With Rebecca’s pleas for Jimmy to help his only brother, Jimmy’s biting “no” answer is unsettling to hear. However, Rebecca is wrong to claim Jimmy is selfish. Yes, he does selfish things for selfless reasons but Jimmy, no matter how large a squabble, would always put his brother’s needs first. Transforming into Saul Goodman not only shields Jimmy McGill’s reputation as a lawyer but also hides his family problems.