Better Call Saul season 1 episode 7: Bingo might also be called: Good Cop / Bad Cop. I’m referring to the Kettlemans, of course. What a team.
This week’s Better Call Saul episode was a perfect study in colours that told us so much about the trajectory of this narrative; from a delightful lot of Hamlindigo Blue to the end of Jimmy’s Matlock phase (for shame, its colours suited him nicely, as did his time as an upstanding Elder Law expert.) This post will look at the episode from this angle, and really take a moment to regard the beautiful work being done in the background as well as wonderful set pieces like this bingo card and dauber set we’ve just gotta have.
Larysa Kondracki has directed this episode so beautifully that it stands as a perfect capsule, or a feature film. The art department has flourished here too, making the senior citizens’ Bingo party look just right. Jimmy McGill has splashed out some decent Kettleman retainer (bribe) cash on his bid to really be the new Matlock, pleasing seniors not through the safety of their TV but for real, and for the first half of “Bingo” he’s having a ball. And so is his crowd. It’s a packed house. The camera pan over the party tables was something out of Goodfellas and just as enjoyable as it zooms to our winner, who loves kitties. It’s a wholly charming and very funny scene, made even better by details such as McGill’s “Bob Barker” microphone. Stellar work and a delight for those of us who breathe set design.
Sadly, I fear this is the last we will see of Jimmy McGill in his becoming, hopeful, fake it til you almost made it good-guy Elder Lawyer. R.I.P. summer weight suit, fare the well, “young Paul Newman as Matlock” you will be truly, madly, deeply, missed.
And a reluctant, bitter, hello to McGill’s dour, double breasted look he wears for his denouement with The Dreaded Kettlemans. (Post-Punk band name, anyone?) He’s gone from a dream of cheerfully estate planning his way to the top of a strong market, to looking like a funeral director right out of Fisher & Sons as he brings the crazy caboose that is the Kettleman train to a halt.
Hamlindigo Blue might just become Pantone’s colour of 2016. Just look at what they’ve done with the building. Here, as Kim speaks with Jimmy about their Kettleman problem, she’s visually trapped in a Hamlidigo prison, with her own blue suit blending in to the blurry foreground. She’s almost invisible, as her promising career hangs in the balance due to the world’s worst clients and, presumably, one of the ABQ’s worst bosses.
This theme continues with Jimmy and Kim’s usual meet up in the darkness of the HHM parking garage. Notice how scenes are usually lit for effect, and here they are darkened for effect. Something about the shadow that covers Kim’s face suggests a dark turn that the show might have been warning us about. These lawyers operate around some bad people and guilty, desperate clients, but Kim’s only fear seems to be not making partner in two years. Even Jimmy has, for once, grown sunny and optimistic as he (too-briefly)makes actual plans to open a nice HHM -level office space of his own (notice the color of his casual wear here).
We know Saul/Jimmy has and will face a lot of bad dudes in his time, but I don’t know if any of them are as chilling to go eye to eye with as a determined, barely hinged woman who’s pretending to be an innocent while threatening a man’s freedom and livelihood, and without good sense.
Oh The Kettlemans. We know who wears the coral, expensive looking Power Suit in this family, don’t we. Look at this delightful Donnie & Marie mitchy matching, though. He’s like a little accessory, a monchichi on her backpack. You just know she dresses him. Chillingly, they look almost like something out of an alternate reality with pre-Heisenberg Walter White if he were married to Lydia Rodarte-Quayle, an idea that thrills while it chills.
The neatly-pressed department store casual twin-set they wear in their home when Jimmy McGill pays them a surprising visit is a study in browns, reds, and more browns as they blend into their own home furnishings, which are blandly expensive and reveal two depressingly stunted cacti in the background that should be thriving. Won’t someone think of the children?
The location scouting, lighting and cinematography that led to this amazing sequence where viewers are treated to Mike finally doing Mike shit (set to the tune of a gorgeously peppy composition by Dave Porter and foregrounded by Mike’s 5 half-eaten apples) deserves special mention. Glass (and brick) houses with apparently, nothing to hide, eh, Kettlemans? Oh, but we know what lurks inside the suburban crawlspaces of Albuquerque, don’t we.
Blue is the most important colour of the season, perhaps. It’s also just plain funny to give co-creators and writers Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould a chance to create a shot like this:
I’ll leave you with one question that struck me out of this great opening shot of the Wanted wall at the police station. Is this rough, grumpy non-handwasher in the diner washroom the same man whose sits just above Jimmy’s head in the opening scene? It looks that way to me. It looks gleefully dangerous around town even in daylight, even when Saul is, for now, cloaked in his whites.
“WANTED: Robert P.Sanchez should be considered armed and dangerous.” Is Jimmy oblivious to the danger that lurks right behind him? Is nutty Mrs. Kettleman (gasp) right? Because as we expected, under our very noses, dangerous criminals are walking around while the police pursue nice, white collar, embezzlers. Corrupt cops are pursuing ex-cops for murdering really bad cops for killing a loved one (a good cop). It’s a mess, this world. Wash your hands.
We’ll leave you with this epic outro music & visual as we say goodbye to The Suit:
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