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Better Call Saul – Season 3, Episode 3: Sunk Costs Review

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★★★★

It goes without saying that there are spoilers in this review, so don't end up looking like one of Slippin' Jimmy's marks.

Sunk Costs is one of those episodes it might be considered "safe" to show to those who are still not sure they want to watch the show, as the two main plots see some real forward momentum this week. Jimmy starts to suffer the fallout of his emotions getting the better of him (and Chuck's cold calculations), as he's carted off to a holding cell, charged with breaking and entering, assault and other misdemeanors. The episode, written by Gennifer Hutchinson and directed (one of only two for Saul thus far) by creator Vince Gilligan's old X-Files and Breaking Bad cohort John Shiban, is once again a perfect example of minimalist storytelling, letting the characters breathe and taking its time with unfolding the various turns.

Jimmy's time in the cells might be short, but it's awkward for him, and at first drives a wedge between Jimmy and Kim, as she arrives to defend him, but he's decided to do it himself. As the judge notes (or starts to, at least), as the old saying goes, "a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client"... Well, it is Jimmy. He might not be a fool, but he does have a habit of acting impetuously, which often gets him into trouble. The montage of his arrival at jail and the various bureaucratic humiliations heaped upon him are not the only montage this week, as we see Kim's morning routine – seems she's taken to sleeping in the office and showering at a nearby gym.

Mike's story this week sees him finally coming face to face with Gus Fring, and the first proper meeting of the two masters of understatement is a delight. Both Jonathan Banks and Giancarlo Esposito can say so much with a few words and their points are written all over their faces. Mike's still ready to mess with Hector Salamanca for threatening his family, and Gus is willing to let him as long as he doesn't hurt the man or interfere with Fring's own business.

The highlight of the episode, even one in which Jimmy went to jail for the night, was another entry in a series we could either call Mike Waits or Old Man MacGyver. As foreshadowed (thought that should really be post-shadowed), the opening scene, which at first appears to be just one of Saul's little one-scene stories, is actually the result of Mike once again messing with Hector. Never one to simply cause trouble, Mike has a genius (if overcomplicated) plan to plant drugs on one of Hector's trucks. It's a lovely sequence, once again showcasing Mr. Ehrmantraut's guile and creativity.

Elsewhere, we have Francesca starting to learn that working for Jimmy and Kim might not be as straightforward as it seemed (boy, is she in for a surprise down the line – seeing her reaction to Jimmy evolving into Saul is one of the storylines we're really fascinated to see) and poor old Ernesto, seemingly surplus to requirements, now off Chuck's payroll.

Talking of the older McGill, there was another chance for Michael McKean to really did into Chuck again, layering on the brotherly love while undercutting Jimmy yet again. Any scene where McKean and Bob Odenkirk get to trade barbs is a good one, and the moment with Jimmy and Chuck outside the latter's house was a prime example. Plus, as we later learn, it's just another ploy by Chuck to get Jimmy's law licence revoked.

A Better Call Saul where things move along without sacrificing anything that makes the show great – those desert vistas, the keen and careful application of montage, the tone and feel, and attention to detail – is one to be savoured. It's not tough to see the roots of Saul Goodman taking hold as Jimmy endures his brother's manipulations, and the little moments, such as Kim's strained reaction to her boyfriend refusing to let her represent him in court (followed by his impassioned reasoning why) are what makes this series a cut above so many others, even in this era of great TV.

Better Call Saul airs Mondays on AMC in the US and is appearing weekly on Tuesdays via Netflix in the UK.

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