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Better Call Saul – Season 3, Episode 8: Slip 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.

After taking a week off for the Memorial Day holiday in the US – well, you'd hardly expect Jimmy McGill to waste a chance to take a break – Better Call Saul is back, showing more of the interesting structure of this year. While most series would have built towards the big confrontation between Jimmy and Chuck, Saul instead uses that as a mid-season springboard to new storylines and directions for the main characters. It's a risky move, for sure – you're in danger of setting up plots that are frustratingly unfulfilled, given that there are just two more episodes left after this one for the season to use. Still, in Team Saul we trust.

The main story with Jimmy finds him slipping – look, there's really no other way to say it and we wanted to get the pun out of the way early – back to his full con man days in a way that suggests he's firmly on the road to his future criminal life. After a flashback to he and former partner Marco (Mel Rodriguez) visiting the old McGill convenience story to find Jimmy's grifting coin collection, we get yet more reminders that while Jimmy tries to do good when he can, he never wants to be a sucker, the way he perceived his father. And we see his anger coming out in waves when the brothers of the In Tune store try to wriggle out of their deal to pay him for more ads. So here's the fully committed Slippin' Jimmy, injuring himself for a cause, getting his own back on the "King Douchenozzle" in charge of his community service litter picking sessions and, inadvertently, letting his pride drive a further wedge between himself and Kim. It's fun to watch Bob Odenkirk let loose with the smooth talking and back-falling Jimmy, even if it does make one worry about his future.

The episode's title could also refer to the other characters featured tonight; Kim, for example seems to be slipping further from Jimmy, and throwing herself into her work. Howard's smug, serene facade slips when she confronts him at a lunch with a cheque repaying the law school loans he covered when she was starting out. And Chuck, who has finally started to get some help for his condition, has a minor triumph when he's able to visit a grocery store. But you get the sense that his slip is coming once he arrives home to find Howard ready to discuss a problem with his malpractice insurance. Who wants to guess how he'll react when he discovers what Jimmy has done in torpedoing his rates? Whether he learns that it was his brother or not, it's sure to affect him. More wonderful, subtle work from Michael McKean here, who has the chops to make even the unlikeable Chuck McGill seem human and relatable when he needs to.

And Nacho is also slipping, but physically slipping Don Hector's pills from his jacket and replacing them with his doctored version. It's a superbly tense sequence, with Nacho sweating (literally, since he damaged the air conditioning to make sure Hector took off his coat) the job of switching out the pills.

Finally, there's Mike Ehrmantraut, slipping back into a life he thought he could leave behind as he makes a deal to work for Gus Fring to help with making sure his family is taken care of in the event of something happening to him. Ironically, working for Gus is the thing that will eventually – spoiler alert for anyone who has not seen Breaking Bad but intends to catch up after getting into Saul – will lead to the very thing he's concerned about down the line. For now, though, Jonathan Banks portrays Mike's internal battle perfectly, whether it's the character hitting the desert with a metal detector to find the body of the good samaritan killed by Hector's drug truck crew or shaking hands with the closest thing this show has to a devil in human form.

Slip represents yet another great episode, full of little Saul touches, including two wonderful montages – Mike in the desert, show in time lapse with his metal detector, and Nacho's careful pill preparation – examples of the show's continued ability to make the most mundane actions dramatic and watchable. Director Adam Bernstein sidesteps the usual visual flair for Chuck's experiences outside, show without needing to tell how he's having more luck coping with his condition, however much it's all in his head. We're two episodes away from the end, and with no renewal announced yet, our fingers are crossed the team gets to keep telling this story.

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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