In Better Call Saul‘s “Alpine Shepherd Boy,” we see Jimmy McGill reinventing himself yet again, in order to go where the money is. Most of the episode was devoted to Jimmy following-up with new clients thanks to his billboard scheme, where his “heroic” (staged) actions engaged the interest of several people looking for his services. After two (hilarious) misfires with Ricky the Ranch Man, who is looking to secede from the U.S.A., and Roland with the sexually suggestive talking toilet for kids, Jimmy accidentally hit pay dirt with Mrs. Strauss, and elderly lady looking to lock down a very complicated will.
After detailing his day to Kim (in another casually funny scene, as Jimmy paints her nails), Kim suggests he give actual consideration to elder law. So far, they have been the only paying customers after the ad, and they are in great supply. Jimmy waffles on the idea until the whole saga with Chuck, where he realizes that Chuck’s symptoms seem to worsen when Jimmy seems to be sliding back into Slippin’ Jimmy mode.
At Chuck’s house, Jimmy convinces him not only that the ad stunt was a one-time thing, but that he’s setting himself up now as a hero to the elderly (Jimmy really loves the hero motif). Chuck, half believing him (but wholly wanting to believe him), seems suddenly cured, shrugging off his space cape, and matter-of-factly going to make coffee. The conscience that Chuck offers Jimmy is more than just a promise made a long time ago; Jimmy now must feel partially responsible for Chuck’s issues. Or at least, he recognizes that Chuck is deeply affected by his choices and actions.
In the last episode, we saw Jimmy copying Hamlin’s look as part of a larger scheme that involved his appearance on the news. This time, it was all about copying Matlock’s look to appeal to the elderly. Jimmy sketches Matlock’s suit, and has it tailored (presumably), before making the rounds at the nursing home. He flatters the residents, sponsors a Jell-O snack with his face and information at the bottom of the cup, and even has a brand-new slogan: “Need a will? Call McGill!”
All of this feels like a Saul Goodman prototype. Jimmy has cultivated a look and a style to appeal to a group he is looking to “help.” It may be somewhat genuine, now, but surely Slippin’ Jimmy’s swindling instincts are never far.
As much fun as Jimmy’s revolving door of insane clients was (and it’s part of what helps make the show feel distinct from Breaking Bad), the end of “Alpine Shepherd Boy” gave a sense of where things are headed next for Jimmy in his criminal evolution, particularly as it ties back into the world of Breaking Bad.
Ultimately, “Alpine Shepherd Boy” shifted the focus from Jimmy to Mike, showing what part of a typical day for him looks like (work, stop at a diner, stalk daughter-in-law, drink and beer and watch TV, get picked up by the cops). In some ways, it was reflection of the premiere episode’s flash-forward to Jimmy’s post-Breaking Bad life, where he works at a Cinnabon in Omaha. And now, because Mike needs a lawyer (and the two now have a wary alliance), it looks like Jimmy is about to get swept up in Mike’s world (and eventually, into Gus’s, Jesse’s, and Walt’s).
The other major component to “Alpine Shepherd Boy,” though, was Chuck’s confrontation with the police, his time at the hospital, and his discussion with Jimmy once they were back home. That coupled with the time Jimmy and Kim spent in the nail salon showed a completely different side to Jimmy. With Chuck and Kim, Jimmy is caring and sincere. He defends his brother’s condition to the doctor, and attempts to get rid of the electricity in the room so that his brother has the ability to defend himself. The scenes here were long, and arguably too long, but if Better Call Saul is all about Jimmy’s development, and exposing his many conflicting layers, then those scenes were certainly necessary to show that there’s still a kernel of humanity in him that does, truly, want to be good.
Episode Rating: ★★★ Good
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Remember, episodes are graded within the show’s own world, not against all of TV. If it was against all of TV, then every episode would be 5 stars, and the ratings would be meaningless. A good show deserves tough love. And this is a very good show.
— Happy to see two actresses I really like in this episode: Clea Duvall as the doctor, and Kerry Condon as Mike’s daughter-in-law (I’m guess that’s who she is, I don’t know for sure).
— “We know you’re there, you’re casting a shadow through the peephole” – the police to Chuck. I like the allusion to Breaking Bad through them thinking he might be a tweaker.
— “Insight the first…” – Ricky. Loved the fact that his money was all fake with is face on it (at least, the money he was willing to give to Jimmy).
— I was surprised in a way that Jimmy was totally honest with Roland and his sexualized toilet. I thought he would have just gone with it to get the cash. Then again, he did try to spin it in a more potentially profitable direction: “Your wealthier Pacific Rim nations will love it, those crazy bastards.”
— I want to know more about Kim, but I like what I’ve seen. She’s a good confidant for Jimmy.
— “The man in the booth, John Wilkes Booth, Booth Tarkington! Whatcha reading there, the annotated book of rules for parking validations?” – Jimmy.