Better Call Saul S3 E1: "Mabel" (AMC) - "The Cocobolo Times" Recap

"The Cocobolo Times" Recap: Better Call Saul (AMC)


As some of you may know, I recap lots of television shows (GOT, Mr. Robot, OITNB, HACF, Black Mirror etc.) This is my first attempt at an official recap of the AMC show "Better Call Saul" but I have written a few pieces about the show before. 

I watched Breaking Bad religiously, have seen every episode of Better Call Saul, and am a fanatical fanboy of Mr. Show with Bob and David. I believe Vince Gilligan is one of the best writers of television around (I also love David Simon and Sam Esmail while having a love/hate relationship with Benioff and Weiss).

Anyway, it seemed like a natural evolution. If you have not read my recaps before, I don't try to cover everything or retell the story in its entirety. I try to capture some of the main things that stood out to me and use those things to talk about the character development or the show itself.

Enjoy! And if you have not seen Better Call Saul S3 E1: Mabel *Spoiler Alert*

"The Cocobolo Times" S3 E1 "Mabel" 


Better Call Saul S3 E1 "Mabel" covers the beginnings of the law firm of Wexler-Mcgill, the continuing deterioration of the relationship between Chuck and Jimmy McGill, and the start of Mike Ehrmantraut's detective work into his failed attempt to kill the local leaders of the cartel.

A Man Named Gene, Cinnabon, and Omaha

Figured I would include a brand new cover version of the Nancy Sinatra classic "Sugar Town" from Sweden's ShitKid (I don't make up the band names)  that started off episode 1. 

Anyway, Jimmy will become Saul and even later, he will become Gene.

Gene is an assumed identity for fugitive from the law Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman and he works under this name at a Cinnabon franchise in Omaha Nebraska (as quietly and discretely as possible).

Today, during his lunch break from Cinnabon, Gene (Bob Odenkirk) witnesses a shoplifter trying to escape from police pursuit and much to his own shock (and dismay) he helps the police apprehend the fleeing felon.

This episode is a reminder that Better Call Saul is the story not just of how Jimmy becomes Saul Goodman, but how he ends up as a fugitive named Gene. Gene is a person who has fallen so far that he has become everything Jimmy and Saul would despise. 

In fact, we get to see Gene become aware of how far he has fallen as he slowly watches in horror as his own finger (seemingly willed by forces beyond his control) points out the hiding shoplifter. After being forced to see who he has become, Gene collapses entirely.

Basically, the writers are reminding us that we are watching a tragedy. They are reminding us that we are watching a tragedy for which we already know what happens to the protagonist. 

They are reminding us that we already know that this will not end well.

In other Jimmy news (Jimmy, Saul, Gene news), he has an amazing confrontation with one of the airmen from the airbase that he scammed to make his commercial. Most important, at one point the airman says something that reminds Jimmy of Chuck's lecturing and he threatens him. In other words, the mask is starting to "slip."

The Adventures of Mabel


There is a beautiful and beautifully ugly moment between Chuck (Michael McKean) and Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) when Chuck reveals that it was not their Mother who read the book "The Adventures of Mabel" to Jimmy when he was a kid, it was him.

It is a beautiful moment because you can tell that Chuck loved Jimmy enough to read him a book that they both remember fondly.

It is a beautifully ugly moment because he is clearly angry that Jimmy remembers his Mom and not Chuck reading him the book and because no matter how much Chuck loved or loves Jimmy his anger over the 'injustice of Jimmy' always wins the day.

The first injustice, the original wound, is that Mrs. McGill loved Jimmy more (we saw this played out in a flashback at her deathbed last season).

Chuck sees himself as the better, more responsible, better educated, more successful son. Chuck has always seen himself as "objectively" the better son. Jimmy might be charismatic, but he is a liar and a cheat. 

Chuck loves himself a lot and only loves Jimmy, and others, as long as it is understood by the world that Jimmy and others can only be loved standing in the shadow of Chuck's own genius and obvious magnanimity.

The really heartbreaking part is that Jimmy mostly agrees with Chuck's assessment. Jimmy authentically loves Chuck and craves his love and acceptance. Jimmy believes Chuck is every bit the genius that Chuck insists on being treated as. What is Chuck's "illness" other than a statement that every other person who enters into his universe must live entirely by Chuck's rules and cater to every one of Chuck's needs? 

Chuck is sick, but his illness isn't about sensitivity to electricity, it is a Napolean complex borne of frustrated narcissism. And, like that French Corsican dictator, Chuck's frustration comes despite massive success and privilege.

Chuck could have the whole world and still never accept that he is loved because his Mother didn't love him best. She most likely loved him fine, but he can never embrace the world where he is not the sun and "The Son" (and, the world where, if he is not the only son/sun, he will choose to just turn the lights off).

Chuck, despite all of his intellect, is stuck in a permanent state of infantilized jealousy. It is not that he can't get past it, it is that he does not want to. In fact, he applies his entire will to change the world to meet his childish expectations or to make it conform to his psychic pain.

Chuck is only happy in a world where Jimmy is in the copy room, living on Chuck's grace and largesse (not because of any innate talent of his own).  Justice to Chuck is putting the world back where it should be. Chuck as the Sun King and Jimmy (and everyone else) in their proper subservient places.

But, I just can't get past the fact that despite his narcissistic rage and permanent war with the world that Chuck, when he looks deeply inside himself, knows that he does love Jimmy. That is the most brutal and heartbreaking thing about all of this, despite himself, and at great pain to himself, Chuck knows he is killing the good in himself to destroy Jimmy and feels compelled to do it anyway.

Out Out Damn Semicolon


It is hard to see Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) as Lady Macbeth, but I am virtually certain that the semicolon reference is a literal (typed) reference to the tragedy of Lady Macbeth's inability to scrub the blood of her actions from her own mind.

Kim is big on earning her way and deserving the things she gets.

But, there is a part of Kim that is seduced by and that really enjoys playing at "Slipping" with Jimmy.

The semicolon incident, where Kim takes the better than perfect report that she wrote for her new clients at Mesa Verde Bank back home only to re-work the grammar of it over and over again, is really about trying to rub that spot of slipping guilt away.

Why is she guilty? Because she got the client only because Jimmy sabotaged Chuck. She got the client because Chuck tricked HHM. Once she chose to accept Mesa Verde, she became complicit in Chuck's crime.

She is in a personal and professional relationship with a person who she knows will always take shortcuts and she knows that she likes it but that it compromises everything that she accomplishes. 

Kim is staring at that semicolon and replacing it over and over again because she knows deep down that no matter how much she loves Jimmy and loves being his partner (and partner), she could only stay with him at the risk of her soul.

It might take a while, but either Kim will stay with Jimmy and lose everything she really deeply wants from her own life and career or this was the beginning of the end. She now realizes that she is corrupt and complicit, it is now a question of how much deeper she will allow herself to go.

"Gus, You Ever Pick Your Feet In Poughkeepsie?"

There are two reasons that it makes total sense that Vince and the Gang paid tribute to The French Connection in the Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) portion of the Mabel episode:

1. Mike is clearly a spiritual relative of Popeye Doyle (or of The Frenchman for that matter). Detail oriented, professional, and absolutely uncompromising in everything that they do. Yes, they may end up on opposite sides of the tracks legally, but they are very similar characters. 

2. Like Friedkin, Gilligan is equally as uncompromising in his absolute commitment to letting scenes unfold at their own pace. He will let a car be taken apart in silence, allow characters to sit and stare at each other saying absolutely nothing, and show a character work out how to hack an MTSAR 65 tracking device in real time.

Both sequences were fascinating to watch and it seems fairly obvious that the hack of the tracking device will lead Mike directly to what is destined to become his long-term business arrangement with Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito).

In this sense, Mike is kind of the on-screen fictional representation of Gilligan's directorial style. As much as he loves characters like Jimmy, I believe Vince really wants to "Be Like Mike."

Let me put it this way, Vince is to Mike Ehrmantraut as Chuck wishes the world was to him.

Should Have Made a Left Turn At Albuquerque


 Okay, one down and nine to go.

This week's question (leave a comment):

On Talking Saul, Vince Gilligan said that there were no easter eggs. Did you find any (In other words, was Vince telling the truth)?

Thanks for reading, this is a new project, so if you like what I am doing, please take the time to share it on your networks!

The Adventures of Mabel
By Harry Thurston Peck