Better Call Saul season 3 episode 2 'Witness' review: Gus Fring return ratchets up the tension

More beautiful cinematography and bravura acting from Jonathan Banks (Mike Ehrmantraut), but the pace is still glacial

Christopher Hooton@christophhooton
Wednesday 19 April 2017 13:22
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*Spoilers ahead for Better Call Saul episode 2 - watch it here*

As the credits rolled on the second episode of Better Call Saul season 3, Netflix suggested I watch Breaking Bad next. This stood out to me because, by this point, you couldn't really enjoy Better Call Saul without having seen Breaking Bad. While the first two seasons established new characters and narratives, the third is increasingly reliant on old ones and cashing in on reveals of major returns. I'm in two minds when it comes to criticising this though, as it's hard not to enjoy it.

Mike's plot thread in 'Witness' was twined around him tracking his tracker, the trail carrying over from episode one and leading him to Breaking Bad's iconic lair, Los Pollos Hermanos. It was a thrill to see the restaurant again (an functioning Mexican eatery in Albuquerque I visited a few years back), in all its unsettlingly-clean-for-a-fast-food-burrito-joint glory, and the return of its proprietor unravelled with cinematic precision. Bringing to mind the closing scene of The Sopranos, Jimmy, brought in by Mike to get the measure of his stalker, nervously looked around the restaurant as he monitored a mysterious satchel, and slowly you became aware that a figure out of focus in the background was none other than Gustavo Fring. His impeccable politeness and serenity when on restaurant manager duty is always chilling and his homicidal tendencies really up the stakes moving forward in the series. He caught Jimmy red-handed going through his trash for clues but only realised it later - a sinister look crossing his face - and I look forward to his redemptive strike. It's fun watching Mike and Gus attempt to outwit each other (if a little too reminiscent of Walt vs. Gus in Breaking Bad) and will be interesting to see what caused a man as brave as Mike to ultimately advise Walt to give Gus a wide berth.

As for Jimmy, who I'm recapping second because he is definitely the less interesting of the two main characters right now, he spent this week's episode hiring a paralegal, learning of Chuck's tape and angrily confronting him about it. There was plenty of foreshadowing of him turning into Saul Goodman later in the series along the way, a line about his stencil being "a little crooked" being emphasised along with a blurred line being left after he rips the stencil away. I'm tired of Kim, I'm tired of HHM, I'm tired of Mesa Verdé, but Chuck remains a good villain (the utter bastard) and I have confidence this plot will gather pace as we get deeper into the season.

In short, I can't help but fanboy out on this titillating Breaking Bad foreword, I just hope it establishes memorable characters, locations and sequences of its own.

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