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Better Call Saul - Season 04
Back when I was half joking about the acumen with which Better Call Saul was going in its second season, you knew that it would head down a sad yet inevitable road, right? Jimmy (its second season) would become Saul eventually, despite his best efforts otherwise.
There are two big changes that have occurred since I wrote a lot of words down about the show; one being the death of Jimmy's brother Chuck (Michael McKean, This is Spinal Tap) and the introduction or reacquainting if you will of Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad), both of which occur in Season Three, but continue to resonate with the major players in Season 4, the former for Jimmy in dealing with the loss, the latter in attempting to work with Mike (Jonathan Banks) for various tasks. Season Four also saw the introduction of Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton, Colombiana), nephew of Hector and cousin of Tuco, Leonel and Marco (the latter two being the near identical brothers who take out the Salamanca rivals.
We've all gotten to the point where we can acknowledge how impressive Odenkirk is in this show, first the desire to try and be good despite getting thwarted at every turn before eventually embracing the dark side. But just as good perhaps is Rhea Seehorn has as Kim is just as good. Her path is different but no less bland, and in Season Four the case could be made she approaches the same area that Jimmy orbits. The only difference is Jimmy is sort of used to it, and when she states a desire to up the action, it's almost like Frankenstein's monster, you know? And she's watched a lot of people crap on Jimmy for so long, and it comes to a head for her in a perfectly acted moment. The joy about shows in the Vince Gilligalaxy is that you see previously nontraditional actors shine in roles they seemed preternatural to handle, and Seehorn has found hers.
Also seeing what Fring's character does to assert his authority, or more specifically how Banks reconciles this with his moral compass, may be a lower key fascinating portion of Saul. It feels like there's a lot of ground to cover in that secondary arc, but it's one that is just as compelling as how Jimmy's fate unfolds to what we know of it now.
It seems like Better Call Saul is in a position where the chess pieces are starting to assemble before the next actions, but they are unconcerned with how a lot of what will transpire because they've got a lot of things firing on all cylinders at the moment. That could be concerning, but if there was a clearer case of recommending that the viewer enjoy the ride, I haven't found one yet. Enjoy the ride Better Call Saul gives you folks.
Season Four's 10-episode run is spread over three discs, is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic video and looks the part from its initial airings on broadcast TV. Black levels are consistent and deep throughout, image detail is sharp as a tack, colors are vivid without saturation issues. I've seen this presented a couple of different ways, and even in standard definition these discs look super.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround is also up to the task. Music sounds clear, action effects like gunfire or wrecked muscle cars contain a bit of surround activity and dynamic range, dialogue is consistent throughout with little drop-offs. You'll get little complaint at how broad this soundtrack is if you watch it in SD.
There are commentaries on each episode, all but one include Gould, and include a mix of the writers, directors and actors for the relevant episodes. Most of the cast (save for Seehorn and Esposito) appear once, but the tracks are OK. Most of them are watching the action onscreen, and some get into a little scene intent, shot breakdown or even an abandoned story idea or two, and they all have a good amount of production recall to boot. Implied or obvious nods to its mythological predecessor are shown too. They're not too smart but they're nice to listen to. The other extras are on Discs 1 and 3; with one being a series of Madrigal Security Videos hosted by Banks in character (10, 18:35). Sure, they're a little much, but the thought was nice. "No Picnic" is a short (2:53) that will make you never look at community service the same way. Disc 3 has a slightly funny gag reel (6:37) that is comprised of pre-action flubs, while "Slippin' Kimmy" (10:01) looks at Seehorn's character arc this season, with thoughts by the cast and crew about it. An interesting examination to watch for sure.
I'm not sure how Better Call Saul went from a spinoff we didn't need but welcomed to ‘wow, this is pretty good' to ‘wow, this may be one of the best shows on TV these days,' but at this point, its' just worth it to buckle in and enjoy the ride like everyone else is. It's missing a little more active or substantial participation on the commentaries but it's a minor quibble for a show that with each passing episode comes closer to its predecessor.