Better Call Saul S03E06 Recap: 'Off Brand'

Last week, Better Call Saul gave us what might be its best episode to date. ”Chicanery” was the culmination of what everyone had been waiting for nearly three seasons; the downfall of one Chuck McGill. In a perfectly crafted episode, Jimmy and Kim pull off a master stroke of lawyering and the titular chicanery in order to trick Chuck into confessing his malevolent disdain for his brother, as well as proving that his allergy to electricity is indeed a bunch of nonsense.

But where do we go from here? This was the moment that the show had been building up to from the very beginning, the climax of a broken relationship between two brothers. How does this show top Chuck’s arc-ending speech?

The answer isn’t found in ”Off Brand”, and quite honestly, it might take another two-and-a-half seasons for us to figure it out. “Chicanery” was a peak. Now begins a steady decline, at least character-wise, for Jimmy, beginning his descent towards what we know he’ll be when we meet him in Breaking Bad.

Funny enough, it seems as if what he’s going to become might be the direct result of Chuck’s meddling. Chuck doesn’t exactly get his way, as Jimmy’s license is only suspended for a year, but that’s a year that, as he quickly finds out, Jimmy has to earn a living, pay for his half of the nice new office he and Kim invested in, pay to keep his lovely secretary employed, and make up for the thousands of dollars he already spent on advertising. Jimmy’s back is quickly put up against a wall because of the suspension, and like in the past, he has no trouble resorting to his old grifting ways to make ends meet.

While Jimmy can’t sell the ad time he already bought, he goes to various businesses and offers to make them commercials for the price of the ad time. When he can’t get anyone to bite as quickly as he needs them to, he decides to make a commercial for his commercial business. And in the coup de grace of the episode, he decides he doesn’t want to tarnish his lawyer name, so he puts on a pair of sunglasses and a fake goatee and finally calls himself Saul Goodman.

Kim has the reaction we all do, but according to Jimmy, it’s just a name. Like, you know, “s’all good, man.” Except we all know it isn’t just a name. It’s a persona that allows Jimmy to do things he shouldn’t be doing, and how easily he slips into it the moment his back is once again up against a wall should be concerning for everyone involved.

Jimmy’s arc in “Off Brand” really says a lot about his relationship with Chuck. Over the course of three seasons, we’ve been trained to hate the elder McGill. There is even a subreddit dedicated to how much he sucks. And don’t get me wrong, Chuck is a vindictive, manipulative asshole who couldn’t be happy for his brother even once, and a lifetime of exercising control over what Jimmy does and being resentful of him instead of understanding and loving likely plays a large factor into who Jimmy is and what he’ll become. However, like we’ve seen, the moment that influence, that control is finally lifted off Jimmy’s shoulders, Jimmy starts to break bad. We’ve all probably seen Chuck’s attempted redemption coming (and the show doubles down on that this week as Chuck forces himself to go out among the lights in order to call his doctor), but it’s interesting to see it play out so quickly.

In the end, all of this is probably worth it, if for no other reason than the epic Saul Goodman commercial Jimmy comes up with. It’s perfectly sleazy, tacky and kitschy, and the kind of thing we’ve been waiting for since the show was announced. It’s the beginning of a year long transformation for Jimmy, and it’s going to be exciting to witness.

While Jimmy’s arc in “Off Brand” is deep and layered, I’m not exactly sure how to feel about what everyone else is doing in the episode. It almost feels like the show is merely checking in on everyone as they set the table for the season’s climax.

We see Nacho having more issues with Hector, who exercises his own version of control over his employee, forcing him to use force on an underperforming dealer and to bring his father’s business into the fold. Nacho doesn’t like how Hector treats him and, to be fair, it’s a very interesting parallel to the Chuck and Jimmy relationship, it’s just a shame that we don’t get to see more of it.

Rebecca is erstwhile taking advantage of Mike as well, dragging him to support groups and signing him up for construction work, which he’s of course happy to do, however, will it also lead him down a more dangerous path if he grows wary of a more suburban life?

Finally, we get only a glimpse at what Gus is up to, as we see him scoping out some real estate that will eventually become Walt’s lab in Breaking Bad, before he gets into a car with, of all people Lydia.

It was a cool little scene, but it’s the one that took me the most out of the show. After spending so much time with Jimmy, suddenly the show drops yet another cameo from a Breaking Bad character. It’s unclear if Lydia is there just as a nod or signaling the start of a bigger storyline with Gus and Hector. Like I said, the thing about this episode is that there seems to be a lot of card placement, a lot of jockeying for position, and while it may pan out by the end of the season, it sort of leaves things unclear at the current point in the story, and unfortunately that takes away from what was a pretty good episode for Jimmy’s character development and, to a lesser extend, Nacho’s.

“Off Brand” is pretty clearly a hurdle that Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould had to clear as they look forward to the next chapter of their show, but there’s still a lot of good in it, so we’re giving it 7.5 commercials for commercials out of 10.