Better Call Saul "Alpine Shepherd Boy" Review: Introducing the Other Guys

Better Call Saul S01E05: "Alpine Shepherd Boy"

By now, we've got a pretty good handle on Jimmy McGill: He's fast-talking, he has more ups and downs than a break-even poker player, and he's a slippery little fella. And with that introduction out of the way, "Alpine Shepherd Boy" was able to focus less on Better Call Saul's (eventual) title character and more on fleshing out the rest of the show's cast while also expanding its world. All told, the hour really helped to solidify the series as a companion to Breaking Bad, as opposed to a second coming of it.

So yeah, we're fairly familiar with Jimmy at this point, but his space-blanket-wearing brother Chuck (Michael McKean) has remained Better Call Saul's oddest and most mysterious element, and not just because the man shrieks at the sight of cell phones. Since the show debuted, we haven't really known what his deal is or how he fits into the grander scheme of things, "Alpine Shepherd Boy" attempted to help us understand him a teeny-tiny bit better. For one thing, the episode revealed that he suffers from Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity, or as Jimmy likes to say, Chuck is allergic to electricity. Or, as I like to say, he's wackypants looney toons with a side of crazysauce.

More importantly, the hour also explained why Howard is so concerned with Chuck's wellbeing. As long as Chuck is making of his own decisions, he'll (probably) never try to cash out of Howard's law firm—which is well within his rights, since his name is on the front door. And as Jimmy so bluntly explained, if Jimmy ends up as Chuck's guardian, he could pluck Chuck out and pocket the cash. That makes Chuck a key figure to Jimmy's future and the centerpiece of the war between Jimmy and Howard.

But instead of committing his brother to a psych ward and taking the payday, Jimmy merely used Chuck to threaten Howard. It was important for us to see Jimmy behave the way he did; the man is the next evolution of pond scum, but he's not so driven by his pursuit of wealth that he's willing to sell out his brother—even if forcing Chuck to have his head shrunk would probably do Chuck some good. Meanwhile, Chuck serves as the lingering temptation that Better Call Saul needs in order to torture Jimmy's conscience. Breaking Bad was full of lines that we feared Walter White would cross, and Chuck could be Jimmy's point of no return.

"Alpine Shepherd Boy" also took a nice detour when Jimmy visited Mike at the parking booth, and instead of following Jimmy off the lot as it normally does, the camera stayed with Mike. That allowed us to tag along with him on a venture of his own, and what we saw was pretty depressing. Mike spends a lot of time alone—on the graveyard shift of the courthouse parking lot, at the diner while eating his morning dinner, at home, and so on. Plus, there was that disturbing shot of Mike creeping outside a woman's house and watching her leave. Who do you think that was? His daughter?

Based on what we know about Mike, I'd guess the lady was his daughter, a.k.a. the mother of the granddaughter he loved so much on Breaking Bad. But for now, Better Call Saul is only interested in revealing the broadest of details—she's someone Mike is checking in on—without getting into specifics. All we can surmise is that she isn't a big fan of the old man who's parking across the street from her house, and that she may've called the cops on him. (Also: Was that detective who showed up at Mike's door an acquaintance from when Mike was a policeman?) Well, it's a good thing Mike has Jimmy's new business card in his pocket. He doesn't need a will, but he should still call McGill; it could be the beginning of a beautiful and awkward friendship.


BETTER READ THESE NOTES

– Jimmy reaping the benefits of his scam to drum up publicity was so good, particularly Ricky the wannabe seceder. And for as ridiculous as the various scenarios were ("You're the one with the sex toilet!"), Bob Odenkirk's non-verbal reactions during his meeting with Ricky were the best part, as Jimmy tried to keep his cool. Is Better Call Saul the funniest show on television right now?

– Whoa, another Niblet reference on television in just two days! The first one came during the series premiere of Battle Creek, which Vince Gilligan also created. Someday I'll have to ask him about his obsession with tiny corn.

– Jimmy to Mike: "Gimme a call, if you happen to know any elders." Nice save, Jimmy.


Comments (41)
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Mar 04, 2015
I did have a problem with the talking toilet scene. As a lawyer, all Saul had to do was take care of the patent and pocket his fee. For a smart man, he was pretty stupid to let his opinion of the product cost him a client, and whatever other work he may have gotten from toilet man and his possible referrals. Somebody down the line would have changed the phrasing of the gadget before it ever got to market.
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Mar 05, 2015
And that's exactly the series of events that cause us to miss out on the funniest scene of the episode. As a viewer, I checked my suspension of belief at the door to enjoy myself.
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Mar 04, 2015

smooth!
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Mar 04, 2015
Chuck's reason behind his mental collapse remains the only real question floating about.
IIRC Mick's granddaughter was all he truly cared about in BB and so the assumption is the woman was his daughter that he fell out with. Perhaps there's another question, why he fell out with his daughter but I bet it's the usual dad neglected mom and I or my getting knocked up blah, blah.
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Mar 03, 2015
I'm thinking Mike violated a restraining order.
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Mar 04, 2015
Ooh, interesting guess!
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Mar 03, 2015
I enjoyed this episode, but would argue this was the weakest of the series so far, as there wasn't much meat to it, mostly establishing flavor-moments for Jimmy. Chuck's stuff I almost would have preferred he wasn't faking, it was a huge bummer, but worked in favor of the long game.

My guess is the woman is someone Mike blames for the death of another, probably someone close to him, and moved to New Mexico to keep trying to get the dirt on.
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Mar 03, 2015
Also, god that Kim moment was so forced; she went from could shoulder to let do your feet?
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Mar 03, 2015
So why did Mike get arrested?
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Mar 03, 2015
This show is really starting to grow on me. It's obvious it has that Vince Gilligan subtlety, but a bit more different than on Br Ba. And way funnier (at least this episode)!
Good good good!
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Mar 03, 2015
Omg, rich nutcase is cracking me up:)
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Mar 03, 2015
I'm actually watching this tonight for first time but couldn't resist review... Damn it!
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Mar 03, 2015
Can someone refresh my memory? In Breaking Bad, did Saul and Mike ever meet / share a scene? If not, were we told if they were aware of each other's involvement? Just curious. Thanks.
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Mar 03, 2015
Yes, they shared many scenes together. Mike was first introduced in Breaking Bad as a cleaner sent by Saul to remove any evidence linking drug use in Jane's death.
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Mar 03, 2015
I hope this show would tell us how Mike the car park attendant become Mike the cleaner. That would be very interesting.
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Mar 04, 2015
YES! I am totally for all interesting character origin-stories, not only Saul's origin.
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Mar 03, 2015
Ah, wonderful. Thank you. I was confused as to how Saul would not remember Mike when they finally "meet" in Breaking Bad, but the fact that, as you say, Mike is sent by Saul, alleviates that problem. Thanks for this.
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Mar 03, 2015
Am I the only one who thought that it was hilarious that he was dressed in the same suit that Matlock wore in the scene in the nursing home?
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Mar 04, 2015
Oh, so THAT'S what he was doing! Thanks!
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Mar 03, 2015
A mellow jell-o episode where Jimmy tries to find his place in his universe, tries to do the right thing for his brother and of course tries to find customers. It was a weird yet pleasurable puzzle of “short stories” of characters, with a touch of humour-noir – not in its literal sense, but it felt as if his very universe was playing a farce on Jimmy and morbidly humoring him but at a different level.
Well, something Jimmy learnt today is why lawyers don’t do advertising and marketing managers don’t practice law!

Old Lady: And here I thought all lawyers were idiots.
Jimmy: Only half of us are idiots. The other half are crooks!

You Nailed It!
It was a powerful episode!
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Mar 03, 2015
the old lady with her figurines was so funny lol
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Mar 03, 2015
Reminded me of my grandmother. Those little hummel figurines used to be the rage.
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Mar 03, 2015
Did anyone else recognise the unmistakable Anton Karas score on the zither from The Third Man? The highlight of the episode and nicely used :-)
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Mar 03, 2015
I loved the woman deciding which of her figurines were going to which family member "if they did not do....." And when she asked if he wanted tea..." NO...uh, no thank you, I'm fine" He has the patience of a saint in his attempts to make money legitimately, but from what we already know, his patience is about to run out and he is going for the big bucks. I had trouble watching BB and did not finish it because I had just lost my husband to cancer...but enough time has passed now and I can watch it in less of a "fog", and will be able to follow the story line. I will watch it when the TV season ends and I have the time.
I can't wait to see what is going to happen with Mike. I never think of Mike as an elderly person, just as someone able to retire young, now I am curious to see what kind of trouble prompted his retirement. I think that that woman is his daughter too, and I have to think that her seeing him is the reason that the police showed up at his door. I am very excited about next week's show!
More+
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Mar 03, 2015
Chuck is still certainly an odd character, but I think he's grown on me. Nice to see Mike getting a little more focus too outside of his work life. It felt like he had kinda been wasted up until now. The comedy was really spot on this episode too, not that it had necessarily been lacking or anything, it just really shined through tonight.
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Mar 03, 2015
You're slipping there Tim. HOW could your so-called review omit two of the funniest scenes?

When Ricky Sipes wants to secede from the Union.


And, of course, Roland J. Cox's idea of a lifetime for his kids: the unintentional Sex Toilet


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Mar 03, 2015
I'm surprised Jimmy didn't come down hard on those Sandia currency bills. It's legal in the US to create your own local currency, but it is illegal to call them "dollars" or have them look substantially similar to the US dollar bills.
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Mar 03, 2015
To be fair, Tim did mention both of those scenes, just not the particular details you've posted about here.
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Mar 03, 2015
I don't think the cops have anything to do with her; Mike said "long way from home, aren't ya?" and the other guy said "You and me both." Obviously someone from his past.
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Mar 04, 2015
Unless she called the cops and the guy who said "you and me both" moved from Philly to ABQ to be a cop someplace warmer. Then it could be both that she called the cops and he is someone from Mike's past.
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Mar 03, 2015
That's what I thought. I assumed they were from Philly and were tracking him down for whatever he did back home. In fact, I posted that as a question here last night but I see it was removed. I guess someone doesn't like my posts. My initial response to The Walking Dead forum was deleted as well after I posted it on Sunday night. Oh well...anyway, I agree with you.
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Mar 03, 2015
Honestly, Tony the Toilet had me cracking up and when Jimmy said "You'll need the money to pay for Chandler's therapy" I was in tears. Damn this show is good. I'm really intrigued to spend more time with Mike, I just love hanging around him in scenes because he's so content with being quiet and just getting stuff done. Don't know why but it's compelling to learn more about him.
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Mar 03, 2015
favorite shots of the episode.


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Mar 03, 2015
I'm loving this show so much. I also love how Story Sync reminds us why this scene looks familiar.


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Mar 03, 2015
This episode dropped off a bit from the first 4 installments imo, but it was still pretty good. Better than most of the stuff on TV. I probably get to experience this show differently than most people in that I've not watched Breaking Bad. So for me, there's no comparisons, no expectations, and no connecting things to future-past story lines or knowledge of where any characters end up (or even which characters appeared in BB). I know a lot of people were worried this show couldn't live up to it's parent series, but I have to say as a true independent observer, I find this show stands up really well on its own. Since I understand BB was fantastic, maybe for the purposes of this series it's better that I don't have that in my mental background. It allows me to experience this show from a genuine starting point and unfiltered perspective.

One request for Tim: I know you have to drop references to BB every now and then, but if possible, please don't give anything about BB unless it's absolutely crucial to the review. I'm going to Netflix the series when I get the chance.
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Mar 03, 2015
Eh, the series is over, it's too late to expect to be spoiler-free at this stage, the show has BB connections, that's part of what a reviewer is going to put in to keep that audience reading. I personally haven't watched but 2 episodes of BB, the pilot and the finale (each because of friends) so the more that's explained as it pertains to BCS, the better.
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Mar 03, 2015
It was more of a transitional episode, but it was still solid, and this show continues to deliver. Next week looks to be the Mike-centric episode, which I believe is the episode that Bob Odenkirk described as being darker than anything we've seen before, even on Breaking Bad.
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