Better Call Saul, Season 1, Episode 7: “Bingo”
Written by Larysa Kondracki
Directed by Gennifer Hutchison
Airs Mondays at 10PM EST on AMC
In a show that is already full of moral grey areas and ethical dilemmas, the latest Better Call Saul episode puts a special focus on these particular aspects, and resolves one of the season-long arcs in the process.
Picking up from last week’s exceptional Mike-centric episode, “Bingo” begins to tie up the threads by reintegrating Saul and Mike into the same conflict. There’s a short scene where Saul goes up once more for Mike, lying for him while giving him a small legal loophole to climb out of. What follows, though, is far more interesting, as it is revealed that one of the two cops who have come to investigate Mike’s involvement in the officer murders not only knows that he did it, but has no interest in bringing him in for it.
In what turns out to be the (surprisingly early) episode highlight, Mike and his former colleague discuss the corruption of the system, and the difficult decisions that sometimes have to be made in this line of work. The scene is a fabulous example of low-key acting, with the notoriously careful delivery of Jonathan Banks and an equally withdrawn performance from character actor Barry Shabaka Henley. The sequence comes across like a couple of heavies discussing a business which they’re both totally indifferent to, when the reality couldn’t be further from the truth, especially for Mike. Sanders’ line about his much younger partner carries with it a sense of foreboding as the scene closes off, and the audience is left to wonder just what “rocks” might be better left unturned when the season reaches its inevitable conclusion.
The Kettleman case, probably the weakest arc in this first season, is brought to a close through a series of increasingly complex (and somewhat unbelievable) events, though not before we learn a few things about the Kettlemans themselves. Unfortunately, what is confirmed in this episode about the couple, and where their case finally goes, is not of much consequence. Neither one has ever been a deeply drawn or sympathetic character, and as such, their ultimate fate doesn’t hold much water one way or another for viewers. The only thing of value that emerges from this whole storyline comes in the episode’s closing moments, with Saul using the door of his coveted office as a way to literally kick himself before collapsing to the floor and returning to his carefully constructed facade of a scheming lawyer struggling to get ahead, while passing by a moment that may have allowed for exactly that, in its most ultimate and recognizable of forms.
Aside from a few more broad strokes, not a lot actually occurs in the other developing aspects of Better Call Saul‘s repertoire. Hamlin is still insufferable, Chuck is still detached from reality (though this may be slowly changing), and Saul is still working to earn the favor of largely negligible clients, at least from a storytelling perspective. If it were to be examined as part of the season, “Bingo” would likely find itself paired with “Nacho” as sort of a transitional episode. Each one serves a purpose and closes off a previously relevant storyline, yet neither one is intrinsically satisfactory outside of these elements. However, since a lot of this conjecture is based purely on the quality of the other five episodes, and that of the season as a whole, it seems unfair to be too hard on a couple of less than stellar hours in the grand scheme of things.
With some flashes of excellence, and a few predictable beats, “Bingo” is kind of a mixed bag in the end, but it does further endear us to Saul, and it seems to be subtly setting up a seasonal endgame in the process.