Better Call Saul: he ain't easy, he's my brother

Superficially, this week’s episode was a courtroom drama. That’s going to happen sooner or later in a series about lawyers. But on a deeper level, this was an episode about the closeness of two brothers.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Don’t you think Michael McKean’s performance, is mostly because of the fine writing and directing by Vince and team?

I’ve seen Cranston in at least 3 things since BB. Red Tails, which was a pretty bad movie and he had a small part, Lincoln Lawyer was a decent movie, and Argo which was good movie and Cranston had a supporting role. He was good in Argo, completely forgettable in the other movies. Looking at his filmography, there is certainly nothing that screams that Bryan Cranston is a Tom Hanks or Meryl Streep.

I just have to conclude that is more than casting that cause Vince’s shows to produce such exceptional acting.

@Strollen - You should watch something where Cranston is the lead, like Trumbo, or that LBJ thing he did on HBO. He’s much better than you give him credit for.

Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould are doing fine work, but I don’t think Better Call Saul would be as good as it is without McKean doing what he’s doing. It’s not an easy character to play without veering into quirky territory. Chuck could very easily be a joke. But the irony is that McKean, a longtime comedic actor, is bringing nothing comedic to Chuck. He’s a completely in earnest and often pathetic character. That’s not just in the writing.

And watch that breakdown again at the end of the last episode. Watch how McKean plays with how much he’s in control and how he gradually loses it. Great great work, absolutely helped by great writing, but clearly the work of a talented actor.

Not to diminish the direction, either. McKean set up the work for that final shot of himself sitting small and bewildered under that exit sign, but that was all direction.

Interesting that you say that because I like Bryan Cranston just fine, but I never thought he was up to the challenges presented in Breaking Bad. And don’t get me started on Aaron Paul…


I think the comic work of both McKean (Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries) and Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle) contain the seeds of their dramatic chops. These guys know how to inhabit characters, and they know where the line is between quirky and absurd (because sometimes they lived on the far side of it). I was not at all surprised to see McKean turn in this kind of performance in Better Call Saul.

With that title, this will be in my head all day.

And that’s not a bad thing. Such a great song. It went straight to number in 1990 sometime when it was rereleased, and that’s when I became familiar with it. But I can’t find that 1990 video on Youtube; I thought that modern video was much better than this one.

I have found that it is always easier for a comedic actor to perform a really dramatic role. However, not many dramatic actors can truly pull off a comedic role. which requires a great sense of timing. I think that John Lithgow is one of the few that was able to pull that off.

Some spoilers here.

I think that the writers really screwed up on this episode with regards to the battery. If Chuck is alleged allergic to EM radiation, then he would have actually been, and his lawyer could have successfully argued, that a battery itself doesn’t have any current flow, therefore no EM radiation is produced by the battery. It would if it was in a circuit, but in his jacket pocket, there is no current flow. Therefore even if he had this illness, he wouldn’t be affected anyway. It would’ve been much more effective planting a pager in his pocket and then having someone page him

I am not a physicist, but I thought batteries have an electric field INSIDE of them (ions are still moving inside the battery), and that’s what would affect Chuck’s condition (according to Chuck).

I thought the whole idea of a battery is that it stories energy chemically in one state until something draws electrons through the anode/diode and then the chemical energy becomes electricity. When the draw is over (the poles are disconnected) the chemical reaction stops. That’s why batteries heat up when in use and heat up more with more power draw and longer use. When they are disconnected they cool down.

N’est-ce pas?

I agree with the physical side of this, but the point as I understood it is that Chuck still believes the battery should affect him - had he known about the battery, he would have suffered the symptoms. After all, he can’t handle the tape recorder, even when it’s turned off, without pain.

It’s just one more proof that Chuck’s illness is not caused by electromagnetic radiation.

The important bit about the battery, as mentioned by others, is how Chuck reacts to it. He pulls it out of his pocket and freaks out and tosses it immediately, as if it hurts him, and now everyone can see this issue is entirely in his own mind. We saw (especially in early season 1) how often Jimmy would notice these things but never actually pointed them out, worried then he’d hurt Chuck’s mental state even more.

I actually did watch LBJ, it was a good performance, but I guess the fact that I forgot about him means it wasn’t memorable. Don’t get me wrong Cranston is a great actor, I rooted for him to win Emmy’s each time and he richly deserved them. His performance in Breaking Bad were at another level.

Teeny correction:
“It['s] the sort of maneuvering”


No. It was really good!

“The guy at the station said he’s never seen so many star wipes in a row. It’s never been done.”

Yep, still on board with this being better than Breaking Bad.