Better Call Saul is about to begin airing the second half of its final season. I originally intended to use the break as an opportunity to do an all-encompassing review piece on the first half of the season, and was initially excited to put my thoughts to words as I followed each episode week to week.
However, my excitement faded as I followed the social media chatter about the series. Part of what I love about live television is hopping online after the latest episodes and finding other enthusiasts to chat with. I learn a lot from these strangers; sometimes I don’t like a scene that they found engaging, and they help me see what I’m missing, or I find a line of dialogue inoffensive but through another’s perspective, learn that it could have been better. There are always those special episodes that everybody seems to come into agreement on, but on the average week, there are both good and bad things to be discussed.
The recent Better Call Saul discourse has not been like this, at least not from what I experienced for nearly two months. Instead of discussion, I mostly found an odd form of gatekeeping. If someone didn’t like how an episode played out or how a story was going, there seemed to be more attempts at proving the person wrong than there were attempts to see that other point of view and engage with it.
A large portion of the audience has been unsatisfied with some of this final season, and the overwhelming majority of replies I’ve seen has been unbecoming of genuine discussion. Instead, threads critiquing aspects of the show tend to follow with comments like this:
“Not every show needs explosions or action to be interesting.”
“The people complaining are the same people who binged through the show in two weeks so they could watch Better Call Saul cross over with Breaking Bad.”
“Not everyone has the attention span for Better Call Saul’s slower pace. It isn’t Breaking Bad, what did you expect?”
All three of the comments above refuse to engage with any actual criticism of the series. It’s all deflection and subtle jabs at the criticizer that they “just don’t get it.” I’ve been watching Better Call Saul from the beginning. I’ve routinely enjoyed it more than Breaking Bad precisely because of the way it uses relationships to push drama and not violence or explosions. “Chicanery” has stuck with me a good bit more than any Breaking Bad episode. But according to a large portion of Better Call Saul’s fanbase, my opinion can be dismissed because I think Better Call Saul Season 6 has terrible pacing.
Of course, not every discussion is like this, and sometimes if you scour the comments you’ll be able to come across a thread that actually engages with a criticism, but routinely the top comments, and even the top threads in general, reward dismissal of criticism. I’m not sure what has inspired this attitude towards dissenters, perhaps that’s research and an article for another time. Despite all of this, I’m hoping this article will encourage those who disagree with me to engage in a real discussion about both the flaws and successes of Season 6.
Now, time to dive into why Better Call Saul Season 6 has poor pacing.
What is pacing in storytelling? I like to think of pacing as “story momentum.” In general, pacing is a rollercoaster (a tired analogy but still a good one). You want a mix of ups and downs at the right places to maximize the emotional impact of your climax. Too many ups? The climax won’t feel strong enough or will get lost in the haze. Too many downs? The story may feel uneven when it suddenly reaches its climax, and the audience may not feel the story has “earned it.”
However, the rollercoaster ups DO NOT REPRESENT ACTION. They represent major story beats – plot reveals, character twists, emotional payoffs. The downs do not represent a lull in action; they represent areas of your story ripe for world building, exposition, and character development.
With this in mind, slow pacing is NOT poor pacing. I’ll repeat that periodically to try to cut off any reactionary retorts of “it doesn’t need explosions to be good, some of us LIKE taking time with the characters.” Slow paced shows can build tension and dread in unique ways, give us deeper insight into characters’ minds beyond their actions, and provide particularly powerful climaxes thanks to their careful approach to build up and anticipation. This does not, however, mean that every show (or every season) that utilizes a slow pace is automatically good. Season 6 of Better Call Saul, through its first seven episodes, in my opinion, has poor pacing. There are four areas in particular I want to explore to explain this perspective.
I’ll start with the simplest – Lalo Salamanca and Gus. Lalo’s storyline reaches a peak at the end of Season 5 after the Gus’ failed assassination attempt, and this new peak led to some real momentum for Lalo’s Season 6 storyline as he headed out to search for evidence against Gus. How would Lalo react to this new situation, and how will this betrayal affect him?
Lalo was absent from the following episode of the season, which I feel was a great storytelling choice because it let us see how Lalo’s mere continued existence affects Gus. Gus is on high alert, fearful that Lalo is coming after him, showing us a slightly different side of Gus, and this works. It provides a small lull from the momentum while keeping Lalo’s plot dangling in the mirror, giving the story a sense of weight and inevitability.
But then Lalo remains absent, and Gus remains fearful. There are no further character aspects being explored for several episodes. This isn’t “slow pacing,” this is a halt. The rollercoaster has stopped because the characters have stopped. No progress is made in Gus’ or Lalo’s stories.
Some may say that Gus hiding a gun in the lab or Lalo discovering the lab’s existence is story progress, but I disagree – it’s plot. We already know Gus is paranoid and prepared, and while it is essential that we see Gus hiding the gun in the lab (or at least, I assume it’s essential, but only time will tell), it doesn’t actually move the story of Gus’ paranoia or fear forward. It’s not bad that we see this plot develop, but what did we learn about Gus through this plot that was new? Why couldn’t this have happened in the same timeframe that we saw Gus’ paranoia earlier in the season? Or perhaps an alternate version where we actually focus in on how Gus’ fear of Lalo is affecting his work at Los Pollos Hermanos, and therefore threatening his cover? That would have been something new, a new storyline that doesn’t move the plot forward at all, and would maintain the wonderful slow pace the show can excel at.
Lalo’s storyline suffers in the same way. When Lalo finally reappears in Germany, nothing new has been learned about him since he disappeared. The plot moves along and he finds a clue to lead him to the lab, but his interrogation of Werner’s man Casper? Absolutely useless in terms of the story. The audience gains nothing from seeing Lalo interact with Casper. The episode doesn’t even show the interrogation; the show just assumes in the next episode that the audience will believe Lalo got what information he needed – which already could have been assumed when Lalo found Werner’s ruler.
Perhaps one would argue that by showing Lalo’s journey, it legitimizes the lengths he’s willing to go to take down Gus, and it leaves us without the ability to question how he discovered the lab (remember when Bruce Wayne suddenly got back to Gotham in The Dark Knight Rises with no explanation and everyone talked about it for years?). Showing Lalo go after Casper avoids that pitfall. However, I disagree that this is necessary in this scenario. I’m happy to hear a counterpoint, but for me, the hunt for Casper is just an extra, action-packed episode of material that doesn’t materialize into something new, and to reiterate, pace-wise it doesn’t matter that Lalo gets an action scene here because action scenes are not necessarily story momentum. (Also, now that I’m thinking of it, Lalo totally pulls a Bruce Wayne and just randomly gets to Germany and back with no explanation as to how, so why is that information unnecessary but the Casper stuff is???).
Next is Mike, and this one is short and sweet. Why oh why oh why are we seeing Mike watch over his granddaughter and make small cutesy talk with her about stars? We have seen sweet scene after sweet scene of Mike and his family – is there really nothing else to this man? Why is this repeated? I wish the pace of Nacho’s storyline at the start of the season would have been slower, as extending his time even just one more episode might have provided Mike with a bit more to work with. Perhaps then we could have avoided this retread, as scenes that provide us information we already know halt the beautiful slow burn Better Call Saul has provided.
On the other hand, Howard’s scenes halt the momentum to show us information we DON’T need, and unnecessary information can be just as damaging to your pace as repeated information. When Howard’s wife snubs his crafted-with-love latte, I felt a huge wave of disappointment. All I saw from that scene was an over-the-top attempt at garnering Howard some sympathy before his demise. It was clear and shameless audience manipulation, and I am comfortable committing to this stance because of the lack of context. We don’t actually know enough about Howard’s situation for this sympathy to be gained naturally, so the scene has to go out of its way to tell us how we should feel. Howard’s wife snubs him, but what if Howard was a huge jerk to her? What if she is dismissing him this way because of something awful she did? How can I feel bad for Howard without knowing what exactly happened?
This took me out of the story because the scene was so meticulously designed to garner sympathy for the man without doing any of the real work to set Howard up to earn it in this context. Howard has earned enough sympathy through the rest of the show already – we don’t NEED more, and if the writers felt Howard needed more then they should have worked Howard’s personal life into the story more naturally in the past. Remember when Howard was devastated from Chuck’s death in Season 4? That was great! New facets of the man were revealed while complicating his relationship with Jimmy. It pushed him forward to make specific decisions, and continues to influence his perspective on things (even being alluded to in his final scene). Does the reveal of a failing marriage do any of that for Howard? What does it accomplish?
What particularly bothers me about this is that the show had a perfect opportunity to have its cake and eat it, too, without resorting to blatant audience manipulation. Part of what makes Howard’s demise so harsh and affecting is Jimmy and Kim’s lack of foresight. They never considered anything beyond their personal perspective regarding Howard, and I feel the reveal would have worked much better (and more naturally) if we learned about his marriage issues at the same time Jimmy and Kim did. Giving the audience secret insight into Howard’s life that Jimmy and Kim didn’t have undercut the moment he told them, because we can’t react alongside Jimmy and Kim. We also would only have had Howard’s perspective to rely on, with no risk of being influenced by a wife who is so incredibly detached from her husband that the only explanations are that she’s totally heartless or Howard did something to deserve it.
Perhaps she’ll be important moving forward, and the real purpose of the scene was to establish that Howard’s wife now knows about Jimmy’s involvement, but throwing this scene in just for sympathy and establishing future plot-points is closer to strapping on the seatbelt than it is to moving smoothly around a couple of turns. It’s clunky, and while potentially establishing plot, the scene of Howard’s failing marriage does nothing to change his character and does little to shift audience perspective of him in a way that couldn’t have been accomplished just as effectively, if not more effectively, with less scenes dedicated to it. And who knows, maybe those scenes could have been used to give Mike a slow, character based scene that doesn’t involve loving his granddaughter.
And finally…the scheme. The plot of Jimmy and Kim’s scheme is fine (if personally a bit uninteresting to me, which isn’t a flaw), but the execution fails in two ways that hurt the pace of the season.
First, and a clear running theme of the season – Jimmy and Kim do not develop much as characters during each of the meticulous steps of the scheme that we see. Sometimes a lack of development can be good pacing, such as in Season 4, where Jimmy’s lack of development is the point of the story. That isn’t the point of the Season 6 story, though, and Jimmy and Kim’s characters stand still for multiple episodes while the scheme is being put into action. For those who feel that seeing all of these actions take place over multiple episodes (instead of one or two) serves the story, I ask which parts of these characters changed or grew during these scenes? What character attributes that may be examined moving forward (such as their arrogance) are being reinforced in a way that could only be achieved by seeing so many steps over so many episodes?
Second, the scheme is hidden from the audience. I can see why this decision was made, particularly after hearing from those involved with the show that they feel, “[If the plan goes wrong, you should explain it first. If it goes right, you don’t need to.]” I agree with this theory to an extent, but each story is different and requires different approaches. In this case, because the scheme against Howard lasts for so long, the lack of information ends up creating a lack of tension, and tension is particularly important to maintain when telling a slow-burn story like this.
If we don’t know what the plan is, we don’t know what needs to go right nor what can go wrong. This can be fun and beneficial at first, as trying to get the audience to piece together the scheme is a great way to increase engagement. Personally, I’ve never been all that into figuring out plots like this, as I’m more interested in how plots affect the people involved. Not knowing what can go wrong leaves me guessing at what’s happening instead of feeling dread or panic with the characters, and as the story continues with no clear sense of stakes, trying to piece the puzzle together just isn’t enough. Eventually, it passes the point of intrigue in not knowing what can go wrong because we don’t even know what happens when things go wrong. What will the consequences to Jimmy and Kim be if they fail? Will they end up in prison? Get someone hurt? What are the stakes? Without these stakes, there is little story within this plot. We have Jimmy reluctantly asking Kim about the plan, Kim’s amazing question to Jimmy, “You think we’re wicked?”and then a long halt before Kim eventually turns her car around.
And Kim turning around and abandoning all pretenses that she’s doing any of this for the greater good – excellent. Kim and Jimmy literally getting off to Howard’s demise (one of the grossest things I’ve ever seen) – excellent. The result of this scheme is one of my favorite stories the series has ever told, and it seems most fans agree. In fact, I saw a ton of posts from both sides praising the climax of the story.
And yet, of course, I saw lots of posts about how all the naysayers were wrong and this is what happens when you trust the show. I disagree. Better Call Saul did not justify its pacing choices with the the mid-season finale, and therefore, the pacing issues in the first half of the season remain. How you get somewhere matters just as much as where you end up, and I fully believe the first six episodes could have built to this climax even better than it did.
Not everyone agrees, but a lot of people do; many who are fans of the slow-paced, character based show that is Better Call Saul and are trying to hold the series up to the standards they personally feel it isn’t meeting. The first half of Season 6 is poorly paced. Disagree with me, argue with me, and let’s discuss, because I love Better Call Saul.
(P.S. Despite the disappointing discussion surrounding Better Call Saul, the memes have been absolutely top tier. I haven’t seen so many creative and uniquely specific killer jokes about a series since the 00’s.)
YOU Review – Portrait of the Artist (402)
And the murder mystery continues on YOU Season 4 Episode 2.
Joe, er, Jonathan, has been going above and beyond to figure out which of the members of the elitist circle could be the murderer that’s trying to frame him, but it looks like he’s being played at his own game.
Honestly, it’s kind of refreshing to see Joe on the other side of things for once—running around terrified like a chicken without a head and trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle.
He’s not in a city that’s familiar to him, and he’s definitely not in his element. And while he fell into a friends circle of some of the most insane and damaged people on earth, his charm isn’t working on them or in his favor in the same way that it has countless times before.
And what’s making this all the more disturbing is that there’s someone out there that’s actually more deranged than Joe. Joe pales in comparison to the person that’s stabbing people left and right and keeping body parts as tokens of some sort, likely to frame Joe in the long run by planting those body pieces on his belongings or in his apartment.
The person is hiding in plain sight and utilizing all common and familiar murder mystery tropes, including that the second victim is always the first suspect.
The crimes are gruesome and terrible, but it’s also hard to feel bad for any of the victims as the whole bunch—maybe aside from Rhys—is genuinely unlikable. Mostly everyone in the wealthy group has no redeeming qualities, and most of them don’t even seem too phased by the deaths in their inner circle because the truth is that none of these shallow people actually like or care about each other.
YOU does a great job at making us question Joe’s sanity and then immediately introducing people who are even worse than him, proving that the world seems to be full of unhinged people everywhere you go.
Joe doesn’t have much to go on at the end of episode 2 as every single person he’s come across could potentially be the killer. He has, however, seemingly figured out some kind of connection between Malcolm and Simon’s deaths, though it’s unclear if that has any bearing on their deaths.
Blackmail seems to be a common thread, with Malcolm likely blackmailing Adam, who fancies himself a golden shower from the bus boys at his establishment, while planning to take down Simon, a fraud who stole artists’ work to pass off as his own. Joe learned the truth about Simon from his assistant, who crashed the opening and threw red paint at him (he had it coming). She also confirmed that Malcolm was trying to expose him, and while she definitely has the motive, I don’t think she would stoop that low. She wanted to make a statement—she didn’t want to be the statement.
At this point, the only person who stands to gain anything from the destruction of both men is Kate as she was in a relationship with Malcolm and a gallery partner with Simon, whose secrets threatened her career. But I’m not convinced that she’s responsible. She genuinely seems like one of the only good and level-headed people in the group, not to mention she’s also concerned about Malcolm’s disappearance meaning she likely has no idea he’s dead.
It could’ve been Adam to keep his sexual kink a secret, but I don’t think he’d have it in him.
The timing of Roald’s arrival was suspect, as was his immediate distaste for Jonathan, so I’ll keep him on the list. Joe may be the new guy, but he shows up right before the second murder.
If I truly had to put my money on someone, my prime suspect is still Rhys. There’s just something off about him, plus, he carries himself as if he’s above them all, so it would make sense if he was trying to make them pay for their sins or something. He’s also very observant, thus, he’d be knowledgeable about all of their deepest and darkest secrets, which could be used against them. It would also make sense that he used his status and smarts to dig up dirt about Joe.
The killer seems to be having an absolute blast toying with Joe, even beating him at his own game by figuring out his identity.
It sent a chill down Joe’s spine—and I didn’t think it was possible to freak Joe out. In an attempt to stay ahead of the killer, Joe is somehow trying to play catch up.
What if it’s Marienne? What if she’s turning the tables on him? It seems like the killer is using Joe’s psychological warfare against him, which means that they have a lot in common. It has to be someone that Joe has connected with on a personal level already, so aside from Rhys and Kate, that leaves Nadia rounding out the top three suspects. She’s been helping him figure out the murder mystery genre, which might be a clue as to her involvement. Plus, we find out that she had some kind of personal relationship with Malcolm, though it’s unclear if it was sexual.
I really hope that she’s just a genuine person helping her teacher, but at this point, we can’t rule anything out.
And finally, there’s the possibility of Adam and Phoebe’s security guard, Vic, who is silent but deadly. He sees everything that’s happening (he ticks off the observant box for sure) but doesn’t say anything, though we know he’s not above blackmail because when he catches Joe snooping around, he takes a lump sum of money to remain quiet.
What did you think of the episode? Who do you think the killer is?
What Happened to Levi on ‘La Brea’?
Levi is back in 10,000 B.C.!
On the February 14the episode of La Brea, titled “The Return,” Nicholas Gonzalez’s character did just that, jumping through space and time, okay, fine, maybe just a sinkhole, to make his way back to the prehistoric era.
Gavin was rather shocked to see him, and rightfully so, especially considering Levi’s altered appearance—he aged 10 years. Levi explained that while they last saw him in 1988, just a few days ago, for him, a decade passed, and he’s coming from 1998.
The passing of time is a crazy concept on this show, but it allows them to play around with timelines and fun twists.
Levi’s return doesn’t come from a place of longing for Eve either—he has a goal to kill James to stop the sinkholes that have continued causing issues in 1988… and even led to the death of his wife, who was his co-worker at the DOD. Another shocking development that we’ll surely dig into in future episodes.
James has taken everything from Levi at this point—his wife and previously, his shot at happiness with Eve, so he’s a man scorned.
To get close to James, Levi is going to require Eve’s assistance, but will she help him? Only time will tell.
You can read our in-depth review of La Brea Season 2 Episode 10 now.
Original article published — 2/7/23
La Brea Season 2 returned from its midseason hiatus on Jan. 31, but fans were quick to point out that one major character was missing from the double-dose of episodes: Levi Delgado (played by Nicholas Gonzalez).
Immediately after the episode aired, questions began to pour in with fans asking what happened to Levi and if we’ll see him again.
The answer—maybe….possibly. After all, anything is possible on La Brea, right?
As for what happened to Levi, well, if you’ll recall during the La Brea fall finale, Levi and Eve (Natalie Rea) parted ways in 1988. Eve’s heart has been torn between Levi and her estranged husband, Gavin (Eoin Macken) for quite some time, especially after it was revealed that Gavin’s visions—the one that led to their split and pushed her into Levi’s arms—were real all along. This caused a lot of guilt for Eve, and that guilt eventually played into her decision to leave Levi behind and follow her family back to 10K B.C.
In the final moments spent in 1988, Gavin’s mother informed him that they had to go back to 10K B.C. to upload a virus that would shut down the portal that was causing catastrophes like the sinkholes, including the one set to open in Los Angeles in just a few days.
Of course, if they damaged the time machine, they would never be able to leave 10K B.C. again, which meant everyone had a pretty tough choice to make. Except for Eve, who didn’t really have a choice. Choosing to stay behind with Levi meant that she would be turning her back on her family and potentially never seeing them again. All her kids have ever wanted was the family back together, so her decision was made with them in mind. While I’m sure on some level, she also considered her relationship with Gavin, she ultimately made the jump back to keep her family intact.
And that meant leaving behind Levi, who decided he was going to stay in the ’80s and make a life for himself. If you think about it, it was the only decision that made sense for him considering there was a slim chance of living a decent life in 10K B.C. And it wouldn’t be wise to go back down there and risk your life with a woman who was one foot into the relationship and one foot out. It would be a huge sacrifice to make for Eve without any guarantee that they’d end up together.
Both Levi and Eve seemed in agreement that their romance was over and they parted ways graciously.
At the time of the finale, fans were under the impression that Gavin, Eve, and co. were going to destroy the time machine, which meant destroying any chance of ever seeing Levi again. This was a permanent goodbye in their eyes.
However, once they got back down to 10K B.C., Gavin couldn’t go through with uploading the virus after seeing a vision of Eve dying. His father, James, convinced Gavin that he had a way to fix the portal so that they could use it without causing any more harm to the environment, which also meant that he had a chance at saving Eve from death in the prehistoric ages. Gavin’s love for her has always been very evident, so it’s not surprising that he chose this route.
But his decision also keeps the door open for Levi to return down the line in future episodes.
If there is still a portal to travel between time periods, Levi may not be out of the game just yet.
It’s unclear how or why he would come back to 10K B.C—maybe he’ll come back with more information about the sinkholes and portal, maybe he’ll return after feeling guilty for leaving his friends (Gavin included) behind, or maybe he’ll miss Eve so much that he takes the leap at the first chance he gets.
It’s even possible that Eve finds a way to communicate with him while he’s in 1988, which would keep him around but not in the same time period. Talk about a long-distance relationship.
The point is, I wouldn’t count Levi out just yet. The actor was a huge draw for the show, and while not everyone loved his romance with Eve or the love triangle, I don’t think they’d write him off so quickly, especially without giving Eve and Levi proper closure. If it really is over, Eve needs to be sure of her decision, and again, she only chose to return to 10K B.C. for her family.
There seems to be a hint about Levi’s return with the upcoming episode, set to air on Tuesday, Feb. 14, called “The Return.” The title seemingly alludes to Levi’s return, but the synopsis makes me think that it’s a surefire guarantee.
6 Sexy Shows to Watch for Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day can be celebrated in all sorts of different ways.
Some people bake cookies, others go out for a romantic date, while some do a fun activity with their significant other.
However, this is the first Valentine’s Day under COVID-19 restrictions, which means that you likely don’t have as many fun and romance-filled options as in years prior.
That’s where TV comes in! Regardless if you’re spending February 14 with a significant other or your besties, these are some of the sexiest and steamiest shows to watch on the day that’s all about celebrating L-O-V-E (for friends, family, significant others, and, most importantly, yourself!)
Romance, scandal, drama… Bridgerton has it all! Dubbed the Regency-era Gossip Girl, Netflix’s smash hit and most-watched series is a brilliant and entertaining period piece with enough sex scenes to make you blush. And Regé-Jean Page isn’t bad on the eyes.
Emily in Paris
Emily in Paris, which was just surprisingly nominated for a Golden Globe, hails from Sex and the City creator Darren Star. It’s an airy flick about a millennial named Emily who travels to Paris for a dream job and becomes enamored with the City of Love and the men that want to show her all that it has to offer.
Falling in love requires you to be open, honest, and vulnerable. The American rom-com anthology web series, based on a weekly column published by the New York Times, explores themes of love (romantic, platonic, friendly) with a star-studded cast. The 30-minute episodes are standalone and easily digestible, which makes them the perfect viewing on a night like Valentine’s Day.
What happens when Liza, a 40-year-old single mom, decides to be 26-years old in order to re-enter the working world and falls in love with not one but two very different men? An exciting journey through the world of publishing and heartbreak. As Liza tries to find herself, she does everything in her power to hide her true self from those she’s become most intimate with. It’s another whip-smart Darren Star creation!
Two sisters, Beth and Annie, along with best friend Ruby find themselves embroiled in a dangerous life of crime after robbing a grocery store. Beth, specifically, falls victim to a crime of passion with one sexy “gang friend” that pulls her further and further into his world.
If Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars had a baby, it would be this Spanish-language drama. A private school becomes the scene of a murder after a clash between the rich and poor students. There’s plenty of sexual tension and unexpected turns as detectives try to narrow down the list of suspects.
** Article originally published in February 2021**
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