What to Watch Verdict
A thrilling and emotional episode for every character and subplot, make this one of the finest hours ever in the Breaking Bad universe
A committed, Emmy-worthy performance from Michael Mando
The nooses tighten for Jimmy and Nacho
Powerful, emotionally resonant moments
Fun "heist" sequence with Huell
It’s difficult to discuss this episode without giving away much of what makes this one of the best hours in the history of Better Call Saul and the entire Breaking Bad franchise. At its core, Better Call Saul has a bigger heart than its predecessor and this episode is evidence of that fact. It's an episode that will stay with us for a long time.
Picking up where last week’s episode 2 left off, "Rock and Hard Place" certainly lives up to its episode title with Nacho (Michael Mando) on the run. His car has been wrecked and shot up. Knowing the Salamanca cousins are right on his tail, he spots an abandoned oil truck and is able to take refuge in it while the manhunt continues. Suspenseful direction creates tension as thick as the oil Nacho has to submerge himself in just to hide from the Salamancas. No idea what Mando was really submerged in for this scene, but this is absolute commitment to the role and the scene and drama of the situation benefit greatly from it.
Nacho’s able to make it to a nearby gas station for help. The attendant is actually a decent human being; something Nacho probably hasn’t seen for some time. He’s able to get himself cleaned up and get a change of clothes. He makes two calls — one to his father and the other the one to Mike (Jonathan Banks) that we saw at the end of episode 2.
On the call with Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), Nacho offers to turn himself in so no harm will come to his father. They retrieve him from Mexico and set a plan in motion that they think will clear Fring from further suspicion in Lalo's "death."
Between all of that, we take a break to pick up with Kim (Rhea Seehorn) and Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk). We hear the next phases of their plan to destroy Howard and it involves a car similar to his. However, considering that may be difficult to procure, they decide to figure out a way to just boost Howard’s car all together. This brings in everyone’s favorite pick pocket extraordinaire, Huell (Lavell Crawford)
There’s an Ocean’s 11-esque sequence involving Huell, a key maker in a van and a confused valet that’s exciting and just a ton of fun. Once that’s completed, Huell and Jimmy have a serious heart to heart. Huell asks him why he does what he does. Jimmy simply states that they’re "doing the Lord’s work" by making a difference for others by taking down Howard. Come on, Jimmy. Who are you trying to convince here? The look on Bob Odenkirk’s face following those words says it all.
Meanwhile, Kim has her own heart to heart with DA Suzanne Ericsen (Julie Pearl). The news about Jorge deGuzman actually being Lalo Salamanca has spread and the first on the chopping block is Jimmy. His reputation is in danger since he let one of the most dangerous men in Mexico go. Suzanne wants Kim to see if she can convince Jimmy to talk about Lalo. But much like Nacho, Jimmy is stuck between a rock and a hard place as well.
If he squeals on Lalo, he could paint a target on his back from the cartel. If he doesn’t squeal, his professional life takes a nose dive for defending known criminals. It’s every bit as exciting as what’s happening with Nacho, because the world and Jimmy’s lack of options keeps screwing him into a situation where he needs to become the "criminal" lawyer we see in Breaking Bad.
But the difference is we know what’s going to happen to Jimmy. We don’t know what’s going to happen to Nacho. That is until the finale of this episode. Having turned himself into Fring, he’s taken out to the desert before Bolsa (Javier Grajeda) and the Salamancas, including Hector (Mark Margolis) and the cousins (Daniel and Luis Moncada), where the fate of Nacho Varga is set to play out.
This is Mando’s season to shine, giving one hell of an Emmy-worthy performance in this episode from this opening act through to the finale. The heart of this character, combined with the incredible performance from the brilliant Michael Mando has been overlooked for far too long. But with this amazing masterpiece of an episode, along with the terrific work of Mando, it’s doubtful that’ll be an issue for much longer.
New episodes of Better Call Saul air Mondays at 9 pm ET/PT on AMC in the US and on Tuesdays on Netflix in the UK.
Mike is a proud, sarcastic nerd with a penchant for comic books, comic book movies, and movies in general, and occasional delusions of grandeur. He's also a UC Berkeley graduate who decided to go into writing over pre-med because he figured he'd ultimately save more lives by not being a doctor. He's a Slytherin and a Pisces, so he's very emotionally sensitive, yet also evil, but can be defeated by exploiting his insecurities. His goal is to live one hell of a unique life, and it's been working so far! His proudest moments are being retweeted by James Gunn and Ryan Reynolds in the same week, and getting 999,999 points on Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters at Disneyland.
You can find Mike's writing around the web at publications like The Nerds of Color, What to Watch, Spoiler Free Reviews, and That's It LA.