Better Call Saul S1.05 "Alpine Shepherd Boy" review

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After five episodes with one-word titles ending in the letter “O” it’s good to see a change of format. And there’s something pleasingly appropriate about “Alpine Shepherd Boy”, for here we see Jimmy acting as something a shepherd himself – in terms of the word’s “protective” associations. His Kim-inspired interest in writing wills for the elderly seems sincere, not exploitative, and his discomfort when he has to ask an old lady for his fee is really rather sweet. Then there’s the way he stands by his brother, Chuck, and respects his wishes, when it would be so easy to cave. This episode really spells out the temptation: if he agreed to have his brother committed, he’d get his hands on a fortune. But this is Jimmy, not Saul; not Goodman, but a good man.

There’s nothing explosive about this episode, but there are three elements to it and all of them work really well. Chuck’s situation is quite emotionally involving, especially since we know that Jimmy’s brother has disappeared from the picture by the time Walter White enters the frame. Perhaps he does eventually end up in an institution?

Featured Music

The scene in the old people’s home is soundtracked by Anton Karas’s theme for 1949 classic The Third Man.

Then there are the comedic parts, which remind you that this series could have skewed much more towards humour than drama. Judging by this episode, it still would have worked. Jimmy’s encounter with a deluded inventor and his “sex toilet” is hilarious – and makes that potty-mouthed Peppa Pig toy look pretty small beer. Secessionist nutjob Ricky Sipes, with his home-made currency, is pretty amusing too. And the scene where Jimmy patiently waits as an old lady makes a stairlift journey, then walks across the room at a glacial pace, is beautifully timed. It’s certainly the funniest episode of the series yet.

Finally, there’s that last act, where we follow Mike Ehrmantraut as he watches a young woman’s house, then is paid a visit by the cops. What’s all that about? Judging by their exchange about being “a long way from home”, the older cop and Mike were formerly colleagues back in Philadelphia. But who’s the woman? She reacts to seeing Mike with an air of resignation, not fear. Could she be his daughter, perhaps estranged from Mike due to some shameful incident which led to him quitting the force? Interestingly, back in 2012, discussing a season three episode where Mike is seen dropping his granddaughter off with a young woman, actor Jonathan Banks said, “That may be my granddaughter's mother. But that's not my daughter.”

It’s an intriguing mystery, and it’s good to see Banks escape from that damn booth – and getting the chance to raise a Leonard Nimoy-style quizzical eyebrow at the episode’s end.

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WriterBradley Paul
DirectorNicole Kassell
The One WhereChuck is threatened with being sectioned after a disastrous visit from the police, and Jimmy decides to reinvent himself as a specialist in elder law.

More info

Available platformsTV
Deputy Editor, SFX

Ian Berriman has been working for SFX – the world's leading sci-fi, fantasy and horror magazine – since March 2002. He also writes for Total Film, Electronic Sound and Retro Pop; other publications he's contributed to include Horrorville, When Saturday Comes and What DVD. A life-long Doctor Who fan, he's also a supporter of Hull City, and live-tweets along to BBC Four's Top Of The Pops repeats from his @TOTPFacts account.