Those of you who follow me on Facebook might be familiar with my Better Call Saul review. Today, I decided to simply post it on my blog.
Today’s episode of BCS is brought to you by the word DON’T! That one word could be used to describe this entire episode. When Mike found that card on his windshield, it was almost like the dues ex machina stepping out from behind the clockwork and nudging Mike away from his current trajectory. But the same message can apply to Jimmy; the same message can apply to Chuck; and most of all, the same message for us, the audience.
We begin with another flashback. Anyone who’s ever seen me in a writing workshop (few of my current readers) knows that I hate flashbacks at the beginning of episodes; I consider it a lazy literary device. However, Gilligan, Gould, et al use the device quite tastefully (usually). In this case, we get a further glimpse into the complex relationship between Jimmy and Chuck.
We haven’t heard a whole lot about mother McGill. We know that she cared for Jimmy. We have previously heard that when Jimmy was arrested for doing a Chicago sunroof, Mrs. McGill convinced Chuck to save Jimmy. We don’t know a whole lot else about her. But similar to Mr. McGill, we see that Jimmy was also the “favorite son.” Yes, Chuck is the one who is willing to do the “right thing” and stay with his mother the whole time. But even so, the mother’s dying words were “Jimmy”, not even acknowledging that Chuck was in the room. Even though Chuck was the “good one”, Jimmy is still the more likeable one.
In general, Jimmy is much more likeable than Chuck: Chuck is Bert to Jimmy’s Ernie; Chuck is Squidward to Jimmy’s SpongeBob; Chuck is David Spade to Jimmy’s Chris Farley; Chuck is Laertes to Jimmy’s Hamlet; Chuck is Zeppo to Jimmy’s Groucho; Chuck is Alan Harper to Jimmy’s Charlie Harper; Abbot to Costello; Hardy to Laurel—well, you get the picture.
And so, Chuck, who is not content to be the other brother, begins to finally give Jimmy what he deserves. Chuck has done the right thing all of his life. He has followed the rules. He worked hard. He got a great job. He once had a beautiful wife (who probably also liked Jimmy better), a beautiful home, and a prestigious law firm with his name on it. But now, like the ruins of Ozymandias, Chuck McGill is separated from the wife (we don’t know why yet), living in squalor, suffering from a possibly psychosomatic disorder—electromagnetic hypersensitivity, which is considered idisomatic by the WHO and thus not considered an actual diagnosis—, and obsessed with finally giving Jimmy what he deserves.
You see, Jimmy has always played fast-and-easy with the rules. From his days clipping money from his father’s register (though to be fair, that wasn’t all Jimmy), to his days as Jimmy Cicero/Slipping Jimmy, to the specter of his future as Saul Goodman, Chuck McGill is almost Cassandralike in that he sees what his brother is destined to become. Much like the old Sesame Street book The Monster at the End of this Book, Chuck behaves like Grover trying to keep us from turning the pages. Chuck thinks that the monster at the end of the book is Jimmy/Saul, and he will do anything to keep Jimmy from reaching the end of the book. But in the end, guess what? The monster at the end of this episode was not Jimmy; it was Chuck.
If Jimmy is our tragic antihero, his hubris is that he is too empathetic. We have already seen how much care he puts into each client. And the clients he serves love him. He has patience for the elderly where most people wouldn’t. In that sense, he is gifted. But if only he stuck to being Ben Matlock, he would be fine. Jimmy is no Matlock. Unlike Matlock, he is Machiavellian on the inside. Yes, he is willing to doctor some documents to make his brother lose a client, which was stolen from Kim to begin with.
Yes, a few episodes ago, Jimmy dared Chuck to get down in the mud with him. Chuck said no. But was that “no” really a no? No it was not. In fact, as we saw, Chuck did Kim pretty dirty by convincing her client to stick with HHM. So Jimmy did Chuck one by doctoring the documents. Chuck, with his obsessiveness to detail, knows he did not make that error. So he knows Jimmy, who was in his house, must have done something wrong.
It is pretty scary how accurate Chuck was. But it all changed when Chuck fainted and bumped his head. Enter our first Don’t.
Don’t go in and save your brother! Saul Goodman wouldn’t. But Jimmy is not yet Saul. Blood is after all thicker than water. So he goes in to save his brother. And of course, Chuck sees right through it. He knows Jimmy engineered it all. Ernesto even joins Jimmy, just like Kim did, seeing that Chuck was losing his edge.
The scene in the hospital was quite intense. Almost torture, watching Chuck’s POV as they were prodding, poking, EKGing, CAT scanning, et al. Chuck didn’t want any of it. But they were legally bound to. And Jimmy was still trying to “save” Chuck (while Chuck suspected that Jimmy was going to put Chuck away).
Why did Jimmy save Chuck? The smart thing would have been to make like Walter when he saw Janie ODing on heroin and walk away. But just like the Jimmy who cried hardest at his dad’s funeral, and just like the Jimmy whose mother’s dying words were his name, Jimmy stood by Chuck. It’s almost like role reversal here; now it’s Jimmy who is doing the right thing and Chuck who is the bad guy.
Don’t Confess to your brother! The culmination of the episode is Chuck finally acting like he’s “bought the farm.” He has retired from HHM, and is now making himself a virtual Faraday Cage by lining his room with space blankets. Jimmy’s gaslighting has finally gotten to his head. It’s time for him to retire, enclose himself in a cocoon of space blankets, never to bother the world again.
Jimmy’s reaction was sheer pain. The smart thing would have been to throw up his shoulders and give up on Chuck. Just like after Chuck told Jimmy “you are not a real lawyer” and confessed that it was he who told Howard to not hire Jimmy—and Jimmy abandoned Chuck, but not for good—Jimmy should have taken a permanent exeunt, and perhaps had his brother committed.
Instead, Jimmy convinced his brother that he is a good lawyer and he will be lawyering to his death. And then Jimmy, thinking it was Chuck’s word against Jimmy, told Chuck the entire scenario. And the episode ends with a klick. Chuck recorded the whole thing.
Ladies, Gentlemen, and others: Here we have it. Just when you thought you knew Chuck; just when you thought you hated Chuck; Chuck does one on Jimmy.
Sure, Jimmy is guilty of a felony. Sure, Jimmy screwed his brother over. Sure, Jimmy is a criminal. But by now, we’ve grown to love Jimmy so much, that we actually want to see Chuck fail. Much as we rejoice when the Boogie-Woogie Sheep take Bert outside, much as we rejoiced when Leia finally shut C3P0 off in The Empire Strikes Back, and much as we cheered when Cpt. Picard told Wesley Crusher to shut up, we took serious schadenfreude when Jimmy humiliated Chuck. And when we saw that yes, Chuck can play just as dirty as Jimmy can, we were ambivalent. Do we still hate Chuck, or do we feel bad for him now?
Those of you who read my posts regularly know that I feel for Chuck. Right now, I feel less bad for him. Much as I know he’s in the right as Jimmy is the criminal (not him), what he did was pretty backhanded. As my father would say, “don’t bullshit the bullshitter.” We shall see how Jimmy gets out of this one. My guess: this is entrapment and inadmissible as evidence.
Don’t shoot Hector Salamanca. The most explicit DON’T was found on Mike’s windshield. Now Jimmy violated the DON’Ts I mentioned above. But Mike now has no choice but to follow it, as he finds it on his windshield.
Mike’s parts were rather subdued. First, he’s testing out that rifle we’ve already seen him looking at. The gun merchant, a BB favorite, is a perfect pairing with Mike. Both are very terse, but the gun merchant is a lot more amiable. Both know their weapons and both have very refined tastes. But whereas Mike is caustic and sarcastic, the gun dealer has much better customer service. He helps Mike perfect his shot. But then, he cleans off the gun, “no offense.”
The shooting scene was a great moment in silence. Hector and Nacho are about to shoot an innocent man (the truck driver?) Mike wants to shoot Hector, but Nacho is in the way. He could have shot Nacho and there would have been no problem. But Mike is still taking half-measures. He doesn’t want to shoot Nacho. Even if Nacho knows that Mike was the one who screwed the family, he has too much to lose by snitching on Mike. So Mike possibly returns the favor by not shooting him.
But we know Hector doesn’t die. We don’t know what happens to Nacho. Supposedly, in the Season 2 episode of BB where we first meet Saul, when Jesse and Walt were holding Saul at gunpoint and Saul said “it wasn’t me, it was Ignacio,” it is hinted that Ignacio was Nacho.
Either way, for some reason the deus ex machine interfered with the Mike narrative, pushing him away from being a cold-blooded killer (for now). But Jimmy is not being pushed into being Saul; not yet. The writers want it to be organic. Since we already know it’s going to happen, they don’t want to force or rush it.
And so, this show does not seem forced. The entire beauty of this show is how it portrays the human comedy/tragedy, complex/intricate relationships, and what makes us tick. The characters are all flawed. They are not lofty, dramatic, or by any means forced. And this is why BCS just may be one of the most brilliantly underrated shows currently on TV.