Better Call Saul “Klick” Analysis (S2E10)

Excellent finale. Lots to talk about.

First off, I have to give credit where credit is due. I completely underestimated Jimmy and was wrong in assuming that he would leave Chuck helpless in that printing shop. The writers were very clever in setting that twist up. I guess in this last decade or so of following the anti-hero in drama, you feel confident in having the story down, especially when you know where the direction a character like Jimmy is heading towards. But wow, what a fresh and humanizing take on an anti-hero who was born from the same universe as Walter White. It was like an anti-Jane moment. I remember Mad Men did something similar in its final season where they kind of held up a middle finger to people who thought Don Draper (who I wouldn’t classify as an anti-hero anyway) would choose to be a “badass” in a certain moment when instead he responds to a situation in a completely unexpected way. It made for a better story and this is what I like to see experimented with here because it certainly helps in muddying the waters of what is currently the best sibling rivalry on tv.

This was mentioned in the commentary of season 1 but this show, much like its predecessor, likes to use the color red to signify that someone or something is bad. Nacho, Hector, the truck driver in the tracking shot, the receptionist at sandpiper, etc. are purposefully shown in red. Jimmy has been shown in red, whether it’s a shirt or a tie, and it’s especially prominent when he’s in a scene with Chuck. Ironically, as the show’s most universally despised character, Chuck is never shown in red. He’s more in the line of the blue treatment that Howard or Kim get. What I find interesting though is that the only thing that I believe is intentionally the color red for Chuck is the cushion for his piano seat. For a guy who puts so much stock into being good and upholding the law at all costs, where without sinking to Jimmy’s lows he’ll combat any injustice that Jimmy brings, he still carries this all out from a very bad place. Whether it’s from what happened with Rebecca, their father, their mother, etc. Chuck has held an unhealthy resentment towards his brother from so many things in his past to the point where it’s exhausting and toxic.

And while this cold open was another major seed to help us understand where Chuck is coming from, I couldn’t help but come out of it with the feeling of “enough already”. As bad as I felt for Chuck crying at his mother’s bedside, I feel like what occurs next may have been a giant misunderstanding. While it may have validated Chuck’s perspective in Jimmy always getting love and attention for being a screw-up, I like to think that she was calling out to Jimmy because she was proud of Chuck and knew he was going to be fine without her, whereas Jimmy, despite his charm, is the failed son. In the physical state she’s in, Jimmy could be on her mind like a bad itch. I think Chuck interpreted that wrong or at least is too committed to not see any other side to it and it’s probably the same case with Rebecca. Jimmy made some jokes which I agree were passive-aggressively at Chuck’s expense, even if done subconsciously, but you can just tell Chuck used his one poorly delivered joke as validation for the insecurity that he’s uncharming/boring and ran with it until there was nothing left of his marriage. At least that’s how I see it for now.

I described “Nailed” as Chuck’s nightmare but then this episode… My sympathies were with him throughout the entire hospital stay as it truly was hell to be put in his head space where even the people who are helping him are not on his side. The icing on the cake with Ernie covering for the ever-magnetic Jimmy was so typical on Chuck’s end. I was expecting the opposite but everything Ernie explains makes perfect sense and plus if we remember Ernie* in the flashback of “RICO”, he cheers for Jimmy to show it to those ‘upstair jackholes’ so there’s a special bond that at least Ernie holds towards Jimmy which goes back a long way. We haven’t had many funny moments like that from Ernie this season but his “I miss the mail room” had to be the most earned comedic line in the finale.

The tides change in this episode for me. Yes, Jimmy is a scumbag for doctoring the Mesa Verde files but there’s something about Chuck’s relentlessness of needing to steam-roll his brother that is so damn unlikable which I don’t think has anything to do with following Jimmy as our leading man. After the hell Chuck went through in the hospital and Ernie being the final say, the whole ordeal felt over and done with. Chuck simply failed and it’s not worth it to kill himself over this. I like that little moment in the garage where he looks up at the extension cord as if he might hang himself, but instead he does something just as unnecessary. I mean at the end of the day, Chuck is right that Jimmy has never changed so there’s a victory right there even if other people can’t see it and the worst that’s happened was he lost a client that he never really deserved (although I still support the attempt to retain that client) over a “professional embarrassment” of a supposed typo.

What happened to the Chuck earlier in this season that refused to roll around in the mud with Jimmy? What happened to Chuck’s belief that Jimmy will get what’s coming to him on his own? Many weeks back, I compared Chuck to a more level-headed General Jack D. Ripper, but now he’s fully set to initiate Plan R. At the same time, Chuck began this season with the intention to only bear witness to the direction Jimmy goes in but ended as a victim from just as bad of an attack that Jimmy started. Of course, then you can argue that just because Chuck operated within the law prior to that, doesn’t mean his actions were necessarily clean. That doesn’t excuse Jimmy’s actions but it makes for an interesting puzzle.

What makes me feel for Jimmy, the same way I was impressed of his act in the beginning of the episode, is that he downright confesses everything to Chuck out of genuine love and care for his brother’s state of mind which was never the intention to attack. What he did was wrong but he admits it, yet Chuck’s entire con here (which is superb) is based on manipulating the love and care that Jimmy has proven to possess after the act of coming to Chuck’s aid in the print shop. There’s something very cold about that even if Jimmy deserves to pay for what he did at his brother’s expense. If Chuck wants to have a falling out with his brother, then fine, it’s long deserved, but the fact that he’s going to use this to get Jimmy arrested or for blackmail…yeah not a fan of this decision but undeniably so open for debate. Knowing where the motivation for this stems from, I liked the final shot reading ‘personal portable tape recorder’, which is exactly what it is but it wouldbe personal wouldn’t it??

 

As for Mike. there’s two things you need to consider with his ending. On the one hand, it was such a brilliant twist that handled the Gus reveal with such subtlety. Only a show like this could build up the tension and anticipation of a trigger being pulled, only for it never to happen and the reason resulting in just as much of a punch. However, for a prequel or story that’s trying to stand on its own, you really need to know who Gus is in order to appreciate that ending. I mean other than it being a great, mysterious cliffhanger, what’s the story here for people down the road who may watch BCS first? What does it mean for Mike to see “Don’t” on his car without the context of Gus and for that to be his ending for the season? The only thing to take from it is that Mike’s story this year is about how he’s been dealing with the ripple effects of a half measure. Sniping out Hector, the cousins, etc. would have been a great resolve in making up for that but the “Don’t” almost operates like a higher power telling him he can walk away or as a defeat that he still has to live with what he’s started. If Mike views the good samaritan as being a repeat of his son’s death and he now has to obey a third party’s orders, then this is an extremely tough ending for him.

I always interpreted the teddy bear’s eye in the season 2 finale/season 3 of Breaking Bad as the universe being aware of Walt’s actions when it came to Jane, and I kind of got the same feeling here. We see that Mike has the perfect view/control of Hector and crew while looking through the scope (the shot where his eye is enlarged was a great way to illustrate this), but for some unknown entity to put the screws on Mike (to the point where the crickets stop briefly before it occurs) in a vast and open desert without him ever suspecting that an eye has been on him is similarly just as atmospheric. Especially how the “Don’t” sign almost comes off like the person responsible is aware of his entire dilemma. Also the fact that it’s Gus or someone under Gus’ orders, I can’t help but think of the burned teddy bear being somewhat of a mirror. It’s a vague connection but it’s stuff like that I have fun thinking about.

Some final notes:

-One final thing I’d like to add with the ending is it kind of echoes the beginning of this season with Jimmy stuck in the mall’s trash room. There, Gene refused to use the emergency exit to free himself but in order to free Chuck from a supposed tinfoil prison, Jimmy does use the emergency exit which puts him at incredible risk.

-This is unrelated to the episode but I popped in the dvd to pull the Ernie quote and never realized that when another guy says “Don’t forget us when you make it to the big time”, Jimmy responds “I don’t remember you now Bert”. Nice sesame street reference and I guess that’s why we never see Bert again because it would be too distracting if they were ever in more scenes together.

-Jimmy’s commercial was great and I liked that shot of Kim admiring it. Not a lot of Kim in this episode but at least she got her big moment that the season was building towards last week.

-Overall I’ve had fun reviewing this season and reading everybody else’s write-ups. Great season of television this was. I feel like I’m forgetting to go into something but god, time to end this post haha. There’s always room for more.

Better Call Saul “Nailed” Analysis (S2E09)

This is without a doubt the best episode in the series so far. It kept me up all night like most episodes do but had me literally dreaming about it into the morning and that is just my favorite effect of great television. I went into “Nailed” ready to see how it holds up to last season’s penultimate “Pimento” and ended up tossing the measuring tape over my shoulder. Every scene was just front-loaded with climax which this entire season has been carefully building towards.

You know you’re in for a confidently strong hour when the cold open throws you immediately into the spike strip heist. Mike got a seemingly-heroic, badass batman-like moment when his gun (the very one he was forced to claim possession of) sneaks from the left side of the frame (1:15 in video). As much as we get to see classic Mike here, we’re also getting another side to him that I don’t think has ever been explored. Present Mike has always been doing what he does under the motivation to support Stacey and Kaylee but a few episodes back in “Bali Ha’i” we see the first moment where Mike’s collateral family is directly threatened. Other than him left thrown off and vulnerable in the sake of his family’s safety, he’s also left vulnerable for what he’s about. Who he is and what drives him is put into question. Hector had full control due to Mike’s family being such an easy button to push to the point where it was almost pathetic and this is exactly what Mike wants to prove otherwise now that the conflict between them is “over”. He wants to show that family or no, he still is an individual force not to be reckoned with. At the same time, in defense of the family angle, he integrates Kaylee into helping with the spike strip as an added insult that he alone can relish when all is said and done.

Beyond that, for a brief period here, Mike found another layer of himself to compensate for who he is. He exercised revenge with a code that can combat the usual pitfalls of revenge. It had nothing to do with benefiting his family, he wasn’t looking to make a profit, and Mike is such a random suspect (especially after already being granted $50,000 as a personal win), so how could such an honorable act of offense possibly backfire? Seeing Mike joyfully buy a round for the house and then flirting with Fran really showed a victory that was based more on his character striking a well-rounded groove which gives hope that his life doesn’t have to solely revolve around feeling required to owe his family for past mistakes. Nacho, like Chuck, was smart in figuring things out almost immediately. Not only is Mike wrecked about being responsible for an innocent person’s death, but you can tell that old wounds of Mike’s son have now been reopened, being one of the strongest components that ties him to Stacey and Kaylee, the very factors that he was trying not to make his actions about in this episode. Hector, while certainly enraged, still gets to laugh in hitting Mike in this sore spot (from Mike’s POV because obviously Hector has no clue).

Such a great scene:

 

But holy hell, what a nightmare of an episode this was for Chuck. Jimmy even comes off like a monster in the the way he’s shown hiding behind trees, later staking out an elementary school as if the main conflict with his brother doesn’t even phase him, and then snaking his way back to Valiant Printing only to lurk in the shadows across the street. My god, Chuck, I felt so bad for him and I felt as if my mind was short circuiting along with his the further the episode progressed. The Mesa Verde hearing was so disastrous and hard to watch. I don’t think Jimmy understands how seriously Chuck was set to defend his own memory and talents because this is really all he has left that is truly his. After losing their father and then whatever happened with Rebecca, Chuck has been stripped of almost everything and despite his condition he is willing to fight for a profession he’s dedicated his life to while Jimmy makes a mockery of it.

The scene with Kim, Chuck, and Jimmy was so brilliant and unlike Jimmy confronting Chuck in “Pimento”, here we get the opposite. I was wondering whether Jimmy tampering with the files would be a long lingering secret, similar to Jane and Brock in Breaking Bad, but “Nailed” was not shy about pulling the trigger on Chuck’s realization which is good because I figured he would be able to put the pieces together if his state of mind was called into question. The tragedy though is that despite how incredible and elegantly executed his argument/deduction is and how obviously transparent Jimmy is in defense, and the fact that Kim KNOWS Chuck is right, she still pretends to not believe him. My heart fell to the floor in that moment. This has been Kim’s season and she has been #1 in my sympathies throughout but wow, to me this is her most despicable moment. That little hidden spot of her johari window where she is rebellious/corruptible shines through and I think this is what Howard sensed in her. Jimmy has brought this out in her and at the same time, what Kim tells Chuck in this scene needed to be said and I’m so glad it was her that addressed it.

As much as Jimmy’s story parallels Mike’s with revenge leading to unintended consequences, it also very much relates to Kim. Like Mike, she was put in a situation where she had no power over her own conflict. In “Rebecca” Kim is shown working her way out of doc review and nabbing a client for HHM, but she still gets thrown back to doc review. In that same episode, Mike is shown beaten but successful over the Tuco situation only for Hector to show up and reverse that. Mike has been forced to own up to Tuco’s gun and Kim has been forced to not explain how she couldn’t have known about Jimmy’s commercial shortcut. And just like Mike’s gun pops from the left side of frame in the cold open (which is the most unexpected place to come from), Kim draws her gun on Chuck just as unexpectedly. They both ironically ended up embracing the very lie that was forced upon them. Both characters have regained control over their conflict (Mike gets to show up Hector, Kim retains Mesa Verde) but both will have to answer to an unforseen consequence that could have been avoided.

Imagine how Kim is going to feel if Chuck dies or is seriously injured after he went out of his way to put his health at risk in order to bring justice to what happened against him, when she clearly knew he was right to begin with. What also sucks is that she didn’t want to get caught in the middle of this war between brothers but now look where we’re at. She is now tainted because of Jimmy, although reluctant to put things right because Mesa Verde is so tempting to keep.

Mike and Kim may have fucked up but the ending with Jimmy is just full-on scumbag. The fact that nobody has the good wits to call the police except Jimmy but he’s clearly going to choose his scheme over his brother is just so dark and tragic. I felt saddened that the more Chuck was failing for things to go right, (whether at the Mesa Verde hearing or the print shop) the more dizzy and groggy he was getting from his condition. It’s as if he was slowly getting poisoned throughout the episode but still had to fend for himself and like a true nightmare, the entire world was just not on his side. This is a big push forward for Jimmy’s character, as well as Mike’s and Kim’s. There was a time when I felt bad for Saul and even more for Jimmy when I see this scene¬†from Breaking Bad but now I admittedly feel kind of good about it…

Some notes:

-I like that it was in the diner that Mike realizes the story of the hijacking was not put into the papers, followed by Nacho’s phone call that will lead to the bad news of the good samaritan. There was an earlier episode this season that gave us a close-up shot on the lamps that have loomed over the diner since Breaking Bad, all of which have roadrunners on them. After him playing Wile E. Coyote with the spike strip, what better place for him to realize that the scheme got away from him? Meanwhile, after Jimmy has been pumping himself up to be an American hero with Fifi and now the school flag, the place where Jimmy realizes the scheme got away from him is in the shadows of the U.S. Eagle building. Take what you will from that but still interesting use of directing.

-Nice touch with Chuck’s mention of 1215, the year the Magna Carta was signed which is a peace treaty between an unpopular King (Chuck) and a group of rebel barons.

-Really sweet Abbey Road nod when Jimmy and film crew were crossing the street. Also, just as much as Gilligan, Gould, and crew were able to meet the tight time frame to get the B-29 in the show at the airbase, I’m sure getting a mob of kids on a playground to cooperate (no matter how simple of a scene) must be just as impressive when there’s daylight burning haha.

-Jimmy and Kim’s scene of putting their office space together was great. I feel like that rainbow, while nice-looking has a bit of a juvenile quality to it and while it can represent a brighter future for Kim, it also encourages Jimmy’s colorfulness in how he operates. I admired that shot where all the walls were brown around Jimmy but Kim was shown in the background with the rainbow. I forgot exactly how it was staged but I remember that image looking cool if you know which one I’m talking about.

Better Call Saul “Fifi” Analysis (S2E08)

One might really hit it on the head when referring to the Jimmy/Chuck conflict as a cold war. Ice Station Zebra is a great example of that.

Better Call Saul is essentially Dr. Strangelove as well, in how ridiculously comedic the entire conflict is when you say it out loud, yet it’s derived from something very serious and real between these two brothers where everyone within a potential blast radius of their world is forced to play in it like it’s a game. Chuck is actually incredibly similar to Jack D. Ripper being in a high position of power yet going sort of cuckoo indirectly due to being emasculated with his wife in the bedroom. Because of that, something bizarre and non-existent is now present in Chuck. His psychosomatic condition of electromagnetic hypersensitivity is his version of Ripper’s theory of a communist plot using fluoridation to “sap and impurify” Americans of their precious bodily fluids. Communism is a real threat while Ripper’s theory is obviously all in his head, just like Slippin’ Jimmy is a real threat while Chuck’s condition is all in his head, yet it somehow proves time and again to act up whenever Slippin’ Jimmy is about. And what better correlation to communism is Jimmy himself, being the low-level and lesser deserving scam artist who wants to be of the same class and reap the same rewards as his more educated and hard-working brother?

This is why I have been defending Howard this season because despite how unfair his actions have been towards Kim, the guy is really just as much a victim to a rigged situation. To Chuck, Howard is the Lionel Mandrake who has been forced to put up with Chuck’s nonsense, but at the same time there is a real destructive threat going on beyond HHM’s window. Regardless of what fuels Chuck to be against it, it’s still a very real threat (Jimmy) and Kim continues to fool around with that threat without truly taking stock of how dangerous it is for a hard-working person like herself to entertain the experiment of keeping him under the same roof.

The Cold War was all about reaching a compromise but not without an impossible tension. Howard keeping Kim in doc review is almost like keeping a bunch of school children under a desk. It’s a means of exercising control but it’s all bullshit. He says he was hard on her because he saw something in her (and I believe that), but we all know that Kim is helpless no matter what. Howard admires that Kim will not be going to S&C and envies her for escaping and starting her own thing but in reality she’s still trapped in the McGill blast radius. The fact that Howard has stayed at HHM for his father was a great reveal but it’s also very revealing that he’s telling her this because it shows it’s been on his mind for a while to be thinking back on a moment when he too could have avoided this present reality where he’s locked in Jack D. Ripper’s office.

At the same time, things aren’t so black and white. Howard cares for Chuck and it’s not like Chuck is firing a machine gun out his window maniacally. In fact ironically, we all know that Chuck is completely against that and like we got to see here, he’s incredibly competent and capable of pulling off an honest and marvelous sales pitch. He holds power in the company because he’s earned it. And by the way, the attempt of HHM retaining Mesa Verde in my opinion is fair game. Of course Howard is going to immediately attempt to get in contact, right? He’s running a business and if anything, he knew Kim was going to hear that message to the secretary… so game on. Yes, Kim was the heart of bringing the client in and if anything that’s more power to her, but what special relationship does Howard have with her after she just resigned so she can work (or be in the presence) with the very person that has caused so much trouble for HHM to begin with? Isn’t his offer to cover the money she owes gracious enough instead of feeling the need to owe her an entire client? Don’t get me wrong. I root for Kim and I felt just as crushed when she gets defeated. That was tough and unfortunate and maybe Howard enjoyed winning back Mesa Verde from her but it was still all above board and it is HHM’s client so they have a right to fight for it.

Also Howard omitting the information that Kim and Jimmy are solo practitioners is again, just me sympathizing with Howard/Mandrake for playing into a game he doesn’t want to play in which Chuck and Jimmy brought upon the firm to begin with and it’s not like that information wouldn’t naturally correct itself very shortly without it being a big deal. It was manipulating but pretty clever and innocent in the long run as a means to motivate Chuck, whereas Jimmy’s play was maybe¬†clever yet absolutely criminal. I know Howard dropping by after-hours to Chuck’s dark, depressing lair feels evil and conniving but when you think about it, it’s just a partners meeting that they barely have a chance to hold in a brightly lit room at HHM. I mean look at how they contrast that with Jimmy’s truly evil and conniving move being a fun montage with sympathetic music (from the guy who does the theme song):

 

^ Another great montage by the way. I really like that song now.

But yeah, you have to give credit too that they were able to win Mesa Verde without throwing Kim under the bus and instead painted her in a positive light. Kim’s pitch was fantastic but Chuck’s was masterful and at the end of the day, the law is sacred. What’s good for the client is what really matters and both pitches were performed without sabotaging the opposition for one’s personal gain and you have to admire that.

What’s so great about Chuck’s pitch from a character perspective is he commits to the very thing that he felt emasculated for in “Rebecca” (being a “boring” person) in order to win them over. Not only did he win the client honorably, but I felt a bit of a fist pump for him because he played that up as a quality to be commended for rather than to scratch your head at, like Jimmy would. It’s also kind of fitting that it was against Kim, the very person he tried to give advice to in regards to Jimmy, but who instead is now falling for Jimmy’s quirks, just as Rebecca did. It’s no wonder Chuck was so set on retaining this client and yeah Chuck is pretty shitty to be motivated through something personal but there’s something kind of heroic about him finding a way to combat Jimmy without stooping to any dirty level.

And wow, when Jimmy showed up at Chuck’s and he was staring at the case files in that act break, my reaction was “Oh god, whatever it is Jimmy, please dooooonn’t” and yeah what he does next is HUGE which is something very dangerous to do when you’re in a figurative Cold War haha. Jimmy once referred to “the nuclear option” when he tried to goat Chuck into exercising his power to override Howard’s “decision” of Jimmy not working at HHM and Chuck refused then. Chuck has remained diplomatic, even when Jimmy tried to get him to commit extortion in “Gloves Off”. Jimmy has been tempting Chuck to fire off his rockets, which he won’t, but I wonder what would ever get him to? What I loved was how it ended with Chuck reminding him that they are brothers and he’s glad they still are looking out for one another, despite their issues. That is really sad knowing that Jimmy was only there to fuck Chuck over.

Some notes:

-The opening was really cool and I actually had the idea in the back of my mind of a bomb going off but I couldn’t put my finger on why until I remembered Touch of Evil like Ryan mentioned which I watched for the first time back in August. Awesome tracking shot and the music was really slick.

-Rhea Seehorn has been killing it this season. I loved her excitement in the dentist’s office and I found it funny how it was topped it with “So we’re keeping these chairs?” which you could tell was subconsciously on her mind as she was anticipating giving the good news to Jimmy.

-Jimmy/Kim/Howard/Chuck’s story has really carried this episode so I didn’t mind a subplot where Mike just carefully scouts out Hector and crew. The reveal of the spike strip was surprising (I knew it was going to be something obviously, but didn’t expect that) and it established another push forward just like with what Jimmy had the balls to do with his dilemma. Other than that, does anyone know what Mike was watching or any specific context to the scene? It seemed like an interesting piece of subtext to give the ending a little more meat, (especially since it caught Mike’s attention) but I couldn’t really interpret anything.

– Really cool to get a scene with a Boeing B-29 Superfortress (Fifi) which I’m sure must have been achieved under a tight time frame (including the helicopter). It felt extremely treacherous and insensitive that Jimmy was scheming his way onto an airbase in order to pump up the production value of a commercial (of course that’s the intention). That’s what I mean by Jimmy treating all of this like it’s a game and of course his “war veteran” is practically the opposite of one although he does correct Jimmy on what the craft was used for.

-I meant to mention this last week, but I thought it was cool that Jennifer Hasty reprised her role as a real estate agent for Stacey in “Inflatable”. She was the same person who confronts Marie in BB’s “Open House” for stealing/pretending to be other people.

Better Call Saul “Inflatable” Analysis (S2E07)

Yeah there are certain seeds in that cold open that seem planted to suggest that Chuck’s take on the story may be a bit more complicated than what he has perceived. Jimmy is definitely dipping into the money and even if he’s not responsible for the entire $14K, I’m sure he made a fair dent and that’s still unmistakably bad. Mr. McGill’s actor was really good casting (even had that Odenkirk voice) and I found it interesting how his character was made out to be a softee. I feel like he’s going to have a “just stamp the ticket” situation on his hands and Jimmy will continue to lose more respect for his father, leading to Jimmy feeling validated in taking more. There is more to be explored here though so I look forward to getting more perspective later on.

I did notice a trend of intended cartoon-like imagery throughout the episode where a prop is used to kind of “inflate” an expression in Jimmy’s character***. The most obvious and meaty of examples was the tube man which was brilliantly captured. I LOVE how the tube man is like a cheerleading conductor for the entire sequence haha.

 

For montages that just completely change the format of how the show usually presents itself, this is right up there with how varied and experimental the Marco/Jimmy scam montage was for the first season.

*** Another example of a prop being used to illustrate a point for Jimmy is the broom. Jimmy is sweeping back and forth between his legs as a half-assed way to show that he’s still working but he’s unaware of the imagery that instead only animates further what he’s really doing and what he’s really about. It’s a quick visual gag when it comes down to it but it’s a great way to show that back at his father’s store, he could be a jerkoff and not really get hassled for it. Being raised in that store definitely helped shape his behavior and define who he is. Until now At Davis & Main, he’s been forced to keep that broom or “tube man” in his pants.

I suppose I’ll just jump to the ending and work my way backwards but the final piece of imagery that’s used was the final shot. The W and M almost form that disheveled Charlie Brown expression with Jimmy’s mouth. Again, it’s working as a symbolic extension in order to express something in Jimmy and what’s ironic is that contrary to the episode’s title and the previous two examples given, that expression is deflation. He’s getting an incredibly generous offer which wouldn’t even happen if Kim wasn’t having her own crisis over what she wants and where she’s going in life. He is getting what he wanted in having Kim in the same workplace while he gets the freedom to be who he is, but it’s still a rejection and like Steve said, a more tactful and non-toxic one. That said, it’s the best and most convenient thing that will ever be proposed to him from her without compromising who either of them are and he understands that. What’s great about this direction is that there is no way he can refuse this. He’ll get a beautiful painting with a smudgy speck on it. He’ll exercise in tolerating the speck but eventually he’ll feel drawn to wipe it only to make it worse.

Kim’s interview really helped in getting her to the final moment of the episode. The question of what she wants and then her calling Schweikart “Howard” was good in showing that she may very well be repeating the same pattern she’s trying to escape. The fake-out on the rooftop was clever. Ripping up Jimmy’s card and that marvelous view of the city contrasting with her usual smoke breaks in the parking garage under HHM really had me believing that there was no way she would walk away from that.

As for Mike’s story, it was a relief to see Stacey smile and be in a happy place. I like that she addresses to Mike that she’s aware of how she’s been working him and IMO I think she’s justified in doing so. Mike understands this too. It is intriguing to see that he’s scoping the meeting place he had with Hector. Mike is a man of research and he definitely recognizes that his run-in with Hector was bad news and might require some insurance of information for the future. We’ll have to see what comes from that.

One more thing to note:

-So between Kim’s KC Royals jersey last week and this episode’s reveal that she was brought up near Omaha, is it possible to see a post-BB Kim Wexler? Or is it just a major red herring? Who knows what happened between her and Jimmy but it must be bad if we never see her again, right? But then there’s Ice Station Zebra associates? Mysterious stuff.

Better Call Saul “Bali Ha’i” Analysis (S2E06)

I’m kind of glad I don’t watch the teasers/promos for the next episode because watching last week’s now, that boot is just too much info. Better to let me feel the impact of Hector’s return (which is great enough) in the “Rebecca” cliffhanger rather than cloud my mind with cousins anticipation immediately after. I agree with you Steve in that the Breaking Bad cameos are starting to have a snowball effect with every episode. I like that it’s being done naturally though and makes sense as it builds without feeling like it’s being done for pandering’s sake. The cousins standing on the far rooftop was absolutely creepy. I like that their familiar thematic score from season 3 worked as a cue to their reveal about a second before it was confirmed to be them because at first glance they were just distant silhouettes. It allowed the more attentive BrBa fans to feel their inevitable presence before confirming to the fans who may not remember the score but still suspect, that it is indeed them.

The cousins were always such a mythical entity in Breaking Bad and I love that surreal weirdness that they bring. The scene was very invasive and I had to remind myself that through the perspective of someone who hasn’t seen Breaking Bad, the score is played up because of that, especially since Mike is usually very careful and precautious. He doesn’t need to know who these guys are, but he’s caught way off guard and he knows that if they tracked him here, then they definitely come from a very high and dangerous place. Not something the usual mopes that tried to get the jump on him at his house would suggest (and yeah, that scene was slick). I think what’s great about the cousins’ introduction initially being a problem for Mike here is that now when we watch “I See You”, the scene with Leonel dying and Mike leaving the hospital inconspicuously will have such a more satisfying punch.

As for Kim, I’m really feeling for her this season. I just want her to escape the light that Howard sees her in, but despite how stone cold and nightmarish he was in that tracking shot, I still get it. This is growing to be just as nuanced as the Chuck/Jimmy conflict. It’s not so much that Howard has a problem with Kim and Jimmy having their connection, but she did strongly vouch for Jimmy to get involved in such a high position at Davis & Main and with the terrible results that are occurring from that, her judgement has every right to be questioned at this point. I mean he vouches for Jimmy too because of her so he is made out to be just as much of a fool.

Besides what I touched on last week in regards to Howard’s tough position between Chuck and Jimmy and how Kim can get mixed up in that, the shit that’s happening at Davis & Main because of Jimmy is just a colossal, concrete example of something that Kim is pretty much responsible for, even if she had every intention that it would turn out good. Chuck sees what Kim is going through so at least he can sympathize and chalk it up as further confirmation that his brother will always continue to disappoint the ones that give him these chances, but Howard will not be sharing that same investment. Man, that scene where she tries to explain herself and he continues to ignore her was so excruciating and unexpected. I imagine there was some good blooper reel material from that haha.

At this point, the Schweikart & Cokely proposition is a really interesting turn or option and I can’t wait to see what happens there but I still hope she could figure out her conflict within the confines of HHM and stay loyal because there’s just something still uncertain about the direction of taking up that offer. That and if she does, the door of HHM will most likely be closed behind her forever.

At first, Erin’s involvement with Jimmy seemed light, although tough in contrast to how sloppily Jimmy operates, but now she has upped her game by being almost Professor Umbridge-like with how joyfully strict she’s being towards him. I think it’s fair to say that Cliff and the partners are most likely trying to force Jimmy out rather than shapen him up or discipline him. Best case scenario is they will get some good work out of him, but otherwise he’ll just fail. I’m reminded of when Walt vouched for Jesse to Gus in season 3 and then Jesse ended up being a problem. At the rate Erin is going to keep Jimmy in line, I wouldn’t be surprised if he approached Cliff, the partners, and Erin on a street corner before Kim barrels them down with her Mitsubishi Eclipse. All joking aside, Kim and Jimmy are not in a favorable light right now to these higher-ups, no matter how justified one’s situation is over the other.

I liked how Kim acknowledged that Jimmy knew the right place for himself in the beginning of this season and I also think her calling Jimmy in order to scam another mark is very telling that although she is a law-abiding work horse, there’s still a hint of her that is playfully corruptible or irresponsible. It’s so complicated though. I’m kind of hoping for Howard and Kim to have their own “Pimento” moment between each other at the end of this season, because there’s something so present yet unspoken about all this that needs to be addressed.

Some notes:

– I liked in the beginning the slow camera rotation when Kim was brushing her teeth. It lets us reminisce on the season premiere when Jimmy was around, only to show here that he’s missing in this picture. Then her little raise of the finger on her tooth brush was a nice nod to show that she felt this too.

– I watched the inside extra for this episode and they said that Rhea Seehorn’s first exposure to Jimmy singing on the answering machine was what we got to see on screen. Neat way to get a natural reaction for Kim.

Better Call Saul “Rebecca” Analysis (S2E05)

Another blue-shaded look into the past and yeah like Ryan I could tell what this cold open was going to do, but man, the execution and performances really carried it. Nothing overplayed about it but also comedically unashamed about how much they hammer the lawyer jokes while Chuck has to just endure it. I’m still unsure if Jimmy couldn’t help himself or if it was out of passive aggression, perhaps from sensing (whether subconsciously or not) the constant divide that he’s never of the same class. The Yo Yo Ma comment going over Jimmy’s head or just not being appreciated was awkward and I related to Chuck in that moment because that deserved a better reaction than Jimmy treating it like “why are you namedropping more culture on me?”. I think Jimmy was aware of his own clumsy ignorance though which may explain what comes next.

If there is anything true about a dinner party, it’s that there is never a more perfect time for a dance to take place in regards to deep-seeded issues. You can address things without ever actually addressing and in my opinion, Jimmy the schemer was sending a message to Chuck to “live a little” or “get a little stupid” and probably even knew that he was tapping his finger on the x-ray that Chuck’s specialty doesn’t lie in charm or delivering humor. Rebecca is swayed into Jimmy’s corner and it’s sad because Chuck isn’t even the boring sack he’s made out to be. I think it’s more of an insecurity that’s been fed in contrast to the broad intoxicating appeal that Jimmy emits.

I remember back in “Pimento” and finding that the inclusion of “because you’re funny and can make people laugh” in Chuck’s rant painted a generally accurate description of Jimmy’s ‘larger than life’ charisma, but that there is something worth exploring there and I’m glad we’re seeing that. This is more of a writers question but like Gretchen, I wonder how much more we’ll see of Rebecca because other than exploring Chuck’s psychological condition that will come to be, what more is necessary for us to know that we don’t already get? It definitely adds a fresh perspective to the story and I like that the ending of the episode kind of undercuts this by going even deeper to their father’s death and how Jimmy most probably did steal $14,000 from the business.

And yep it’s a great bookend with Chuck swaying Kim into his corner. Notice that the position of where Chuck and Kim are seated is like a mirror to Chuck and Jimmy’s “Pimento” moment. There is a hard truth being dealt and it’s more than just gaining further perspective on Jimmy. Unlike Rebecca, I think Kim realizes (despite Chuck saying that he’ll put in a good word) that ultimately she’s being used and that this is more of a rigged game than what hard, honest work will get her. Her question of “do I have a future at this firm?” is never answered. In fact, I think that’s the last time we hear her speak and all she gets is a cloud of more family McGill bullshit.

I loved the sticky notes scene (before the montage) where they weave between real-time and pasted-over dialogue. There was such a great rhythm to that and the montage that comes after with “A Mi Manera” by the Gipsy Kings playing was excellent. This was a fitting ABQ version from Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”, but obviously also fitting to Kim’s situation and yes, I did think of Mad Men’s final season when it started to play. Kim got in uniform, fixed her bayonet, and hit the parade without anyone needing to convince her and it showed such great character. Jimmy didn’t stand a chance in getting her on board with his foolish, inconsiderate plan to sue HHM.

Heck, might as well hit play on this for rest of the read:

 

Howard’s casual rejection of what Kim accomplished in this episode was pretty devastating but I think I see where Howard is coming from. He’s fed up with where her loyalty lies and how she always seems to be caught in the middle of the conflict that Jimmy brings when by now, you think that would be avoided. Howard has to deal with Jimmy because Chuck is an important figure to the firm and Chuck has earned that, but why is Kim, a four-year member always tending to reap the same rewards? Why is he finding himself in the same dance with her just because she’s close friends with Jimmy? From the circus with the billboard and Jimmy making Howard out to be a schmuck throughout all of season 1 and then her demanding terms in regards to the decision of Jimmy being turned away, there just seems to be this air of immunity or entitlement that she possesses which I think he’s sick of entertaining.

It’s nowhere near the sense of entitlement that Jimmy has, but there’s a hint of her implementing herself (even if unintentional) close to this complex conflict that Howard is in, where it tends to protect her. I think he might feel that she takes advantage of that and despite the Jimmy/Chuck situation being such a game, Kim getting mixed up in this is his only exercise of power where he can show that this isn’t a game he wants to play. She’s not a player in this unit and he’s trying to underline that by keeping her at a distance and putting her in her place. I think it would have played better if Kim allowed Howard to relieve her from doc review on his own terms instead of just assuming that she would be put to work on that case. It’s not that Howard is power hungry, but it’s the only thing he can control for the moment.

As for the ending with Mike, haha wow. The way Mark Margolis plays the character as an older, shakier version of the Hector Salamanca that we would see in flashbacks on Breaking Bad and with such subtlety, is all the more reason why he was deserving of the Emmy he won for his performance in season 4. I was not expecting the Tuco problem to come biting back so hard. I love how we see the bell on the diner counter when he walks away.

Something extra to note:

-In “Cobbler”, I mentioned that the song “Sicilienne” was meant to be played by two people, one on piano (Chuck) and the other on cello. Now that scene has a lot of extra weight to it after learning of Rebecca’s talents.

Better Call Saul “Gloves Off” Analysis (S2E04)

“Gloves Off” was written by Gordon Smith and directed by Adam Bernstein who were the same guys on last season’s “Five-O” and yeah another fucking awesome one, better shared with the Jimmy story too which I also thought was great. The one thing I kept thinking throughout the episode is the performances. Every little scene, these actors kill it every time. I loved watching Jimmy getting chewed out by the partners. I loved seeing Howard have an excuse to play the “bad guy” again when Kim is reprimanded. The conflict between Jimmy and Kim (being the only real reprucussion that Jimmy seems to understand), and then the strongest titular parallel of Mike’s story that climaxes with Jimmy/Chuck were all so wonderfully written, directed, acted, etc. Let’s take it step by step before I get to Mike haha.

First off, I know this is not Mad Men, but I love the office drama that the show offers. I want to see Davis & Main’s other partners get better developed throughout this season, other than Ed Begley Jr. kind of representing that front as a whole. Not saying that they need their own story or anything but just enough screen time to better distinguish who Jimmy’s pissing off when he screws up. That said, from what we got it was a great scene and was definitely something I was looking forward to after Cliff’s angry phone call last week.

Howard sending Kim down to the “corn field” last season was what the writers described in the commentary as the actual worst thing Howard did when you take away all the faux-antagonism you were lead to believe. So although I love the switch in perspective towards his character that is made at the end of season 1, I enjoyed here that he is still the boss and he’s going to be tough when necessary. One of my favorite scenes with him last season was when Kim was trying to figure out why Jimmy was turned away from HHM when the Sandpiper case was introduced. The line delivery of “…you KEEP it to yourself because I don’t care” is in my opinion one of most subtle underrated acting moments from last season (the whole scene). I remember worrying that Patrick Fabian might not get relevant screen time anymore due to the direction the show may be going, but he’s been used very well so far and this is just another reason why I’m happy the writers aren’t in any rush to leave everything behind.

Jimmy has some nerve to storm through the Chuck premises and demand that Kim gets a break, especially after Kim, pretty bluntly, asked him not to do that. Granted, Jimmy’s right. She didn’t know, but it’s Jimmy’s behavior through this scene that proves he’s not remorseful, let alone understands what he did wrong even after the partners had to spell it out for him. Up until now, the tension between Chuck and Jimmy has been subtley passive aggressive and you really feel it. Here, this episode reminded me of the fourth episode of Breaking Bad’s final season “Fifty-One” where Walt and Skyler finally step into that ring to address the major conflict in full. That’s what this was with all the subtext layed out on the table. Even when you think Jimmy is back-pedaling by offering Chuck water and an extra blanket, it ends up being a false sense of security before the first punch is thrown. (Also note that Chuck had another psychological episode after Jimmy screwed up)

Then there’s Mike! The cold open painted him in defeat so my first thought was “you should see the other guy” and if that wasn’t the case, I was pretty much preparing myself for something that can only be very hard to watch. What we got was a clever compromise and very original in execution. I loved the set up and that the writer’s wasted no time in revealing that the hit was Tuco, only adding to the “Mike’s not going to be successful” lead-on. Whenever there is a heist or mission that is introduced from the beginning, no matter how impossible, these writers know how to turn that crank in order to make everything absolutely plausible, believable, yet always surprising (something The Walking Dead can take some tips from). And Tuco wasn’t sent away rather than picked off because he’s immune from death, but because it made sense for what Mike’s willing to do and the argument of more Salamanca blood crawling out of the wood-work.

I loved seeing Lawson again. Jim Beaver and Jonathan Banks in the same room! Then Krazy-8 getting inspected by Tuco was great. I always kind of half-wished that Krazy-8 would become a character back in the day. I always liked that actor and felt you can probably get a lot of good stuff out of him if he was to be further developed. I’m grateful for the cameo we got here though. If all this crossover wasn’t already fun enough, I would never imagine that Jonathan Banks and Raymond Cruz would ever be in such an epic standoff together, let alone in a scene. Two of Walt’s adversaries colliding without making either character any less for what they’re capable of. The fact that Tuco knocked Mike out rang so true to that character and the idea that Mike had the balls to endure those blows in order to pull off the long con is exactly the only reason you would ever see Mike in such a state. Between the oblivious old man character he was playing, being completing unfazed by Tuco’s threats, and then taking the offensive by grabbing Tuco like a bear trap, my god. Everything about that scene was perfect.

The final scene with Mike and Nacho was so good. How ghoulish was that final shot? Nacho mentions that Mike will be a ‘ghost’ in regards to the original plan, but Mike still managed to disapparate into the darkness with what he ended up doing. I wonder if the wind picking up all that sand was a happy accident that was taken advantage of or if it was written in. All I know is that when I saw Mike peel out, I was thinking “please cut…please cut…please cut…” for the very moment when the dust wipes across the screen. I actually cheered from a director’s standpoint for how good that turned out.

Some afterthoughts:

-I liked that we learned with so little words of Mike’s history in Vietnam.

-Last week when Jimmy was watching Ice Station Zebra, he kept asking questions for how the story will turn out. This is exactly his character in a nut shell. Always wanting the shortcuts, without experiencing it properly. Then when he returns he asks if he missed anything (anything blow up?) which is pretty much the cherry on top.

– Any Curb Your Enthusiasm fans here? I’m so glad Alan Sepinwall requested this: