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.

One thought on “Better Call Saul “Fifi” Analysis (S2E08)”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s