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.