Better Call Saul “Sunk Costs” (S3E03)

Other than wondering the context to what we’re being shown in the cold open (which is later made clear), I felt inclined to just allow the scene to play and evoke whichever impression seemed to jump out the most to me. It’s beautifully shot and surely expressed a sense of inevitability and perhaps a touch of sadness of what that entails. Later when you have the fuller picture, it invites you to consider the in-transit LPH truck as a victory. An epic changing of the tides in what will lead to a world associated of the most high-octane course of events that will ultimately swallow these characters whole. What I really admired is that in such a short sequence, it accomplished me feeling all of these things in an otherwise quiet, indistinctive act of simply having those shoes drop. In my opinion, I find this to be one of the most peak, aesthetic moments that Better Call Saul has ever provided. I also like how you can’t tell how far into the future it takes place, mainly because it doesn’t matter.

As the the title suggests, this is an episode where characters continue to root their feet firmly into the ground and continue to invest in what they have always stood for. Mike will continue to chisel away at Hector Salamanca’s operation until a certain outcome eventually satisfies him. Jimmy will continue to fight against his unforgiving brother in the means to save the free-wheeling life he’s worked too hard to build with Kim. Kim will continue to support a crooked Jimmy, bringing the episode to a close in a delightfully sweet moment by bringing attention to the sunk cost fallacy, in reference to the time when Jimmy argued against it back in the season 2 premiere. In short, this is an episode that hits on the “why?” when it comes to how these characters choose to carry themselves when given little reason other than there’s something deeply rooted within that speaks to who they are. Chuck strongly stated back in season 1’s “Pimento” that “People don’t change”, yet in this scene, he’s applauding the concept now that he finally has his thumb over Jimmy’s future. Notice how Chuck being outside without “protection” (which we have only seen him do when Jimmy proved legitimate in landing the Sandpiper case) is not an issue for him in this moment.

What’s so soul-shattering about what Jimmy tells Chuck, is that it seems to emit the same level of lonely isolation you get from the cold open. Those shoes, future-tense, dropping in the middle of nowhere. If a person was there to actually witness such an insignificant occurrence, they would never know the incredibly masterful purpose it served being hung up on those wires to begin with. A brilliance that might as well have never happened even from those that might most appreciate it. Jimmy taps into such a feeling, knowing that Chuck is self-serving and holds pride in preserving the standards he lives by. At what cost though? After you’re long gone, how could you be admired for your accomplishments and what you believed in when those who matter most were driven away? Adding ‘alone’ at the end of it is one thing, but if Jimmy had just said “and you will die”, it would have came off petty or spiteful, but there’s something about the line delivery of “and you will…die there” that at its core is bluntly honest and matter-of-fact. Because of this, I feel like Chuck actually came the closest to a profound sense of self-reflection and possible change, when sympathetically questioning the ADA’s strategy, but nonetheless, he’s worked too hard to turn back now and will continue to deliver the punishment that he’s always wanted for Jimmy.

I’m really glad the episode kicked off with the Mike/Gus phone call considering it was an anticipated moment that got pulled out from under us in the episode prior. It definitely would have been a mistake to prolong that moment any further or worse, gloss over it and jump ahead to Gus’ arrival. I like how the camera creeps along the yellow street lines. It made me think of the last image of season 1 with Jimmy accelerating to the hum of “Smoke on the Water”. Fate is very present in such an image. Those wide shots where the sky (essentially a character in and of itself) commands the majority of the screen is portrayed almost like a grand host to the party. I love that when the two vehicles begin to approach Mike, the music begins to growl and the heat waves shimmer as if there could be a potential rip in the fabric of space-time as these characters clash. Not only are two important, powerful figures coming face to face, but even Victor and Tyrus (who never crossed paths on Breaking Bad) add an extra layer as they stand patiently in the background. It’s nice to see a Gus who is slick and intimidating, but articulate and reasonable towards Mike. After Walter White, it’s refreshing to have a Gus who can breathe and solve a conflict peacefully.

The shoe idea was certainly clever and executed well enough. One thing is for sure, I was so ready to groan if Mike threw those shoes up on the wire on the first try haha. It’s better to remind the audience that this guy is human and vulnerable at that. If anything, he’ll have his shining moment with Kaylee’s balloons down the road. But yeah, It’s cool to think how in the season 2 finale, the sniper rifle was never fired, yet the reason for that is more entertaining than if he had, while here, he finally does shoot, but still not in the way you would expect. Also it was great to see the return of Dr. Barry Goodman (just looked his name up), Gus’ doctor, who hooked Mike up with the drugs. I hope we see more of this guy. There’s so many characters from BB that I feel can be fleshed out and explored more now that there’s a chance to. Of course, only when the story dictates.

I wasn’t planning on throwing this video up but how could I not? It’s Kim Wexler kicking the morning’s ass.

This quirky, adrenaline rush of a sequence came out of left field but it establishes a very focused and a very success-driven Kim. Good for her that there’s a gym right across the street from the office and that she’s willing to sleep at work in order to have easy access. And waking up at 5:30 am to work out before starting your venture as a solo practitioner would be the way to do it if you really were gun-ho in being the best superhero you can be to achieve that. To follow it up with Ernie dropping the bad news of Jimmy’s current predicament makes for a compelling contrast. How does Jimmy fit into Kim’s world after a montage like that? Is there really more of a sunk cost invested in Jimmy compared to her own goals? It’s a great display of selflessness for her to support Jimmy, whereas with Chuck it’s more of the opposite. I like to think the offer of pre-prosecution diversion in trade for a confession that will potentially lead to Jimmy’s disbarment as Chuck’s version of using the sniper rifle in a more unexpected, nuanced way. ‘Shooting for the kill’ would have been the attempt to hammer in jail time.

Three episodes in and there’s so much happening. All the characters are pushed into a corner and I can’t wait to see how everything unfolds from here. Very promising so far.

Also:

– Jimmy getting booked was so exciting to watch, appropriately set to Little Richard’s “Hurry Sundown”. Saul Goodman was bubbling in that scene. I also laughed at Bill Oakley smiling in the window of the door as this is all going down (and yes, there’s no way I won’t be referring to him by his full name from here on out). I love his character. Is there a more pathetic/sad image than this guy eating from two open mini-bags of chips as if it’s a daily cherished ritual haha? It was smooth on Jimmy’s part to lure him with a cheeseburger in the hopes to get him involved in his case. When he says that another lawyer will be taking the opposition, followed by Jimmy’s (paraphrasing) “then who?”, I could have sworn Dan Wachsberger (Mike’s lawyer from BB) had turned the corner in the hallway behind Jimmy. Even when it’s revealed to be Kyra Hay that will be taking Chuck’s case, I still had to freeze-frame the shot to make sure it wasn’t him, which it wasn’t. I’m glad it wasn’t him too because its better for this show to expand its world. However, I still wonder what will make Saul have such a committed disapproval of Dan in the final season of Breaking Bad.

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