Better Call Saul “Waterworks” (S6E12)

“This guy, any good?”

“When I knew him, he was.”

We the people. The penultimate episode of the series opens with a direct shot of the U.S. constitution.  A declaration that the power in our country is gleaned from the people, not congress or a king. Jimmy bounces a rubber ball against this idea similar to how he did against the store-front window back when employed at CC Mobile as an intermittent means to avoid therapy. Bouncing the ball back then (season 4’s “Talk”) was his way of reflecting in the wake of his brother’s death. How can he turn his grief and pain into a way of getting back at the world? A world where his own brother declares “You never mattered all that much to me” before committing suicide. The spiraling answer to that was selling burner phones to criminals who need to stay one step ahead of law enforcement. Jimmy aimed to commit to his bad behavior. This choice was something he hid from Kim for a significant span of time. He lied to her then and he’s about to lie to her now. Saul Goodman twists the constitution into his favor by using the power of the people as a weapon to ironically show that he is the king. By keeping his impatient clients crammed in the waiting room with Francesca, it’s his way of telling Kim that she should could have been the “queen”. The pot of riches is bursting outside his door and if she took the Sandpiper money and joined him, they could have ruled the world together. Instead, she’s going to wait out there with the rest of the “scum” while his bouncing ball takes priority.

It’s all delusion. Saul Goodman’s office being set up as a throne for American justice is as fake and flimsy as the styrofoam pillar of justice that Jimmy mistakenly knocks over. Jimmy McGill not only hates what he’s become due to his inability to cope with pain and abandonment, but the indifference he shows towards Kim when meeting over divorce proceedings isn’t real. Before sending her in, he’s clearly hurt and deeply affected by what’s transpired between them. He stubbornly puts on an act in the same way his brother did to him in their final moment together, even pretending to read irrelevant paperwork as she sits there wishing things could have turned out different. This is Jimmy’s “Lantern” moment where instead of going out in a fiery blaze, he chooses to lean into the worst part of himself. It’s almost as if Jimmy harbors the same mental illness Chuck struggled with, except he’s not completely on his last rope. When Chuck was at death’s door, he lost everything. He burned all his relationships and the respect for himself. Jimmy may have lost the people that mattered most to him, but as Saul Goodman, the one shallow thing he’s pursued since the series pilot, remains: Money. The money obtained at all cost is what will keep him imprisoned in the shell of Saul Goodman for a foreseeable future. It’s his space blanket.

Kim will become affected by her final meeting with Jimmy in the same way Jimmy was affected by his final meeting with Chuck. While she had already made the decision to take responsibility for what went down with Howard, her escape into the shell of who she once was is arguably brought on by a need to punish herself further. She and Jimmy shared the burden of Howard’s death, but if Saul Goodman can carry on like it was nothing, and as if what they shared together was for nothing, then it leaves Kim to carry the weight of the guilt on her own. The only difference is that instead of her retreating into her worse self, she’s retreated into having no self. In the course of six years, she’s buried in a life of indecision. A plain, stale pursuit of the American dream. She’s settled into Florida, working for an established sprinkler company, while sharing a house with a boyfriend (maybe husband?) who is probably an alright guy. They have conversations like whether miracle whip can serve as a substitute for mayonnaise. The Kim we know would probably argue that neither of them are in the same ballpark, but she leaves the idea of them using it up to her boyfriend.

She’s quick to agree on anything anyone else decides all while willing to solve a jigsaw puzzle that has no picture. She’s rid herself of accountability on anything. If an opinion is asked of her, she’s got nothing substantial to offer. She’s on the ‘no choice road’, riding passenger to what’s safe and conventional, perhaps so nobody close can get hurt ever again. This shows how much Howard’s death has haunted her in the long run. It’s not a life she carved for herself overnight, but a tragic philosophy she’s been absorbed into as a coping mechanism. However, it’s still an escape. She dyed her hair brown and relinquished the pony-tail for that reason. When Jimmy calls her at the office, she’s mentally and emotionally sideswiped. She has no idea how to even conduct herself in conversation. Jimmy being a wanted man is nationally known so eventually garnering the courage to tell him to turn himself in is a long leap from being unable to decide what flavor ice cream cake the office should buy for Tammy’s birthday. She wants what’s best for Jimmy considering it’s why she left him to begin with, but Jimmy protests. He argues that she has no idea what he has or hasn’t done and deflects that maybe she should turn herself in if the guilt was enough for them to split the way they did. It’s even an opportune time for her to do so considering Gus, Mike, and Lalo are considered dead.

This phone call, just like the final meeting at Saul Goodman’s office, is yet another catalyst pushing both Jimmy and Kim to make bold life decisions. When Jimmy asked Kim what her thoughts were on Saul’s office, she begins to compliment, but can’t muster to entertain the life he’s chosen, so she cuts herself short with a “Yep”. This response represents a lie. It’s what Jimmy utters defiantly on the phone when he acts like him “still getting away with it” is a good thing. It’s what her new boyfriend in Florida repeats while engaging in intercourse. There’s a lack of intimacy between Kim and her boyfriend which he may or may not catch onto. When he asks her whether running with the bulls is dangerous, she answers “maybe” and he repeats her response back to her as if it’s her usual catchphrase. Jimmy’s brashness over the phone is enough to snap her out of the dull, mindless prison she’s entombed herself in. Taking real accountability for the very thing she’s haunted by can very well set her free and Jimmy’s inability to see that for himself is what serves as a mirror.

So Kim leaves her fate up to the universe in the best way she can. She visits the Albuquerque courthouse where she used to work and hands in an affidavit confessing what really happened to Howard and her involvement leading to the moment before he was murdered. She also hands this confession to Cheryl, leaving her to do with it as she sees fit. Perhaps it can give Cheryl the closure she seeks or perhaps she could use it against Kim in civil court. When asked why Howard was murdered, Kim responds that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is a short answer glossing over the truth and she also dances around the idea of Howard’s suffering in an attempt to make Cheryl feel better. These are moments of weakness within an overall courageous ac of Kim taking accountability. It goes to show how hard it must have been to come straight to Cheryl to begin with but no matter how comforting she makes the truth for Cheryl or herself, the words are still written on paper to prevent any softening of what happened, which Kim probably knew she’d naturally find herself doing. Ultimately, Kim is willing to help change Howard’s reputation around for the better with any means necessary.

Cheryl threatens the idea of suing Kim in civil court but it seems like she’s not willing to go through with it. She sees that Kim came to her personally with no ulterior motive or protest of guilt. She knows Kim did not need to write up an affidavit or come to her at all. All Cheryl wants is closure and Kim is giving her that with the promise of helping to make things better. Kim is the best resource Cheryl has in order to turn Howard’s reputation around so burning Kim to the ground may not be in her best interest. Cheryl is interested in justice, not revenge, and justice means what’s best for Howard and her path to move on from her grief. If Bernalillo County decides to prosecute Kim for her crimes, they can, but for the meantime, there’s no physical evidence to support Kim’s claims.  Kim is very upfront about this to Cheryl which only reinforces her honesty and genuine desire to do what’s right. This moment of confession is a serious form of penance for Kim. For the first time since Howard’s death and leaving Jimmy, the emotions she’s suppressed come pouring out. Its a guttural performance by Rhea Seehorn as she publicly breaks down on the bus back to the airport. There’s no describing the mixture of pain, guilt, and relief that is on display here.

Kim took matters into her own hands in the attempt to make things right but Jimmy is reeling in a more destructive way since their phone call. There was a time when Jimmy would make funny TV commercials, which pales as lighter office drama in the Davis & Main days compared to the true crime drama the show has become, but it was something Kim felt nonetheless attracted towards. Jimmy filled her world with color. However, even Jesse Pinkman, who is crossing paths with Kim Wexler in the most inopportune moment, suspects something may be off with these funny commercials. Kim is on the last leg of her journey with Jimmy, while Jesse has no idea what’s in store for him. It’s impossible to imagine how they could have ever warned each other, seeing as they’re strangers from different eras, but that’s the funny way the world works. Time and space can be incredibly indifferent in this show and yet oddly telling.

When Gene finds an estimated figure of $737,612.62 on his cancer victim’s investment report, it echoes a similar figure Walter White would strive to earn cooking meth. For anyone who’s seen Breaking Bad, 737 is a number contributed to a rare moment where the universe is strangely conscious to when a significant moral line is crossed, which is very much what’s happening here with Jimmy, especially considering he’s dealing with another cancer man. Walt fed himself with delusion that he needed that money to provide for his family, but just like Jimmy’s ironic twisting of the constitution, it was less about the people he loved and more about becoming the head of an empire. Is there any good left in Jimmy or is he destined to suffer the same fate as a man like Walter White? “Waterworks” brings us to the brink of Jimmy at his worst. The first time is when he plans to knock the cancer patient out on the head using the urn of a deceased dog’s ashes. This never plays out as the man passes out on his own. The next moment will be when Marion discovers that Gene is Saul Goodman.

Even with the universe randomly sending a patrol car to park behind the getaway taxi as Jimmy pushes his luck inside the house, he’s still able to get away when Jeff crashes the cab as a diversion. Jimmy embodies Saul Goodman once more, assuring Jeff his freedom, seeing as the stolen watches are not in Jeff’s possession. Blondie’s 1980 hit “The Tide is High” is sung by Jimmy while driving his way over to Marion, who’s informed already of her son’s arrest. When trying to reassure her of his innocence in the phone conversation prior, Jimmy is flying too high to realize that his demeanor wildly contrasts with the nasty tone she witnessed from him when looking out her bedroom window to the garage the night before. She’s previously mentioned back in “Nippy” that Jeff and Buddy got caught up with a bad crowd in Albuquerque so she’s no dummy to expect something foul may be afoot again especially when Gene fails to meet her concerns for Jeff when confiding in him. Marion’s laptop being used to watch cat videos  during the last episode was a great way to lull the audience into a false sense of security before it’s revealed she’s watching the ‘Better Call Saul’ commercial when he arrives. The cat screeching in the commercial is a fine payoff, like a piercing scratch on a record player playing the tune of Gene Takovic. Once you hear the cat screech, you know Saul Goodman is made.

What Jimmy does next is most interesting. For the first time, he seems like a physically dangerous, frightening individual. All the sympathy or hope you may have for his character subsides as he’s lurches over a defenseless elderly woman with a telephone wire held taught between both hands. All the magic that is Slippin’ Jimmy or even Saul Goodman as we know him is gone and we’re left with an awful human physically threatening a woman into a corner of her kitchen. There’s no thrill of a scam here. It’s just plain violence. Jimmy has every intention to take Marion out if it comes to it, but surprisingly stops himself when she utters “I trusted you”. It’s not clear whether Jimmy knew if he’d go through with assaulting the cancer patient or strangling Marion, but he brought himself to the brink in order to find out. Luckily for Marion’s sake, her words ignited something within him. Perhaps what little good remains. The Alpine shepherd boy.

It’s important to note that Breaking Bad was about the transformation of a seemingly good man becoming increasingly evil. Whether that man was always evil or circumstances brought out the worst in him, it will always be up for debate. Better Call Saul on the other hand, is the downfall of a flawed, misguided man who’s been known to possess the periodic will to make up for what he’s done, yet ultimately drowns in the consequences of his actions. The bad behavior isn’t expected to escalate, but continues due to a series of events that make him this way. The idea of redemption may very well be possible but the story has always been how Jimmy is always too late to make up for his choices. Walt was content with going to hell, while Jimmy isn’t. If he knew how to be a better person, he would but his struggle is much more complicated and nuanced.  This is what makes Better Call Saul the more tragic series. As Marion reports Saul Goodman to the authorities via Life Alert, Jimmy McGill is officially too late. What happens next is anyone’s guess.

Final thoughts before the finale:

-The Pina Colada song was sung by Jimmy back when he was hypnotizing the elementary school staff into believing he was authorized to shoot a Rupert Holmes documentary on the property. This is the same bubbly song that’s played when Kim and her boyfriend entertain a backyard barbecue for their friends. It almost seems to be used in the same way when it comes to feeding a lie.

-When Jesse acknowledges the absurd amount of rainfall taking place in Albuquerque that night, Kim barely answers as if it’s boring small talk. She just walked out on Jimmy for the last time after all. Six years later though, when her boyfriend mentions the chance of rain in Florida, she feigns a level of intrigue over the idea of it. Just goes to show how inside out her life has become. It’s great to see that Jesse Pinkman’s appearance actually serves the story in more ways than one, but it’s also fun to get moments though like the mention of Combo being represented by Kim in juvenile court after stealing a baby Jesus from a Nativity scene which was a crime of his mentioned in Breaking Bad. Also Jesse will refer Walt to Saul Goodman’s services because of Saul being able to get Emilio off the hook twice. As soon as we saw Emilio in the waiting room, I figured Jesse was likely near.

-Kim’s final words to Jimmy as of right now are “I’m glad you’re alive.” Perhaps his survival is the best we can hope for going forward. Where he lands spiritually does not seem as hopeful.

-Mike’s old position has been replaced with an automated ticket booth which is a sad legacy to leave behind. Last episode may likely have been his last.

-Jimmy and Kim brushing their teeth together has been symbolic to the state of their relationship ever since season 2’s “Switch”. It’s appropriate that a neutral, passive Kim living a life in black and white would use an electric toothbrush.

-Back when Kim’s involvement during the Breaking Bad era was subject to much speculation, the idea of Ice Station Zebra Associates was a strong clue that she may serve as a silent, supportive partner in the background to all the chaos. Now it’s clear that Jimmy used this in reference to what he’s lost. It’s sad but apparent that she’s still very much on his mind long after she’s gone. Also, Saul Goodman’s sexual harassment of Francesca was seen as glaringly out of character before this final season started. Now it serves fittingly as the unfortunate collateral damage from Jimmy and Kim’s break-up which many wouldn’t see coming.

One more episode to go. Are you ready?

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