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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: