With Jimmy running out of money on BETTER CALL SAUL, he pulls off an elaborate manipulation that’ll line his pockets for a long time. Something Jimmy set in place a few episodes back rears its head to cause a rift between Howard and Chuck, and Kim is burning the candle at both ends, which may have serious consequences.
Jimmy is no longer interested in staying on the straight and narrow now that his law license has been suspended, and I suspect he’s just one step away from full-blown Saul Goodman mode. The greatest achievement Better Call Saul has accomplished is to delude its viewers into hoping things could end differently for Mike and Jimmy, even while showing Jimmy’s dreary future in black and white at the beginning of every season as a reminder. We want things to be different for both of these characters, because we’ve grown incredibly attached to them, but there’s no fighting it; Breaking Bad has their futures and poor choices set in stone. Both Mike and Jimmy take a step closer to sealing their fate in this penultimate episode of the season.
Mike needs to make the money he stole from Hector somehow appear legit, and Gus has promised to help him. This help comes in the form of Better Call Saul’s first appearance of Lydia, as Mike visits the offices of Madrigal Industries where he’ll be working as a security consultant for 20 weeks until his money is paid back to him as legitimate paychecks. It’s interesting seeing Lydia fresh faced and in awe of Gus, since we know her fate is sealed by Walt in Breaking Bad in the future. For now she’s Gus’s go to partner. The entire situation Lydia outlines for Mike leaves him hesitant. If he signs his name and takes employment with Madrigal, who knows where this could lead him? We already know that answer, but the deeper Mike gets in, the more impossible it is for him to ever get back out. Sure he’s doing this all for his granddaughter and daughter-in-law’s future, but we also know how that turns out too.
The deeper both Mike and Jimmy get to becoming the characters we know from Breaking Bad, the harder it’ll be for Better Call Saul to continue much further as a series unless something interesting happens. In reality, it feels like we’re just one more season away from Breaking Bad, and if this is the case, Better Call Saul can either call it quits after its fourth season, or it could do something far more interesting and take us into the future, bookending the series it spun off from by showing us Jimmy/Saul/Gene’s life in Omaha after the events of Breaking Bad. I can’t think of another series that’s pulled off something so grandiose, and with the talent involved in Better Call Saul it’s clear whatever they came up with would be some of the most watchable television around.
There are scenes in this episode that stand up to some of the best in the series. The rainy nighttime meeting between Hector and Gus, with its deep shadows and yellow lighting make it feel like something explosive is about to take place, but it ends up being a quiet explosion, as Don Eladio cuts Hector loose. Kim’s meeting with the owner of Gatwood Oil takes place in a desolate oil field, with oil pumps churning while Kim figures out a way to help this way stop from being double taxed. The shots are gorgeous and expansive as Kim’s business also expands to include another client. There’s some foreshadowing here, when Kim’s car gets stuck in the dirt, tires spinning. She’s not getting enough sleep, and she’s burning herself out. It won’t be too long before she too will be stuck spinning her wheels. The other sequence that wowed me was the bingo scene. There are shots through balloons, shots reflected off of the bingo machine, and shots from inside the bingo machine. It gives the scene a strong sense of vitality as Jimmy is literally playing a game with the participants. Cinematically, Better Call Saul may be one of the greatest shows on television, and it’s evident it in every episode.
This week Jimmy plays a masterful manipulation on the poor residents of Sandpiper Crossing once he finds out how much the initial settlement offer was. Since he’s broke, he wants Irene, the lead plaintiff, to accept the deal in order for him to reap his huge finders fee. Davis & Main, as well as HHM are holding out for a much more substantial settlement, but it will take a long time for it to occur, so Jimmy decides to give the plaintiff’s a little nudge. Jimmy is a master manipulator, so he begins by showering attention on Irene, doing things to make her look bad to her friends/fellow plaintiff’s. At the same time, he begins a whisper campaign about how much money they could all have now, but Irene must just not need the money immediately or care if her friends do. Interesting enough, while he’s indirectly convincing the others to put pressure on Irene, Night of the Hunter plays in the background. It’s a brilliant choice, because like Robert Mitchum’s character, Reverend Harry Powell, Jimmy is also a brilliant conman with the power of persuasion and a silver tongue. Mitchum doesn’t care for the widow he marries, he only marries her to get at her money, just as Jimmy doesn’t care about the lives he’s wrecking or the feelings he’s hurting, he also just wants the money. After turning all of Irene’s friends against her, Jimmy puts a cherry on top of it all by manipulating a bingo game with metal paint injected into the bingo balls. Irene’s card will get a bingo before anyone else, further annoying her friends. His ploy works, and his intense, indirect pressure makes Irene decide to take the settlement.
Howard and Chuck meet with the malpractice insurance people, and things do not go well. They want to raise the rates of the entire firm by incredible amounts, and in return Chuck threatens to sue them and kicks them out of the office. Howard has been playing damage control for Chuck for a really long time, and he can no longer keep putting out fires for him. Howard suggests Chuck retire, and Chuck counters by suing HHM for breach of contract. It’s a tough thing to watch, as the former mentor and mentee seem to be separated by a riff Jimmy created. You can tell it’s a decision Howard doesn’t take lightly. He truly cares for Chuck, but he also needs to watch out for his business, which has taken a major hit because of Chuck. Clearly this feud will not end well. Either Chuck is forced out of something he helped build from the ground up, or HHM will cease to exist. Either way, Howard and Chuck may become just two more victims in the human carnage left in Jimmy’s destructive wake.
There was a moment in this episode where I yelled out loud, “What the hell!” Better Call Saul was able to surprise me in a way that was both harsh and immediate. Kim has been held back by her fondness for Jimmy all season. If she weren’t also covering for him, she may be able to expand her business. Taking on Gatwood Oil just means she has to work harder, and sleep less. She doesn’t have time to celebrate with Jimmy after he comes back with the Sandpiper settlement news, and is even practicing her Gatwood Oil pitch in the car. Between stress and lack of sleep, she’s about to burn out, and it happens while driving. One minute she’s working on the wording of a speech, and the next the airbags deploy as Kim’s car is rocked by a violent accident. Her face is bloodied, her car is smashed, and her case files fly all over the place as she crawls out of her car, alone in the desert. Is this the wake up call to abandon Jimmy and move on with her life?
- Nacho’s plan to kill Hector appears to fizzle out during the meeting with Gus. Hector has an episode and takes one of the doctored pills, but nothing happens. It’s a brutal disappointment and Nacho has to tell his father about Hector and to do what Hector wants. Nacho is kicked out of his father’s house.
- With Don Eladio letting Hector go, it may mean open war between Gus and Hector. Will Nacho and Mike get caught in the crossfire?
- Chuck is faking how well he’s doing in front of Howard. He did the same thing with Rebecca and it didn’t turn out well. Why can’t Chuck just be honest about his problems instead of trying to cover them up?
- Jimmy brings back a bottle of Zafiro Anejo, the same tequila he and Kim drank when they pulled a grift on a guy during a date in season 2. It’s also the same tequila Gus uses to poison Don Eladio and his men in Breaking Bad.
- When Jimmy confronts Howard about taking the Sandpiper offer, Howard tells Jimmy, “It’s like talking to Gollum, it’s transparent and pathetic.”
Season 3, Episode 9 (S03E09)
Better Call Saul airs Mondays at 10PM on AMC
For six months out of the year Jeff is holed up in his home with nothing to do but shovel snow, watch television, write, and dream of warmer climates.
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Jeff Iblings | Contributor