Airtime: Mondays at 10PM on AMC
Episode: Season 2, Episode 5 (S02E05)
Tweetable Takeaway: Kim struggles to win back Howard’s confidence, and Tio shows up to make Mike’s life harder on #BetterCallSaul
Monday’s episode of BETTER CALL SAUL shows us the real long term damage Jimmy’s actions have had on Chuck, and why it’s ground him down to being the untrustworthy brother in Chuck’s life.
We’re given a masterful glimpse into an earlier time in Chuck’s life, right as he’s given Jimmy a second chance by getting him a job at HHM. Things are completely different for Chuck. He has a lovely wife Rebecca, he doesn’t have the affliction to being around electricity, and life seems pretty good for him. He and Rebecca are hosting Jimmy for dinner. She’s never met him before, and Chuck warns her Jimmy is an acquired taste. They even prepare a signal, the Carol Burnett ear pull, to let each other know to wrap things up early.
Jimmy really wins her over though, and it’s through his ability to joke, or here tell lawyer jokes, that the two really connect. No matter how hard Chuck pulls on his ear, it’s too late. She loves Jimmy. It annoys the hell out of Chuck, and later when he and Rebecca are in bed, he tries his own hand at telling a lawyer joke, but it falls flat. He’s no Jimmy. This small scene tells so much about the relationship of these brothers. Chuck is the person who has worked hard to get where he is, while Jimmy waltzes in and finds a way to get people to love him or help him with very little effort.
What really fascinates me is seeing Chuck in a state of domestic bliss and wondering where it all went wrong? Where did the electrical fixation come from? Did it happen as a reaction to his marriage dissolving? Did it in fact dissolve, or did something tragic happen to Rebecca and this malady is how Chuck psychologically deals with the trauma? I truly hope we get to see more about what happened to her.
Kim on the other hand, is still in doc review purgatory because of Jimmy. There’s a complete difference between the way she handles adversity and how Jimmy does. She puts her nose down, does the hard work, and earns her way out of the trouble she’s in. Jimmy on the other hand, always looka for the short cut, and he offers one to her. She can sue HHM for what he sees as extortion and unwarranted punishment for something she had nothing to do with. Of course Kim declines his olive branch of help, it would be career suicide. Instead, she challenges him to work just one day without breaking the New Mexico bar rules. Kim tells him, “You don’t save me, I save me.”
One of the greatest aspects of both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul has been the wonderful use of montage. It’s an editing feat, and Kelly Dixon, the wonderful head editor of the show, does another bang up job here with Kim. Set to the Gipsy King’s cover of the Frank Sinatra song “My Way”, we witness Kim work her butt off, using numerous lunch breaks to cold call everyone she knows to try and get a nice big client for HHM so she can earn her way out of doc review purgatory. Eventually she lands a huge bank, which will bring the firm over a quarter million in billing annually. In her moment of triumph, when she should be set free from her dungeon basement, Howard screws her over and tells her she can’t help with the new client since she has her plate full down in doc review. Maybe he really is a pig fucker like Jimmy called him back in season one.
Jimmy is also in his own little prison after the stunt he pulled over at Davis and Main, and now has the perky and annoying Erin attached to his hip. Cliff has put her there to watch over Jimmy, guide him, and keep him from getting himself into any more trouble. This doesn’t sit well with Jimmy. He ditches her one night at work, gets into an argument with her at court when he tries to bribe the clerk with a beanie baby to get a better court date, and basically can only avoid her presence by retreating to the court’s men’s room where he runs into a lawyer who fawns all over him now, but never gave him the time of day when Jimmy was a public defender. Jimmy feels trapped.
One of the other things Better Call Saul has done so well, is to flip our expectations on their ear. In the first season, Howard was the bad guy and Chuck was good until the sudden reveal Chuck was actually sabotaging Jimmy’s career and pulling Howard’s strings to do so. We get a switch in dynamic all over again. Howard is angry with Kim because of the embarrassment Jimmy has caused. He’s become a cold, unforgiving prick even after Kim lands the client of a lifetime. Chuck on the other hand feels bad for Kim, and understands what she’s going through.
There’s a lovely scene where Chuck comes to work very early in the morning and runs into Kim, who has stayed at work very late into the night. At first it seems he’s just using her to make coffee since he can’t be around electricity, but instead invites her to have a cup with him and chat. He tells her a little story about how Jimmy can’t help himself but do bad things even though he has a good heart. When they were younger, Jimmy pilfered $14,000 from his father’s corner store over the years, and Chuck figured it out when he came home to help his father go over the books and save the store. His father wouldn’t believe Jimmy was capable of doing such a thing, but Jimmy’s embezzlement cost his father his store, and six months after he had to sell it, he dropped dead.
Chuck feels for Kim, because like her, he’s been left to pick up the pieces after Jimmy has unintentionally destroyed something. In this case, it’s her reputation and career. Chuck recognizes what a huge client she’s brought to the firm, and is going to speak to Howard on her behalf. He knows her talents are wasted in doc review, and she deserves better. This is the same Chuck we’ve been groomed to despise for half of last season and the better part of this one. There is no black and white in this show, everything lands firmly in the grey area.
The last little thing I want to touch on is Mike. Last Episode, I failed to recognize the cameo of the guy who would become Krazy-8 and Walt’s first kill. It was a nice touch, and it shows us better than any other story line how Better Call Saul fits into the world of Walter White. Things get trickier for Mike when Tuco’s uncle, Tio Hector Salamanca (Ding! Ding!) arrives to make Mike an offer that seems will be difficult to refuse. Change his story, tell the police the gun was his, and let Tuco get half of the prison time instead of 8 to 10 years. Tio knows Mike is a former cop, and now Mike knows he’s gotten himself into a real mess.
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. Twitter: @OfSoundnVision
Jeff Iblings | Contributor