Do the ends justify the means? That’s what Chuck and Nacho essentially ask our leads on this week’s episode of Better Call Saul, after Jimmy’s recklessness further endangers his relationship with Kim and Mike suffers a nasty beating in an effort to stay on the right side of his own moral code. Does it really matter if their plans achieved their desired effects if both men had to suffer injuries, literally for Mike and figuratively for Jimmy, to realize them?
Jimmy’s insubordinate directorial debut unsurprisingly gets him in hot water with the Davis & Main partners. Jimmy can’t understand why willfully ignoring the chain of command and acting independent from his bosses would matter when the commercial performed exactly as well as he intended. Jimmy’s refusal to admit guilt, to stick his tail behind his legs and submit to the teamwork spirit proves that rules and scruples mean little to him if they don’t produce results. Somehow he leaves the meeting with his job in tact, but with two strikes against him.
Jimmy only really starts to feel bad about his actions after Kim gets caught in the crosshairs. Hamlin, with Chuck sitting at his side, chides Kim for not speaking up about Jimmy’s plan to air a commercial. When Jimmy learns that she’s been reprimanded, he immediately suspects Chuck behind it all and goes to meet with his brother one on one for the first time since their falling out.
It’s a great scene that works on multiple levels. There’s something funny about Chuck rationally scrutinizing Jimmy while cuddling a space blanket, weakened by some made-up debilitation. Jimmy’s motives to protect Kim are noble, but he immediately jumps to the nuclear options like quitting his job, or the law altogether, trying to convince Chuck to extort him in the process. Helping Kim is an admirable end result, but begging his brother to commit a felony isn’t exactly admirable means of achieving it. The feud between the McGill brothers is definitely still on, with delusions still in place.
Mike basically has the A-plot this week, after being contacted by Nacho to take out Tuco Salamanca. Tuco’s drug habit is making Nacho nervous, so he decides he wants to take out the loose cannon. Nacho gives Mike Tuco’s schedule and basic outline of how he’d like the hit to go, but Mike changes the plan, electing to assassinate Tuco from afar. When Mike goes to meet the familiar arms dealer from Breaking Bad (another Breaking Bad cameo comes in the form of Krazy-8 dropping off money to Tuco and Nacho) he changes his mind once again, intriguingly making a Vietnam reference in response to a M40 rifle.
Instead of killing Tuco, Mike decides to stage an altercation that will send Tuco to jail. Mike purposefully dents Tuco’s car, then provokes the short-tempered livewire in the parking lot knowing full well that Tuco is armed and that police are on the way. Everything works as planned, and Mike makes his money, but Nacho wonders aloud why Mike went through so much trouble when he could have made twice as much just murdering Tuco as planned.
Plots like these in Better Call Saul keep popping up, and I’m always initially skeptical but proved wrong. Obviously I knew Tuco wouldn’t die tonight; the crazy dealer has his part to play in the future saga of Breaking Bad. So though I knew that Mike would change the plan in some way that would see Tuco making it out of the hour still breathing, I didn’t suspect that it would be not only a bit funny, but ultimately reveal something new about Mike’s character. We’re at a time in Mike’s life where he, almost like Batman, seems to have a strict no-kill policy. When we meet Mike Ehrmantraut in Breaking Bad, he has no such qualms about killing, so surely this dramatic change is something we’ll discover during Better Call Saul, a prospect I can anticipate and keep watching for.
This is exactly what we watch prequels for; we know the ends, but want to see the means that lead to them, whether they’re justifiable or not.