Sometimes what you’re good at has little relevance on what you should do with your life professionally. I know tons of incredibly proficient musicians, but they play music as a hobby, realizing that the lifestyle of a professional musician just isn’t what is in the cards for them. On Better Call Saul, Jimmy can’t shred on the guitar, but he sure can pull a fast one.
The guy can hatch a scheme like no one’s business, tricking saps into believing something for his own personal gain. But that lifestyle, the lifestyle of a career con artist, isn’t what Jimmy McGill wants for himself, it’s not the lifestyle that his, let’s call her his “special friend” until we can exactly pin down their relationship, wants for him, and its certainly not what Jimmy’s brother Chuck wants. Jimmy wants an honest life for himself as a lawyer, but he just can’t help it that his one true knack is always having a trick up his sleeve.
Look at the way Jimmy handles the Kettlemans. He’d love to take their money to hide their secrets as a retainer for his services, which means he’d have his first honest to god client, but he doesn’t want to accept a bribe. Ok, eventually he does accept a bribe, but he tries to rationalize the money as a means for his service, tallying every expense he can think of in his pursuit of the Kettlemans. Eventually, this sort of rationalizing will become easier and easier for the future Saul Goodman, but at this point, he’s still Jimmy McGill, with conscious very much in tact, and he wants to be legit.
And just like it’s not his fault that he’s a gifted hustler, it’s also not Jimmy’s fault that Henry Hamlin comes after his name, forcing his old swindling hand. Jimmy doesn’t want to be Saul Goodman so badly, that he fights Hamlin at all cost to hold the integrity of his name, using the last of the Kettleman money to create a billboard that copies Hamlin right down to the suit, hair, and logo of the law firm.
Naturally, Hamlin threatens to sue and orders the billboard be taken down, but before the billboard falls, Jimmy stages a fake rescue of a worker tasked with removing the banner three-stories above the ground. The move makes Jimmy a local hero and gets him on the front page of the local paper, but it’s still a no-good, staged publicity stunt that he’s embarrassed for Chuck to see.
Chuck, and Kim to an extent, are the two people that seem to keep Jimmy on the straight and narrow. It’s for this reason that he discards of Chuck’s local paper, and then we get to see a hilarious and sad scene in which Chuck ventures outside to steal a neighbors copy, leaving five bucks as way of repayment. Jimmy’s lies to Chuck will definitely fuel some friction between the two in the next episode, and I’m expecting that Chuck might insert himself into Jimmy’s battle with Hamlin.
Overall, Better Call Saul is four for four in my book. This episode slowed things down a bit, and created more of a villain out of Hamlin. Nacho isn’t gone, but his fade into the background is a good move for the show. Giving Jimmy more of a corporate, establishment-grounded antagonist makes sense for his character and world. There’s no need for life and death situations with drug dealers weekly, I’m glad we’re getting something different. Bob Odenkirk continues to make me care about his character transformation, doing a great job playing a rascal with a heart of gold and a mouth full of shit.
The Best of the Rest
- The cold open was awesome, definitely proving that it’ll be a weekly event just like Breaking Bad’s were. We get to see the origin of Saul Goodman as he pulls off a clever little back alley scheme. I really appreciated the way that the location felt entirely different from the New Mexico backgrounds that we’re used to. It looked like a different show.
- Overall, the camera work still impresses, with shots like the overhead look at from the ceiling of Saul in his office, and the low angle shot of Saul during his fake little promo.
- Betsy Kettleman is pretty fierce about not surrendering her money. Reminded me of another power hungry suburbanite…
- “You’re the kind of lawyer guilty people hire.” – Betsy Kettleman
- The interactions between Mike and Jimmy continue to kill me. Forget that show on CBS, this is the best odd couple on television.
- Ditto for Jimmy and Kim. I kind of love the way that they interact and I’m looking forward to seeing their relationship develop further.
- “If there’s one thing kids love, it’s local print journalism.” – Chuck McGill