This review contains spoilers.
Lying to yourself becomes a lot harder when someone else calls you out on it. It’s even worse when they do it without realising the lengths to which you were going to maintain the façade. And worse still is when that person is the very reason you were working so hard to stick to that fiction.
Jimmy McGill has been uncomfortable at Davis and Main from the moment he first walked through the doors. Initially his seemingly relaxed new workplace looked to be somewhere he could be himself and exercise some autonomy, which led to humiliation and huge trouble. Last week he was reminded by a former associate of just how good he has it, but the look on his face made it clear that he doesn’t really feel lucky, even if he quantifiably is. But as long as he felt he had to impress Kim, he could deal with it.
So when Kim wistfully tells him that back in that pool, after initially saying no to Davis and Main, Jimmy was happy, it’s the last thing he wants to hear. It’s true, of course; Jimmy had lost his main barrier to being himself with Chuck’s betrayal, until Kim presented a new one, but learning that Kim actually admired his being himself and feels guilty for pushing him into a job he didn’t want? That has to add insult to injury. Jimmy manages to reassure her that everything is good, but the moment she’s gone, he loses it, finally wrenching the too-small cup holder out of his car. He’s done trying and failing to fit in. The only question that remains is what comes next.
If I had to guess? We’re reaching the point where Jimmy and Mike’s thus far disparate plots are going to come back together. In case we needed reminding, this week showed us again just how threatening the Salamancas are; the appearance of the cousins watching Mike and Kaylee from a distance was a chilling, unsettling moment; while initially I felt as though Mike’s problems with the Salamancas were wrapped up too quickly and easily, I think that’s probably the point. Hector let him get away with the $50,000 in order to ensure Tuco’s release and avoid killing an ex-cop. The issue is that a certain Salamanca is about to be on the loose again and he lacks the shrewd caution of his uncle or the controlled obedience of his terrifying cousins. Furthermore, with an illegal gun charge about to be landed on him, Mike may just need a lawyer, and Jimmy is very ready to dive back into the seedy underworld.
I can’t be sure exactly how this will play out, but I do know that any involvement with the Salamancas is the definition of biting off more than they can chew, and without any real backup Jimmy and Mike will be in well over their heads. For weeks now I’ve been suggesting that the arrival of Gus Fring might be close; if this subplot with Tuco and Hector continues, it kind of has to be, right? Nobody else has the power to protect people from them, and leaving the plot now would be anticlimactic to say the least. Furthermore Jimmy clearly cannot abide legitimacy much longer. If he does see out the season at Davis and Main, I doubt he’s going to be making any effort to toe the line anymore.
But there might be another unexpected problem that could end badly for Jimmy, and that’s Kim. Chuck might have stepped in to end her exile from the upper echelons of HHM, but that has only made Howard’s attitude towards her worse, and proved that for all her tough ‘I save me’ talk last week, her loyalty and hard work wasn’t what saved her in the end. It was someone taking pity on her. Kim’s worldview has been shaken and when given more jobs by Howard she blows off work halfway through the day and finally calls Jimmy to help her con a rich sleazebag. Even her new and enticing job offer doesn’t seem to be making her happy. Like Chuck, Kim believed wholeheartedly in ‘doing the right thing’, but that outlook has been damaged. This time she initiates the con and shows far more passion and excitement toward that than she does the prospect of her new job.
I don’t think Kim is going to completely eschew the path of decency, but like Jimmy at the end of last season her faith has been dealt a devastating blow and even if her disillusionment is only temporary, this is the world of Breaking Bad, where every action has a consequence, every moral compromise will come back to bite you. Even a slight walk on the wild side may have terrible repercussions for Kim. I hope it doesn’t; if anyone deserves to get out of this in one piece it’s her, but we saw in the parent series how any involvement with Walter White led to disaster. At this point, it’s hard to imagine that the same rules don’t apply to Jimmy McGill.
Bali’Hai wasn’t the strongest or most explosive episode of the season, but when the standard is as high as it is in Better Call Saul that’s hardly indicative of any serious drop in quality. Across the board Better Call Saul has improved hugely from its already strong first season, offering up a more consistent, unified vision that provides the kind of gripping, surprising plotting that its predecessor would be proud of, while never feeling like it lacks its own style or identity. We’re past the halfway point now, and things are not looking to get any easier for these characters. Which, naturally, means it’s going to be must-see television.
Read Gabriel’s review of the previous episode, Rebecca, here.