Better Call Saul Season 3 Episode 5 Review: Chicanery

It's McGill vs. McGill, a complete courtroom drama, on a fantastic new Better Call Saul!

This Better Call Saul review contains spoilers.

Better Call Saul Season 3 Episode 5

Trials make for great drama. With conflict and consequences clearly defined, courtroom dramas spring eternally in cinemas and on cable. From To Kill a Mockingbird to A Few Good Men to notable episodes of Law & Order, a trial places tension on characters and creates showcases for phenomenal acting. Jimmy and Chuck’s familial dispute finally played out publicly in theatrical fashion, and just like Nicholson in A Few Good Men, Chuck fell for Jimmy’s well-crafted cross examination and completely lost his cool. For a series centered on a lawyer, this is our first significant action inside of a courtroom, but it was well worth the wait.

This was one of my favorite episodes of Better Call Saul yet, and just like those other episodes, it stands out by being different from its parent series, Breaking Bad. Without scientific wizardry, explosions, gunfire, or drug deals, Better Call Saul had me at the edge of my seat just by showing two brothers blowing up their relationship. No Machiavellian efforts necessary, just Huell (!!!) slipping a harmless battery in a pocket; no surprise hitman at the door, just an unannounced appearance by a concerned ex-wife. The stakes are significantly smaller, but more personal and just as capable as eliciting a gasp. Most of the action took place in one room, but director Daniel Sackheim kept things interesting by utilizing the reflections in clocks or by keeping action in the background in focus. Plus, Michael McKean puts his incredible talents as an actor on display, making Chuck utterly despicable yet somehow sympathetic at once.

But only sympathetic to a point. The cold open flashback drives home just how much Jimmy loved his brother, willing to help Chuck craft an elaborate lie to hide his condition from his ex-wife. We still don’t know what caused Chuck and his wife to split, but knowing that Chuck turned to his brother for help in deceiving her oddly shows just how much Chuck cares about Rebecca and her opinion. Jimmy may be a bit of a crook, but he’s utterly selfless when helping those that he cares about.

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That’s also reflected in the way that Jimmy treats Kim too. Jimmy’s devotion to Kim is part of the reason why we’re here in the first place. Kim is the perfect teammate for Jimmy; we see it in the montage of the pair preparing for the hearing and in both of their eyes while watching the other work their magic in front of the judges. However, I have a feeling that their relationship is going to be tested further. Kim discloses the current situation between Jimmy and Chuck to her Mesa Verde clients, and Paige double checks to make sure that the legal repercussions won’t come back to negatively impact Mesa Verde. “Are you sure?” is the sort of foreshadowing question that never sounds good on a show like this.

At the same time, it’s starting to look like Jimmy might make it out of this thing ok. He flips the whole hearing around as if it’s a competency hearing for Chuck, proving that his “physical illness” is completely psychosomatic. Jimmy even resorts to the nuclear option and lures Rebecca to the hearing, both to throw Chuck off of his game and also to drive home the fact that Chuck is at least somewhat aware that his electromagnetic hypersensitivity is a mental condition, otherwise he wouldn’t have tried to hide it from Rebecca. Sealing the deal completely, Jimmy plants a cellphone battery on Chuck and when its discovered, Chuck blows up, letting years of resentment grossly pour out. The anger unleashed at Jimmy appears crazier than Chuck’s supposed EMH. On top of all of that, Jimmy looks like a pretty decent lawyer as well.

If Jimmy ends up winning this thing, I have to imagine that things will get even worse for Chuck. Jimmy is easily able to make Chuck look incompetent, and it may very well be Chuck who ends up disbarred. Hamlin was worried about the PR repercussions, and it looks like his fears may have been warranted. Still, knowing Jimmy, pulling the Rebecca card and embarrassing Chuck in front of the bar association isn’t going to weigh easily on Jimmy’s conscious. I expect that he’ll spend even more time trying to repair the broken relationship with his brother, but I also think Chuck will strike back at Jimmy even harder. Regardless, this was a brilliant climax to the war between the Brothers McGill and the fallout should provide excellent material moving forward.


5 out of 5