This Better Call Saul review contains spoilers.
Better Call Saul Season 3 Episode 7
Before I dive into tonight’s downbeat Better Call Saul, I have to take a minute to appreciate the direction of tonight’s episode. Now, “Expenses” doesn’t do anything over the top or out of the ordinary by this show’s standards, I just feel like sometimes I forget to acknowledge how much better this show looks than everything else on television. The visual language of this series and parent-series Breaking Bad is so sharp, cinematic, and constantly inventive, you could praise every shot individually. From the moment that Jimmy steps into the corner of the frame, with the brick wall backdrop, director Thomas Schnauz flexes his chops. From the placement of Jimmy and Kim in the frame while they are having drinks to the longshot of Mike emerging from a church after a heavy conversation, I’m constantly in aware and in awe of the fantastic camera work in this episode, and just about every episode.
Anyway, getting to tonight’s action; Jimmy and Kim both find themselves buckling under the stress of Jimmy’s disbarment, albeit for different reasons. Jimmy’s simply struggling to make ends meet. Torn between his community service and his shaky new gig as a commercial director, Jimmy’s barely hanging on. He’s trying not to let on to Kim how low his funds are by picking up the tab on Chinese food and drinks, but his commercial ad spaces are not selling. It’s a shame too, because Jimmy isn’t half bad at the job. Based on his constant film references and use of film jargon he clearly has an affinity for the work, and we know that he’s great at massaging egos, so he’d be a natural at handling actors. Maybe in another life he’d have been some sort of auteur. Regardless, what’s worse than the commercial enterprise hitting the skids is the fact that Jimmy is out all of the money he spent in advance on malpractice insurance.
On the other end, Kim’s stress has less to do with the sentence of the trial and more to do with the trial itself. Already overworked and stealing five minute naps in the car just to keep from dozing off, Kim feels guilty about the way she and Jimmy attacked and ambushed Chuck at the hearing. It all comes pouring out when Paige mentions that she read the transcript of the trial and begins mocking Chuck. Kim’s discomfort causes her to snap when Paige second guesses her work, but Kim apologizes and circles back to their conversation about Chuck, stating that she felt she had torn down a seriously sick man.
Dealing with his own problems and noticing Kim’s tension, Jimmy drags them away from their normal smoking spot and off to a bar to pick marks. In a season full of memorable vignettes, this scene stands out. Driven to a low place and untethered from being a man of the law, Jimmy seems almost animalistic while imagining the different ways he could prey on suckers and Kim seems almost scared of his intensity, like she’s seeing the person that Chuck described in court for the first time. Kim has to remind Jimmy that they are not actually there to con anyone, and Jimmy’s behavior appears to make her abruptly question the way they treated Chuck. Blaming Chuck for his sorry state, Jimmy doesn’t regret a single thing about the way they handled his brother at the trial, and just before it looks like things might go off the rails between the pair, Kim eases off the pedal and returns to their game.
The anger doesn’t leave Jimmy though. When he meets with the insurance company and fails at his attempt to grovel and weep his money back, he pulls yet another despicable move on his brother. Once Jimmy learns that problems with the bar and reputation issues can cause legal insurance premiums to rise, he purposely keys the insurance agent into the fact that Chuck had a mental breakdown in court, hoping it will cost him dearly. The performance isn’t just one of Jimmy’s best, it’s one of actor Bob Odenkirk’s too. As he walks out of the office, the same fuming grimace that he sported at the bar returns to his face.
Meanwhile, Mike and Nacho’s paths cross once again, with some unexpected help from a returning Pryce. Nacho breaks into the dweeby dealer’s house to ask him to use his drug connections to get empty capsules of the same pills that Hector Salamanca takes. Since Hector plans on going after his father’s business, Nacho decides replacing his heart medicine with something nefarious will keep his Dad safe from harm. Burned by Nacho in the past, Pryce goes to Mike for protection, but he initially turns him down. After doing some handiwork for Stacey’s church and having normal interactions with law abiding citizens, Mike seems truly happy, but the feeling is fleeting. After listening to his new friend Anita tell a story about the disappearance of her husband, Mike decides to take the job from Pryce, possibly thinking of the families of the Salamancas’ victims and their lack of closure, or perhaps recognizing a similar pain as the one he feels over his son and succumbing to his thoughts of himself as a crook.
At the deal, Mike questions Nacho’s plan and warns him about the repercussions of his actions. Mike makes it clear that many people, like Gus, have interest and an eye on Hector, so if he’s going to switch the pills, he better be sure that he switch them back. This is just another instance of Mike offering to help and guide Nacho, just as he’ll later do with Jesse. As I said above, I think it all comes back to Mike’s guilt over his own son. He recognizes some of his boy in these other troubled young men and this time he’s going to do his best to make sure they stay safe. However, I’m thinking Nacho may end up being just another ghost that will haunt Mike. After all, we know that he’s not around in the Breaking Bad storyline.
With a fault line forming between Kim and Jimmy, Jimmy slowly giving into his anger and resentment, and Nacho ready to take a swipe at the king, it’s safe to say we’re gearing up for something climactic. Also, though we didn’t see Chuck this week, I assume that his story isn’t quite finished either. Oh, and we should keep Gus Fring in mind too, who surely wasn’t just added to this season as fan service. With three episodes left, Better Call Saul is heading into its home stretch, and it just may start sliding out of control.