This BETTER CALL SAUL review contains spoilers.
Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 7
Jimmy and Kim’s relationship makes some serious strides in “JMM,” the latest excellent installment of Better Call Saul, but they all seemed to be nullified by the episode’s final minutes. Even though the pair finally reach a point in their relationship where they decide to be completely open and honest with each other, and Jimmy tests that full disclosure policy by mentioning his arrangement with the cartel, we can see the exact moment that Jimmy leaves Kim behind. Jimmy and Kim may be married, but they’re not built to last.
The moment actually has nothing to do with Kim. It even starts with Jimmy taking his better half’s advice; Jimmy knows that he shouldn’t work to get Lalo out on bail. He’s seen the collateral damage that Lalo’s cartel business creates and knows he shouldn’t be helping a man like that get out of prison. With Mike’s help, due to his own nefarious motivations for seeing Lalo freed, Jimmy has all of the evidence he needs to get Lalo released on bail. However, it appears he makes some whispered agreement to have the bail release granted but set at a ridiculous $7 million cash amount so that he can have his cake and eat it too. Unfortunately, Lalo doesn’t flinch at the $7 million demand, and orders Jimmy to go retrieve the money.
While Jimmy is gazing at Lalo’s victim’s family, Howard reappears one more time. You can sort of view Howard’s timing here, as Jimmy is staring the horrible consequences of the life that he’s about to choose in the face, as his last offered lifeline. In this exact moment, it becomes clear that any marriage, rings or not, or any full disclosure agreement will never contain the ego, ambition, and inferiority complex raging inside Jimmy, all a product of his complicated relationship with Chuck. Jimmy gaslights Howard and bellows on about his abilities, connections and the new outsized way that he sees himself. Jimmy’s rage allows him to look right past that grieving family, Howard’s gesture, and Kim’s worries and accept that JMM doesn’t mean Jimmy Morgan McGill or Justice Matters Most, it means Just Make Money, no matter the personal cost.
Similarly stuck between two masters but in a much more literal way is Gus Fring. Not only does he need to keep the appearance of peace between himself and the Salamancas in order to not upset Don Eladio, but we find out that he also has to play nice with Peter Schuler, the head of the fast food division of Madrigal Electromotive GmbH, Los Pollos Hermanos’ parent company. Breaking Bad fans may remember Peter as the Madrigal executive that immediately committed suicide when the police arrived to question him about the death of Gus Fring, and here we clearly see his nerves about his illegal activities, such as the funding of Gus’ super lab.
Everything about Gus, from the way that he arranges his items in his hotel room, screams that he’s a man that needs control and craves precision. Having to cater to the whims of Don Eladio and the antagonizations of Lalo, while constantly reassuring Peter, is probably one of the more frustrating things that Fring can experience. He needs to be in charge calling his own shots, but we know that in pursuit of that imperative need he’ll be sidetracked by many folks trying to throw chaos into his world of strict order.
At least “JMM” finds Kim and Mike back on the upswing. Kim faces down Kevin after the disastrous ending of the Tucumcari plotline, and instead of playing contrite and waiting for Kevin to declare her fate, she decides to take an aggressive approach, blaming Kevin for repeatedly not taking her or Rich’s legal advice. The hardball move pays off, and Kim leaves with the Mesa Verde account secured. Meanwhile, Mike is back watching Kaylee and tells Stacey that he’s better now. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of darkness behind that statement. Mike may have come back from the brink, but only because he’s aligned himself with an immoral criminal. “I decided to play the cards I was dealt,” he says, resigning himself to a dangerous existence.
Little defeats like that make Better Call Saul such a tragic story. They’re inevitable, and somehow they feel even worse after something goes right, like Jimmy and Kim’s semi-blissful celebration of their marriage. We can’t even enjoy watching our favorite characters act romatic and sweet because we know the other shoe is going drop, and it does, with Jimmy’s life as Saul Goodman infecting the moment. It’s only a matter of time before it infects everything.