Wednesday, 1 April 2015

BETTER CALL SAUL, 1.9 – 'Pimento'

Wednesday, 1 April 2015


It was only a matter of time before the McGill brothers fell out, although it remains to be seen if an acrimonious split's the root cause of Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) deciding to embrace his so-called Slippin' Jimmy ways, and transforming himself into the "Saul Goodman" we know and love from Breaking Bad. But it's fair to say it'll be a big contributing factor, at the very least.

A few people mentioned to me that Chuck (Michael McKean) didn't seem entirely pleased his wayward brother had become a lawyer in last week's flashback, and may have asked his partner Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) to refuse him a job at HHM. It was a theory I'd considered, but never gave serious consideration to, somehow—perhaps because I was eager to believe the McGills would become a key partnership of Better Call Saul. But no, that theory proved to be absolutely correct. "Pimento" was another excellent episode, but it was the first time I was way ahead of the storyline and its inevitable twist-ending—where Chuck revealed he's been secretly pulling strings to ensure HHM don't offer Jimmy a partnership in exchange for the multi-million dollar RICO case he's dropped in their lap.

Despite suspecting Chuck of shameful deceit from the start, that didn't sour this episode too badly. It was just a shame the climactic moment, when Chuck unleashed the ugly truth about how he perceives his younger sibling (a chancer who doesn't deserve to be a lawyer because he's a danger to the noble profession), consequently didn't come as a shock. That said, McKean's bristling performance was superb in that scene—as Chuck stopped being a curmudgeonly victim and was suddenly exposed as a bitter, elitist prick.

Where does this leave Jimmy now? He can't possibly manage the colossal paperwork curveballs that Sandpiper Crossing are throwing his way to rock his confidence, so he'll presumably have to swallow his pride and offload the case to HHM as Kim (Rhea Seehorn) advised. It's unclear if Howard would have hired Jimmy if Chuck hadn't asked him not to, but I suspect not. Although that calls into question the reason Chuck would bother asking Howard to do something he'd do anyway, so maybe I'm wrong and Howard's more honourable than we suspected?

Anyway, I don't see this season climaxing with Jimmy moving into a swish HHM office and putting his feet up on the desk. But what other option does he have? The RICO case means a lot to him and it’s his ticket to the big-time, so the HHM deal (if not the partnership) could be how Jimmy buys his iconic strip mall office with the inflatable Statue of Liberty and U.S Constitution wallpaper.

This week's subplot again belonged to saturnine Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), who's bought a pedigree pooch for his granddaughter. More importantly, he's financing such extravagant gifts by getting involved with the city's criminal underworld—here becoming the bodyguard for novice drug dealer Price (Mark Proksch), who's stealing prescription pills and intends to sell them to gangster Nacho (Michael Mando). This storyline was primarily there for entertainment-value, as Mike's "job interview" went in his favour after he battered and intimidated two brawnier competitors. But it was interesting to see drugs enter the Better Call Saul universe, knowing how prominent they'll become in Mike's life after meeting Walter White, and to hear Mike's salient words about criminality having nothing to do with being a good or bad person. A philosophy that has obvious connotations for Jimmy going forward...

I can hardly believe it's the season finale next week, as I'd forgotten this is a truncated year of just 10 episodes. Are Chuck and Jimmy irrevocably estranged? Can Chuck overcome his electromagnetism hypersensitivity without his brother's support? Is there a deal to be done with HHM to finance Jimmy's legal dreams? Will Nacho's unexpected return play into the last episode? Will Jimmy turn to Mike to "persuade" the Sandpiper lawyers to back off, so he can handle this case singlehanded?

written & directed by Thomas Schnauz • 30 March 2015 • AMC