After our little sojourn into the dark world of Mike Ehrmantraut last week, Better Call Saul realigns us back into the trials and tribulations of jaunty elder law lawyer Jimmy McGill. This week’s episode “Bingo” serves as a contrast to the generally dour events of Mike’s journey; whereas Mike frequently dug himself into a deeper hole between the murders and playing “dirty,” Jimmy is doing his best to help (almost) everyone in his life, and at a personal cost to himself. His efforts to simultaneously climb the status ladder and be a good person find themselves at odds with each other, and it’s only a matter of time before he decides to change his tune…and his name too.
From nudging Chuck (who makes advances of his own by pushing his tolerance for electromagnetic fields) back towards law practice by leaving files in his home to saving Kim’s career stability, Jimmy finds himself giving out favors/help to most of the people in his life. He’s even devoting time to playing bingo with the elders in the retirement community, something I would say was just to bolster business through friendliness but he seems to be genuinely enjoying himself. He likes helping people and he wants to do it; the problem comes when he realizes it’s just leaving him at the same low point he’s been at.
The big decision stems from Howard and Betsy Kettleman coming to him for services in their trial after stubbornly firing Kim from the case. Seeing the wannabe “Ned and Maude Flanders” try to weasel their way out of a reasonable deal by refusing to admit their guilt is just about the worst kind of snobby excuses for their actions. They’re trying to play the old “we didn’t murder or rape anybody so we’re not really bad people” game and Jimmy isn’t having it as he throws the itty-bitty issue of the $2 million they stole back at them. This happens kinda-sorta literally in fact when he hires Mike to orchestrate a scheme to steal the money and give it all to the District Attorney’s office, including the retainer that the Kettlemans bribed him with way back when.
Prior to this point, it looked as if Jimmy’s prospects were about to rise considerably as he shows off the new office space to Kim that he’s looking to buy and offer her a position to work in. This sequence reminded me of other shows that started off in one “home base” setting for their protagonists and then later settled on a different and more iconic setting, like when Angel dropped its little office for the Hyperion Hotel that would define the show. Alas, this was not to be for Jimmy McGill (for now), whose decision to return the retainer and convince the Kettlemans to take Kim’s legal counsel leave him in the same cramped room at the nail salon.
At this point late in the season, I’m not entirely sure which direction the show is leading towards with all the stories it has introduced. There’s the nagging feeling that Nacho and/or Tuco could make a return as promised, along with the Kettleman case now out of Jimmy’s hands and a group of friendly elders who I don’t presume are going to be revealed as criminal masterminds. What the show lacks in straightforward plot it makes up for in character detail and the interactions that they all share, from Mike’s immunity to Jimmy’s slick talk and the revival of friendship between Jimmy and Kim. Like the wall of wanted posters above Mike and his friend from Philly at the beginning of “Bingo,” there’s a wide assortment of characters and angles at play here, but where they’re headed I’m not sure.
EPISODE RATING: 8/10