Did the fifth episode of Better Call Saul‘s second season carry the momentum from last weeks bombastic, Mike-centric showdown? Not really, which disappointed me. That said, even an OK episode of Saul is akin to a first world problem: I only feel cheated because I’m simply spoiled by the show the rest of the time. Let’s dive in. Spoilers ahead!
We open to a flashback, with a very put-together Chuck setting the table for a family dinner with Jimmy, himself and his wife. Wait — Chuck had a wife?! Her name is Rebecca, after whom the episode is ostensibly named. Jimmy has just moved to New Mexico, and gives the couple all his updates about his first week in the mail room, complete with fun stories and lawyer jokes. So many lawyer jokes. What first appears as a mutual understanding between Chuck and Rebecca about how Jimmy is a nuisance quickly changes; Jimmy starts charming her, getting her to joke with him.
The scene that follows does a lot to establish Chuck’s character in so few words. Once the party is over, and the couple sits in bed, Chuck tries — to no avail — to make his own lawyer joke, yet says it in the most stale, professor-like tone imaginable. It’s no wonder Rebecca doesn’t laugh, except out of pity for her husband. The look he has on his face afterwards — a look of anger and jealousy — informs us that his relationship with Jimmy is rooted in a lot more insecurity than we may yet realize. He isn’t as charming, smooth or charismatic as his little brother. He never will be.
Carrying this emotion torch, Chuck reveals even more about his past later in the episode. He tells Kim that growing up, Jimmy was the favorite. Their father was the kindest man in a small town, and ran a convenience store until Jimmy stole enough money from their father to run the business into the ground. The elder McGill was dead just a few months later. The saddest part of this story is when Chuck tells of trying to explain to his father what Jimmy had done. “He wouldn’t hear it. Not his Jimmy,” he said.
So there is more to this Jimmy vs. Chuck story than we’d seen! It’s great to finally give Chuck these dimensions. It only makes sense: two-dimensional characterizations do NOT come to mind when I think of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.
Jimmy did not get berated for being late to work after last week’s drama, unless you count his new kid-babysitter/intern, Aaron. She is the antithesis to everything that Jimmy wants to do. He wants to get a document typed up and sent out in a jiffy? She’s going to make him change the font and indent the paragraphs. He tries to “grease the deal” with the receptionist at the city courthouse by gifting her a Beanie Baby? Aaron yells at him for attempted bribery. Jimmy is less than an inch away from quitting and taking his actions to the next level of illegal, I just know it.
It was a nice callback to season one to see one of Jimmy’s old courthouse, career lawyer friends in the bathroom, wiping clients’ vomit off his suit jacket. He kept telling Jimmy how lucky he is to have the job at Davis & Maine, which I’m not sure he understands.
My issue with Jimmy in this episode is that he was basically spinning his wheels. We know he will inevitably piss off his bosses to the point of quitting, so why hasn’t that happened yet? No one will be surprised when he breaks the rules again — his bosses OR the audience — so it would be great if the writers sped this whole thing up and gave Jimmy a new goal. Maybe bring him a little closer to becoming Saul Goodman.
All things considered, this was Kim’s episode, which is pretty cool to say on paper. She is silently determined to get out of her dreaded “doc review” punishment, and she goes about this by taking every opportunity (lunch breaks, smoke breaks, pulling all-nighters) to get a new client for HHM. She eventually succeeds, making a client out of a friend. Howard is pretty cruel about it though, sending her right back to the basement, despite her good work.
The question remains: is it really Howard trying to punish her, or is it again Chuck’s doing, attempting to punish Jimmy? They are keeping this mystery. I think it’s Howard’s, only because having Chuck manipulate Jimmy’s fate through Howard yet again would seem redundant.
Speaking of redundant. Keep in mind, Kim is an interesting enough character. The actress is likable without having to say too much, but the problem is again, repetition. We get not one, but two separate montages of Kim putting sticky notes on windows and making work calls from bathroom stalls. One montage had music, the other didn’t. The point would have been easily conveyed with one montage, and given us more time for, say, Mike?
Mike didn’t do much at all this episode. He called up Stacey and Kaylee to see how they were doing at their new place of residence. He let his black eye heal up a bit. The main event that everyone will be talking about is the appearance of Hector Salamanca, sporting a fedora and no wheelchair. This is the best condition we’ve ever seen the man in, which makes me wonder what has to happen over the course of Saul to get him in a chair, ringing that bell.
His offer to Mike is simple: “say that the crime scene’s gun was yours so that my nephew, Tuco’s jail sentence is reduced.” In exchange, Mike gets a few thousand bucks. It isn’t yet clear to me yet why Mike would do this, because then he could be charged for having a weapon, and forced to pay or do jail time himself. I’m sure they will explain this soon, however. There’s no way they’d have introduced Hector if he wasn’t going to return very soon.
For all the reasons I mentioned, this was my least favorite episode this season. That said, Chuck and Kim had some very well-done moments.
Some other great moments:
- Chuck with a FULL HEAD OF HAIR! What else are flashbacks good for? Oh, how far Michael McKean has fallen since his days in Spinal Tap.
- Spanish classical guitar in Kim’s montage. Good music.
- How does Kim get reception on her flip phone while walking into the basement and parking garage of HHM? Funny.
- Jimmy calling Aaron, “a goddamn pixie ninja.” So accurate.