Mundane. Watching “Better Call Saul’s” third season can feel like a slow-paced, plodding parade of mundane happenings that, in any other context, would not be worth mention in a season of dramatic television.
But mundane happenings are the way in which Vince Gilligan and his crew have chosen, in contrast to Walter White, to transform Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman.
With Walt, it was a series of events in which the stakes increased with each happening. But with Jimmy, it’s a series a small things poking away at the humanity of Jimmy McGill. It’s commercial airtime, once slotted so perfectly for Jimmy’s clients, no one wants to purchase. It’s the inability to talk on the phone and maintain an operating business while completing community service. It’s money wasted on malpractice insurance that will be worthless over the calendar year Jimmy is suspended from practicing law. These things on their own could be overcome. But the stress of all these things all at once give us some of the most notable signs of frustration we’ve seen from Jimmy McGill so far. And that stress may have led Jimmy to do the most “Saul-esque” thing he’s done so far.
Those mundane things seem to be getting to Kim as well. A simple questioning of rules applied to Mesa Verde documents brought anger and arrogance we’ve yet to see from Kim in her meeting with Paige. It’s a small, subtle, possibly mundane moment that screams the pressure of everything is finally start to get to her as well.
The process is deliberate and often maddening to some of us who really want to see this series hit warp speed toward the inevitable destinies of Jimmy, Mike, Gus, and all those who don’t appear in “Breaking Bad.” But we also saw in “Expenses” with two particular situations that those things that seem mundane when first presented to us in “BCS” have far more significant payoffs down the road.
We’ll get to Jimmy and that horrible act later. But let’s start this recap with a series of not so joyful reunions.
The Return of the Hoboken Squat Cobbler
I really thought we’d seen the last of dorky drug dealer,Price. I figured his only purpose was to show just how low down Mike’s criminal career in Albuquerque started. But while I was all focused on Mike’s character development, Gilligan and crew were hiding in plain sight a more significant element about Price: his access to prescription drugs.
Nacho needs the pills that Hector takes for his heart. Well, actually, he only needs the casings sealed without all the medical stuff inside that actually helps the heart. Nacho is trying to protect his father from Hector, so he means to kill him by replacing Hector’s pills with phonies.
Price is not sure if he wants to accept Nacho’s offer of $20,000 (or for that matter, if he even has the option of turning it down). But his previous experience selling drugs at least taught Price the importance of security before making a deal.
“I Never Claimed to be Good At This, Any of It.”
Price goes to meet Mike at his parking attendant job (yes, I had forgotten that Mike had that job as well) and asks if Mike will do security for him again. Mike refuses at first and encourages Price to stay out of the job as well. But Price tells Mike it involves Nacho, and Mike knows Hector is likely connected as well.
Mike still wants to stay out. But a conversation with a widower named Anita (who I’ll say plenty about later), changes his mind. Mike heads out with Price to meet Nacho in the usual place, and he has a number of questions for Nacho.
“I Just Want to be Sure you Know What You’re Getting Into”
Unlike previous meetings between Nacho and Price, Mike does all the talking (all it took was some stolen baseball cards to get Price to wise up). He asks how Nacho intends to do the job and if he’s prepared for all the potential fallout should he succeed. And most importantly, he tells Nacho to switch the pills back after the job is done. My television instincts tell me Nacho may not follow that last bit of advice as well as he should.
“Can I Read This First?”
Last week was all euphoria and idealism for Albuquerque’s favorite crooked lawyer. I mean, sure, Jimmy had been suspended for a year from practicing law. But he was not disbarred and he had a great new business idea.
Well, reality set in this week for “Slipping Jimmy.” First, Jimmy is only credited 30 minutes of the 4 hours of community service he worked because of time he spent on his cell phone.
Second, Jimmy’s business is not turning out to be as promising as once thought. Those spots Jimmy bought with an elderly audience in mind (another one of those mundane details coming into play this week) are not as attractive to other businesses. Jimmy is only able to shoot one commercial for money. No one will take him up on his offer for multiple ads at a discounted price. And the last ad he shoots (for a music store called ABQ In Tune) ends up being for free when the twin brothers that own the store get cold feet. In order to meet his end of the rent for the office space, Jimmy is having to pull from his personal bank account.
And lastly, Jimmy is trying to get a return on money he paid for malpractice insurance he no longer needs this year because he won’t be practicing law. But the insurance company will not refund Jimmy’s money. And not only will the future Saul Goodman not be receiving a refund for insurance he doesn’t need, he will also be seeing a 150% increase in his premiums when his suspension ends.
Now, I am very curious to hear what everyone else thinks about what happens next. I don’t think there’s any question Jimmy was faking those tears. And, of course, all those bad things he revealed about Chuck didn’t just “slip out” of Jimmy’s mouth. But was Jimmy’s sole purpose of going to the insurance office to get more revenge on Chuck? He clearly had that sabotage of Chuck in the back of his mind. But could it have been the only reason Jimmy went there? There’s a good chance Jimmy new the insurance company was not going to refund him no matter what. And if that’s the case, what happens at the end of this episode is a real dark turn for Jimmy.
Jimmy is now purposefully trying to hurt his brother out of spite. What happened in court was as much to protect Jimmy as it was to hurt Chuck. But for the moment, Chuck is out of Jimmy’s way. So going in there and telling the insurance lady all of that dirt on Chuck was all out of spite.
Jimmy tells her everything (Chuck’s testimony in Jimmy’s trial, his mistake at the Mesa Verde hearing). And as he’s walking out, the frown on his face turns to a sadistic grin.
-Stress may be getting to Kim as well. On top of her concerns about paying the rent, the paper work for Mesa Verde continues to wear her down. After a five minute power nap, Kim snaps at Paige, her friend at Mesa Verde after the latter questioned numbers on some of the forms they reviewed. Paige forgave her for it (so she says), but Kim confesses to Paige a third issue that’s cropped up unexpectedly: guilt for what her and Jimmy did to Chuck.
-I also liked the contrast in this episode comparing Kim and Jimmy’s response to what they did to Chuck. Kim is clearly feeling guilt about what happened. Jimmy, on the other hand, feels nothing.
-Price’s previous attempts at criminal activity really left a mark. I think I counted four locks on his door plus a “high tech” security system. None of that was enough to keep Nacho out of Price’s home, however.
-Does Mike have a love interest on the show? “Expenses” introduced us to Anita, a widower in Mike and Stacey’s support group who Mike seems to have taken a liking to.
-I’m curious if the death of Anita’s husband (he disappeared after his car was found on a hiking trail) will come up again. Could he have been involved with the cartels?
-Did anybody else notice the look Stacey gave when Mike was talking to Anita? I may be reading into that a little too much. But she did not appear happy to see Mike conversing with Anita after group.
-Was anybody else hoping to see our good friends Viktor and Giselle at the bar? They could have really livened up what was a fairly depressing episode.
-Comedians “The Sklar Brothers” played the part of the owners of “ABQ In Tune.”
Breaking Bad Reference
-No characters tonight. But Jimmy flooding his engine was a nice callback to when Walt and Jessie flooded the engine of the RV, stranding them out in the desert in “Breaking Bad.”
I’m starting to get the feeling that we are not going to like Jimmy very much when this season ends. We’ll see if that turns out to be true in the weeks ahead. See you guys next week.