Better Call Saul: the Subtle Drama. That’s how I felt after watching last night’s finale, a similar feeling to what I’ve felt about the show all season. But now, you can add the subtle cliffhanger to the list of subtleties this season has produced.
The main cliffhanger involving the brothers McGill involved Chuck proving that Jimmy wasn’t the only McGill capable of running a con. That tape recorder Chuck pulled out of the garage with the tongs has incriminating evidence that could bring down Jimmy and Kim’s legal careers with it. The other cliffhanger involved a simple one-word note placed on the dashboard of Mike’s car. Though the who behind the note has not been revealed, the why it was put there may be the more intriguing question that season three will tackle.
And while these cliffhangers deserve recognition for the subtle (that word again) way each piece was moved into place that lead to those two moments, we continue to slow play our way to the Mike and Saul that Breaking Bad gives us. How many more episodes will we be teased with “Oh Mike’s using that gun this time” only to have Mike not use the firearm?And while Jimmy’s done plenty of underhanded things this season, he still had a conscious for his brother that may cost him (and Kim) everything they’ve worked for up to this point.
Now one of my favorite elements of this season has been the flashbacks. Not that season one’s flashback weren’t interesting, but Season Two’s have really given us key moments that have help define for us why Chuck and Jimmy are how they are, whether it be Rebecca laughing at Jimmy’s lawyer jokes or young Jimmy working his dad’s store. And tonight’s episode started with one such scene as Chuck and Jimmy sat by their mother’s death bed.
A little tease to start (one that didn’t actually involve Mike and a gun) has Jimmy sitting by a hospital bed. Of course, we assume he’s waiting for Chuck to wake up. But then Chuck enters the shot and we discover it’s Jimmy and Chuck waiting by their mother’s death bed.
Another great contrast here between the two brothers as Chuck refuses to leave his mother’s side while Jimmy seems really anxious to go and get lunch. It’s not necessarily that one is handling this right. But it does seem as if the roles the two men take are very similar to the ones they’ve had all their lives: with Chuck always dependable and always there despite mom always seeking after (or downright preferring) Jimmy. Mom wakes up briefly, to say her last words: “Jimmy.” Chuck is heartbroken that, despite him being there when she died while Jimmy was not, it was still Jimmy who their mom asks for.
Chuck makes no effort to inform Jimmy of what happened. He doesn’t call or tell Jimmy of their mother’s last words. While Season one ended with Chuck revealed as the man behind Jimmy’s struggles as a lawyer, season two revealed all the reasons why Chuck fought so hard to keep Jimmy back, including bitter scenes like this one with their mother dying.
Back to the Copy Store…
I was fairly amazed that Jimmy ran into the copy store to help Chuck. But despite all the things that have happened this season to show the sleazy side of Jimmy, Chuck is still his brother and the guilt of seeing him lay on the ground unconscious because of Jimmy’s action are just too much to keep Jimmy from blowing his cover.
Jimmy runs into the store, turns off all the lights and machines, and gets Chuck to the hospital where he refuses every single treatment option the staff want to provide him because of the electricity involved. Worried about the potential physical issues the accident may have caused, Jimmy discusses the option of “temporary guardianship” with the doctor at the hospital. Someone was listening in on the conversation and plays a key part in keeping Jimmy in the clear.
“I miss the mailroom.”
Earnesto has been Chuck’s assistant since Jimmy quit the world’s worst gig at the end of season one (I think it might’ve been on Dirty Jobs at some point). And up until last week, we’d only seen him in passing. But then Chuck involved Ernie in trying to take out Jimmy, a man Earnesto admits is a friend.
After Jimmy comes to visit Chuck in his specialized lights out hospital room, he is immediately accused (correctly) by Chuck that the only reason he was there to help was because Jimmy had just been in there bribing the copy guy. But Ernesto stands up for Jimmy. It’s odd how many people are willing to lie for Jimmy. And Earnesto even has a pretty good idea that Jimmy committed the crime Chuck is charging him with. Ernie says he called Jimmy and Jimmy responded. Of course it’s a lie, but it’s enough to get Chuck off Jimmy’s back about forging those documents.
The Hippocratic Oath
Because of Jimmy’s temporary guardianship, Chuck is forced to take the MRI. Now I personally hoped this MRI would provide actual answers to Chuck’s condition. Could they find something in the brain that causes him to pass out when there’s electricity? But it turns out, the procedure found nothing wrong with Chuck. Only, after the MRI, he went into a state of “self-induced catatonia”(0r the doctor’s way of saying “he’s unconscious and we don’t know why).
Jimmy sits with Chuck for 20 hours before taking him home, where Chuck wants no help from him at all. After Jimmy leaves, Chuck goes searching for something in the garage that he needs the tongs (the ones he handled Jimmy’s phone with in season one) to get it.
Give Me Jimmy!!!
While waiting for Chuck to come to, Jimmy’s commercial airs for the first time. As expected, it caters to the senior citizens Jimmy’s had so much success with. We also get the first catchy tagline of the law career of Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman: “Give Me Jimmy!!!” It’s not “Better Call Saul,” but it works.
Jimmy has a lot of clients (all older, of course) sitting in the waiting room of his new office when Kim receives a call from Howard. Howard needs to talk to Jimmy about a letter of resignation he’s received from Chuck. Remember when this is exactly what Jimmy wanted Chuck to do back in the very first episode? Chuck also said then that 126 people would lose their jobs if he stepped down, taking the portion of the company he owned with him.
Once again, this all hits a soft spot somewhere in Jimmy as he doesn’t want to see bad things happen to all those people who work at HHM (the thought of Earnesto unemployed may have gotten to him right here) or to his brother.
Chuck’s Little Project
Jimmy arrives at Chuck’s house and finds Chuck in a horrible state. He’s taping foil all over the walls of his house now (a little “fortress of solitude” that fights electromagnetic waves) and has given up on the law. So Jimmy does what I thought his character at this point would never do: he admits what he did. Saul Goodman would never confess to his crimes here. But Jimmy, though he’s taken many steps to getting there, is not Saul Goodman yet. He still has a conscious and still wants to see his brother able to practice law and HHM to stay open.
So he confesses, saying he did it for Kim because she’s the one who deserved Mesa Verde as clients. He says he did it to prove to Chuck that his brain still works. Chuck asks Jimmy to make sure he’s not just saying that to make him feel better. Jimmy confirms again, saying it’s “your word against mine” as he walks out. Chuck pulls some paper aside on a coffee table to reveal a tape recorder (that’s what he needed those tongs for) and hits stop. Chuck has Jimmy confessing to forgery on tape.
Mike and His Gun
Mike meets up with Lawson (the black market gun dealer for all the guys on Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul) to test out a new fire arm he plans on using (or at least we’re led to believe he will, stupid teasers!!!). Mike is tracking a van with Ximenez, the ice cream truck driver Mike robbed last week, tied up in the back of the van Nacho is driving.
Mike takes his spot about a football field away from where the action takes place. A grave has been dug and the whole crew comes out of a little house in the middle of nowhere. I love the contrast in sound here, making the point that Mike is so far away that he can’t hear what’s being said, but the Salamaca’s can’t hear him either.
Hector comes out and Mike is preparing his shot. But Nacho is standing directly in front of him. Would Mike have taken the shot if Nacho wasn’t there? We’ll never know. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Nacho was standing directly in front of Hector while Mike takes aim.
The truck driver is shot, falling directly into his grave, by one of the twins. One man is still outside burying him when Mike’s car horn starts going off repeatedly. Once again, great audio work here showing that he’s parked far enough away that only Mike can hear it.
Mike walks up to his car and sees a branch holding down on his car horn. Also, a note card with the word “Don’t” written on it sits on his windshield. Mike looks around and sees no one anywhere in sight.
-My initial impression for who wrote the note was Nacho. He stood in front of Hector just perfectly and he knew Mike had it out for old “Ding Ding.” But even if Nacho is responsible, someone else had to get out there and put the note on the windshield. I also read some chatter that it could be Gus setting up his first appearance. It rings of Gus’s style for sure, but why would Gus (or Nacho for that matter) want to keep Hector alive?
-So let’s review the elaborateness of Chuck’s con:
-He gets the lock changed on his door so Jimmy can’t sneak in one night to take the tape.
-He writes a resignation letter and starts nailing foil all over his place.
-He then sells the “I’ve given up on life and nothing matters anymore” angle while hiding the tape recorder under newspaper.
He’s always reading the paper, so Jimmy would not be alarmed by it sitting on his coffee table. And Jimmy would never suspect a tape recorder in that room. Also, the tongs hidden in the couch was another nice touch (can’t push stop or play without those tongs, huh Chuck). Slippin Chuck anyone?
-It’s also interesting to hear how the two brothers remember events from their past. Jimmy remembers a good time at a party while Chuck remembers all the things that had to be done at that party to accommodate Jimmy.
-At the end of season one, Marco (Jimmy’s accomplice when he was con-man “Slippin Jimmy”) was upset Jimmy didn’t visit him when he was in town for his mom’s funeral.
-Dr. Cruz, the doctor who oversaw Chuck’s stay at the hospital, also appeared when Chuck was admitted back in season one. I guess she’s the “electromagnetic sensitivity” specialist?
Questions for Season Three
-Will Jimmy be able to fight his way past the taped confession Chuck has of him now? And whether he does or doesn’t, what will the consequences be for Kim and himself as he deals with that tape?
-Will Jimmy lose the conscious he still has left next season?
-Who wrote the note and why do they not want Mike to shoot Hector?
-Will Mike meet Gus next season?
-Will “Ding Ding” have the stroke we know is coming to him? And if he does, what causes it?
-How does Nacho really feel about his place in the Salamaca drug operation?
-How long can Jimmy and Kim maintain their separate operations in the same office?
-And will we open next season with another flash forward to Gene, the persona Jimmy/Saul has taken while hiding out from the law in Omaha? And what other flashbacks will we see next season?
It has been a blast writing these recaps every week. But now, the long wait begins as we anticipate another season of subtle drama from “Better Call Saul.” Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next season.