Always helps to mention Cracker Barrel. – Jimmy McGill
Early in this week’s episode, Jimmy McGill was working to put the Wexler and McGill logo on the wall. It was one of the reasons he painted over the rainbow that adorned the lobby of the dentist’s office before it became a haven for a pair of lawyers. The idea was good, and as he laid out the intertwined “W” and “M,” he asked his soon-to-be secretary whether it was even.
“There on the M, it looks a little crooked.”
That might be the best description of the entire series, and certainly of its main character. Although there were certainly far bigger moments in the episode, this is the one that stuck with me. Not only was it crooked, an opinion to which Jimmy also agreed, but it was the “M” and now the “W.” Despite ability and hard work, McGill has always been just a little crooked.
Chuck tells Howard Hamlin he knows Jimmy would try to steal the audio recording, because “I know my brother.” As big a prick as Charles McGill is, he’s not wrong. Not only do we have ample evidence from Better Call Saul, we also have a mountain of evidence from Breaking Bad. Jimmy is a tragic figure, but one with endearing qualities. At some point, he becomes comedy, but he’s also so openly seedy, you kind of find yourself pulling for him. It’s a problem for the viewer, because we all know Better Call Saul will end in events that place Saul Goodman in the proximity of Walter White, which eventually leads to Cinnabon.
In similar fashion to how BoJack Horseman uses animated animals to lighten the darkness surrounding that series, Better Call Saul can be extremely unhappy, because you’ll still get the Matlock scene, or Jimmy swerving his way onto an Air Force base, or trying to steal cucumber water from the nail salon.
We’ll get back to Jimmy in a bit, because Giancarlo Esposito has returned to our lives. Gustavo Fring, complete with the yellow dress shirt and black tie, made his first appearance in the prequel this week, and did so in classic Breaking Bad form. It was an extremely slow burn, as we followed Mike Ehrmantraut and his tracker right to the doorstep of Los Pollos Hermanos. Because the Gus arrival wasn’t exactly a secret, I imagine many of you realized where Mike was before he did. As soon as the red trim around the windows was visible, it was obvious. I still got a few cold chills when the camera backed up and revealed the sign. however.
Thomas Schnauz wrote a very careful episode with “Witness,” and Vince Gilligan was the only choice to direct this one. No one else should depict Fring’s debut, even though Saul has had its share of extremely talented directors. Two extended scenes served as the backbone for the episode, with Mike’s chase and Jimmy’s breakfast at Los Pollos Hermanos. Both were true Breaking Bad throwbacks, where speed was sacrificed for exquisite pacing, a skill at which Gilligan might be the ultimate master.
Bob Odenkirk still managed to make his meal funny, even if there’s not a soul who didn’t expect him to accidentally drink the coffee after dumping a plantation’s worth of sugar into that cup trying to spy on knapsack guy. True comedic ability comes from making the obvious joke just as effective as the surprise. Bob didn’t oversell it, just a grimace and a quick stare to the cup, and that’s all it took.
There’s nothing at all amusing about Gus Fring. Esposito’s cold demeanor rivals any I can ever remember on television, especially for a character that played a major role. There are plenty of psychos on Criminal Minds and Special Victims Unit, but not generally on a serial dramatic series of this level. While much of Fring’s content this week was the affable restaurant owner, one camera shot was enough to remind us of who this man is. When we see the SUV drive off, Gus is outside sweeping and handling trash for his business. He has his back turned to the road, and to everyone except us. The look that creeps across his face is one of pure evil. It was a fantastic few seconds, just as effective as any monologue or murder scene.
We have history with this dude. He’s awful.
He’s also glorious, and it’s great to have him as a part of the show, even if Saul isn’t supposed to “be” Breaking Bad. He has to exist in order to place both Jimmy and Mike where they need to be in Albuquerque at the time the two timelines sync up. We can’t afford to lose Marty McFly and his family due to disruption of the space-time continuum, after all.
I would watch Mike Ehrmantraut track lowlifes as an actual series, but getting a few weeks of patient trailing is good enough. Plus, Mike got to call Francesca “a real pip,” which was worth Jimmy dealing with a Pollo Classic.
Back to Jimmy, as Chuck recorded him. He’s less upset about what it means for his career than what it says about his relationship with his brother. When Francesca mentions to him how much the “folks” love him, he responds by asking who doesn’t. But, he feels he has that answer, and it’s his brother. A brother willing to overlook all the times Jimmy has helped him, kept him from an insane asylum, or had to deal with his lunacy, simply because he must be punished for breaking the law. He didn’t murder anyone. He tried to hang onto a client and assist his girlfriend after Chuck basically attempted to cut him out of everything.
Meanwhile, Kim Wexler is caught up in the crossfire as Ernie spills the beans and tells her he heard the tape and knows about the fraud. One thing I hadn’t previously considered in attempting to predict the future with this show is where Kim ends up. We know she doesn’t end up married to Jimmy in a nice suburban home with a white picket fence. What I never thought about is the possibility she ends up either in jail or disbarred for something surrounding him. I don’t anticipate Rhea Seehorn leaving the show as of yet, so that “something” likely hasn’t happened yet. But, it’s a definite possibility.
Mike tracks the gas cap and the device to a deserted road, and then finds it by itself on the asphalt. He’s been discovered, and knowing what we do about Gus Fring, our elderly friend may be in for a career change. Gus recognizes talent, and Mike is crafty, intelligent, and we know he continually can use money in order to provide for his family. Maybe it’s time to give the parking lot attendant gig the ole’ heave ho. I’m pretty sure Gus isn’t flossing in a yellow Hummer and I’m positive he doesn’t have baseball cards hidden in the wall of his house.
The end of the episode was just another example of Chuck being a dickhead, and Jimmy being Jimmy. He exploded, not knowing Howard and David were hiding and listening in to what was being said. “You were a witness to what happened here?” Again, Chuck’s ONLY goal in this scene is to take his brother down for humiliating him in court. Michael McKean plays a great jack wagon, but I do hope Jimmy gets the better of him again before all is said and done.
A very good episode, touching on the two main focuses of the season thus far and not bothering to throw in anything unnecessary. The acting was as strong as it’s ever been across the board. Rhea Seehorn is impressing more and more by the week, and her character is increasing in its emotional resonance. She’s become indispensable. This show already was. And Giancarlo Esposito’s return to TV just took the “must watch” quotient to a far greater degree.
I’m @JMartOutkick. I engage in real James Bond shit.