Article by Frank Memmesheimer
ON TV: Better Call Saul S2 Episodes 3 & 4 Review
Killing your partner, that’s a bell you don’t unring.
Jimmy is on a roll, crossing state lines, soliciting clients for the Sandpiper case, bending rules and regulations. His lawyer guns are blazing. His boldness beguiles him into getting ahead of himself when he airs a debatable commercial without including the partners at Davis & Main in his decision. It’s not an oversight, not a spur of the moment thing with a good outcome, as he tries to sell it to his superiors. It’s systematic. He considers doing things the right way, for a moment, before he falls back into his old modus operandi. Jimmy would rather ask for forgiveness later than ask for permission up front.
What has worked for him as a solo practitioner in front of juries and judges does not fly with the partners. “You’re an arsonist. Stop selling. And stop acting like you don’t see the problem here. You cut us out. You did an end-run to circumvent us. I believe in second chances. But this is strike one and strike two.”
Jimmy’s maneuver is successful; the phone lines are buzzing with new prospective clients. The breach of trust, however, is irreparable.
Up to this point I saw Jimmy as a victim, battered and bruised by life, his brother, and misfortune. I was sympathetic. I was okay with him bending the rules if that was what it took to give him a well-deserved break. When he finally landed at Davis & Main there was no need for his antics any more, no need for taking shortcuts. He was finally free to play by the book. Which he didn’t.
Taking shortcuts is his way of practicing law. And practicing law is his way of getting done what he seems right and fit at that time. Some say the practice of law is a vocation or calling. Not to Jimmy, though. To him it is a license to do whatever the hell he pleases and charge the big bucks for it. It’s a get-out-of-jail-free-card. A whole-in-one.
So Jimmy comes around and abides by the rules. No more soliciting. The commercial instead, all within legal framework. But he doesn’t do it because he came to his senses, not because he realized that the law in fact is sacred, as his brother Chuck once put it. Jimmy simply abides by the rules (sort of) to gain/maintain his current standing with Kim. The only tangible consequence that gets through to Jimmy is the denial of physical closeness, warmth, and trust. Kim is strict in this way. Only after she feels she brought Jimmy around he is once again allowed back into the land of affection.
To Jimmy, the end justifies the means no matter how vague or morally ambiguous. Notice the bolo he’s wearing? He is a real AMARILLO, curling up in the case of danger, waiting for the storm to blow over, always getting back up on his feet. Eventually though, the lies will catch up to him one day.
For now, his schemes bring only unwanted attention to Kim. Jimmy screws up and she pays the price by ending up in dark review. Punished for her lack of judgment, as Chuck sums it up.
Chuck: Kim knows you. She should have known better.
Jimmy: You are such an a**hole.
Chuck: Why? For pointing out that her one mistake was believing in you?
The ensuing confrontation is this season’s highlight. Finally, it’s GLOVES OFF between the brothers McGill. Jimmy is adamant to corner his brother and for once hear him speak the truth. “Admit that you used Kim to extort me and I’ll quit the law for good.” The proposition stands, yet it’s a predicament. Although that is exactly what Chuck wants – Jimmy off of the law – he cannot get what he wants without incriminating himself.
A word about Chuck.
I didn’t like the Chuck of season 1. I get him, his concerns, his motives, I do. But I didn’t like him the least. I despised him for treating Jimmy like crap. I loathed him for his deviousness and his deceitfulness by setting up Howard Hamlin as the bad guy preventing Jimmy’s success while he, Chuck, was the one placing obstacles in Jimmy’s way from the beginning.
I looked down on him because of his imagined/impossible to prove ‘sickness’.
I did. Not. Like. Chuck.
I’ve sided with Jimmy.
Along comes episode 3 and changes my very perception of the characters involved.
Chuck is right to mistrust his brother. Jimmy outperforms Chuck’s worst fears every step of the way. So when Chuck steps in to ask about his brother’s remarkable and almost suspicious success, my allegiance started to shift. Rapidly. Chuck is the one who raises the right questions. The important questions. The painful ones that scrutinize Jimmy’s motives and ways of conduct. I’m with Chuck on this one.
Oh, and Howard Hamlin is rehabilitated, too. I had him pecked as the villain in season 1 – we probably all had – but his delicate conversation with Chuck about Jimmy’s career has the air vibrating. “I didn’t stand in the way…” What has remained unspoken of between the two is now, for the first time ever, contested. “I didn’t stand in the way…” Howard tries to tread lightly on his weighing in on Jimmy’s behalf. He carefully tries to soften the blow this betrayal will have on Chuck. He’s okay in my book for now.
A word about Mike.
Mike’s new business relationship with Nacho is in itself an interesting turn of events. There’s mutual respect for the other’s professionalism. Mike does not walk away from the situation but offers Nacho counsel and guidance, his ultimate strengths. Sure, Mike can pack a punch and knows how to take one, he’s stealthy, can keep a secret, reckless if necessary, even violent – but opts for the less ultimate option: having Tuco arrested instead of killed. Make no mistake. Mike is not opposed to the idea of taking lives in general. He has done that before and is likely to do it again if necessary. He just shows enough brains and restraint to arrive at the decision that murder is not the way to go in this situation to solve the underlying problem.
What separates the criminal ex-cop from other criminals is his complex moral flexibility. His worldview is neither black nor white. It’s gray, as are his puzzling patterns of thought and behavior. The one question that Nacho can’t shake is this: “You went a long way to not pull that trigger. Why?” Why did you do what you did the hard way when you could have done it the easy way? That’s the same question Jimmy asks Mike. “Why didn’t you take the money?” The answer is hidden somewhere in Mike’s spellbinding moral ambiguity. Maybe the question should ask themselves is: What would Mike do?
On a final note, I’ve started watching Breaking Bad as many of you suggested I should do. It’s both boring and intriguing at the same time, dare I say. Know what I found early on? A familiar face. And a familiar plate number. “KEN WINS.” Remember the loudmouthed stock-market guy Jimmy and Kim had expensive fun with? Looks like he eventually runs into Walt and gets what’s coming for him. And then there’s Domingo “Krazy-8” who unluckily will end up in Jesse’s basement.
Is there a lesson here? I don’t know. Just don’t mess with The Walt and The Jimmy, I guess.