Article by Frank Memmesheimer
ON TV: Better Call Saul S2 Episodes 5 & 6 Review
Lawyer jokes. Comedy gold.
Flashback. It’s the era of Jimmy’s mailroom days. Chuck and his newly wedded wife Rebecca are having Jimmy over for dinner. He had missed their wedding for a reason unknown. This first meeting is a revealing balancing act; it is an evening of clashing personalities and of subtle animosities. Chuck had set the tone for the evening by warning his wife about his brother, even arranging for an abort signal to end the encounter prematurely. “I apologize in advance. Let’s just say he is an acquired taste.”
It is an evening of class versus clumsiness, it is wine versus beer, drinking from glasses versus drinking from a bottle, using cutlery versus chewing with a half-open mouth. It’s law firm founding partner versus mailroom clerk – and yet the latter is never aware of his sibling’s glances, aversion, and envy.
The ensuing dinner conversations gives away a deep-seated dynamic between the brothers.
Jimmy congratulates his brother on his house, job, wife. “Wow, Chuck, you’ve got it all.” He does not begrudge his brother’s success. Jimmy looks up to his older brother, proudly reporting his every small success, ever hoping to find favor in his sibling’s eyes.
Rebecca is hospitable and interested in her brother-in-law; Chuck, however, is stubbornly stand-off-ish. He does everything his role as host requires of him (greeting, music, courteousness) but he is surprisingly cold in doing so. As the evening progresses, Rebecca and Jimmy find a common ground: lawyer jokes. They joke in an amicable way, yet Chuck feels both unite against everything that is dear to him. He is hurt and at the same time he is utterly envious of how Jimmy is at ease around people and easy to be around, in return. That’s one of Chuck’s ultimate gripes with his brother, one of the roots of their imbalanced rivalry.
Chuck’s belated attempt at landing a lawyer joke of his own is a perfect illustration. Chuck desperately wants the joke to work, wants to show to his wife he’s a funny guy, too. He isn’t. He’s not spontaneous, not in the moment. His timing is off, the proper situation has long passed. Consequently, his attempt is met with irritation by Rebecca and then calming leniency. Chuck may be many things, however, being funny, welcoming, and a “people person” are not among them.
You want proof? I’ll let the cinematography speak for itself. The lighting of the McGill home gives off an icy vibe and so does the intimacy of the couple. Kudos to the gaffers; a scene well lit.
Jimmy and Kim
Back to the present, where both Kim and Jimmy are in a slump.
Kim is still not back in the good graces of Howard Hamlin who holds her responsible for not having told on Jimmy’s solo run, airing his commercial without approval. An offense, which, at the time, she was misled to believe was sanctioned. After a felt eternity spent in “dark review”, Kim proactively tries to absolve herself by bringing in new and promising clients. Although her efforts pay off and she is finally reinstated, the social climate between her and Howard is icy. Silence dominates. No backup in court, as she is sent to defend an unwinnable position. HHM looks more and more like a dead end to her career. Even as a competing law firm offers her the job of a lifetime (“We’re talking partner track here.”) she is hesitant, stuck in a treadmill with no push or pull to escape.
Jimmy finds himself beset and controlled by the annoyingly meticulous Erin, who is several years his junior (in age and profession). She must have written the book on doing everything by the book. No exceptions. No bribes, no gifts, no room for interpretation, no deviating from the house style of Davis & Main. Being the respectable James McGill, attorney at law is hard work. Sleepless nights on top of everything. As Jimmy briefly returns to his is old life and quarters, he runs into the inhabitants of his old world and is met with envy. Deputy district attorney Oakley: ”Word is you made it.” Company car, office, housing, assistant, decent paychecks. “Lucky bastard.”
Jimmy sure does not look like one.
Everything changes for the both of them, as Kim ventures to a bar downtown, planning on drowning her sorrows when she comes across this guy, who basically presents himself on a silver platter. The perfect mark. One quick phone call (“Jimmy, I’ve got a life one on the hook.”) and a quick 60+ miles from Santa Fe to Albuquerque later, they slip into their Viktor-and-Giselle-routine and have a grand evening. The couple is no longer estranged and distant, they’ve spent the night and are back at their old usual self.
Together they are at their best and strongest.
I already dread the day Jimmy damages their relationship for good.
Exhibit A. The leftovers of last night’s scam. A real cheque. Real money involved. Made out to “Ice Station Zebra Associates” – the “totally legit” loan-out Saul Goodman uses for tax purposes in Breaking Bad (S2 E8). I just hope the cheque does not come back to haunt and hurt Kim.
Allow me to close with a few loosely connected observations. I seem to be just in sync with my Breaking Bad schedule (being able to watch it for the first time apparently made many of you envious) since a great many faces of the last two episodes looked actually familiar.
Those two appear on a roof top and stare down Mike. They mean business, that much is clear. They are a bigger threat than the goons who previously broke into Mike’s home. Skull boots, need I say more? Then again, I see them first thing season 3 of Breaking Bad, crossing into the US on a quest to find Heisenberg. I don’t know what will happen to them, yet. My educated guess is they will eventually run into Heisenberg. And that will be that, as they say.
Another familiar face: Hector Salamanca, uncle of Tuca Salamanca. Mexican cartel guy. Presently alive and well. Future wheelchair user. I’ll go out on a limb here and speculate that Mike will have a hand in the latter.
My advice? Don’t corner Mike. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of him. Mark my words.
Good news, everybody! As of mid-season last week, AMC has ordered a 10-episodes strong third season of Better Call Saul. Keep dialing, y’all!