Article by Frank Memmesheimer
ON TV: Better Call Saul S2 Episodes 7 & 8 Review
Either you fit the jacket, or the jacket fits you.
An excursion to the past.
We meet “Dad” McGill, upstanding and bona fide shop owner, and young Jimmy, street smart and his ear to the ground: “Every grifter in town knows this is the spot to come for an easy handout.” Even at his young age, Jimmy knows a con artist when he sees one, and he doesn’t mind staring him down. In return, as a token of his recognition, one particularly fraudulent individual bestows some wisdom upon Jimmy. “There are wolves and sheep in this world, kid. Wolves and sheep. Figure out which one you are going to be.” After a brief moment of contemplation, without any visible moral transition or change of expression, Jimmy digs into the paternal cash register. Baby steps, with grander strides to follow.
“What kind of lawyer are you going to be?” A question all too similar hits Jimmy decades later.
As Kim’s future at HHM seems foggy at best, and his own days at Davis & Main appear to be numbered as well, Jimmy boldly proposes an old business idea with new shine and attraction: “Wexler McGill. Partners at law.“ The timing seems right and Kim is not opposed. However, she asks Jimmy outright: “I need to know what kind of lawyer you are going to be. Are you going to play it straight or be colorful?” Jimmy stops his well-rehearsed answer of appeasement mid-sentence. “There’s no point in doing this for me if I can’t be myself.” A rare true moment for Jimmy the lawyer, a real breakthrough in being honest with Kim and himself. The price for his honesty is having his hopes shattered, once again, yet not as severe as the first time around (S1E7). Kim meets him with a counter offer: “Not partners. Solo practitioners. Together.”
Kim and Jimmy work well together as friends, as copier-room colleagues, as partners in crime when it comes to conning rich loudmouths into buying shots after shots of the finest Tequila around. They “work” even as a couple. They just won’t do each other any good by jump-starting a law firm together.
Their true strength, the beautiful something hidden behind all contemporary deception and entanglement is loyalty. A true friendship. Accepting each other for who they are. Yet not losing hope for each other. They’re in this life of friendship together, in good times and bad.
Landing Mesa Verde as a client…
Losing Mesa Verde as a client…
Their friendship lasts.
Jimmy’s rash decision to tender his resignation to Davis & Main turns out more difficult than expected. Employment contract fine print. He seems stuck, his life put on hold. That is until the epiphany when an inflatable dancing figure inspires what will later be known as Saul Goodman’s wardrobe extravagance.
There is a way out of his predicament and Jimmy fully commits to taking this “low road.”
An ongoing “situation” in the washing room. A juicer for the office. Bagpipes.
“This optical migraine you call a business suit.” Jimmy excels at acting inappropriately. He does his little dance, goes through all the moves until he gets what he desires. The axe. And his freedom.
This not so innocent episode marks another step in the hesitant birth of Saul.
Mike complies with Hector Salamanca’s request/demand and retracts his statement concerning Tuco’s over-compensating handgun. The possession charge is off the table, Tuco looking to get out way sooner than planned, the deal with Nacho not accomplished. Professionally, Mike is in an uncomfortable place. He doesn’t like to be told what to do, he doesn’t like to not keep his word, nor does he like Jimmy’s legal shenanigans that get him off the hook. What is brooding inside Mike, however, is the image of the two shady figures on that rooftop, looking at him and his granddaughter. Too close to home.
Mike may responsible for the greatest tragedy in the lives of his family, as he so heartbreakingly confesses to his daughter-in-law: “I broke my boy.” (S1E6) He’ll be damn well prepared for protecting their lives and ensuring their carefree wellbeing.
In anticipation, Mike pries deeper into the Mexican drug trafficking operation and arms up. Improvised spike traps. Might come in handy, soon.
About to lose Mesa Verda as a client, Chuck pushes himself to the utmost sacrifice and discards all precautions. In broad daylight and with electricity roaring all around him, Chuck is enticing and cunning, and ultimate steals Mesa Verda right back from Kim who brought the client along in the first place.
What could be seen as simple business tactics, is but a symptom for an underlying cause. To Jimmy it’s clear: Chuck hurts Kim and paves her way with obstacles to get back at Jimmy. They’ve been there; Chuck has done it before. What surprises even Jimmy this time is his brother’s ruthless vigilance, his dedication to the cause. (Even to Chuck it might not be entirely clear what that cause ultimately is.)
The gloves are off. For real, this time. Without Kim’s knowledge or consent, Jimmy launches a first preemptive strike that exceeds any fallout ever before the two brothers. He systematically tampers with the Mesa Verde file in Chuck’s home office.
1261 Rosella Drive, Scottsdale, Arizona becomes 1216 Rosella Drive. Small mistake with potentially disastrous consequences for Chuck’s case and cause. There is no neutral “perspective” to Jimmy’s behavior, no way of looking at it that not shows the very nature of his deed. Forgery, plain and simple. Artful, yes. Up to a point for a good cause, maybe. But at all times criminally offensive. Jimmy very clearly and very premeditatedly crosses legal and ethical lines, trying to adjust the world, looking out for his friend, and getting back at his brother.
Rising from his sickbed, Chuck anticipates Jimmy’s reproach regarding the Kim-situation and feebly tries to appease: “If you’re looking for a fight, Jimmy, I don’t have it in me.”
Not a fight, Chuck. You’ve got yourself a damn war.
What is it they say?
“Don’t start a war you can’t win.”
“Know thy self, know thy enemy.”
“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”
A ton more can be found in Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.
To say Chuck misjudged both his brother and his own current predicament would be an understatement of epic proportion.
Howard and Chuck triumph over Kim and are sure of their victory. They think themselves safe. Little do are utterly unaware and unprepared for what storm is about to hit HHM.
That storm will uproot and unearth, bring the order of their world down into chaos, it will shift the balance and change trajectories. They’re about to meet the real Saul Goodman.
There won’t be happy endings to either of the stories that Better Call Saul tells in its visually eloquent ways.
Until then, let’s sit back and enjoy everybody’s inevitable demise.