Article by Frank Memmesheimer
ON TV: Better Call Saul S2 Finale & Review
“I love it when a plan comes together.”
– Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith.
Leader of the A-Team.
Notorious maker of plans.
We all make them.
We all hope they pan out.
Sometimes they do. Often they don’t.
Mike, Kim, Chuck, and Jimmy – they all can tell a thing or two about the latter kind. In Better Call Saul’s season 2 finale, numerous plans are put into motion just to go awry soon after.
This season’s finale leaves Kim caught between the sides. She is torn between her strong moral convictions and the sweet benefits of Jimmy’s shady actions that positively impact her career. The fundamental dilemma leaves her torn between defending Jimmy in front of Chuck and yet not knowingly letting Jimmy get away with it herself.
“I know he’s not perfect. I know he cuts corners. But you’re the one who made him this way. He idolizes you. He accepts you, he takes care of you. All he ever wanted was your love and support but all you’ve ever done is judge him. You never believed in him, you never wanted him to succeed. And you know what? I feel sorry for him. And I feel sorry for you.”
She is torn between seeing what Jimmy could possibly be and seeing him for what he truly is.
Even Jimmy is startled by her emphatic defense. Kim is loyal, even to a fault. However, she is not blind to reality. Later on, neither Kim nor Jimmy dare to address the elephant in the room. In the vulnerable familiarity of their shared bedroom the dare not ask the incriminating question. There’s no need to. Not now, not ever.
Kim: “Your brother is one smart lawyer.”
Jimmy: “The smartest one I know.”
Kim: “He’d make quite an adversary. […] The kind of adversary who would find even the slightest crack in your defense. […] Nothing for him to find.”
Jimmy gets up out of bed and takes his leave.
The following chain of unfortunate events involves lies, bribes, more lies, the obfuscation of facts, and ultimately lands Chuck in the hospital. Most importantly, it confronts Jimmy with the most difficult question of his life: saving his own skin or saving his brother’s life. After a hesitant second, Jimmy chooses Chuck’s life above his own.
To agree with Kim: Jimmy is, in fact, far from perfect.
He cuts corners left and right, mingles lies and truths to a point where even he doesn’t know what’s what anymore. Jimmy bends, amends, and breaks regulations and the law any way he can. The skateboard scam, the Kennedy half dollar, the falling billboard worker, abetting Mike’s breaking and entering into the Kettlemans’ home to re-steal stolen property, the squat cobbler, the Viktor-and-Giselle-routine. Need I say more? Jimmy commits his (almost always) unethical and (almost always) unlawful deeds for a mixture of reasons, ranging from desperate financial needs and professional standstill to doing it for the sheer thrill of it. His latest acts, however, have a different quality. He breaks the law to do what he deems right, to mend certain injustices in the world. His latest transgression of forging legal documents aims to help Kim get back Mesa Verde as her well-deserved client. His breaking the law is not exclusively selfish. Jimmy becomes a benevolent law breaker, a criminal lawyer for what he considers all the right reasons.
His guilty conscience, however, speaks volumes about the people he leaves behind hurt.
The obvious breaches of laws aside, Jimmy’s ultimate fault is the hubris of taking it upon himself to decide when to obey the law and when not to, his hypocrisy of demanding the protection of the law for himself and his clientel while undermining the law with his very ways of practicing it.
Big brother Chuck maintains the image of being an upright lawyer, when his handling of the law is as distorted as Jimmy’s.
Chuck’s transgressions are different in nature and manifestation. In the eyes of a casual observer he is many things: founding partner of a successful law firm, lawyer of the old guard, courtroom heavyweight with countless wins under his belt, someone who gets things done; bit of a stickler, a bit uptight, but not without his charms.
Chuck upholds the mantra “the law is sacred.” It is. It is impartial, too, and yet, Chuck tries to rally the law to get rid of Jimmy and his ways. Chuck abuses the law for his own, selfish motivations. His aversion to Jimmy’s way of “practicing law” is well known – at least to Jimmy who even jokes about it: “Chuck, you can’t retire before you have me disbarred.” Chuck is not the calm, cool, and collected man of the law as he has others believe. Chuck is disingenuous about his motivations – to himself and to others. He is rotten to the core. The law is but a tool to him, and what he does in the name of the law ultimately serves his own selfish satisfaction. His restless obsession is once more revealed, when he – in utter disregard for his own health – sets in motion a scheme to debunk Jimmy once and for all.
Beautifully wide-framed shots leave us guessing at what it is we witness.
A masterfully underhand plan is what. So perfectly executed, it ceremoniously drives Jimmy into incriminating himself. Forgery, fraud, falsifying evidence, breaking and entering – the list of possibly fallout for Jimmy is long and threatening.
Jimmy confession is exactly that: an admission of guilt, but so innocently phrased that, even on tape, it might be admissible in court: “Everything happened exactly like you said it did. […] Of course I said it to make you feel better. But it’s the truth. […] You feel better now, don’t you?”
Jimmy’s greatest adversary is right in his blind spot.
There’s no way Chuck is not going to use the taped confession against his brother.
There’s only one way things can go from here. Down.
Only one McGill will come out of this in the very end.
Thinking about threatening Mike? Get in line. Quite a few have given it their best shot and quickly learned what’s what. On the bright side, he might just slap you, take your guns from you, and let you walk away with your ego shattered.
But threatening Mike’s family? Most likely the last mistake you’ll ever make. Hector Salamanca is about to make the acquaintance of that particular side of Mike; the side he keeps calm and in check most of the time. Mike stalks the Mexican drug operation. He watches and learns. He plans his moves deliberately. When he strikes, Mike strikes with playful perfection. First, he targets the courier, obtaining money and product in the process. His second move, taking out the head of the snake, however, is thwarted.
Nacho finds himself standing between Mike and Hector. He prevents the hidden shooter from having a clean shot at his target. Pure coincidence? What are the chances… To make matters worse, Mike’s prolonged observation is interrupted by the faint sound of his (admittedly not so well) hidden car’s horn. Mike is forced to retreat from his overwatch position and investigate.
A simple message awaits at his windshield.
That’s all the note says. It’s not a trap. It’s a warning not to interfere with the ways of Hector Salamanca’s drug empire. For now. The most curiously pressing question is, of course, who left the note? Who has been secretly observing the secret observer? Who is on par with Mike, maybe even his superior?
The internet’s most favorite theory (now confirmed by Vince Gilligan)* traces back to Twitter user @Sirena6783:
The initial letters of this season’s episode titles are an anagram for the mastermind to be revealed. “Switch”, “Cobbler”, “Amarillo”, “Gloves Off”, “Rebecca”, “Bali Ha‘i”, “Inflatable“, „Fifi“, „Nailed“, and „Klick“ leave you with this mess:
S C A G R B I F N K.
Unscramble and you get FRINGSBACK.
Gustavo Fring. Owner of Los Pollos Hermanos in Albuquerque, NM. Drug lord. Ring a bell?
So, Fring will be back. Until then, you know what to do.
– – –
Better Call Saul will return for its third season in early 2017. We’ll make sure you won’t miss a thing.
*In the meantime, read all about the secret code in the episode titles here: http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2016/04/better-call-saul-gus-frings-back-title-anagram-finale