May 1, 2020
Better Call Saul: Better Call Mike
With the Mike mess cleared up, Jimmy’s future looks bright until it turns out that rock upon which he built his church is actually quicksand
The camera pans on wanted posters of tough guys what look like the ones killed in the great prison massacre on the final season of Breaking Bad. And then there’s a close up of Jimmy. Is he in a lineup? In jail for stealing that memo pad? Not yet. He’s on a bench with Mike, at the courthouse, and the photos are on the wall behind them, and on Jimmy’s mind.
He tells his taciturn client to let him do the talking. The cheesesteak cops approach. Jimmy gives the young one back his memo pad. He calls Jimmy “an ambulance-chasing piece of shit.” Jimmy gets that a lot. His story is they found it “on the asphalt” where the detective must have dropped it. Jimmy is quipping like a borsht belt comic fighting off hecklers, but will the gift of gab save him? And is it even needed?
The young cop walks off. Mike thanks Jimmy and tells him, “Three’s a crowd,” and his “services are no longer needed.” Translation: “It’s a cop thing, Jimmy. You wouldn’t understand.”
Jimmy waits in the car. The older detective apologizes for the earnest youngster. Mike likes the kid. “The kid is alright.” Philly mentions that if his daughter-in-law doesn’t tell them anything, this ends, so Mike maybe should have a conversation with her before they talk to her. Mike lets him know he already has. Philly says a lot of people didn’t like Fenske, the precinct was a sewer, and it’ll be good to get some “new blood.” They don’t quite shake hands. They don’t need to.
In the car, Jimmy, worried about his own ass as much as his client’s, asks Mike what happened. “I was talking to a friend.” Jimmy should just send him his bill. Mike is no longer concerned. It’s over.
The next morning, Jimmy goes to drop off ice at Chuck’s and finds his brother outside without his protective cloak. He’s trying to build up an immunity to electromagnetism’s toxic effects and can now stay outside 120 seconds. The police incident was a wake-up call. He wants to get better and return to work.
Jimmy looks genuinely surprised and happy. He goes to get something from his car – files from his new legit elder law practice. He doesn’t have room for them in his “office.” Jimmy says there are a lot of “413s.” Chuck corrects him: “513s.” Chuck’s still got it.
Jimmy’s barely out the door before Chuck goes to take a look inside the boxes. Lest there be any doubt that that was Jimmy’s plan all along, we see Jimmy peering in the window. Jimmy isn’t just doing good, he’s doing good in secret, the way nice Catholic boys are supposed to. The sun is shining and birds are chirping, and this episode features more New Mexico sunshine, open space and daylight than we’ve seen before. Sometimes doing the right thing feels great.
Speaking of sunlight and life’s being good, Jimmy’s next spot is an office suite with huge windows and mountain views. He’s showing Kim around the space he’s planning to lease. He mentions it’s “cozier” than HHM, but old people like cozy. Then the two of them start riffing on design ideas to appeal to the Depends set, and they are just so sweet together. It’s going great ‘til that awkward moment when Jimmy offers Kim the corner office and she tells him she’s maybe two years away from partnership at HHM.
We get a little of her backstory. The firm sent her through law school. She “owes” them. Poor Jimmy looks like he just got kicked in the gut. Plus, we know that he’s not going to wind up in that office suite, or not for long. We’ve seen his future windowless office in a strip mall on that other show.
Next, we see Kim being really good at her job. She’s with the embezzling Kettlemans, telling them about the deal she’s gotten, but “deals” in Betsey’s mind are for the guilty people. Kim makes her case. Craig is looking at thirty years. They take the deal, he gets sixteen months – maybe less. Of course, it would mean giving back the money. Betsey fires her, and they leave, chased by Hamlin of the golden ringlets.
Jimmy, meantime, is calling bingo in a hall with a disco ball and other garish trappings.
“B6 like the vitamin, which you should all be taking,” he quips. His phone rings, and he answers. There’s a very slick bit of filmmaking where he slips through a door and lands at a table in the only diner in Albuquerque, where he is meeting with Betsey and Craig, who would like Jimmy to represent them.
He tries to dissuade them, gently at first, “I’ve changed my area of expertise.” But they want his “passion” and “can do” attitude. He excuses himself to use the men’s room and calls Kim, who as usual is on a smoke break. She comes near to begging him to send them back. He does his best, going as far as telling them to “parachute down from cuckoo land” and take the deal. That’s when Betsey reminds him that if they have to return the money, then that means ALL of it, including the rock upon which Jimmy built his church.
What does Jimmy decide to do? Take the case and look for some loophole, of course. He goes to HHM to get the files and finds out Kim’s been banished to “the east wing.” “The cornfield?” he asks Hamlin in horror. Hamlin not only misses the reference, he misses it even is a reference. What a prick! Jimmy finds her in the garage. Between the cigarettes and the exhaust fumes, will Kim even be alive by the end of the season? She tells him best case scenario, her two year plan is now a ten year plan, and also newsflash – the Kettlmans are guilty, crazy AND stupid. Craig wrote checks to himself. The deal she worked her fanny off to get them was their only chance.
So Jimmy begins to burn the midnight oil – not literally because he’s not Chuck – but he does crack open law books, the dead tree kind, late into the night in his super cozy office. He can find nothing, so he takes the stack of cash hidden in his ceiling, and who’s he gonna call? Mike, of course. Now comes the caper music – fusion with a funky beat by some French guy. Mike literally washes the money, then manages to plant a wad of it in the Kettleman home smack in the middle of the living room on a toy car. He watches outside in the dark, eating apples and looking like the coolest geezer on the planet, as Craig finds the cash and gives it to Betsey, a.k.a. “the brains” of the operation, who takes it to the upstairs bathroom to hide it with the rest of the loot. After lights out, Mike lets himself in and takes all of it back to Jimmy, who thanks him, but to Mike it’s just a way to pay off his legal bills without digging into Kaylee’s college fund. Jimmy adds the remainder of his take to the pile. Mike asks him what he’s doing. Jimmy replies, using air quotes, “The right thing.”
The next day, Jimmy pays a visit to the Kettlemans, telling them “circumstances have changed.” Betsy continues to deny reality. Jimmy suggests she check on the money she doesn’t have under the sink in the upstairs bathroom. She calls him a thief and threatens to have him arrested. She’ll tell the cops about his bribe. He tells her he has nothing to lose. He calls back to the second episode, quoting Nacho, “Criminals have no recourse.” She could tell the cops what he did, but that would implicate her, and both the Kettleman’s would go to jail. The money’s been delivered to the DA. They can still get the deal if they go back to Kim. Craig sees it’s the only way before his wife does, and Jimmy drives them over to the parking garage where they are met by Kim.
Kim accompanies them in the elevator, and before the doors close and it ascends, she mouths a silent “thank you” to Jimmy, who remains outside and in the dark. Jimmy goes to visit the office suite he’ll never be able to afford, where Kim will never be his partner. He gets down on the floor and cries. He kicks at the door. His phone rings, and he answers, not even really trying with the bad fake accent, “Law offices of Jimmy McGill.”
Sometimes doing the right thing hurts, but did he do the right thing for Kim or because he knew that a forced partnership with the Kettlemans was a very bad bet? Did he give Chuck work-therapy only to help him or because caring for Chuck has become a burden? We’re passed the halfway mark in Season 1, and Jimmy is still Jimmy, not always honest, but usual well-meaning, and even willing to go out of his way for those he cares about. What terrible stuff is yet to come that turns him into Saul?