Feb 252015

Better Call Saul: Saul uses the foot spa

Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman: Not the loquacious sort, are you?
Mike Ehrmantraut: We can’t all be as blessed as you.

So, Saul Goodman is a joke. A stupid joke. “S’all good, man.” Hardee har. Better Call Saul episode 1.04, Hero, gets us back into the flashback era of Saul’s youthful life of crime, sometime in the 1990s. At this point, we have something like a timeline of Saul’s life: He’s “Slippin’ Jimmy,” a con man from the outskirts of Chicago (Cicero). At some point he gets in big trouble and either does or does not go to jail, but this inspires him to turn over a new leaf, under the guidance of his much-older brother, Chuck. In this period he gets a law degree, and goes to work for his brother’s firm. Then somethingsomethingsomething, and now Chuck is loony and Jimmy is on his own living/working in a nail salon.

Now in 2002, we have a Jimmy who is desperately trying to be a good guy, who seems really to want to be a good guy. Yes, his heroism is a fake and a ploy, but Hero is more than an episode title. Jimmy really wants to be somebody’s hero, he really wants to be the guy who doesn’t take a bribe. Or…he thinks he does. What Jimmy really wants is to use his considerable blessings; his brain, his words, in a way that benefits himself and others. He wants to be the smart guy that people listen to.

Upon this rock I will build my church.

It’s for this reason that I really think the best scene in the episode is when he tells off Nacho. Because he’s 100% right, and I was already thinking that last week—you got spotted by a neighbor? Really? Nacho styles himself so tough and cool, such a criminal mastermind, and he fools people with this demeanor; probably fools himself as well. But everything that Jimmy called Nacho out for is dead-on. You commit a crime in your own van? Clean it the hell up! Don’t leave evidence! You’re staking a place out for a potential robbery or kidnapping? STAY OUT OF SIGHT YOU DOPE. I think this is the start of the relationship between Jimmy and criminals in general; I think Nacho is going to realize how very right Jimmy was, and will be going to him for further advice. Because Jimmy, he’s a smart guy and he wants to be appreciated for it. He wants to be a good lawyer because he wants his clients, his opponents, the judges, to say “You’re a smart guy, Jimmy.” I don’t think he cares who says that as long as he gets to hear it, so if it’s Nacho who says it, Jimmy becomes Lawyer to Criminals: Better Call Saul.

Of course, the Kettlemans also referred to Jimmy as the “kind of lawyer that guilty people hire,” and if he recognizes that about himself, then he has to figure out how to reach out to guilty people. I don’t think he’s there yet, though. The hero stunt makes him look like a good guy, not Saul Goodman, not yet.

So, all this to say, I really liked this episode, in large part because I’m coming to really like Jimmy. He’s unexpectedly nice to people. He’s a jerk but not an awful jerk. He’s got a relationship with Kim that I enjoy. Chuck, on the other hand, does nothing for me, not his space blanket, or his psychosis, or his insistence on controlling his brother. The ending of the episode was a big phhhht for me.

People love a hero.

The billboard stunt confused me, though. I don’t think he actually planned it out that far, do you? Jimmy’s not a long-con guy. I mean, from the time he put up the billboard, did he plan on losing that case and having to take it down, and then filming his “heroism”? I thought the “hero” stunt was an afterthought, a way of salvaging a failure. Maybe I’m wrong. The more I think about it, the more I see that there can’t possibly be a purpose to the billboard other than getting the injunction, but damn, that’s convoluted. Long con. And it doesn’t exactly require the exact same cut of suit, does it?

By the way, Sea Island cotton is a James Bond reference. Ian Fleming often referred to Bond wearing shirts, even boxer shorts, made out of the stuff. Tasmanian wool, however, is not. And the orange shirt and tie combination is one we’ll see Saul wearing on Breaking Bad.


  16 Responses to “Better Call Saul: Hero—Upon this rock I will build my church”

  1. “The more I think about it, the more I see that there can’t possibly be a purpose to the billboard other than getting the injunction, but damn, that’s convoluted. Long con.”

    IMHO, I thought getting an injunction and having the sign taken down was always part of Jimmy’s plan. The pre-credits establish Jimmy as having experience with cons involving accomplices. Jimmy dresses EXACTLY like Howard Hamlin AND only bought ONE billboard that happens to be on Hamlin’s daily commute route. Jimmy had to expect Hamlin to take action and win.

    “Sea Island cotton is a James Bond reference”

    I thought the same thing when I heard Jimmy asking for the “Sea Island cotton” shirt (“Does he think he’s Jimmy Bond now?”). Then, when I realized Jimmy was simply copying off of Hamlin, it made sense that Hamlin would be the type to fancy himself a Bond-like figure.

  2. I really like the Rhea Seehorn casting. She’s been unique and believable in everything I’ve seen her do. Quite versatile actress and comedian.

  3. Good Stuff, Deborah.

    Despite Jimmy/Saul’s laundry list, my impression is that Nacho is not your average hood – perhaps not so experienced, but with some smarts. So Nacho (or Tuco) will soon hire Jimmy for some real lawyerin’.

    I too thought the “hero stunt” was an afterthought – as it was happening. But as Saul was climbing the manlift, I thought that the moron hanging at the end of his safety lanyard should chill and stop wiggling around. That little bit of drama tips it toward the long con. Or less “long” if he thought of it after the judge order the sign removed. Or longer, since Jimmy did not resist much. His complete lack of delay (one day?) over the injuction implies that Jimmy thought of the rescue in advance.

    That wiggling was just the thing a potential client (and the local TV stations and newspapers) would be attracted by – pretty much the same nonsense that those low-brow “news magazines” arouse their audiences with.

    On the fashion front I suppose those “ringlets” Jimmy requested were a non-permanent perm? It occurred to me that clients might be struck by the contrast between well-coiffed poster and straight-hair-with-combover. This also suggests the longer con.

    OTOH – that very careful and opulent tailoring makes sense to exude power and competence – IF also accompanied by suitable Class A office space.

    OTOH – if Nacho and/or similar associates hire Jimmy soon, then the strip mall with blow-up-Statue-of-Liberty would suffice.

    • I see Matt Maul inclines toward long con, too. What say you Justice Lipp?

      • Or less “long” if he thought of it after the judge order the sign removed.

        This is my question. I’m thinking Matt has made a good case, and that he planned the whole thing in advance.

        On the fashion front I suppose those “ringlets” Jimmy requested were a non-permanent perm?

        That doesn’t even mean anything!

        Okay, a perm is a chemical treatment that forces hair to retain a shape permanently. Permed hair can be curled or straightened.

        What the salon ladies did was use a curling iron. It’ll last pretty much until he washes it, or gets rained on, or sweats a lot. It’s like using a blow dryer, or pins, or anything else to set the hair temporarily.

    • Hey Jahnghalt…

      How about a middle of the road option on the “long con” question?

      Jimmy the lawyer ALWAYS knew Howard’s injunction would succeed AND hoped he’d be able to generate tons of PR off of it (the phoning reporters montage).

      Failing that, he went back to his grifter roots and came up with the “hero” angle.

      • OK, Matt. I forgot the frustrating no-success phone-calls.

        That works – I like the slightly clueless Jimmy – yet constantly adpating.

        Gilligan likes this s**T – He follows Weiner – even if he don’t admit it.

  4. No disappointment for me yet, still lovin’ this show.

    Yep, Jimmy McGill seems torn between wanting to be good, and knowing that it won’t pay the bills. He also thinks BIG, used the billboard scam to draw attention to himself as a sharp well-dressed lawyer, and smart yes …worthy of pretty boy Hamlin’s clients. He knew he’d lose the judge’s decision, but still found a way to set up the dangling billboard guy stunt to get publicity. I thought I saw him palm off a wad of cash to the guy after he ‘saved’ him.

    Anyway, a con yes, and a showman, but you can’t say Jimmy doesn’t have courage … it took bravery to climb that steep 65 feet – “don’t look down” – and dangle himself over the side to pull the guy to safety. He’ll go the extra mile, just like he told the Kettlemans.

    Loved the way they shot the scene of space blanket Chuck going out to get a newspaper … the contrast between the frantic, bright, loud, quick cuts that frightened him, and the neighbor lady calmly looking out the window was perfect.

    Chuck leaving money under a rock for the paper shows that he’s the ‘good’ brother that Jimmy loves and would like to emulate. But Chuck’s goodness isn’t paying the bills either. Money is not the point he told Jimmy … who replied that money is exactly the point.

    Jimmy realizes that criminals are such idiots, that it may be better to defend guilty people, the kind who drive bloody vans and carry their money around in dufflebags. Especially since he has a better criminal mind than they do …knows how to get away with things. This is part of his evolution from Jimmy to Saul … first, facing reality, then no longer fighting his true nature.

    Chuck knows Jimmy’s true nature, that’s why the newspaper was hidden … Chuck immediately recognized the scam. I’d bet that Jimmy’s previous bad behavior is at least partly to blame for his brother’s emotional problems. Hopefully we’ll soon find out what that somethingsomethingsomething was.

    • YES.

      Don’t look down – $1,000.

      Don’t look down – TWO, then FOUR, then…….

      He paid the guy hanging very well, even so:

      “what TOOK YOU SO LONG??”

      Which was expositional for all of us.

      I feel very sorry for the elder McGill – who would like to live between those ears??

  5. This episode was slightly frustrating, since it seemed to me to kinda plod along. On the other hand, the four episodes we’ve seen so far, have been methodically telling us Jimmy’s backstory and constructing all the layers needed for what’s ahead.

    As we know from Breaking Bad, patience is required for full enjoyment. Vince Giligan and Company always deliver a payoff and the bigger the build-up, the more force the punch to the gut will have, when it hits us.

  6. Nacho is a Maguffin IMHO. The guy who will turn Jimmy the nobody into Saul the Hasidic the homeboys have to have is someone we haven’t seen, or the next guy after Nacho. Which will lead to this one, that one, the THE one: Gustavo Fring.

    • Remember, in the beginning, Saul didn’t even know who Fring was–he was just a guy Mike knew. He was afraid to know who Fring was.

      • True, Deb.
        Saul is a climber, and as his morality meter goes lower, his connections in the demimode, will go hiya, and hiya.
        This is going to be something to see.

      • We’ve found out pretty early in the series, how Mike and Jimmy crossed paths. I hope we don’t have to wait very long to get the backstory of how Mike and Gustavo Fring first got together.

  7. “In this period he gets a law degree, and goes to work for his brother’s firm.”

    I must have missed that – did he really ever work for HHM? Was that said explicitly in one of the episodes? He does seem to know the people there, not just Hamlin, but Kim and some of the staff. But I figured he just got to know them over time through his brother. HHM seems like the sort of pl;ace Jimmy might have aspired to but never made, and his brother someone who wouldn’t think of giving Jimmy an easy route in.

  8. […] titles are glib, as Saul/Jimmy is glib. But Mike is the opposite. Taciturn, to Jimmy’s loquacious. But there’s also something else going on here, which is that the show itself risks being too […]

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