You’re not a real lawyer.
So, the penultimate Better Call Saul of its first season, Pimento, is a bit of a heart-breaker. Jimmy McGill, the future Saul Goodman, has been slowly creeping into our good graces throughout the season. He loves and cares for his brother. He likes old people. He’s smart. He tries to do right. I feel a little bit like Vince Gilligan is punking the audience, like “Ha ha, I’ll make you care about Saul Goodman! See if I don’t!” Well, it worked. He’s no Don Draper, I’m not falling in love with him, but yeah, Bob Odenkirk’s performance is making me care. And here comes the inevitable betrayal.
Hail Satan, I submit to the dark side.
Family dynamics is a bitch. We often treat our immediate family with an automaticity, that assumes they are who they always were. Families build functional (or dysfunctional) systems, and anyone changing screws up the system, so there’s a strong need to perceive people as not changing. You’ll often see, for example, a family go nuts when an alcoholic member gets sober. The system relied on that one being the alcoholic, while that one was the rescuer/enabler, and so on. One person steps out of role, and no one else can function as normal.
Chuck, in other words, needs Slipping Jimmy. He does not need, and does not want, Jimmy the competent lawyer.
Slipping Jimmy with a law degree is like a chimp with a machine gun.
For his part, Jimmy has spent his entire life disappointing, and yet trying to please, Chuck (and their parents as well, I have no doubt). Michael McKean is 15 years older than Bob Odenkirk, so Chuck is an older brother who was always distant (probably went away to school when Jimmy was still a toddler), always a little unattainable and a little parental at the same time. For Jimmy, reforming hasn’t changed the fundamental dynamic. He probably had a hope of impressing and dazzling Chuck when he was a con man, and so the means, not the goal, is all that changed.
Even in giving up on Chuck, Jimmy still brings him “that steak” he likes, and makes sure Chuck is taken care of for the next few days at least. Jimmy solicits, caters to, wants to please. He’s Chuck’s puppy, licking the hand. And they’re both adapted to that. For Jimmy, there’s always the hope of the grown-up relationship, “the McGill boys,” but for Chuck, well, puppies do not get law degrees.
For all that we can be mad at Chuck for how he treats his brother, there’s just no way not to be moved by the round of applause he receives on his return to HHM. How respected must Chuck be for the entire company to tolerate giving up their cell phones and electricity, with no visible complaint?
We can Erin Brokovich the shit out of this.
Let’s go back to the part where Jimmy is really, really smart. I don’t think Chuck has noticed that yet. He found the case by paying attention and thinking it through. He figured out what Chuck did by paying attention and thinking it through. Chuck didn’t imagine he could get caught deceiving Jimmy, because Chuck truly believes he’s the only smart one in the family.
Speaking of the only smart one in the family, let me tell you what it’s like in my house. Professor Spouse predicts everything that’s going to happen. Accurately. Sunday afternoon, before the Walking Dead finale, she turned to me and said, “You know, we haven’t seen Morgan in a while.” Just like that. She always does that. But she didn’t see Chuck’s betrayal coming, and I did. She was really attached to Chuck loving and being proud of his brother, and didn’t see that it had a viper at its center. But then, after Pimento ended, she turned to me and said, “Here comes Saul Goodman.” And that’s her back on her game; season finale brings us a big change, right? So that’s our official prediction.
But you probably want to talk about Mike Ehrmantraut. Well, who doesn’t? That was a badass scene in the parking structure. I watched it three times and still couldn’t see how Mike got the gun away from that asshole. Magic of television is the answer, of course. Mike’s got superpowers, and this is the emergence of a character we know from Breaking Bad, for really the first time. It was also the same parking structure where a certain Volvo got blown to bits. I suspect this has to do with the convenience of Albuquerque filming locations more than anything else.
Confidence is good, facts on your side, better. Know what you’re walking into.
Mike can talk, from time to time, and when he does, it’s always worth it. This time, he gives Silly Client Guy a lecture on being informed (echoing Chuck, quoted above), on criminality, and on good and bad people.
It was almost a role-reversal this week, with Mike providing the comedy, and Jimmy providing the pathos. The parking lot was hilarious.
And Nacho is back. If he’s working behind Tuco’s back, he’s not long for this world. Since Silly Client Guy gave him prescription pills, it’s possible he works at the hospital, and the parking garage isn’t merely for filming convenience.
I can’t wait until next week. What about you?