Dali Lama’ s got nothing on me.
The season finale of Better Call Saul, Marco, was a strange animal. In the midst of an episode in which Slippin’ Jimmy has what shall forevermore be known as “the Bingo Breakdown,” and where a beloved old friend dies partway through, in all of this, I found the episode curiously light.
Perhaps because the cons are fundamentally lightweight, and the montage seems almost to acknowledge that. Marco and Jimmy, con artists who talk and talk and talk. The camera trickery and overlap could not disguise the sense that even the director was sick of hearing their routines at some point. The problem was that it didn’t add up to all that much.
And I do get it. Jimmy showed up in Cicero with a freshly-minted check for twenty thousand dollars—he wasn’t hustling because he needed the money. He was hustling, I think, mostly from self-hatred: If Chuck thinks I can’t change, well then fuck it, I won’t try. Maybe I was supposed to feel the joy of the hustle in there, the happiest week of Marco’s sad life, but all I saw was how sad they all were, that a buddy was pricing Marco’s ring at the guy’s funeral. That the cons were sad. That the girls who thought Jimmy was Kevin Costner were pathetic.
At the end of the episode, Jimmy drives off with a supposedly renewed faith in himself, in his happy criminal nature, and in his willingness to be slightly less than honest. He’s humming Smoke on the Water. He’s wearing Marco’s ring. Are we supposed to feel this is a victory? Are we supposed to forget that Marco had no life at all, asleep on a bar on a Wednesday afternoon? That Jimmy is left with the belief that he is basically worthless?
New Mexico. You know, like Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner.
Good for him, really, for rejecting his enslavement to Chuck. Chuck’s illness may be madness, but it’s also incredibly controlling, giving him the power to order anyone to do anything, no matter how petty, while pretending he’s a totally good guy. Soy milk. Fuji apples. There’s a whole lot of Machiavelli in that shit. Good for Jimmy for realizing he has to live his own life, his own way.
But there’s no real celebration in living life based on a fundamental conviction that you’re no good, and that’s sure what it felt like. That’s sure how he reacted to Kim telling him about the job possibility.
I’m not sure how I feel about the sudden redemption of Howard. I think the guy is still a dick. I mean, Hamlindigo? Still, he’s a slightly more nuanced dick.
Oh, and we have a bit more of a timeline, now. Jimmy has been in New Mexico for ten years, according to Marco, so that means 1992 for the Cicero flashbacks.
I’m definitely on board with the show, and I’m definitely back for Season 2, but I can’t help feeling like this wistful, gloomy season finale was not what I had hoped for.