Hey, don’t be jealous of my big bowl of balls, it’s unbecoming.
Very late in Amarillo, Episode 2.03 of Better Call Saul, I realized that this series is not about Jimmy McGill becoming compromised, and thus becoming Saul. It’s about both Jimmy and Mike Ehrmantraut becoming compromised, and thus becoming the men we’ll meet in Breaking Bad.
We don’t think of Mike that way, because even as a guy working for criminals and doing criminal things, Mike has always oozed integrity. But obviously he’s compromised, and obviously that was a journey for him. It’s a sadder journey, a counterpoint to Jimmy/Saul’s comedic one. But isn’t Mike’s underlying sorrow a commentary on Jimmy?
At the end of the episode, two phones rang. Jimmy got a call from Cliff Davis/Main, angry about the commercial that aired. He pivoted from that call to a lie to Kim Wexler. Mike, meanwhile, got a call for a “higher level” job, a job that he must know will compromise him utterly, a call from Nacho. There is no way to look at this episode without understanding that at some level, this is the same phone call. Don’t be you, this phone call says, be the other guy–the one you have to be.
I’m ready for my closeup, Mr. McGill.
Who is Jimmy McGill? He’s a very good con man, and he’s a very smart lawyer. He wants to please people; he wants people to be proud of him. Having focused all his energies on making Chuck proud of him, and failing (because the game was rigged–Chuck was never going to be proud of him), he’s now focusing his attention on Kim. Kim must be proud of him. But whether because he doesn’t trust himself, or because he has ADD and/or just doesn’t have the patience, he wants to do things the con man way. He wants fast, loud, and spectacular.
You and I both know you can do this job, but please you just have to do it right.
I’m going with “doesn’t trust himself”, at least in part, and I’m concluding that because of the scene with the video. Jimmy made a good commercial, although, given the mesothelioma commercial, and the conversation about long hours in meetings debating the swirl, it’s doubtful the partners would have signed off. But Jimmy, who sells everything spectacularly, was too scared to try. Too scared to confront Cliff, too scared to confront Kim, he is glib only when he’s sure he’s on top.
Amarillo is a move-pieces-on-the-board episode, not a lot of thrills or sharp interest, although it was plenty good enough.
Here’s the big question of the night: Is Mike’s daughter-in-law suffering from post-traumatic stress, or is she faking?
Here’s some bullet points for you:
- Am I crazy, or is “the highly lucrative, creatively rewarding field of advertising” a Mad Men reference?
- Mike’s eating a pimento cheese sandwich in the stakeout scene. It’s the caviar of the South.
- Jimmy and Kim are watching Ice Station Zebra.
- Unfortunately, Jonathan Banks is noticeably older in these “pre-Breaking Bad” scenes than he was during Breaking Bad. Nothing to be done about it, alas.