Monday, May 20, 2024

Best Laid Plans are Wasted on Better Call Saul

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The day has arrived! After one year in-universe and 8 episodes, Jimmy McGill’s suspension has ended. He’s ready to return to the law. All that stands in his way is one measly formality of a meeting. Things look great for Gus and Mike, too, with their new super lab continuing construction and basically all of Albuquerque under Gus’s thumb. Surely nothing will go wrong on this week’s episode of Better Call Saul!

Narrator: “They did go wrong.”

I admit, I did not expect Jimmy to be refused the restoration of his law license. Everything seemed so cleanly set up for his return. Better Call Saul has nearly caught up with the beginning of Breaking Bad, Jimmy has met a lot of probable future clients, and his relationship with Kim rests on uncertain ground easily disrupted by the emergence of Saul Goodman. Hell, Jimmy even mentioned using the name Saul Goodman when he returned. I couldn’t imagine the idea of the Bar denying him.

So of course that’s what happened.

Kim was 150% right about why the Bar denied Jimmy. It’s easy to call Jimmy insincere when we as an audience know him so well and know his underlying, insincere motivations for everything. Even by that standard, though, his answer to the question about what the law means to him was especially insincere. We know Chuck inspired him to become a lawyer. We know Kim did. Without both of them, he would be in prison. Or at least working crappy jobs having nothing to do with lawyering.

This was a hearing about a suspension handed down for transgressions made against Chuck. The three committee members needed to hear some remorse about the dead brother at the heart of the matter. They needed some form of apology, of sincere regret regarding Jimmy’s behavior towards Chuck. And he gave them nothing.

All season Jimmy has basically moved forward as if Chuck never existed. Like he said here, he doesn’t ever think about Chuck. He was alive, now he’s not, time to move on. It sounds cold, as if Jimmy doesn’t care, but that’s not the issue. Jimmy is refusing to let himself care. He decided to bury everything halfway to China rather than deal with the complicated emotions involved. When Jimmy gave his answer about what the law means to him, he needed to admit Chuck’s role. Instead he credited his views to his third-rate law school.

Frankly, and I again admit the bias of audience here, I found every word he spoke at the hearing to be insincere. He tried to give the committee the answers they wanted, not the truth. It shone through in every word he spoke. Ultimately, Jimmy is at heart a very insincere person. He always has been and always will be.

It says something when Jimmy finds it so easy to lie and scam his way through life. Even knowing the risk of being caught, he not only participated in Kim’s scam regarding the bank blueprints, he wanted to do it again. He always gravitates to the dishonest choice. We’ve seen before how he does the same with everyone else. He assumed Chuck was behind every setback in season 2. When he angrily rants to Kim about the hearing in this episode, he assumes she’s being insincere with him.

The man just cannot help himself, it seems. The only sincere thing about Jimmy is his insincerity. Whatever path lies ahead, he will find some way to corrupt it.

You can see how his insincerity corrupts his very world view in his argument with Kim. Yes, his anger led him to say things he probably didn’t mean, but it also led him to admit things he has held in for a long time. Namely, he showed that he somehow does not believe in Kim’s nearly unflinching loyalty. Jimmy has such a cynical view of the world that he projects his insincerity onto everyone else.

Of course Kim must consider him a joke. Never mind how she puts her own career at risk to help him out of his troubles. Forget how she takes his side every single time no matter what truths she knows. Nope, none of it matters because Kim won’t be a law partner with Jimmy and that means she is insincere about her support. Jimmy views the idea of sharing an office as the only real commitment she can make to him and she won’t make it, so nothing else matters.

In his worldview, everyone is out to con everyone else. Chuck was, HHM was, the Bar did with the hearing, and now Kim is. Jimmy may have offered a half-apology to her towards the end of the episode, but the truth remains in their argument. Jimmy will eventually ruin his relationship with Kim for good because he’s an insincere man who views everyone the same. Just like he ruined this chance at restoring his law license by assuming the committee were insincere people he just needed to give the “right” answers to.

Kim’s typically unflinching honestly served as a strong counterpoint (and yet another incredible Emmy moment for Rhea Seehorn, along with Bob Odenkirk) when she pointed out how Jimmy is always down on his luck. She’s right. Jimmy constantly sabotages himself because of his insincerity. Even when he succeeds he ends up sabotaging himself morally or financially.

Kim may have made one last attempt to keep their relationship going last week, but reality struck back hard this week. Kim is too honest for such a dishonest man like Jimmy. In the end, their core values will doom them. Considering past history, Jimmy will most likely be responsible.

It is this kind of hyper-awareness of the characters and willingness to follow through that makes Better Call Saul so good. Most shows are built around its characters, but very few have the courage to follow through at basically any cost like Better Call Saul does. I expected Jimmy to get his law license back because that’s what every show does. I don’t consider Better Call Saul so special that it would not do the same. And of course Jimmy will get his license back at some point. Saul Goodman lies inevitably in his future.

In this case, though, Jimmy gave exactly the answers his character should give. The committee reacted exactly how they should have. The argument with Kim was exactly the argument they would have. Now we stand uncertain about where Jimmy goes from here. Damn if Better Call Saul isn’t a better show for it. To do anything else would simply have been insincere.

Jimmy was not the only victim of insincerity this week. After season-long speculation about what would go wrong with the super lab project, things finally went wrong. We’ve seen the gradual deterioration of Werner’s commitment to the project. It has gone longer and been tougher than he or anyone else expected. He talked last week about how long he’s been away from his wife. This week he finally couldn’t take it any longer and escaped the safehouse.

The question, of course, is why now?

I think, again, it comes down to insincerity. There’s something more to this than missing his wife. He will not admit it, Mike couldn’t quite recognize it, and now Werner will almost certainly end up dead. He has to know that. There has to be something more to Werner’s mental state causing him to risk almost certain death rather than spend a bit more time finishing the excavation. Is he sick? Dying? I don’t know, but I feel like there’s more here. Werner hid it, and now everyone suffers the consequences.

Basically everyone’s plans were interrupted or completely disrupted by insincerity. Jimmy is left twisting in the wind after his hearing. Gus’s plans to keep the Salamancas down using Nacho and take on the cartel was left precarious by Lalo’s introduction and initial moves. Werner’s escape leaves the super lab project stalled. The only one who successfully pulled anything off in “Wiedersehen” was Kim, and let’s just say I expect her little scam regarding the bank blueprint to land her in serious trouble.

Last week I called Better Call Saul the tragedy of Jimmy’s descent, and mentioned how he’ll drag others down with him. “Wiedersehen” was yet another rung down the ladder for just about everyone. That’s why I’m so sure Kim will suffer consequences for what she did in this episode. No one just gets away with scams like hers in this universe. Time and again we see how these things backfire. Maybe Kim doesn’t suffer too much from it, but she will be paid back. It’s only a question of how badly.

Because in the end, for as honest and true a person as Kim is, she has her own insincere streak. Jimmy hit at something when he talked about her using their scams for her own pleasure. She clearly gets some enjoyment out of the scams that causes her to risk her career numerous times for them. Eventually one of them will blow up in her face.

We’re heading into the season 4 finale with just about every character on precarious ground. I’m not sure where everyone will end up when it all shakes out. I know that I can’t wait to see it, and I hope some of my favorites get out of this intact.

Other Thoughts:

  • More than ever I’m sticking by my theory that Jimmy will end up at HHM as a type of “screw you” to Kim. Him bringing up the office again just made me more sure.
  • I really dislike Hector’s bell having a backstory. Hector’s subplot this season is a prime example of how prequels often over-explain things that didn’t need explaining. Sometimes a bell can just be a bell.
  • I don’t know why I laughed so hard at the old lady clutching her purse while Nacho stood nearby. Like he’s just going to take her purse right in the middle of a nursing home.
  • I’m starting to notice just how many amazing episodes Gennifer Hutchison writes for this show. I talk a lot about Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn, and various actors and directors for the great jobs they do, but I need to start recognizing Gennifer Hutchison for the amazing work she always does and always has done for both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.

Images courtesy of AMC




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