Sunday, May 26, 2024

Better Call Saul Sends Its Characters on Various Falls

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This outstanding third season of Better Call Saul has steadily moved Jimmy McGill towards Saul Goodman, much to the delight and dread of its audience. Many spent the first two seasons wishing the journey would move faster. Yeah, Jimmy was great, but the show was pitched as showing more of Saul Goodman. Since it has started happening in earnest, though, regret has started appearing as many wish to hang on to Jimmy a little longer.

Unfortunately, “Fall” made it very clear that Jimmy McGill is all but gone.

Spoilers for 3×09 “Fall” below


Better Call Saul starts this week making you think Jimmy might stick around a while. He visits Irene, one of his former clients from the Sandpiper case, to ask how things have come along. He finds out a settlement is still years away and sees the current offer. Greedy as he is, he pushes Irene towards accepting the settlement. They’re interrupted by Irene’s friends and Jimmy leaves.

As he walks back to his car, he figures out his cut of the offer would be a bit more than a million dollars.

Meanwhile, Mike meets Lydia over at Madrigal. Turns out Gus’s idea to launder Mike’s money involves fake employment with Madrigal. He asks some questions, and it turns out he is the first person Gus has ever taken these steps with. Lydia also suggests Gus is much more than just a drug dealer.

Over at HHM, Hamlin and Chuck meet with the malpractice insurance company. The company wants to raise the insurance for everyone, and Hamlin tries to argue against it. Chuck makes some threats that end the meeting abruptly. Afterwards, Hamlin tries to congenially suggest Chuck retire. When Chuck refuses, Hamlin demands it. He doesn’t trust Chuck’s judgment anymore. Later, Jimmy confronts Hamlin about Sandpiper. Hamlin sees right through Jimmy’s fake concern. He insults Jimmy’s greed and assures him he’ll have to wait for his money.

Kim remains well embroiled in the legal profession, and meets a new potential client in Gatwood Oil. The owner discusses a current legal issue involving oil reserves crossing state lines and Kim comes up with a solution. She assures him she can take care of it quickly. When she goes to leave, though, one of Kim’s tires gets stuck in the sand. She manages to free it and just barely stop the car before it crashes into the machinery nearby.

Nacho makes his first appearance at a meeting between Gus and Hector. They take a phone call from Don Eladio, who tells them the current shared smuggling arrangement using Gus’s trucks will be permanent. Hector has an episode and takes the fake pills, but nothing happens. He insults Gus and Eladio before walking away.

Never one to avoid chasing a payday, Jimmy begins a truly awful scheme by “accidentally” running into Irene and her friends at the mall. He sells her on a pair of shoes he wears and gives her a pair her size as a gift. Afterwards he approaches her friends and starts turning them against her regarding the Sandpiper settlement by suggesting she’s currently benefiting while they don’t. They see the shoes as evidence.

Because of this, they begin shunning her. Bad form, Jimmy. Bad form.

After what happened with Gus and Hector, Nacho visits his father to tell him about Hector’s plans to use his business to smuggle drugs. He begs his father to just let it happen and not do anything stupid, much to his father’s disappointment.

After another meeting at HHM, Hamlin gets a letter from Chuck informing him of Chuck’s intention to sue HHM. He heads immediately to Chuck’s house, where Chuck says he won’t leave unless Hamlin buys him out and is suing for breach of contract. He knows the firm can’t afford it and will tear it down before leaving. Chuck also has all his lights and electronics on.

He’s not the only McGill acting like a jerk. Jimmy continues his scheme by manipulating bingo balls ahead of a game. When Irene arrives, her friends don’t let her sit with them. Using his loaded bingo balls, he sets up Irene winning. Almost no one claps for her and Irene flees crying from the room.

Jimmy leaves to comfort her and pushes her one more time towards settling the Sandpiper case. He says that might be the reason they are shunning her. He returns to the office to celebrate the settlement afterwards, despite it not being official, and finds a tired Kim frantically preparing for a Gatwood meeting. While driving to the meeting, she falls asleep and crashes her car.

The episode ends with a badly injured Kim surveying the damage.


I’m so tempted to spend this entire review discussing the brilliance of the final scene. Kim’s car crash was perfectly foreshadowed and perfectly shot. She has worked herself to exhaustion all season with only Mesa Verde as a client. Taking on Gatwood Oil was obviously going to be too much. There was also the shot of her taking her quick cat nap in her car a couple episodes ago. Then, in this episode she nearly crashes her car after freeing it from the sand.

When her practiced speech starts tailing off at the end, you know what will happen, but they linger just long enough to make you doubt. Then bam! Kim’s lifting a bloody face from her airbag. It was a fantastic jump timed exactly right. It was also a cut well set up by this episode. You can’t tell me the quick cut from Howard reading the letter to Howard at Chuck’s door was unintentional.

Still, as well-executed as the moment was, it was not the focus or highlight of the episode. Nope, Better Call Saul’s tagline this week is a simple, disheartening one; Saul Goodman has arrived. Not in name, but certainly in behavior.

Now some might wonder why that’s a problem. Well, if this episode exemplified his behavior moving forward, I don’t think I want more of Saul Goodman.

If last week’s scheme with his community service overseer was Slippin’ Jimmy loose with a machine gun, his actions this week were Jimmy spraying that machine gun in a crowded room. Up until now Jimmy usually has typically better motives for the worst of his actions. Helping Kim, helping Chuck, helping his clients, some reason you can defend him. No such reason exists for what he did to Irene. It was pure selfishness, plain and simple. He wanted the payout from the Sandpiper case and was willing to make a kind elderly woman suffer for it.

He didn’t have to do this, either. There were a variety of ways he could have broached this subject with the members of the class-action lawsuit and encouraged them towards accepting the settlement. The problem is that “Saul” doesn’t think that way. He defaults to the most harmful option. He has the con-man mindset, where hurting others is necessary for the greatest gain.

Watching him destroy the social life of poor Irene made for a truly awful and awkward episode to watch, but damn if it wasn’t incredible television.

Jimmy wasn’t the only McGill to go down a dark path, as Chuck has done much the same with his lawsuit against HHM. For all their differences, Jimmy and Chuck share a common tendency to sabotage themselves. Chuck may claim to cherish the rule of law above all else, and I’m sure he believes that, but he is ultimately a slave to his own pride and ego. Just like Jimmy could have taken any number of routes to encourage settlement, Chuck could have responded numerous ways to Hamlin forcing retirement on him.

Instead he chose the most volatile option because Hamlin struck at his pride. And I get it. Chuck is trying so hard to overcome his illness and showing remarkable progress. Like I said last week, I want Chuck to get better. I also thought he would find a way to sabotage his progress, and now we see it. He has created a stressful situation likely to drag him right back into the unyielding clutches of his illness, and perhaps this time for good. A return to practicing law has been his main goal since the beginning of Better Call Saul. Without the law, he will see no reason to even try healing.

“Fall” featured characters falling and mostly by their own hand. Jimmy began falling into Saul, Chuck began falling out of the law, Kim took too much on her plate, and Mike began his fall into Gus’s business. HHM might be on the verge of a fall due to Chuck’s lawsuit. Nacho fell out of favor with his father, whose own fall may come at Hector’s hands. Hector began his fall both at his own hands by reacting how he did to the orders from Eladio, as well as a fall at Nacho’s hands with the fake pills.

With only the finale remaining in Better Call Saul’s fantastic third season, most of these characters will not climb back up from their falls. I just hope the ones I don’t already know the fate of can find a way.

Other Thoughts:

  • Notice the Saul suit Jimmy wears at the end.
  • Howard Hamlin continues to be the best minor character on TV. Better Call Saul writes and characterizes him so consistently, even as his allegiances shift over and over. THIS is how you create conflict and shifting loyalties. I hope the rest of the TV landscape takes note.
  • Lydia is back! She seemed so much calmer and in control here. Makes me wonder if the high-strung woman from Breaking Bad gradually became that way or did so suddenly due to the stress of Gus’s death.
  • I can relate to Kim getting her car out of the sand so much. Living in Florida, there is sand everywhere. It happens to everyone eventually.
  • I know Gus is an insanely successful drug dealer, but does Lydia mean something more than that when she says Gus is not just a drug dealer?
  • Speaking of, for those who don’t remember, Mike’s name pops up in Breaking Bad during the Madrigal investigation, and as a “security consultant”.
  • For anyone doubting the pettiness of Irene’s friends, don’t. Anyone who has spent considerable time around senior communities can tell you how this happens.
  • “B9! Let’s hope that biopsy comes back benign!” This was easily my favorite of Jimmy’s bingo lines.

Images Courtesy of AMC

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