Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Jimmy’s New Crime Goes Badly on Better Call Saul

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As I mentioned in my review last week, bad ventures into crime tend to be the norm on Better Call Saul. Someone has an idea, dips their toe in, and finds the water pleasant, but when they dive in gleefully, things go bad. Jimmy has personally experienced this numerous times. Does that ever stop him? Of course not, and we have a show because of him. Let’s dive in to his latest mistake in “Quite a Ride.”

The Danger of Pre-Paid Plans

I found it fitting that this episode gave us our first scene set during Breaking Bad times, as Jimmy and his secretary Francesca shred evidence ahead of his eventual call to the “vacuum repair” guy who also helped smuggle Walt out of New Mexico with a new identity. I doubt anyone forgot the eventual fate of Saul Goodman, but it was a timely reminder of how these things go bad for Jimmy.

Time and again he takes these shortcuts and every time they blow up in his face. If not for Chuck, he’d be a convicted sex offender in an Illinois prison. If not for Kim, his law degree would be toast and he might be in jail for breaking into Chuck’s house. Over and over he bends the law a bit, gets a benefit, and then suffers when he full on breaks it. His last days as Saul Goodman may have been the worst of it, but it was far from the first time.

This cycle repeated in “Quite a Ride” as Jimmy began his venture into illegal cell phone dealings, set up last week. The first dip of his toe with the customer in the store gave a good taste. Jimmy could have built a nice little side profit if he limited himself. Instead he put on a tracksuit like a Russian mobster and trolled the streets selling phones like drugs. It was a stupid, dangerous plan that worked out too damn well for him. He made the mistake of pushing his luck that one last time by selling to the bike gang.

It was perfect Better Caul Saul-style irony that it was not these bikers that robbed Jimmy or threatened his life, but a trio of punk kids. This is how things go. That’s why Walter White was brought down not by the might of Gus Fring, but by low-rent Neo-Nazis.

Amidst this mugging was a lesson Jimmy has been taught numerous times but always failed to learn. A lesson of self-control and ambition and the plain limitations of his capabilities. Will he learn the lesson this time? No. We know he won’t, and that he somehow attaches to two other huge over-achievers who together reach heights he should never have dreamed of, because none of them know how to handle it. Jimmy McGill, like Walt and Jesse, was never meant to be a criminal kingpin. He should have stuck to simple bribes and ambulance-chasing as Saul Goodman.

And yet his failed venture in “Quite a Ride” only brought him closer to Saul Goodman. Limited as it was, he did make initial contact with a deeper criminal underworld. Those bikers will want return business and I doubt they’ll have trouble finding Jimmy. If not them, word will spread because of them and everyone else Jimmy served that night. Now, Jimmy could deny them. But he won’t, because this is who he is.

It’s sad to see the good side of Jimmy fail over and over. I think the true tragedy of Better Call Saul is in knowing the good side has never really been Jimmy. We want it to be, but in the end the criminal side always wins out. He can’t help it no more than he can help his taste in clothes. I fully expect “Gene” to backslide, too. Jimmy has a solid self-awareness when it comes to danger, but it always fails at some point. When will Gene mess up? What happens then? I assume Better Call Saul is building towards this moment.

For all the doom and gloom predictions that existed for Chuck and still exist for Kim, I don’t expect any great tragedy to “cause” Jimmy to break bad. That’s a convenient excuse this show will not allow him. He lost Chuck by being a criminal, and he will lose Kim the same way.

Moral Crossroads

I also find it fitting how Jimmy’s backslide has coincided with Kim’s newfound morality. As expected, Kim began taking public defender work. Not only did she take it, she threw herself into it at the expense of her work for Mesa Verde. She even knew she risked her position with the bank. She did not care. Kim has clearly entered some crisis of conscience about what kind of lawyer she wants to be.

Her promise to Paige about never blowing Mesa Verde off again rang hollow. Not just to the audience, but Paige herself. Kim will blow them off again. Kim knows it, Paige knows it, and we know it.

The factors at play here are numerous and complicated. Kim certainly wants more of her law career than greedy corporate takeovers. I also think this is her way of mourning over Chuck and assuaging her guilt over her role in Chuck’s suicide. And yes, I think she recognizes the danger to Jimmy and the morally corrupt path tempting him. I don’t think Kim fully buys Jimmy’s excuses or behavior. She’s sympathetic, and empathetic, and certainly recognizes how Jimmy’s behavior represents his way of grieving for Chuck. However, she also recognizes how easily he can and will slip irredeemably towards Saul Goodman.

In short, Kim has reached a crossroads in her life. I believe she will choose the moral good at the expense of her career and personal comfort. In part as a repudiation of Jimmy’s worsening behavior, in part as a way to save him, and in part because she’s just a good, strong person who wants better.

I’m increasingly wondering if the split between Jimmy and Kim will happen this season. The two have reached a similar crossroads and are choosing such opposite paths from each other. The moral difference between them can’t help but eat at their relationship. Let’s say Jimmy does make it the rest of his suspension, which he will since he has his law degree to become Saul Goodman, without losing Kim. What happens when he comes to her with grand plans to recreate Wexler and McGill? Can we really expect his vision of their renewed partnership to vibe with hers? Especially after nine months doing public defender work as a champion of the community?

I suppose anything’s possible. If Jimmy spins it as helping the little guy, something Saul Goodman always professed to do, then maybe he hoodwinks Kim briefly. Ultimately it is doomed to failure, though. Jimmy and Kim are too different. For all the love between them, their views of right and wrong are fundamentally different.

We know what awaits Jimmy McGill at the end of his road. I hope Kim Wexler has something better at the end of hers. She’s a better person than to be brought down low by Jimmy. I hope she recognizes that before it is too late.

Other Thoughts:

  • The Doghouse! I kept waiting for a Jesse Pinkman cameo. If ever there was a place for him to randomly pop up…
  • Howard Hamlin’s appearance this week broke my heart. The man is suffering. Chuck’s death has set him down his own awful path, spiraling him towards some awful end. I hope he pulls back in time.
  • Mike vetted potential architects for the super lab! I love that we’re seeing how this project came together. Even though seeing it put together makes you realize just how big a mistake Gus eventually made with Walter White.
  • Jimmy telling Francesca to dump the shredded documents in multiple dumpsters miles away was a good callback to the Sandpiper case. I guess Jimmy learns some lessons.
  • It was also perfect symbolism to have Jimmy bust down a wall featuring the Constitution in order to get his goods.

Images courtesy of AMC

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