Monday, July 15, 2024

Slippin’ Kimmy Returns and Better Call Saul Makes Me Look Dumb Again

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You would think I’d learn my lesson at some point. After 5 seasons of inaccurately predicting Breaking Bad and another 3 seasons mostly getting it wrong with Better Call Saul, maybe I’d let the prediction game go. I don’t know what Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould are doing. Just let it go. Otherwise I end up here. Another week, another moment proving me wrong. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Let’s get in to Better Call Saul’s latest successful effort to throw everything upside down.

The Return of Viktor and Giselle

Last week I proclaimed the relationship between Jimmy and Kim as over. For 40+ minutes of “Coushatta,” I was right. Last week’s coldness continued, even as Kim’s defense for Huell revealed itself as a giant con job involving fake letters, phones, and websites to trick the district attorney’s office. They barely talked, and in one case barely looked at each other. Jimmy clearly thought Huell’s case was their last adventure together. When Kim came by the office he considered buying, Jimmy expected the break-up talk.

Then she doubled down on the relationship. Kim has another con in mind, this one likely involving fulfilling Mesa Verde’s wish to redesign upcoming construction of a new branch without affecting the current timeframe. To say Better Call Saul stunned me puts it lightly.

And yet, should it have? Should I really be so surprised?

We’ve seen before how Kim gets a thrill from these types of con jobs. She and Jimmy often bond over them, as we saw with the creation of the Viktor and Giselle personas back in season 2. Kim gets a thrill from this kind of flirting with the law. I really shouldn’t be so surprised that she gravitated back to Jimmy in the aftermath of their successful scam on the DA’s office. I am, though, because I thought Kim had moved past it.

Make no mistake; their Huell scam was a HUGE ethical violation. Jimmy was also kind enough to list all the criminal violations committed along the way. What it comes down to is a misinterpretation of the obvious dissatisfaction Kim felt earlier this season. I thought she began gravitating away from Mesa Verde because of a desire not to trap herself in a soul-sucking corporate empire. I thought she began her public defender work to rediscover her passion for the law. Instead it looks like sheer boredom played as big a role as anything.

Both can be true, of course. Kim is a fascinating character of many layers and she can be want more of her law career while also feeling drawn towards scams. She can aspire to the examples of both Chuck and Jimmy McGill. Doesn’t change that Better Call Saul completely threw me for a loop by reaffirming her commitment to Jimmy and their relationship by buying into his games. Hell, she not only bought into it, she planned this every step of the way.

She clearly has some affinity for pushing the boundaries, despite her objections. The tequila topper she pulled out of her desk is functioning almost like Marco’s ring does for Jimmy. It represents the thrill she gets from these scams. The two of them are made for each other much more than I estimated a week ago.

They may still split. I expect Kim to clear her head soon. There’s no reason to abandon my previous prediction that Jimmy and Kim will be finished by the end of this season. It just doesn’t feel nearly as certain now. And as anxious as Kim’s participation in these scams may make me, I admit it makes for some damn entertaining episodes.

This episode was almost complete enjoyment from end to end. It’s no surprise when an unleashed Bob Odenkirk has fun in episodes like this. He is always at his best when the full charisma of Jimmy McGill is on display. However, I think Rhea Seehorn’s own comedic chops go severely underappreciated. She nails the drama so well that you forget how perfectly she nails the funny moments. Put them in a room together and Better Call Saul always delivers.

Between the hilarious staged photos of Huell working at the church, the horrible Louisiana accents while Jimmy and the film students pretended to be residents of Huell’s hometown, Kim’s expressions while talking with the assistant DA…I haven’t laughed this hard during Better Call Saul all season. I really needed it. I expect I’ll need it in the face of whatever happens during these last two episodes of the season, too. Jimmy and Kim are pure gold together.

It’s easy to see why Kim keeps coming back around to Jimmy during episodes like this. They have so much fun together and have such natural chemistry. Odenkirk and Seehorn have lots of fun, the audience has fun, and both characters are obviously having fun. In the face of so much monotony, Jimmy gives Kim the same escape that the Slippin’ Jimmy persona (and eventually Saul Goodman) gives Jimmy.

Consider me fooled again. Kim and Jimmy live to fight another day. How long will they last this time? At this point I’ve learned to stop predicting.

Farewell to Legitimacy

I’m worried for Kim, because in many other ways “Coushatta” felt like the end for so many characters. It’s more than just the introduction of Lalo, who we know directly leads us to Saul Goodman bagged in a desert by Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. The connection to Breaking Bad has never been closer, but this episode felt like a goodbye beyond that. Everyone had some little moment where they had a fleeting vision of some other life. Some fantastical daydream where they could fool themselves into believing things were different.

Yet every single one of them could recognize how far past that point they already journeyed.

Mike had his moment in the bar with Werner, where for a moment he could pretend to just be a guy in the bar with some engineer. Nacho had the old Manitobe IDs for him and his father. Kim went back to Mesa Verde, while Jimmy had fun with his scam. I suppose it’s fitting that only Jimmy gets to leave this episode with his fantasy still intact.

For all of them, though, things have changed too much. Mike is neck-deep into a ruthless criminal empire and can’t just be Werner’s friend. Nacho runs the Salamanca family in Albuquerque, and now has Lalo watching over him. Kim can’t just go back to Mesa Verde. They’ve all broken bad in minor or major ways. Better Call Saul is ultimately a tragedy about Jimmy’s fall, and however I may wish otherwise, his tragedy will extend to others.

I was most struck by Nacho, who returned after an episode or two away. The Jesse Pinkman comparisons couldn’t feel more accurate at this point. If earlier episodes were his version of Jesse’s many times suffering physically, then this episode represented his version of Jesse’s miserable success. Nacho sits atop the Salamanca family, literally in Tuco’s seat watching others carry out collection. All the while the man is miserable. He clearly longs for something different. Will he try to carry it out? Will this be the issue that leads to whatever happens with Lalo and Saul Goodman?

Whatever the case, for as fun as this episode was, it feels like it was fun as a kind of farewell. Not permanently, of course; Jimmy McGill will always be a fun person. Saul Goodman was always entertaining. Better Call Saul will still be entertaining. It will just be different as all these characters continue to descend.

Just, maybe leave Kim and Hamlin out of it? Let them be okay? And if it’s at all possible for Nacho to get out of this alright, I’d be happy.

Other Thoughts:

  • Good to see Jimmy had experience with fake online donation websites well before Walt Jr. came around.
  • Was Five-Hour Energy a thing back when Better Call Saul takes place? I honestly can’t remember.
  • I still get a stupid thrill from the cameos. Does it mean much for Krazy 8 to handle collections while Nacho watches over him? Not really, outside of his obvious rise through the Salamanca organization. I still smile stupidly every time.
  • I also loved the power move of Kim leading her gaggle of law associates. She wields power handsomely.
  • The entire cell phone subplot could be dropped entirely right now and it would all have been worth it for the scene of Jimmy using all his excess burners as part of the Huell scam.

Images courtesy of AMC

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