If you’re a fan of Better Call Saul—our favorite show on non-premium cable or non-streaming TV—then this post may interest you. If not, you may be bored by it. You may be a fan of the show and still be bored by this post. Writing is hard!
Anyway, some thoughts on Monday’s episode, “Goodman vs. Wexler:”
— First, as much fun as the montage of Jimmy directing the actors for the TV commercial must’ve been to put together (“And…ACTING!”), it wasn’t really necessary. As long as Jimmy/Saul had proof that Mesa Verde had used that photo as its logo without every paying for the rights, Saul had Kevin and Mesa Verde dead to rights. I’m a fan of the 3-person teenage aqua force film crew, and the show’s producers, Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, must be as well, as if you notice they were given more lines in this episode than ever before. Still, this latest trip down local TV commercial-filmmaking was unnecessary. A fun goof, but unnecessary.
–Jimmy was right, and yet also wrong. His gambit versus Mesa Verde and Kim’s legal team was brilliant because it not only knocked the bank off its feet, but it also knocked Kim off hers. And if part of the problem here was that he needed to demonstrate that he and his girlfriend were not in cahoots, the only plausible way to do this was to legitimately surprise her. And, yes, piss her off.
Jimmy’s feeling here, I surmise, is that Kim is just not that good of an actor (Rhea Seehorn certainly is). She’s fine as Giselle but as Kim Wexler Jimmy didn’t think she could pull it off. So he struts into the office being a legitimate jerk and huckster and it works. Kevin and Paige are furious because they thought they only had to sign a $45,000 check (plus legal fees). Kim is irate because she feels betrayed. And Rich is confounded by the balls on this guy, but certainly he no longer feels as if his partner and Saul are working together.
And what happens? The $4 million ask was never serious; Kevin gets his call center, the photographer gets her royalties, Mr. Acker gets a pretty settlement, and Kim’s professional reputation remains intact. Moreover, and this is never really discussed enough, Jimmy is a fantastic lawyer. He really is, as Howard often says, “Charlie Hustle.” Not only did he think up this scheme, but he did the research (and had someone break in Kevin’s home) to find the photograph that became the Mesa Verde logo. All without a paralegal. He goes above and beyond.
–Of course, he now has a problem with Kim.When they meet up at home at the end of the episode, she’s understandably pissed off. She’s seem him con others, she’s often even helped. In fact, she’s enthusiastically thought up a few cons herself. But she always expected that they were a team. It’s like having a spouse who’s an actor and watching them play a role at a dinner party, but then suddenly wondering if the tears they’re crying for you are genuine (the subplot of a recent Curb episode, by the way).
Kim’s ready to break up with Jimmy because, as she says, “I don’t trust you.” Nor should she. My only quibble with this scene is that I would have had Jimmy be the one to suggest marriage. He’s the one who always is figuring ways to wriggle out of a tight squeeze. I don’t know why she’d suggest it, pissed off as she is. But I could’ve seen him suggesting it as a Hail Mary pass.
–Let’s talk about Howard Hamlin, the good-looking, good-natured cliche of a high six-figure attorney. In previous seasons it has been revealed that all of our worst thoughts (certainly mine) about Howard were off-base. He wasn’t the sinister one; Chuck was. He was simply doing Chuck’s dirty work for him.
He’s now come full-circle on Jimmy and wants him to join the firm. And Jimmy just keeps playing nasty pranks on him, pranks that are flavored with real hostility and malevolence. It doesn’t make sense, which tells me that we’re headed for a greater reveal at some point.
Is Jimmy doing this to work off guilt and anger about Chuck’s death? Is he picking on Howard as the schmuck who’s too simple to realize who his assailant is? And is there anything that jibes with the way Jimmy normally works and what he’s doing here? Jimmy’s not above just about any con, but usually there’s a method to his madness. In fact, one of the things that make him a likeable character is that his cons and stunts have a Robin Hood quality to them. He’ll fight dirty to protect someone who is on the lower rung or innocent (he’ll particularly do that if that someone is himself).
But here? There’s no upside that I can see to agitating Howard. Is he that angry that Howard wants him to join the firm? Is Howard too stupid to realize that Jimmy is behind his car being vandalized, behind his reputation being smeared at lunch? There’s something more going on here, I think. Waiting for the reveal.
–It’s been said, and I agree, that at the very least Better Call Saul is as good as Breaking Bad. The reason, for me, is because there are more characters we can visit and enjoy. You’ve got Jimmy and Kim (and Howard). But then there’s Mike and his family. And Gus. And Nacho. And the Salamancas. I don’t know the name of the actor who plays Nacho (I guess I could look it up…. hold on… the things I do for you people… Michael Mando) but he’s fantastic. He plays Nacho as a drug dealer with a conscience and a sweetness to him.
There’s a scene, I think it was last season, when they were collecting at the Mexican restaurant and Nacho knows that Lalo is watching him, so he gets rough with one of the dealers who was short with his collections. You can tell he takes no joy in it, but he realizes it’s part of the job. When he breaks into the house to retrieve the drugs, risking his freedom, he does so because he understands in the moment that it’s the best way to save his father. His father means everything to him, and his padre is an unimpeachably decent man. His moral bellwether.
Nacho is a fantastic, layered character. Street-smart, but vulnerable. Wry and likable. They could spin off an entirely new show from him. He’s sort of the Jesse Pinkman of BCS except that he’s got his sh*t way more together. And he’s smarter. Much smarter.
As Alan Sepinwall would say, “What did you think?”