GLOVES OFF – 9/10.
Newton’s third law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. You don’t need to be a physicist to have known that Jimmy and Mike’s questionable choices would have consequences, both for them and their loved ones. Jimmy has continually taken shortcuts since arriving at Davis & Main; from the use of solicitation, to his decision to release an ambulance chasing advert without the permission of the partners. But worst of all he lied to Kim, the person that vouched for him and would be guaranteed to suffer if he messed up. Mike’s bad decision may have been made for less selfish reasons, but choosing to take work from Nacho in order to support his family sets him on a path to destruction and that final hillside conversation with Walter White.
Somehow, Jimmy manages to escape from his meeting with the partners with little more than a scolding. Sadly Kim is not so lucky, Chuck goads Howard into punishing her even though she had no idea that Jimmy was acting without permission. This comes in the form of a humiliating demotion that she takes with dignity, still refusing to throw Jimmy under the bus. It’s just a shame that he couldn’t show the same kind of loyalty by at least giving her some warning of what was coming. Jimmy eventually comes to her offering a grovelling apology and a plan to fix things, But Kim warns him that they will be done if he tries to convince Howard to give her back her old position. Of course Jimmy only hears what he wants to hear, that they aren’t done right now.
Jimmy finds a loophole in what Kim had said to him and after months of stony silence he finally pays a visit to Chuck to demand Kim’s reinstatement. Despite his contempt for Chuck, his older brother still has a huge hold over Jimmy to the point where he still has to leave his phone and keys in the letter box. His resolve is weakened even further when he discovers chuck as a shivering wreck on his sofa, instead of giving him a piece of his mind Jimmy ends up nursing his brother through the night. It is shocking how easily he falls back into this role; however, come morning Jimmy finally says what he came to say. He offers to give Chuck exactly what he wants, to quit practicing law if he reinstates Kim but Chuck doesn’t take the bait, at least not yet anyway.
If last week’s theme was ‘bad choices’ then this week’s appeared to be ‘doing the right thing’, or at least the morally flexible version of that. Despite having the blood of his son’s killers on his hands Mike is still a man with a moral code, a very loose one but a code nonetheless. Killing a stranger in cold blood is not something that appeals to the ex-cop, no matter how deserving that stranger may be. It turns out the person that Nacho wants to ‘go away’ is none other than his meth snorting partner, Tuco. Tuco has become a liability, what’s more he is violent and irrational, and Nacho truly believes that if he doesn’t act now then it could eventually cost him his life. In need of the money, Mike reluctantly agrees to take the job.
As the kill date draws closer, Mike contacts Nacho claiming to have a better plan that will get rid of Tuco without anyone having to die. Mike’s brilliant plan still involves plenty of bloodshed and in the most brutal scene of the season he manipulates Tuco into giving him a very public beating. This results in Tuco’s arrest for assault, possession of drugs and a concealed weapon. Tuco’s arrest gets him out of Nacho’s hair for 5 to 10 years, but it came at an incredible cost to Mike’s physical wellbeing. It would have been far easier for him to have simply pulled the trigger on a sniper rifle, but that is a line that Mike is not yet willing to cross. Mike doesn’t respond when Nacho asks him why, but the likely answer is because he knows that there will be no coming back when he does.
Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould are master craftsmen when it comes to creating compelling television. Just as they did with Breaking Bad, they use the deliberate pacing of Better Call Saul to lure the viewer into a false sense of security. This adds even more impact to explosive moments like Tuco’s very physical assault on Mike. We already liked Mike, but having got to know him even better in this show it makes the beating all the more upsetting to watch due to our attachment to the character. As tough as he is, and he is tough as nails, Mike is still an old man and it was hard to watch him suffer like that. The beating was very symbolic of Mike’s journey; he steadied himself against a pillar and endured, because that was what is necessary if he wants to provide for his family.
While Mike sacrificed himself physically for the people he loves, Jimmy was offering to sacrifice himself in another way. Of course this was in essence a shortcut and far too little, far too late when it comes to doing the right thing by Kim. But his offer to quit practicing law had a lot of hidden depth to it, his words were very telling when he said “No more Jimmy McGill Esquire, it will be like he never existed.” Could this be the foreshadowing of the arrival of Saul Goodman? Vince Gilligan has never stated how long he intends the show to run, but despite their best intentions there is no turning back for Jimmy and Mike at this point. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Saul Goodman emerge in all his glory by the end of this season with the next serving as the precursor to Breaking Bad.
POINTS OF INTEREST
- Nice to see Jim Beaver’s Lawson make a cameo in this episode, along with Tuco this was a nice call back (or call forward) to the world of Breaking Bad.
- Chuck clearly wanted to take Jimmy up on his offer but he knows his brother well enough to know there is always a caveat.
- Obviously we knew that Mike wasn’t going to kill Tuco, but the writing was strong enough to maintain the tension throughout the story.
- Kim used an expletive on this week’s episode, although it was still bleeped out. If AMC is willing to do this with BCS then there is hope for Negan on The Walking Dead, although censorship on adult programming is absolutely ridiculous.