Previously on Better Call Saul, ‘Bingo’
Starring: Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Michael McKean, Michael Mando, Rhea Seehorn, Patrick Fabian | Director: Colin Bucksey
One thing Better Call Saul does better than any show on television right now is know how to keep a good man down. When we last saw Jimmy McGill he gave up a potential meal ticket in the form of the Kettlemans, his dreams of expansion went up in smoke, and Kim (Rhea Seehorn) rejected his advances, veiled in the form of a legal partnership. If anything, Slippin’ Jimmy is practically nowhere to be seen and he continues to amass a sizable client base. Granted, they all practically live under one roof, Sandpiper Crossing. All it took was one word for Jimmy to go sleuthing and discover many of the residents are being defrauded. In fact, the prevailing theme throughout “Rico” is deception, as everyone begins spinning wheels on how they can outplay and outwit the other.
The evolution of Chuck (Michael McKean) within this episode is a bit shocking to witness. We know this once was a man thoroughly engrossed in his work while his lowly brother drudged along in the stockroom. This man was a beast; uncompromising in his vision and adept in working the machinations of the system. That was the man Jimmy worshipped, and he recently attempted to light his fire by leaving the boxes of wills at Chuck’s house. It lit enough of a spark for Chuck to assist Jimmy, and eventually intimidate his Sandpiper rivals like he would in the old days. A welcome development perhaps, or Chuck’s meteoric return to form could potentially blow up in their faces.
Aside from the sudden revival of Chuck’s killer instinct, he also experiences a rather enlightening revelation. The question is now whether Jimmy and “Charles” are able to cope with his spontaneous shift in attitude and motivation, and maintain their bond while buried in backbreaking litigation. During a flashback, Charles appeared perplexed and amazed at Jimmy’s private accomplishment; his feigned enthusiasm dropped to outright reluctance when Jimmy asks to prove his abilities to HHM. The regard Charles had for Jimmy – who adores and admires his older brother – was no better than his old partner, Howard Hamlin. Hopefully that sneering side of the elder McGill won’t resurface during the Sandpaper investigation.
Not as surprising is Kim’s inquisitive nature in regards to Jimmy’s potentially massive class action lawsuit. Like James, Kim worked tooth and nail to become marginally respectable in the eyes of those who she hopes one day will make her partner. Unlike Jimmy, her entire career is owned to HHM due to the firm paying for her education (as mentioned in “Bingo”). In a scenario such as this, personal allegiances and acquaintances mean little when a big paycheck and glory are within reach. This was the first time Wexler appeared disingenuous and calculating; her contrasting behavior makes one wonder if the Kim that’s softened up to Jimmy since “Alpine Shepherd Boy” is the real Kim at all. Given the scant bits of info witnessed during the opening flashbacks, it isn’t implausible that Hamlin tasked Wexler to be his ear in case Jimmy ever happened to find his golden goose.
Cue the dubious practices of Sandpiper Crossing, the community responsible for the well-being of many of Jimmy’s clients. In no time, McGill is shut out of the facilities and faces resistance in the form of Rick Schweikart (Dennis Boutsikaris). I don’t know about you, but if I was a lawyer and was given “legal” documents written on cardboard and toilet paper, I probably wouldn’t take you seriously. Rick has a difficult time taking Jimmy seriously, a situation in which McGill remains adept thanks to repeated dealings with his brother and Hamlin. Although the presence of Chuck gives the meeting more weight, Rick has to contend with Jimmy who he most definitely underestimates.
Now let’s not forget about Mike! Since opening up to his daughter-in-law Stacey (Kerry Condon), both have tentatively resolved their strife and Ehrmantraut finally spends time with his granddaughter, Kaylee. His love for his family is resolute and he’s determined to keep them healthy, happy, and to live comfortably no matter the cost. Low on funds, Mike goes down the one road he didn’t want to walk, but is willing to lay down everything for family as we are well aware in the fantastic “Five-O”.
One would be hard pressed to miss the heavy doses of symbolism in play during “Rico”. Co-creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould had confirmed the importance of color months before Saul’s premiere, but the manipulation of light and shadow has been essential in the progression of many characters. It was especially in play in “Rico” and expertly implemented by director Colin Bucksey (go back to the scene between the McGills and Schweikart and Company… It shouldn’t be too hard to see once you do). Like with Breaking Bad, the viewer is likely to not catch all the subtle clues present. Coupled with the excellent writing and caustic witticisms of Bob Odenkirk, the rewatch factor of the series a few months or weeks (or days) after the season finale will be undoubtedly enjoyable. Such a quality is seldom achieved in a series, let alone one that’s a prequel.
We all know what’ll eventually happen to two of the leads; their future is set in stone – what (and who) twists them into the jaded, gnarled miscreants we can’t help to love. Just as the two-hour premier perfectly transitioned between tones, “Rico” is the one episode that flips the series upside its head. It may not have seemed like it, but Jimmy’s genuine efforts to become a by-the-book lawyer may come crashing down not by his hubris, Schweikart or Hamlin, but those he trusts most of all.
With only two episodes remaining in its inaugural season, there’s no denying Better Call Saul has exceeded everyone’s expectations. It’s only a matter of time before Jimmy makes his transition to Saul but the journey so far is damn near more fulfilling than the destination.
The next episode, “Pimento” airs March 30 at 10pm on AMC.
Quotes of the week:
- “Go Land Crabs!”
- “Blow my Magic Flute…”