Previously on Better Call Saul, ‘Fifi’
Starring: Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Rhea Seehorn, Michael McKean, Michael Mando, Patrick Fabian, Mark Margolis, Manuel Uriza | Writer: Peter Gould (story by Gordon Smith) | Director: Peter Gould
What occurred in “Nailed” could be summated with an expressive yet concise adage: “Pride goeth before the fall”. In an expertly crafted episode, Peter Gould (assuming duties as writer and director) pushes the leads further into the darkness. Due to Jimmy’s vengeful designs to discredit Chuck and bolster Kim’s career, the lives of the three devolve to their baser levels. Unfortunately their edacity for revenge, prestige, and truth results in unforeseen and tragic conclusions.
While Mike’s victory over Hector Salamanca was a satisfying venture for himself and viewers, obviously the most damning and surprising act was what Jimmy did to his brother. Over the years Jimmy has pulled plenty of outrageous larks but this time, what happened to Chuck was absolutely reprehensible. No one is without fault in Saul; that is realized by every lead. When Chuck exhibits his weaker moments that could easily be interpreted as sibling rivalry is finally being seen for what they truly are: preemptive measures to deflect the suffering others would experience from Jimmy’s extremely poor and dubious life choices. That doesn’t excuse Chuck from casting out Kim for her vouching of Jimmy with Davis and Main, however that decision is certainly biting him in the ass now.
Truly, the McGill brothers never had a close bond; they’ve attempted civility and placated to the concept of how brothers should rely on one another. Since the moment the two first shared the screen theirs was a relationship about mistrust and fueled by exorbitant amounts of hubris. Rather than it being a game of chess, their vexatious need to be one step ahead other is more like a rapid fire game of checkers as they attempt to jump over pieces before looking at the entire board.
Charles wasn’t wrong to suspect his brother, as he could barely muster a convincing face of denial. In little time, he accurately deconstructed Jimmy’s scheme as though Chuck was shadowing him the entire time. All McGill could do was retort with breathy responses like “Yeah, whatever!” and “C’mon now!” while weakly shrugging his shoulders. Chuck finally had James on the ropes, in front of the one person he adores more than anyone in the world.
In a stunning move, Kim forgoes accepting the truth of the matter and tells Chuck repeatedly that his bungling of the Mesa Verde account was his fault alone. As much as Charles may want to press charges against Jimmy for forging documents and defrauding HHM, both he and Wexler would be in hot water. The last thing either lawyer wants is James’ sordid past being investigated and out in the open. Despite all the crap he’s done all season long that would presumably ruin his career as attorney, Jimmy’s antics would only be the damaging to everyone in his immediate circle.
Ultimately, Michael McKean provides what is certainly his best performance as Charles McGill. After all these weeks of watching his brother run everyone into the ground and squander every opportunity given to him, Charles is willing to risk his health and reputation on a dogged late-night pursuit for evidence. Weary and with nothing going his way, Charles loses his composure among a wash of florescent lights and throng of combative voices. Given the shocking conclusion of this scene, it would be distressing to know if Chuck’s condition was the impetus to Jimmy’s inevitable transformation.
On the other side of the tracks, Mike Ehrmantraut is a one-man wrecking crew. “Nailed” begins with the grouchy curmudgeon patiently awaiting the latest shipment for the Salamancas. Unlike Jimmy who does his best work on the fly, Ehrmantraut dotted all his “I”s and crossed his “T”s days in advance, resulting in a truck jacking that occurs without a single snag. For all that Mike and his family have suffered this season – mainly by his hand – the tables finally turned in his favor. The gambit paid off so well Ehrmantraut oddly loosens up in the company of strangers. Save for a bit of charity and some mild flirting Mike keeps his routine but it’s apparent he’s feeling damn confident after the heist.
During a quick meet with Nacho, Ehrmantraut learns the consequence of his actions: the next person to roll by the truck and bound driver was rewarded with a hole in their head. Again, the embarrassment of being played would not be good for others, i.e. cops and competitors, to know. Be it a law firm or a cartel, weakness is not tolerated and must be suppressed to promote stability. If there’s anything “Nailed” taught viewers it’s everything has a price, whether one sees it or not. And it is typically the plan with the narrowest vision that is the mostly costly.
Better Call Saul concludes its second season in “Klick” next Monday at 10/9c on AMC!
Better Call Saul S2E9 = 10/10