Previously on Better Call Saul, “Sabrosito”
After an episode and a half of Mike and Gus establishing their blooming partnership, Jimmy’s disciplinary hearing runs the entirety of the episode, showcasing the lengths he and Charles are willing to go in order to get their way. While the title is mostly directed toward James’ penchant for duplicity and subterfuge, Charles is far from a saintly character. Self-righteous, yes. Overbearing and condescending? Absolutely. What we never expected was how vociferous Chuck would become when finally pushed too far by his cunning little brother.
Before any drama unfolded, Kim hoped that her forthrightness would win over Kevin Wachtell (Rex Linn) and smooth over any concerns about Chuck’s accusations and Jimmy’s impending state bar hearing. Wexler slapped on her best game face, threw a Hail Mary, and by the grace of Johnnie Cochrane, Wachtell and associate Paige Novick (Cara Pifko) stick to their one-woman army and made plans to discuss Mesa Verde’s plans for expansion over dinner. Kim’s biggest hurdle has now been passed; even though Jimmy’s career is on the line, the duo remain unusually confident about the outcome of the proceedings. Even with a mountain of damning evidence that proves Jimmy is unworthy of his law license, McGill and Wexler have a few low-down aces up their sleeve to tarnish Charles’ sterling reputation.
Throughout the series it had been well established that Charles isn’t any better than Jimmy, only that he was more astute in choosing a respectable profession where he could thrive due to his keen powers of persuasion. Chuck’s level of chicanery is put on display during the opening minutes of the episode, when he and Jimmy arranged everything to cast the older McGill in a sympathetic light before their dinner with Charles’ estranged wife Rebecca (Ann Cusack). Taking place sometime between “Rebecca” and Chuck’s first major breakdown, the flashback reveals the McGills can work in concert to great effect… at least when it comes to Charles’ needs.
The dinner itself went off without a hitch, but hangs upon a thread because of Chuck’s recently developed condition. He forbids Jimmy to reveal his “disorder” and for a time he appeared like his normal self while Rebecca regaled him about her performances across the globe. Regrettably, the world that completely occupies Rebecca’s life managed to sneak into Chuck’s via mobile phone, instantly turning him from an accommodating host hoping to reconcile with his former flame into an insolent screwball unable to explain why he swatted Rebecca’s phone from her hand.
Now, years later, Rebecca finally knows what the deal is with her ex-husband, thanks to Jimmy. Her sudden appearance in the courtroom was obviously a cheap tactic to throw Charles off his game, and for a moment it worked. Chuck proved how unstable and irrational he is when he became mad at Rebecca for seeing him in a compromised manner but managed to compose himself, albeit temporarily. As much as Jimmy doesn’t care how society perceives him, Chuck cares far too much, to the point that he isolates himself in shadow so most of his peers remember him as his former self.
Those days are now long gone after Jimmy kept chipping away at Chuck during cross-examination. In less than five minutes, McGill managed to tear the opposing counsel’s examination apart by goading his brother into revealing more about his mental disorder – and how he pretended to have an episode to coax a confession out of Jimmy. In a brilliant sequence, Jimmy’s acumen for law is revealed as he was given considerable leeway to discuss Chuck’s electromagnetism “allergy” and how his confession was given only to make his brother feel better. His argument would be flimsy at best if he didn’t reveal to the court that Chuck had a phone battery placed on his person by the nimble fingers of one Huell Babineaux (Lavell Crawford).
Jimmy’s childish antics and disrespect for the proceedings ultimately drew out Charles’ lifelong enmity for his brother as he vomited out his disdain for James’ previous spectacles and blunders from seasons past. By the time Charles regained his composure it was far too late. It was a sad moment that wheedled an atom of sympathy for Chuck; Jimmy’s scheme worked a little too well and now everything Charles worked for his entire adult life may be finished.
The question is whether this is the juncture that puts Chuck over the edge and to hide away indefinitely, or if he’ll persist in shutting down Wexler & McGill by any means necessary.
“Chicanery” was everything one expects from Saul, from the subtle devolution of McGill to Goodman, the increasingly hostile relationship between Jimmy and Chuck (typically grounded with masterful performances by Michael McKean) and of course, the occasional reference and cameo to delight Breaking Bad fans. Add the consistently impressive performances of Rhea Seehorn and Saul is comfortably asserting itself as one of the better television shows airing today.