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Better Call Saul Episode 7 Review – ‘Bingo’
This week we saw the return of Jimmy’s moral struggles as he continues to try and keep his life heading in a legitimate direction despite the problems the Kettlemans pose. Jimmy really had to decide where his heart was in this episode, when his friendship/relationship with Kim Wexler began to have an adverse effect on him; and thanks to the nuanced writing of Gennifer Hutchinson, Jimmy McGill now feels more like a real person rather than the Saul “it’s all good man” we knew him as.
It was all going so smoothly for Jimmy; he’d finally looked to have found the path to focus his boundless ideas and energy on. His dive into the world of elder law hasn’t seemed to stunt his personality as his Veges-esque bingo hall is something that allowed him to focus his showmanship, instead of pulling off elaborate billboard stunts.
Nevertheless, as we know too well, trouble and crime are two things that follow Jimmy wherever he goes. His inability to solve problems without manipulation and illegal tactics is something which came back to haunt him this episode and began to affect his relationship with Kim (in a bad way).
It was good to see the conflict come from a different source this week: no Howard Hamlin squabble, no life threatening exposure to electrical currents for Chuck (well, actually he seems to have found a new way of tackling his ‘disease’) the conflict came from the pesky square outlaws, the Kettlemans. It was too good to be true that the Kettlemans would simply disappear – allowing Jimmy to use the money they gave him as an ‘advance’ to further his own career by kickstarting his elder law plan.
Bringing back the Kettlemans was a great move because it managed to play a vital part in testing both Jimmy and Kim Wexler’s friendship/relationship and Jimmy’s morals.
You sense Jimmy wants more out of the relationship with Kim. He hates how Hamlin treats her after she gets fired by the Kettlemans. He wants to give her the respect and the prestige she deserves by making her a partner in his new elder law firm. But we are baffled just as much as Jimmy as to why she turns him down, despite having a clear interest in elder law, as she proved when she was the one who advised Jimmy to go into that field after a passionate speech about the elderly in episode 4. We are asking the same questions as Jimmy: why don’t you just leave Hamlin? On what kind of level do you like Jimmy? What do you really want?
I’ve said before that Kim could’ve been explored in past episodes to give us more context behind her (so far) confusing actions. There’s a possibility the writers are more comfortable exploring male characters, which has been true in the past with Breaking Bad, which used the two wives Skyler and Marie, as mainly supporting characters. But I think there’s a deeper and more ingenious reason why Kim’s development has been held back.
It’s because Gilligan and Gould want the audience to feel just as frustrated as Jimmy feels by their friendship/relationship, and for us to be asking the same questions as Jimmy. On the one hand Kim is the only person who seems to believe in Jimmy as a professional; she sticks by him in his struggles in the nail salon and when Hamlin banished Jimmy from HHM. She also shows she’s happy Jimmy is making a good career for himself when he gives her a personal tour around his new office block. But then there is the other side to her, she declines her ‘partner’ offer without a moment’s hesitation, she seems set on staying at HHM despite being treated poorly by Howard Hamlin. It leaves us with the questions: is she using Jimmy as a crash mat if her career at HHM bombs? And why not go with Jimmy now, where you’re evidently more valued? Sadly, Jimmy is thinking this too. He is confused and that is why he ends up helping Kim win back the Kettlemans after she’s been fired by them despite it not being in his best interests and again, he has to become the person he so desperately doesn’t want to be: Slippin’ Jimmy.
It was a great moral test to see where Jimmy’s head was at. He’s obviously blinded by affection for Kim. Jimmy has done well in recent weeks of going straight and trying to hone in his sleazy side; however, the writers’ decision to introduce the Kettlemans between Jimmy and Kim was a stroke of genius – it revealed two things about Jimmy: first, he can’t solve problems without his slippery, illegal tactics, which proves he is still slippin’ Jimmy at heart and, second, Jimmy does have a heart. In past episodes he showed to lack a bit of a moral compass by only performing actions to benefit his own career, but manipulating the situation to force the Kettlemans go back to Kim makes him sympathetic and proves Jimmy does have a heart. He could’ve represented the Kettlemans and allow Kim’s HHM career to crash while he swept her up and offered her a job at his firm, but no, we saw a different, softer side to Jimmy which sadly for him may land him in more trouble than it would have done if he’d only considered himself, like the past.
You can see on his face in the scene when the Kettlemans are balling their eyes out – as Jimmy tells them to take Kim’s deal – that the risk of obtaining the affection of Kim might have been a step too far. All Jimmy got back from Kim was a mere deadpan, ‘thank you.’ Jimmy is now putting Kim at the center of his actions, and which is unfortunately for him only going to end one way.
Jimmy doesn’t want to go back to the slippin’ Jimmy life again. He knows this case could still go wrong – the Kettlemans could reveal Jimmy’s involvement, and that is the fuel for the emotion we see on Jimmy’s face, expertly portrayed by Bob Odenkirk yet again, as he consistently proves to be magnificent and charismatic in the role.
It was also a subtle and effective move to have Jimmy go back to the office which he offered to Kim. It showed his frustration when he kicked the door that again, Kim hasn’t given much back to him, he has done the hard yards and risked breaking the law, for what? To help Kim who doesn’t seem to have her heart fully given over to Jimmy? It’s soul wrenching for Jimmy, but I think he may be coming to terms now with the fact that helping Kim will soon backfire because he was so close to becoming embroiled in the Kettleman case.
I’ve got to say though, for all the clever and nuanced writing, it’s Odenkirk’s performance that gives Jimmy his emotional depth. The final scene in the office opened up the softer, more tragic side we haven’t seen from Jimmy. Odenkirk simply keeps getting better. Plus, Julie Ann Emery and Jeremy Shamos as the Kettleman’s have great chemistry; their performance really flows onscreen. It feels like they’ve walked straight out of a Coen brothers’ movie with their offbeat and mousey presence.
We saw Mike’s tragic side last episode, and now we’ve seen Jimmy’s, but what I wonder about the most is how Jimmy now becomes the self-centred, confident, sleazy Saul Goodman. Something bad must happen to give him the realisation that helping other people i.e. Kim and Chuck isn’t the way to go. We’re beginning to see an overall character arc which I didn’t think could be possible in a largely comedic role in the days of Breaking Bad, but congratulations to Odenkirk and the creators.
So a confident and eye opening episode overall; it really lifted the lid on other aspects of Jimmy, and I for one can’t wait to see how all these dangling plot threads e.g. Kim and Jimmy’s friendship/relationship, Nacho, the Kettlemans, Chuck, and Howard Hamlin all tie together.
One last note, did anyone else notice the guy in the toilet scene when Jimmy was on the phone to Kim in the diner? The guy looked a splitting image of one of the men who was on a ‘wanted’ poster in the very first shot of the episode in the police station. Is it an Easter egg or a foreshadowing?
In next weeks eighth episode – ‘Rico’ – Jimmy shows Chuck that he is willing to do anything to win a case.