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Better Call Saul Episode 9 Review – ‘Pimento’
The eight little words that could change Jimmy McGill’s life forever: “You’re not a real lawyer … you’re slippin’ Jimmy.”
This ninth episode of Better Call Saul was the first episode of the first season that had a sense of dread, a sense of a game changer on the horizon and boy did it pay off. It wasn’t full of life or death stakes or big and explosive set pieces; it was the human drama, and the unveiling of Chuck’s real impact on Jimmy’s life that made me realize this show now knows where it is heading.
Being that all I or we can think of right now is that conniving backstabbing little weasel, Chuck, let’s start there. From the start of this week, I just felt like something big was going to transpire (mainly because Gilligan and Gould like to have the big events occur in the penultimate episode in the season), but what I thought was well, wide of the mark to say the least. I was thinking that maybe that Chuck, Jimmy and Howard Hamlin were finally going to join forces – put aside the hatred and stamp out the racketeering Sandpiper Crossing. It seemed Chuck and Jimmy were becoming quite a team last week. Chuck had seen a clear change in Jimmy after his sheer determination to take on Sandpiper Crossing by trying to assemble the mass of shredded paper, so I thought Chuck must believe that his brother is a changed man and that he’s willing to help him. But in true Gilligan and Gould fashion, they’ve turned the tables and landed a shock twist that is so unpredictable but sensible because now that I think of it they’ve been leaving clues of this Chuck reveal for quite some time.
The first two clues that come to mind were two flashbacks. One from when Jimmy was in prison, where Chuck seemed to view mullet Jimmy as a nuance and tarnish on his gleaming law career. Chuck looked at him like a criminal and the same could be said for when Jimmy passed Chuck his bar exam results in his office in the last episode. Chuck portrayed a false adulation that masked the inner urge to say “You’re not a real lawyer. You never will be.”
But he let it slide, making Hamlin do the dirty work. However, I was so caught up in hating Hamlin for his false manikin smile and his arrogance, like going into Jimmy’s celebratory party to stamp on his dreams, I forgot to think of Chuck as the chief instigator who put Jimmy’s law career into the shred bin. Again, it’s a testament to the skill of the writing team.
The writers have confidently and skilfully laid the groundwork for us to really feel for Jimmy. We have seen his struggles from dealing with a Mexican Cartel, living in squalid conditions, having his heart broken, searching for evidence in a dumpster, and to see him desperately want to be accepted as a professional and legitimate lawyer like Chuck. It has taken him out of the comedic relief role he was playing in Breaking Bad and made him into a relatable character whose sheer determination keeps getting shot down in flames.
All this groundwork earlier in the season that seemed fun but slightly unfocused now makes sense. It was to build up enough understanding on what makes Jimmy tick so when the big moment finally did arrive, it us harder than Mike’s neck slam. And it also leaves us with a few unanswered questions: Is Howard Hamlin not such a bad guy then? Was he simply a messenger for Chuck? And is this what Kim really wants?
Finally, I think we can see now why Hamlin hasn’t had much screentime because if we had too much back-story into the motivations of his character it could’ve given the twist away earlier. It makes sense as to why we heard so much about Hamlin being a d*****, but very rarely actually saw it. Perhaps his over the top plastic charm isn’t fake after all.
Plus, we now know where Kim – another one who has not had much screentime due to her foggy motivations – has her loyalties. When Hamlin called her to close the door near the end, she could have easily told Hamlin to ‘stick it where the sun don’t shine’ but that would have only happened if she actually views Jimmy as a real lawyer. Really, her loyalties are with someone else. Sadly, she closed the door and listened to Howard.
I never thought Better Call Saul could turn this dramatic and dark so quickly, the switch didn’t feel rushed or clunky though, it felt organic and logical. Again, the writing had to be on point to pull it off and it was, but the acting had to be on point as well, and boy did this excellent cast deliver, again.
I sound like I’ve copied and pasted this part of my reviews every week, but it’s true – the acting in this show is in another acre of field to other shows at the moment. And the ‘screen dominance’ is led by the main man, Bob Odenkirk. Odenkirk revealed yet another side to Jimmy like a dog that’s been abandoned on the side of the freeway and has been told he’s allergic to dog food. The depth of sadness in Odenkirk’s eyes would have had Tuco Salamanca reaching for a Kleenex. But such great lead acting has to have good players around him and Better Call Saul certainly does. Michael McKlean in particular stood out this episode, revealing the other side to Chuck’s beaver-like paranoid little world. He displayed Chuck’s anger with rawness that smacked of his belief that Chuck thinks he is right, that Jimmy is slippin’ Jimmy and always will be.
Kim Wexler, played by Rhea Seehorn, had little screentime but played her role in the field with precision and understated nuance.
Patrick Fabian also proved he can portray anger with realism, breaking out of his manic smarminess to deliver Hamlin’s fiery side which I’m sure we are going to get more of very soon!
With all these dramatic performances there had to be some lightness in there too, I mean the writers always mix the two so well together and for the first time a little cameo appearance proved to be the most memorable comedic turn, and it came from Steven Ogg, who some might know as the meth peddling psychopath, Trevor Phillips, from the video game, Grand Theft Auto V. Ogg may sadly not appear again, but his screen presence – perhaps playing off the back of his reputation for on-edge characters, juxtaposed Mike’s calm and dry nature that resulted in a brilliant exchange of words and gun switching. More than anything though, it highlighted that Mike still is the go to fixer and all round cool headed guy.
Also, a perhaps subtler comedic role was played to perfection by Mark Proksch as the nerdy drug dealer, Price. I liked the way he tried to talk to a bunch of career criminals like they were going on a family day out, with pack lunches and toilet breaks. And yes, that is K-Strass the ‘yo-yo guy’!
I’m not sure where Mike’s drug dealing story is going, maybe it’s heading for another Tuco altercation as Nacho is dealing behind his back, but I’ve got a slight feeling that that rather easy run-in with Nacho will have some kind of ripple in the finale, perhaps carrying the ripple as far as Jimmy, leaving Jimmy right back where he started the season: bargaining with Mexicans.
For now though, this episode gave Jimmy the kick onto the path we knew he would eventually fall on. Maybe Chuck did have a point, a lot of law firms are obsessed by squeaky clean pasts and Chuck probably did have to sacrifice a lot to look out for Jimmy in his slippin’ Jimmy days and it probably cost him some respect because of it. It is a dilemma that both leaves both characters right, in their own right. Again I must praise the ability of the show’s makers to not have any character sit in the black or white, everyone is morally grey and just like life, everyone has a past and character flaws.
It really can’t be long now until the transformation from do-gooder Jimmy McGill to Saul Goodman.
So get ready for the big old finale next week, titled ‘Marco’ where Jimmy seizes an opportunity to reconnect with an old friend and Chuck adjusts to a new way of life.
On a side note: did anyone notice the bearded man (aka ‘Man Mountain’) who ran away from Mike in the parking lot, was the same guy who was on the wanted poster and in the bathroom in the diner when Jimmy phoned Kim about the Kettlemans in episode 7?