A review of tonight's Better Call Saul coming up just as soon as I'm cashier at the Hinky Dinky…
“There's no point in me doing this if I can't be myself.” -Jimmy
Mike's half-measures speech from the Breaking Bad episode of the same name has hung over a lot of this Saul season, and not just because Mike himself has been suffering no end of headaches over his decision to opt for a half-measure over simply killing Tuco. It's because both Jimmy and Kim have spent much of this season, and “Inflatable” in particular, struggling to pull off half-measures when it comes to their careers and their relationship.
Jimmy tried with Davis and Main, sort of. As Kim noted a few episodes back, he never really committed to the job, which we know he only took as an excuse to be near her(*). But he made an effort at times, and even mostly swallowed his pride to endure being bossed around by Erin. But the episode's opening flashback – with a young Jimmy trying hard to talk his father out of falling for a scam artist before pocketing money from the till himself out of disgust with his old man's gullibility(**) – is a reminder that even when Jimmy really wants to do the right thing, especially for the people he cares about, it's almost impossible for him to avoid cheating along the way.
(*) The first season finale didn't even show him taking the meeting, and jumped to him seemingly embracing his inner Saul Goodman. Given that, given that Jimmy was never really into the new job, and given that he's right back where he started from – give or take a signing bonus and his Cocobolo desk – a cynic might look at this stretch of episodes as a way for the show to delay the inevitable. But that's really the entire point of the whole series – Jimmy alternately listening to the angel and devil on his shoulder, trying his best to defy his fundamental nature and the destiny we know he has to embrace eventually – and we know that this creative team is all about charting every step of a particular journey, even if the trip can be slow and occasionally travel in circles. If they had just jumped to this point in the season premiere, none of it would have felt as rich or as earned.
(**) For those of you who were convinced Chuck was embellishing the story of their father's death in order to make Jimmy look bad, did the flashback change your opinion at all?
Even when he knows he needs to leave Davis and Main, he can't do it the honest way or risk losing his bonus. So he finally – in a hilarious, raucous montage (another gem by editor Kelley Dixon, scored to “Scorpio” by Dennis Coffey) – figures out a way to get fired without giving back any of the money he's already given, simply by annoying the hell out of everyone at Davis and Main while feigning innocence at every turn. (It's a nice touch that Clifford Davis is completely aware of what Jimmy is doing, but gives in anyway because it's easier than fighting a man well-equipped with loud suits and crazy stunts to wage a sustained campaign of obnoxiousness.)
With Davis and Main out of the picture, he again tries to talk Kim into going into business with him. She doesn't understand why they can't just be a couple, not fully appreciating how much he's driven professionally to be closer to the people he cares about: first Chuck, now her. He successfully argues that Kim going over to Schewikart would be a lateral move, putting a bug in her head so that she has a Freudian slip and calls Rich “Howard” by mistake at the end of an otherwise successful meeting. She knows Jimmy well enough to know that actually partnering up with him would be too big a risk to take at this stage of her career, but her idea to work side-by-side, but not together – separate firms sharing the same office – feels like just one more half-measure that will end up causing everyone further aggravation along the way.
Some other thoughts:
* With Kim more or less promoted to co-lead at the moment, Mike for the moment is back on the periphery of things, feeling disgusted with himself for lying to the cops about Tuco's gun, wanting as little as possible to do with Jimmy, and still keeping an eye on Hector's crew, just in case.
* A lot of you have been wondering about Kim's Kansas City Royals nightshirt, since the Royals were one of baseball's most irrelevant franchises at the time this series takes place. Here it gets explained as Kim having grown up along the Nebraska/Kansas border, which puts her in the rough vicinity of both the Royals themselves and their minor league affiliate in Omaha.
* Speaking of wardrobe, note that when Jimmy goes to visit Kim at HHM, he's wearing one of his more subdued and classy suits, rather than one of the loud ones inspired by the inflatable dancing man he passes on the drive to work. He may eventually make those outfits his signature as Saul Goodman, but for now, they're just a tool to get himself out of the Davis and Main job.
* If I'm recalling the details of last season correctly, Jimmy was given a percentage of the eventual Sandpiper money even before the Davis and Main job came into being, so he should still be in line for a windfall down the road. (Not that it matters much to his overall journey, since we know he just badly wants to be his own man, regardless of the cash on hand.) But I wonder if this is the last we see of Sandpiper and/or Davis and Main. Be a shame to not find an excuse for Clifford and Chuck to have a jam session at some point.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com