The second season of Better Call Saul was a terrific slice of television. It opened with a step back, or at least sideways, that slowed down Jimmy McGill’s transition to Saul Goodman. To compensate for that slowdown, it sent Mike on his own journey, one that became more of the true Breaking Bad prequel, with a more familiar tone and appearances by old favorites. The result of both decisions was that the show kind of became two shows, which is the type of thing that would probably tear a lesser series apart. But somehow, even with the two threads almost never crossing all season, it worked. Really well. It’s a little incredible when you think about it.
Heading into the season finale, there were two major questions. One: What would happen with Chuck and Jimmy at the copy shop after Chuck hit his head? Two: What would happen in Mike’s recently embarked upon one-man war against Hector Salamanca? And we got answers to both, and both of those answers led to new, even more exciting questions. But we’ll get to those in a bit.
Chuck survived his fall with only a laceration and the lingering effects of a panic attack, which was good. And Jimmy ran into the shop to help him, which was better, because I like liking Jimmy, and that would have been hard to keep doing if he let his brother bleed out on the floor of a copy shop to cover his own tail. And Jimmy’s help didn’t end there, as he stayed with Chuck in the hospital throughout the whole ordeal, self-induced catatonia and all. Whether it was guilt or genuine concern, or some combination of the two, Jimmy came off looking like the good brother in the episode, even though a substantial part of the blame for what happened falls on his shoulders.
(I’m a little uncomfortable saying Chuck’s injury was “Jimmy’s fault” even though Jimmy’s forgery and bribery and lying were the most obvious cause, only because the McGill brothers have been going at it in one way or another all season, and to some degree this was just the culmination of all of it.)
Another thing that became abundantly clear is that Chuck’s problems with Jimmy stem from a bone-deep feeling of jealousy. I’ve defended Chuck a few times during this season for the actions he’s taken to try to prevent Jimmy from succeeding, and my defense was always based on Chuck being right in the moment, and knowing that future events will prove him right even more. Jimmy with a law degree is like a chimp with a machine gun. That’s just a fact. But what we saw last night, especially through the flashback to their mother’s death bed, is that deep, ugly jealousy. Chuck’s done everything “right.” He’s always been the good one. And yet people seem to love Jimmy more. It’s almost enough to make someone go a little mad.
Which brings us to the scene at the end, in which Chuck out-Jimmys Jimmy by guilting him into confessing while a recorder runs under a layer of space blankets. We don’t know at this point whether Chuck’s retirement and crazed aluminum wallpapering were all part of his ruse or if they and the recording are symptoms of the same madness, but we do know that Chuck now has Jimmy on tape confessing to a felony.
The interesting thing about that recording, however, is that it won’t result in Jimmy going to jail or getting disbarred, because if it did there would be no Saul Goodman. This raises the obvious question, “So, uh, what happens with it all then?” And the answer is… I don’t know! But if I were a betting man and could find a casino that would take odds on this sort of thing, I might throw $20 on “Chuck uses the tape as blackmail and demands that Jimmy stop tarnishing his and the family’s legacy by using the last name McGill, leading to the switcheroo to Saul Goodman.” As good a bet as any.
Let’s really think about that sniper scene with Mike for a second.
- It was seven minutes long, with no dialogue beyond muffled screams of “No!”
- We knew he wasn’t going to kill Hector because we saw Hector in Breaking Bad.
- We also knew he wasn’t going to kill The Cousins.
- We also knew no one was going to kill him.
- Despite Chekhov’s famous storytelling rule about not showing a gun in act one unless you plan on firing it, Mike spent the entire episode teasing us with the rifle before putting it away un-fired.
And yet, despite very little action and the audience knowing most of the possible results, it was still stressful as all hell. Please consider this your periodic reminder that Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan — the latter of whom directed the episode — know what they’re doing a little bit.
Also, about the note on the car: Gould and Gilligan went on Talking Saul after the finale and more or less confirmed the fan theory about the hidden “Fring’s back” in this season’s episode titles. So yes, Gus Fring — or, more likely, someone working for him — delivered that message to Mike via note card and car horn. What we don’t know yet is how Gus found out Mike’s plan. The only person that knew, I think, was Lawson The Gun Dealer (full name), so… Did Lawson spill the beans? Or has Gus been watching Mike for a while? I suppose this is what season three is for.
Odds and ends:
– Hey, it’s Jimmy’s commercial! And it’s very Saul-esque, right down to the rhyming “Gimme Jimmy” slogan. We are getting closer and closer to him laundering money through laser tag facilities. I’m excited.
– That shot of Chuck getting worked on in the ER was hard to watch. Seeing someone in pain like that is hard enough, but the bright lights and upside-down perspective added something disorienting to it that made it really unsettling. The scene did exactly what it set out to do, which was give me the heebie-jeebies.
– Not a lot of Kim this week, which was unfortunate, but mostly necessary given all the other things that needed to happen. Do please note, however, the face she made when Jimmy asked her to get his clients coffee, as though she were his underling. Rhea Seehorn does that face as well as anyone on television.
– Poor Ernie. Let’s just let him go back to the mail room. (Although I suspect that won’t be a problem now that Chuck knows he lied about calling Jimmy.)
All in all, a spectacular season of television that finished really, really strong, providing resolution while also leaving at least two important questions open. This is how you do cliffhangers. Now please hurry back with the answers.