Welcome back to our weekly breakdown of the minutia of Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s Better Call Saul. While Alan Sepinwall provides his always excellent coverage of the series (here’s his write-up of the most recent episode), typically here is where we look at some of the details viewers may have missed, callbacks to Breaking Bad, references to other shows or movies, and theories on the direction the series is heading.
This week, however, the episode, “Chicanery,” didn’t have the usual callbacks and Easter eggs aside from the surprise and welcome return of Huell Babineaux (played by a more fit Lavell Crawford), who we know will eventually become Saul Goodman’s personal bodyguard. This week’s episode instead spent most of its time inside of a legal hearing, specifically the disbarment hearing of Jimmy McGill, a courtroom proceeding that excellently paid off the first four episodes of the season.
In fact, on the Better Call Saul Insider Podcast, Vince Gilligan described “Chicanery” as perhaps “the best episode we’ve ever had,” which is all the more impressive because this is not a legal drama and no one on the Better Call Saul writing staff has any legal experience. However, the episode’s writer, Gordon Smith, did consult with a relative who is a lawyer, and he also watched an actual disbarment hearing and used it as the framework for the episode.
The bigger inspiration for the episode, however, came from the 1954 film The Caine Mutiny directed by Edward Dmytryk (who would actually end up being one of showrunner Peter Gould’s instructors while he was at USC) and starring Humphrey Bogart. The movie itself is based on a 1951 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel written by Herman Wouk.