[Review] - Better Call Saul, Season 1 Episode 7, "Bingo"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
After last week's sojourn into Mike's past, this week returned to the continuing grief of Jimmy McGill. More than any episode this season, this episode held onto the law aspect of this lawyering show, while still managing to avoid falling into the trap of being a procedural. It also felt the most like it's own thing of any episode of the series so far. Saul will never escape the shadow of Breaking Bad, but in the first six episodes it has done a remarkable job establishing it's own identity. This episode, despite being absolutely dependent on the previous six episodes in terms of content, somehow felt different. Like we were getting our first real look at what this series will be.

Although, it is only fair to continue to point out that this series is essentially a wonderfully written, incredibly acted, amazingly plotted, produced and executed television adaptation of the Price Is Right game where the yodeler climbs, then plummets to his doom. Jimmy is pulling himself up from nothing, and for every success, a failure set him back. Yet with each failure, he seems to become more resilient, more willing to pull that much harder to reach the top. Viewed in a vacuum, this would be engaging stuff. Viewed knowing how it all turns out for him, it is memorizing.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that see the beginnings of a beautiful friendship.

This episode, despite once again falling on the shoulders of Odenkirk to carry (and hot damn is he proving himself a worth protagonist successor to Bryan Cranston), this episode was really about the women in his life. The episode focused on his relationships with Kim and with Mrs. Kettlemen, two women with vastly different dispositions, but not entirely different goals. And how Jimmy has to deal with how those dispositions effect him.

Kim is an honest lawyer. If Saul Goodman started life as the cliched scummy lawyer, willing to bend the law as he sees fit in order to make certain his criminal clients get off, this series is intent on offering a more valiant perspective on a ridiculed and villainous profession. And Kim personifies the ideal lawyer. Not desperate and a little edgy, like Jimmy. And not caught up in their own success, like Hamlin. Kim is the balance between someone who loves and respects the law, genuinely tries for the best for her clients, and is a good person. The deal she managed to work for Mr. Kettlemen wasn't because she thought he was guilty and got him what he deserved, it was legitimately the best deal she could get for him in the face of his guilt. It served the law, the client, and the wronged party. It was a fair deal.

She's also the sort of person who is willing to work for her own success. Unlike Jimmy, and certainly unlike the Kettlemens, Kim isn't content with the quick and easy path. She has a two year plan, which she is fit to pave with honest labour and earned success. Jimmy offers her a partnership in his fledgling firm. She could have taken it, been a founding partner, and helped to build an eldercare legal empire in the American southwest. It likely would have fulfilled her personally as well, putting her in close proximity to Jimmy, who she clearly has a thing for, despite neither seemingly willing to admit it or act on it. Instead, she chooses to remain on the path she's established, to make certain when she is rewarded, it is justly deserved. Even when she is unfairly penalized for actions beyond her control, and bemoans the stupidity of her clients and the near impossibility of the fruition of her dreams, she still sticks with it. She's willing to put in the time.

The Kettlemens, specifically Mrs. Kettlemen, is different. They too want to big reward. they want the pay off, and they want it now. Mrs. Kettlemen is a manipulative "cuckoo brain" according to Jimmy, despite her actions being really no different from Slippy Jimmy's. She was just worse at pulling it off. She thought she was owed something, so she took it, then poorly pretended she hadn't. She claimed that it was for her family, though the fact that she was utterly unwilling to consider it proves that she was thinking really of herself, and her deserved payoff. It wasn't about the work her husband put it, it was about the work she had put into her husband. She felt she was entitled, and was unwilling to consider any other possible outcome that did not result in her getting her way completely. Jimmy had to threaten her husband, herself and her children before she gave up. And it was a complete collapse when she did. She went from frenzied badger to tranquilized chipmunk. Once her entitlement was taken away, she had no foundation left to support herself.

Jimmy and Hamlin exist in the space between these extremes. Jimmy is beginning to see the value (not monetary, obviously) of doing the right thing, but is frustrated that the positive effects aren't more immediate. His struggle is between doing things quick or doing things right, with the ultimate goal of being successful. Hamlin, because he's already achieved the success, needs to maintain that, and views any failure, no matter how small, as tantamount to a complete loss. Hamlin also needs to preserve the appearance of being beyond reproach, while Jimmy has to contend with the sigma of being the poster child for reproach. Then there is Chuck, who it is possible that the internal struggle between these two concepts, the Jimmy way and the Hamlin way, is what broke his brain. At least, until the series spells it out, that the theory I'm going to be operating under.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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