[Review] - Better Call Saul, Season 1 Episodes 8 And 9, "RICO" And "Pimento"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
I've went back, because of Saul, and started rewatching Breaking Bad. I haven't watched the series all the way through since it aired, and wanted to refresh myself on where the characters we're watching now are headed, so when the timelines sync up, nothing will seem that odd. Mike is clearly on the right path, but let us pause a moment to take note of how far away from Saul Jimmy currently is. Saul, when he is introduced, is well in it. He has embraced his criminal nature. In fact, there is every chance that Walter White would never have become what he did if he hadn't been prodded into action by an overly zealous Saul, who immediately branded himself the Tom Hagen of the Heisenberg operation.

Jimmy, by comparison, is a good guy. He's motivated. And, he's a good lawyer. This season has shown that he can be a little unscrupulous, but he has acted in equal parts selfless and selfishly. He wants money, but more so out of survival than greed. He wants fame, but in a perverted way, he wants to earn it. And really, when it all boils down to it, he wants to impress his big brother. I said when the show started, for Jimmy to become Saul, he would need to be stripped of those positive and humanizing influences that surround him. Well, with only one episode left this season, the stripping has begun.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that are like chimps with a machine gun.

Episode 8 was really a showcase for how good a lawyer Jimmy is. That really needed to be established, since the top end of the series was about establishing who he was, and his past. For us to believe that Saul Goodman could one day be the most successful lawyer in ABQ, we really did need to see it. And Throughout RICO, he proved his worth. He found the case, actually had to recognize and discover the illegality occurring, and built it up. He put in the man hours, and proved to himself and Chuck that he had what it took to do the job right. The problem was, as we heartbreakingly discovered in episode 9, was that it doesn't matter how good he does, he'll never be good enough for Chuck. The bookends of the cold open of 8 and the final scene of 9 were beautifully matched. The joy of Jimmy having passed the bar, practically dancing as he told his brother, to practically a murder scene as Chuck lays out his prejudices and declares that Jimmy will never be a real lawyer.

Hamlin, all this season, has been built up as this retched villain, the true obstacle to Jimmy's success. So, discovering that Hamlin is really nothing more than a lap dog to Chuck was startling. What power does Chuck have over this firm, by what iron fist does he rule that his brief return is enough to convince the entire building to shut down and applaud him? There is more to Chuck that we have not yet been made privy to, that has been shrouded by his illness and the sympathy that it garnered from us. But he isn't a broken, kindly brother. He's a mad king, sitting on his throne, tossing favours at the jester as he dances. I think episode 9 made clear that Chuck will be the series antagonist moving forward, and as Jimmy slips into Saul, it'll be Chuck's continued disrespect that convinces him that he might as well live up to the low expectations and opinion his brother has for him.

Most prequels don't work, because most writers aren't interested enough in developing characters in a way that makes them interesting. Most prequels find characters exactly as they were at the beginning of the original, and coast through the prequel. Better Call Saul has avoided that by actually starting Jimmy off somewhere else, and allowing him to grow and develop into the Saul we already know and love. And this is how we know that the people behind the scenes are better at their jobs then most. We all loved Saul in Breaking Bad. He was a highlight of the series, otherwise he wouldn't have a spinoff. And now we love Jimmy, because in 9 episodes they've covered the same emotional distance that some series take two or three years to accomplish. But now we're in a position where we don't want Jimmy to become Saul. Because Jimmy is a good man, a man with morals and friends and a heart that is breaking. And Saul is none of those things. Saul is a immoral monster, who begs, cheats and steals in order to serve only himself. I've said before, Better Call Saul could stand to be a greater tragedy than Breaking Bad ever was.

Mike, on the other hand, has firmly been established as the co-protagonist, rather than the sidekick. And unlike Jimmy, he really is kind of exactly where he was when first introduced in the season two finale of Breaking Bad. Except that works, because the point of Mike is that he is a constant. He's unflinching. He's had his hard knocks already. His soul has been put through the fire, and he's come out calloused and crisp. His role is to provide continuity. When we first met him, he was Saul's go-to fixer and PI. This season has been about getting him out of the booth and onto the street. In these episodes, he begins to embrace that. "Let me know what you've got, and I'll let you know what I'm willing to do," he tells the vet, and we know that eventually he's willing to do a lot. For now though, he's a information man. He knows things, and acts accordingly. Unlike Walter or Jimmy, he doesn't react. He just acts.

I expect, as the series develops, that they'll journey together down the rabbit hole of New Mexico crime, rather than one leading the other. As Jimmy becomes Saul, as he becomes more desperate for work and more willing to bend the rules and eventually breaking them, he'll come to rely more on Mike's experience and familiarity with that culture. Mike, in turn, will come to rely more on Jimmy getting him jobs. Their mutual success will be entirely symbiotic. And the finale, I fully expect, will see them take those first few cautious steps in that direction. However, I do not expect Jimmy to take on the name Saul until closer to the end of season two. Jimmy is shaken, but he still has Kim to keep him honest. We'll see how long she lasts in his new world view.

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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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