The Transformation is Complete
I don’t normally review individual episodes in TV history, but last night’s episode of Better Call Saul may have been the most significant episode in the series history. This is where Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) stopped even the pretense with his nearest and dearest that he was ever going to be a good man and officially became, well, Goodman.
For the past three episodes, Kim has been doing everything within her conscience to stop an old man from being evicted from his home, so that Mesa Verde, the major client that has kept her going financially for the past three years, can build a call center. In a desperate move, she asked Jimmy to step in and start represented the victim.
In a sense, Kim knew what she was getting into: she’s had front-row center to Jimmy’s increasingly extensive showmanship and she was counting on this very behavior to call the dogs off. But in trying to hold to her ethics, she didn’t count on Mesa Verde CEO Kevin (an exceptional Rex Linn) becoming so determined on winning that he dug in and kept Kim on rather than let her recuse herself and refusing to surrender. It can be said that Jimmy gave her multiple chances to get out — most notably, when the PI he hired did some shady things, and she remained firm. But Kim only was willing to give up when her own job was placed in jeopardy.
The problem is, Jimmy has now embraced Saul, and that is winning out over anything else. After spending an immense amount of time on producing a series of commercials, Kim came to him and basically called the operation off. Jimmy seemed like he was going to go through with it, but then after committing a truly horrendous (if hysterical) prank on long time nemesis Howard, he decided to basically do what we know Saul Goodman does. The big difference was, this time Kim didn’t know it was coming. And when his entire performance began, you felt equal amounts hilarity and genuine foreboding as Kim finally realized just how far gone the man she loved is.
And the true tragedy of this series is that Jimmy will never get it. In a scene so bravura I guarantee you it will be part of the FYC envelopes this year, Kim finally exploded on Jimmy, explaining to him just how horrible he was and that it was truly impossible for her to be with him anymore. But what made it resonate was the teaser where we saw a teenage Kim being belatedly picked up by her boozing mom from her cello recital, and determinedly walking home. Then we heard those words from her mom: ‘You never listen, Kim.”
And now we see the tragedy of Kim as well. Because this is the same warning flares that Skyler got when she elected not only to stay with Walt but start laundering his money. And Kim clearly sees those flares … but the last words out of her mouth in the episode are: “Or we get married.” I love watching everything Rhea Seehorn does (if she doesn’t get an Emmy nod this year, she really should call Saul), but this made my heart break. Kim Wexler doesn’t seem to be in Saul’s life during Breaking Bad (then again, we never saw him at home) but she definitely didn’t go with to Omaha. Jimmy and Kim are true soulmates, which is their tragedy. If Jimmy had been willing to listen to Kim, maybe he would’ve been a better man.
But earlier this season, we knew Jimmy’s fate was sealed. In the ongoing backstory of the feud between the Salmanaca clan and Gus Fring, he was enlisted by Lalo to help get one of his dealers as a CI to work against Gus. Jimmy did everything in his power to get out of it, but Lalo just told him ‘You’ll find the time’. We still don’t know how his loyalties will shift from Lalo to Gus (my guess is Mike will play a critical role), but we know once he does, it’s essentially all over him. He’s on the direct path that will lead him to Walter White and doom him from being the hero of his own story to another victim of Heisenberg.
What has made Better Call Saul a true masterpiece that I’m willing to bet not even the most loyal Breaking Bad fans could’ve anticipated it would be is that it has revealed the true tragedy of so many of the stories behind the characters we thought we knew. Jimmy McGill could have been a good lawyer, maybe even a good person. But the man who should’ve loved him the most never believed in him, and because of that the woman who loved him because of his imperfections could not save him.