Jimmy gets snookered, Mike gets glock-blocked, and Chuck gets poked, prodded, and downright devious! All this and so much more unfolds in Season Two’s oh-so-grand finale.
Better Call Saul, Season 2, Episode 10, “Klick”
Walter White once told a classroom full of disinterested tenth graders that chemistry is the study of “transformation!” and so, too, was the story of Breaking Bad, pitched famously to television viewers as “one man’s journey from Mr. Chips to Scarface.” Better Call Saul, as I initially saw it, would be cut from a similar cloth, narrating the five-year metamorphosis of fresh-faced defense attorney Jimmy McGill into fully jaded criminal criminal lawyer Saul Goodman. Where BB, though, depicted its protagonist’s transition in a straight line, BCS has written the evolution of Jimmy in a continuous zigzag. To our delight, Jimmy’s morph into Saul has not been a mirror to Walt’s increasingly dark changeling story. Jimmy, we now know, started out shady, tried to play it straight-arrowed and all, then spent Season Two fighting and eventually accepting the kind of lawyer he is truly meant to be.
Ultimately, Season Two revealed that Better Call Saul isn’t so much about change as it is about actualization and self-acceptance. Slippin’ Jimmy and Saul have always been at the core of who Jimmy McGill is (a wolf). After trying to fit in and fly right in a world inhabited by the likes of Chuck, Howard, and Clark Swinefark, he comes to terms with the fact that he is a “colorful” lawyer, a lawyer who makes awesomely sleazy and cheesy TV commercials, and a lawyer who twists the judicial system into a masterfully plotted pretzel from which he builds and wins cases through the sheer velocity and propulsion of his personality.
Kim, too, discovered herself to be a square peg among the round-hole-loving cogs of the big law firms and sought the independence of self-shingle hanging. She also embraced the larcenous side of her personality allowing herself to enjoy the thrill, no matter how cheap, inherent in talking some smarmy guy out of a few hundred thousand bucks. Kim, like Jimmy, doesn’t change so much as she lets Wexler be Wexler.
Meanwhile, Mike was busy not becoming the harder, full-measure-taker from Breaking Bad but rather allowing that part of himself, already buried deep within his Officer Grandpa psyche, to unleash and do what needs to be done. He is still the guy who doesn’t pull the trigger, but we know that won’t last.
Even Chuck gets in on the “become yourself” action by going the hell ahead and finally rolling around in the dirt with Jimmy. His rather elaborate ruse enacted to ensnare Jimmy in a tape-recorded confession was perpetrated with the skill of an old-hat con man. This, combined with Chuck’s prodigiously accurate guesswork regarding Jimmy’s address switcheroo and easy, unrehearsed manipulation of old Hopalong Kevin from Mesa Verde, implies that Chuck clearly has more in common with his little brother than he could ever admit.
A daringly low-key finale, Klick is the perfect send-off, an episode fixated on familial tumult and betrayal, for a season that was all about its characters searching for and finding a place to call home.
Of mice and Mad Men
We finally get to see Jimmy’s finished advertising opus, and it is gloriously, unabashedly tasteless. The only thing better than seeing the commercial itself is seeing Jimmy (once again) watching Kim watch the spot, hoping like hell that she’s both impressed and entertained by his pandering razzle-dazzle. Kim’s genuine delight with the commercial underlines her affection for Jimmy’s true colors.
The lonesome death of Old Ma’ McGill
His tagline says it all: Gimme Jimmy. Everyone falls for him, and it’s been the thorn in Chuck’s paw his entire adult life.
This week brought us our second flashback revolving around the McGill family and revealed that in her final moments, dear old Mom called out twice for Jimmy despite the fact that he had ducked out of her deathbed room for a quick bite to eat while Chuck refused to leave her side. Always the determinedly dutiful Boy Scout, Chuck is glove-slapped time after time by people simply liking Jimmy better than he.
Their father favored Jimmy, refusing to believe Chuck’s assertion that Jimmy had been pilfering from the family business. Chuck’s wife, Rebecca, is won over by Jimmy’s Old Milwaukee charm despite Chuck having portrayed him as a classless boor. Howard chose to help Jimmy land his big gig with HHM even though he knew explicitly that Chuck didn’t want his younger sibling anywhere near a courtroom. Kim chose Jimmy after Chuck’s attempt to become a mentor and advocate for her at HHM, and even Ernesto, Chuck’s Guy Friday (or, at the very least, his Sancho Panza), lies to Chuck to protect his old lovable friend.
With each instance of someone choosing the Gimme Jimmy life, Chuck’s reservoir of bitterness and hatred grows deeper. The irony is that Jimmy really is a good brother to Chuck. Most of Jimmy’s decisions regarding Chuck are motivated by love and big-brother-worship, where Chuck is driven by resentment, jealousy, and malice. Jimmy takes care of Chuck, never accuses him of manufacturing his illness or putting Jimmy out, and protects him from all manner of doctors, cops, and nosy neighbors.
Maybe it’s some kind of karmic justice that Jimmy is repaid for his kindness with a con. Whatever it is, the relationship between Chuck and Jimmy is one of the most realistically complex sibling dynamics ever cast on the small screen. They love and hate each other, they save and destroy one another, they hold together while constantly pushing each other away. So, basically, family.
I’m anxious to see where every story line goes next season, but I’m particularly curious to witness what will develop between the two brothers as Chuck wields the weight of Jimmy’s Linda Tripped confession. So far, he has put himself through hell and harm’s way trying to prove to the world that Jimmy is a fraud, but I have a feeling Chuck may relish the power of blackmail to break his brother down before he finally throws Jimmy to the wolves.
(And to the writers’ and Michael McKean’s credit, even on a show populated with the sinister likes of Hector, Tuco, and the Cousins Salamanca, Chuck still comes off as the most unlikable and villainous rogue of the bunch.)
The Post-It chase
While Jimmy’s story ends on a cliffhanger whose resolution could find him being prosecuted for fraud and his relationship with his brother irreparably corroded, Mike’s Season Two story ends on a cliffhanger: the promise of bringing him together with one of the most revered and reviled characters from the Breaking Bad universe. When Mike (once again) can’t pull the trigger (on Hector, Nacho, or the Cousins), he is drawn away from his moral dilemma by a honking horn and a note on his car–a simple “DON’T” that could be the handy work of any number of peeping interlopers, but that is likely the very neat and organized handwriting of a man Mike will come to know and fight for in the very near future.
Stickin’ together is what good mailroom folk do
A couple weeks back I referred to Ernesto as a “poor man’s Omar,” and while I still believe that to be a little true (we’re all a little “poor man’s Omar,” honestly), Ernie did go up a notch this week when he lied to save his old mailroom buddy from Chuck’s evil plans, proving the old adage that mailroom folk are the greatest folk in the world. Like we Better Call Saul fans didn’t know that already.