My Dinner with Jimmy
This week’s episode focuses on the long suffering Kim Wexler as the series delves into the harsh reality of what it means to be a Friend of Jimmy. Also, we finally get a little McGill Family backstory (or do we?), Jimmy gets a new Idiotsitter, and Mike gets an unexpected visit from a man well known for ringing bells that can’t be unrung. All this and more happens in…
Better Call Saul, Season 2, Episode 5, “Rebecca”
Mike’s half-measure already comes back to haunt him when Hector Salamanca, sometime before his Breaking Bad incarnation as a stroked out, wheelchair-bound, bell banging, Ouija board playing badass, gives Mike a chance to pull Tuco’s feet from the fire that last week’s manipulated altercation landed him in. Mike, who has used the money earned from said incident to move his daughter-in-law and granddaughter into less haunted digs, knows right away that he’s in some deep, cartel-level fried chicken batter.
Jimmy, meanwhile, is saddled with a watchdogging partner at Davis & Main who is intent on keeping his moral compass at 10 and 2. Kim tries to pull herself out of Doc Review Hell over at HHM through some good old fashioned, rule-abiding leg work. In the end, Kim learns that it’s gonna take a whole lot more than bringing in a quarter-million dollar client to earn her way back into Howard’s good graces, and Jimmy, after a chance men’s room encounter with an old friend (not as sordid as it sounds), may finally be seeing the error of compulsively pissing away the greatest job he may ever have. Then again…maybe not. What is interesting, though, is that his big revelatory scene in the episode occurs in a boys only, mano y mano kind of locale, since the majority of this episode focuses so intensely on…
It’s telling that this week’s outing is named for a character who only appears in the pre-titles teaser but whose very presence speaks volumes of the discord that lies festering and rotting between the Brothers McGill. Rebecca is Chuck’s wife. Or, at least she was Chuck’s wife around the time Jimmy came out to ABQ to start a new life in the HHM mailroom under Chuck’s reluctant guidance. She’s a violinist (the piece Chuck was playing on piano a few weeks back, by the way, was the piano half of a duet meant for keyboard and strings. Missing the more whimsical violin melody in the arrangement leaves the piano sounding mopey and melancholy. I’m guessing that Chuck was playing something he and Rebecca once played as partners, now a metaphor for his frail, half-man presence without her. You may recall, too, that Chuck couldn’t quite nail the emotionally driven dominant chords in the piece; he kept screwing it up at the moment the song is supposed to go from darkly comic to satisfied and triumphant.). Rebecca’s quick shine to Jimmy (especially as that liking takes shape over Jimmy’s retelling of cheap lawyer jokes) irks Chuck to no end. The slow crumble in his expression when she inadvertently rejects Chuck’s attempt to be a part of the lightness says everything about the deep reservoirs of ill feelings that swirl around in his angry heart.
We also meet Erin, Jimmy’s new handler at D&M. In many ways, Erin is Anna Kendrick (tightly wound and determinedly…determined yet admirable in her wealth of pure pluck!), but in other ways, Erin is the devil (her sycophantic willingness to whip Jimmy into Davis & Main shape, her insistent passion for double spaced legal briefs, her cold denial of a Beanie Baby to a hard working civil servant). In either case, she’s a fascinatingly intense character that I hope to see more of. In fact, I kind of see her and Omar (how seriously charming is Omar, by the way?) becoming part of a team that goes along with Jimmy to his next professional endeavor. They each already have an inexplicable loyalty to him. Maybe they’re just company toadies, but Erin’s pronounced determination to keep Jimmy on the right path and out of trouble seemed unexpectedly genuine to me. I believed her!
The appearance of Hector Salamanca will garner all the headline attention in this episode, but he is actually one of two Breaking Bad characters to make an appearance. The other, a woman, is the coffee shop waitress who serves Mike and Hector their joe. She once busted the chops of one Lydia Rodart-Quail as she brought Mike coffee and served everybody’s favorite sociopathic Madrigal executive a glass of warm water. Sans Stevia.
The true star of the hour, however, is Kim. Still doing time in the cornfields at HHM, Kim rejects an overture from Jimmy to bail her out with yet another grandiose scheme and is instead determined to work her contacts and land a big client for the firm. After doing so, though, she learns that it’s gonna take patience and plenty of money to do it right (wait, did I just start singing a Beatles song?). Clearly (I’ll bet Erin would scold me for using that word too much) Howard has feelings for Kim (not romantic, in my opinion, more like those of a mentor for his or her pupil) and is hurt more deeply than she’d anticipated by her seeming betrayal.
The scenes of Kim turning a sunny stairwell into an ersatz corner office and Mary Tyler Mooring her way through a Post-it note Roladex is a long and labored montage, something rare for series TV, but like most things Gilligan-Gould, it’s brilliantly rendered (set to a great song choice) and effectively puts the viewer right smack inside Kim’s diligence and determination to dig her way out on her own steam. She can do so, particularly, without the aid of Jimmy’s bombastic “sue your boss, you’re entitled to compensation!” plan. “You don’t save me. I save me.” Blam.
And how wonderful were Rhea Seehorn (Kim), Jessie Ennis (Erin), and the underrated Ann Cusack ( yeah, she’s one of those Cusacks) in her brief appearance as the titular femme? These are intensely talented actresses given wonderfully meaty and murky material, courtesy of writer Ann Cherkis.
This Week’s Best Bits
The Royal Tenen-McGills
Boy, that Chuck has some issues, huh? I mean, I guess we knew that from season 1, but to his litany of hangups, we can also add that he is a determinedly fussy classist who finds divergence insufferable (like that guy who created the Matrix). He is immediately all for ratting out and exorcising a troublemaking musician in his wife’s orchestral ensemble whereas she opts for a less Third Reich-y solution. And to top it all off, he’s a goddam mansplainer. If Jimmy hadn’t arrived early for dinner with a sixer of Old Style, Chuck would have totally bored the shit out of us and Rebecca with the long and detailed history of Carol Burnett’s ear t…gah. I can’t even type about him talking about it. It’s already making me want to slit my wrists with a cheese grater! But yeah, Chuck’s an even bigger dick than we thought.
Last week, I theorized that the eldest McGill is a pathological rule minder and that his obsession with order plays a large part in his bitter resentment of his carefree, anarchic, little brother. Between Rebecca’s opening flashback and the coda with Chuck and Kim, I believe the show is bearing that out. In an effort at playing mentor but mostly just to show a vulnerable and victimized Kim that Jimmy, the cause of all her current woes, is a troubled, ticking time bomb who can’t stop himself from taking every low road this side of the gutter and dragging everyone in his life down with him, Chuck tells her that their father was played by Tom Bosley from Happy Days and that he died of a broken heart when his sweet baby boy swindled the family business.
Now, I don’t know if that story’s true, but either way it’s finally a candid glimpse into the McGill family dynamic. Either dear old dad was the salt of the earth who naïvely held Jimmy as the apple of his eye (that’s a lot of food metaphors for one half-sentence, you’ll have to forgive me, I missed breakfast), or Chuck wants Kim to believe that (which, itself, may be a clue that Jimmy wasn’t necessarily the only black sheep in the house).
As you may know from these recaps, I’ve been pondering the McGill clan for some time, and my personal favorite theory is that Pop McGill was actually some kind of swindler, more akin to Royal Tenenbaum than Howard Cunningham, and that Jimmy takes after a man who more than likely drove Chuck so far in the opposite direction that he became a man who obsesses over doing the right, safe thing.
Howard’s a great character, and I like him. There, I said it.
The Wages of Cinematography
Can we take a moment and just, like, admire the fact that Better Call Saul is the best looking show on television? Thanks in large part to the cinematography of DP Arthur Albert, every episode is jam packed with lush, stunning visuals, beautiful long static shots (very rare for dramatic television where the norm is nearly constant camera movement and quickly paced edits), and the beautifully realized influences of Gregg Toland, Gordon Willis, and Terrence Malick. And, as noir and expressionist as the show’s appearance can be, it also manages to look like a comedy. No mean feat.
Gonna Drive Now
Saul singing the theme from Rocky after his brief encounter with a battered Mike in the courthouse parking lot. It’s funny ‘cause Mike’s from Philly. Not to be mansplaining you.
The Bell Tolls for Me!
The moment I heard the bell on the counter at the diner where Mike is having coffee, not to brag or anything, but I totally said to my TV, “Oh, shit. It’s Tio Time!” Okay, now that I see that in print, I um, I should not be bragging about that.