Kim officially quits HHM, we officially learn that the other H in HHM was Howard’s hippie-hating old man, and Jimmy and Chuck officially crank their sibling rivalry up to a whole Coyote/Roadrunner level. All these things and a few more happened in:
Better Call Saul, Season 2, Episode 8 – “Fifi”
This week’s episode is rich with character moments (and some out-of-character moments) as it examines the behavioral natures of its primary players. When Kim quits HHM, she makes a play to take the Mesa Verde account with her. Jimmy’s immediate suggestion is that she skirt the right way of doing that and ensure getting what she wants by stacking the deck. She, of course, insists on doing things her way (ie the non-sleazy way). In the end, Jimmy’s plan likely would have worked (Kim’s, sadly, did not), but she stayed true to herself and can start from scratch with a clear conscience. It’ll be interesting to see how she reacts when she eventually discovers that Jimmy has chosen to get back at Chuck (for his part in re-snagging Mesa Verde) by cos-playing a scene from Catch Me If You Can and perpetrating an act of vengeful sabotage. She will likely continue dating him but refuse to do him the honor of sharing monogram space on stationery.
The Best Bits
Now That’s A Dolly Shot
Vince Gilligan loves television, but what he loves even more is making television look like the movies. And he is exceptionally good at it.
This week’s episode featured a number of cinematic references (as usual), but the cold open, an uncut one-take homage to the similarly unbroken dolly shot that crosses the U.S.-Mexico border at the start of Orson Welles’ sweaty, dark Touch of Evil, was a particularly daring and devilish experiment. It also echoed the long master shots of Hitchcock’s Rope. And I don’t know if Vince Gilligan had anything to do that X-Files episode “Triangle” (I think Chris Carter wrote and directed that one), but they used that technique through the entire episode.
I particularly liked the overt Orson love because I have always seen a lot of Wellesian, Hitchcockian, and Kubrickian influence (all the Ians!) in the way Chuck’s house interiors are lit and shot. I love that this week the homage was out there and undeniable.
Speaking of making movies:
Plan 9 from the Albuquerque Suburbs
Jimmy channels Ed Wood by bluffing his way into Roswell and squeezing in a quick 30-second movie shoot of Bela Lugosi’s corpse pretending to be a war hero. As always, watching Jimmy play director is a hoot. His commitment to his crass, pandering artistic vision is a ceaselessly silly irony. The evolution of Saul continues.
After last week’s Jimmytastic Jimmy-centric tale of Jimmy (and a season that has generously spotlighted each character throughout), “Fifi” is a true ensemble episode that gives everyone the chance to show up and have a memorable moment before the story beat goes on. (It’s like one of those episodes of LOST where nine characters would all go trekking through the jungle together, as opposed to the other 98 percent of LOST episodes where, like, two or three characters would go trekking through the jungle.)
When he finds out Kim is venturing out on her own (and not just replacing him with similarly 80s-ish-ly handsome-ish Kirk Skynet), Howard goes all misty and lets a little tragic past fall out of his mouth. Patrick Fabian is always a delight as the strutting, Superman pose-loving Howard Hamlin, but here he gets to break that character for a brief moment, and the vulnerability he shows manages to instantly humanize a character who, up to this point, was best known for being the only man on TV to wear suits bluer than Pete Campbell’s.
Chuck, meanwhile, spends his segment of the episode indulging, of all things, his own inner Saul. After learning that Kim left HHM to work with Jimmy, Chuck pretends to not pretend to be crazy for a while; just long enough to play an angle and carnival-pitch his way to stealing back the Mesa Verde account. Even if Chuck hasn’t exactly, as Jimmy once requested, rolled around in the dirt with him, he has, like, taken his shoes and socks off and sort of walked gingerly through the dirt. How much Chuck reminds us of Jimmy in this moment is proof that there is some of each brother in the other, a point reinforced by the quick little heart-to-heart that the boys have near the end of Act Four.
The hour also spends time with Jimmy, Kim, Mike, and even Ernesto (the poor man’s Omar!). Each of them are given bits to enact that are subtly out of character but believable in the moment. Kim giddy, Jimmy strong and semi-silent, Mike nearly gleeful in his own revenge endeavor, Howard vulnerable, Chuck in lawyerly pitchman action; these are all outside the usual patterns for these characters but serve to refocus our understanding of what (and why) those usual behaviors truly are.
Shades of Bad
Mike’s B story this week sees him eyeballing the popsicle stand frequented by the Salamancas. He’s looking for intel, and he finds some while sitting in his car with gigantic old-man binoculars, unnervingly goddam close to the armed psycho killers he’s spying on. (Seriously, Mike! Back up a few blocks!)
Beyond the revelation that Hector is apparently up to some measure of (gasp!) illegal activity, we also learn from Mike’s story that Regalo Helado is Spanish for Pollo Hermanos (the ice cream shop’s trucks are making border runs, and I have a funny feeling they’re not declaring everything they’re bringing into the country). And Mike apparently gets his subversive kicks from using his 8-year-old granddaughter to help build A-Team-style revenge weapons out of common household items. He’s some sick bastard.
One More Thing About the Movies…
In addition to that audacious Touch of Evil allusion in the teaser, this episode also continued to explore the series’ fixation on the French New Wave, fitting for an episode titled “Fifi.” The long open itself was reminiscent of the lengthy tracking shots favored by Godard. The scene between Chuck and Howard (at Chuck’s house) frames the men in mirrors as a representation of their existential crisis, and the show’s latest long montage is another cool as hell tribute to the editing techniques of those adventurous auteurs.
Gilligan and Gould have done a wonderful job of making BCS look like a show related to Breaking Bad in both color tone and photographic composition, but one thing they get to do differently this time around is add a sense of whimsy to the aesthetic. During those routinely elongated montages, they employ many of the same hallucinatory visuals as their parent show, but they now have the opportunity to add elements of surreal or absurdist humor to those sequences as well (something that simply wouldn’t have fit the overall demeanor of Breaking Bad).
I love the metaphor that Jimmy and Kim’s professional relationship has become. While their entangled personal lives veer from rom-com cute dates at hot dog stands to fun nights out together bilking New Mexico’s douchiest cheaters and loud-talkers, their professional relationship (now on the cusp of full co-habbing) has become this whole, like, thing.
You’re no Omar, kid.