By Matt Berry
The One Where Jimmy Tries to Cover His Tracks
Jimmy gets his Ross Geller on and tries to tie up the loose ends of his indiscretion with a naïve young Copy X employee, Kim gets her big client back, and Mike gets happy for about five minutes! All this and more happened in…
Better Call Saul, Season 2, Episode 9, “Nailed”
In the season’s downright Biblical penultimate episode, Vince Gilligan plays God and punishes his subjects for their bad behaviors. Chuck suffers a public and professional humiliation when Jimmy’s act of sabotage monkey wrenches the hijacked Mesa Verde account. Jimmy, though, is made to suffer as well for that very act of sabotage; forced to watch from a distance as his well-laid cover up starts to unravel faster than a wadded up space blanket, ensnaring Chuck in a mental collapse that turns potentially lethal. And speaking of revenge gone bad, Mike’s plan to get back at Hector pays off to the tune of a quarter million dollars but also leads to the death of an innocent bystander. A good Samaritan at that! This, like most things in life, does not sit well with Mike.
Meanwhile, Kim and Jimmy initiate a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy when it comes to his misdeeds. After being told by serial mansplainer Chuck the behind-the-scenes intricacies of Address-Gate, Kim stands by her man, defending her fella and scolding Chuck for his persistently bad big brothering. Though she clearly knows that Chuck speaks the truth, she chooses to either accept or ignore the depths of sleaze to which Jimmy is obviously inclined to sink. Maybe it’s because she loves the tacky lug and believes that his good qualities outweigh his bad, and she’s hoping that one of these gosh darned days that good side will up and win out. Maybe it’s because she likes on some level that he used his special talent for mischief in her honor. Or maybe this woman – whom we’ve learned has a bit of an itch herself for dark digressions and was clearly drawn to the loosey-goosey irreverence of the guy in the first place – actually likes this side of Jimmy and only keeps her professional distance as an instinctive defense mechanism to protect her hard-earned career trajectory. Her offhanded morph into Lady MacBeth (or possibly Gemma from Sons of Anarchy) toward the end of the episode seems to indicate credibility with the last of those pondered maybes.
So our characters head into next week’s season finale reprimanded and redefined, looking, possibly, to make up in some way for their recently sinful pasts, even as they continue to forge an even darker collective future.
The Best Bits
Adventures in B-Movies
I love that Jimmy’s little band of roaming Ed Woodites is expanding and now includes a mobile makeup artist. If we could just work Omar and Erin in there somehow, we’d have a full-on gaggle of misfits and miscreants.
I also love that the making of Jimmy’s first proto-Saul TV spot has become a sort of show within a show. The scenes have all been these funny little non sequiturs that have little to nothing to do with the storylines of the episodes in which they appear (not counting the original Davis & Main ad) but serve to show an aspect of Jimmy’s evolution toward Saul and to showcase Odenkirk shucking and jiving and singing his way into getting what he wants. I’ll bet if you took all the scenes of Jimmy and his filmmaking crew and edited them into one half-hour sequence, you’d have a pretty cool sitcom on your hands.
I am Mike’s smirking revenge. I make Mike very happy and Hector Salamanca very angry. I buy a round of drinks for the house and dream of funding a certain little granddaughter’s college tuition, pony riding lessons, and eventual candle making business. I make Mike satisfyingly happy as all get out, but I go sideways and kill an innocent civilian and drive Mike back to a very bad place he knows all too well.
The Soundtrack of Our Lives
Naileds’ sublime use of the Pina Colada Song (the milk that will ultimately coagulate into the cheese of Saul Goodman is already seeping thick from Jimmy’s pores) gives me pause to take a rest and beat the drum of how great the music supervision has been this season (see what I did there?). Like its parent show, Better Call Saul uses an eclectic array of music (some preexisting, some created for the series) to underscore its storytelling and to masterfully punctuate its moods. From the music being created on screen by the characters and the source music playing in diners, bars, and Mexican ice cream parlors, to the obscure soundtrack selections and the pitch black minimalist synth-driven score by Dave Porter, the music of Better Call Saul joins that of Fargo as the best on television.
All About Chuck
Here’s why we can empathize with Chuck: he is right about Jimmy. His little brother is a charlatan, a huckster, and snake oil selling type guy. We know from our own knowledge of Jimmy/Saul’s future that Chuck is absolutely on the money about the self-destructive, other-people-destructive, all-around-path-of-destruction-destructive streak that does and always will course through his brother’s veins.
Here’s why Chuck is still a complete dick burger: he knows exactly who and what his brother is, yet he still tries to conform him into someone else. Just not someone happy or successful. Chuck bails Jimmy out of trouble in Chicago (remember the Chicago Sunroof?) and drags him out to the Southwest as a favor to Old Ma’ McGill and gets him his job in the HHM mailroom…and that’s where Chuck wants Jimmy to stay. He doesn’t want him out running the streets, conning the common lowlife, but he doesn’t want him learning or yearning in his time at HHM either.
Without encouraging him to find a line of that work that may actually suit his talents but that doesn’t make a mockery of Chuck’s beloved profession and calling, Chuck chooses instead to treat Jimmy like a problem dog, keeping him under thumb and encouraging his pursuit of impressing his big brother by becoming a real live law talking guy while secretly sabotaging (there’s that word again) his efforts to do so. Chuck wants the best of both worlds, and it all stems not from some altruistic effort to safeguard the sanctity of Lady Justice, but from the simple fact that Chuck resents Jimmy’s carefree demeanor, his wanton disregard of class and affluence and all of the cultural stuff that is terribly important to Chuck’s life having meaning and cultural context, and especially Jimmy’s charm and easy way of winning people over. It’s been interesting watching Chuck practice law – seeing the face that he puts on for clients and magistrates alike; a mask of competence and forced smiles that makes for great lawyering but not so great human-ing.
Chuck has hated for years that everyone from Howard Hamlin to his own wife have been won by Jimmy’s smarmy charms and has been dying to make the speech he made to Kim this week about the dangers of liking and caring about his sneaky younger sibling. (His need for Kim to know what Jimmy truly is has become one of the more explosive elements of season 2). He has basically turned into that reporter from The Incredible Hulk; the only guy in the world who knows the monster that lies within the man but who can never prove it. Or maybe he’s Ahab, and Jimmy is his White Whale. I don’t know, I’ll work on that metaphor. Whichever comparison you go with, though, it’s become abundantly clear that it’s so important to Chuck to out Jimmy as a big green rage monster that he has repeatedly risked his comfort, his sanity, an now possibly his life in that desperate effort.
All in all, this week was a great Chuck episode and gave Michael McKean (always stellar) the chance to show off a wide range of totally impressive actorly stuff. His coming undone in front of Ernesto and one of the Avett Brothers at the Copy X is a particularly great bit of thespianism and will hopefully be remembered come TV awards season. A solid character actor for years (most famously known for Laverne & Shirley and This is Spinal Tap), McKean has delivered both comedy and gravity in a series of supporting roles in movies and TV as well as in a brief stint as a mid-90s SNL cast member. He also starred in a two-part season six X-Files episode written by one Vince Gilligan in a performance so fantastic they actually wrote that same character into the horrid X-Files spinoff The Lone Gunmen back in the early 2000s (apparently Chris Carter can play God and punish people too.)