In case you didn’t realize it two weeks ago, the theme for Jimmy’s arc this season was set by the last scene of “Smoke”: whistling a cheery tune, liberated, Chuck and all his torment in the rear view mirror. The last scene of tonight’s episode sets it in concrete. Jimmy has spent years tamping down his anger and guilt, displacing variously into self improvement, honest(ish) hustle, and the grifts that made him feel alive and free. Now he’s jettisoned all that compacted baggage, and no matter what, he’s not taking it on again.
What this excruciating final scene drives home is that Jimmy really does not understand the consequences of being in a relationship. He has dealt with his Chuck problem as if he is a free agent. But the way he reads that final letter — ice cold, brittle, flippant — shows that he’s turned his heart into stone. And he never even thinks that Kim, who cares for him, wants to be there for him, even tried to protect him from Chuck’s passive-aggressive last twist of the knife, might be hurt by his utter rejection of human feeling. He’s decided to go it alone when it comes to dealing with the past and moving forward. He doesn’t see that this shuts Kim out and makes her feel like a fool for caring, for trying.
And it couldn’t be a worse time. Kim is still working the Mesa Verde expansion out of their apartment, with an eager paralegal named Viola, and this week she finds out that her clients are dreaming big. Like a dedicated room with dramatic lighting and models of flagship bank buildings in states from Texas to the Pacific Northwest big. The bruises haven’t yet faded from her overwork-caused crash, and she still can’t tell them she needs to tap the brakes or get some real help. She doesn’t even have the focus to check over Viola’s work they way she should — the way Season 3 Kim would have insisted upon. How long until Jimmy, with or without her permission, decides to do her a favor with a little legal work, not letting his lack of a law license get in the way?
For now he’s got another source of funds lined up — whatever the Bavarian Boy will fetch in the Hummel collectors’ market. The centerpiece of “Something Beautiful” is a gloriously mundane heist, the first of the season, in which a lockpick breaks into Neff Copiers only to discover that Mr. Neff is sleeping on his office couch. (Wife Linette was less than pleased with his taste in romantic gifts, even though it was a very expensive vacuum.) Crouched under a desk with the loot, Jimmy’s burgling accomplice suffers through Neff’s insomniac taste in self-help business courses before the anxiously hovering Jimmy causes enough commotion outside to get the obstacle out of his way. $4000, easy money! And yet Jimmy dismisses Chuck’s $5000 bequest with a snarky “I can pay off my MasterCard.” It’s not the money — it’s where it comes from that matters.
Nacho’s harrowing descent into the service of Gus Fring is just as prominent this week as Jimmy’s Elsa-like release of his ice powers. We start out in the desert (where some of Vince Gilligan’s greatest Albuquerque stories have started), with Nacho bracing himself for a shot in the shoulder as a staged capper to Arturo’s murder. And Victor makes sure it looks real by giving him a surprise gutshot before leaving Arturo’s body in the Pontiac 442 they brought for the purpose. Rescued by the Cousins and transported to Dr. Caldera (a busy man this week — Jimmy used him to contact the lockpick), Nacho fades in and out until he wakes up to find one of the Cousins pumping blood directly into his veins. Caldera bluffs heartily about possible sepsis from a nicked bowel for the audience, but into Nacho’s ear he makes it clear that he’s not interested in doing any more equipment repair for Fring’s assault on the Salamanca cartel.
But making his first appearance in BCS is someone much more eager to be a part of Fring’s empire — Gale Boetticher, singing along with his tape of Tom Lehrer’s “The Elements.” In light of the hit on Arturo, Borsa has told Gus to find suppliers on the U.S. side so that deliveries won’t be interrupted while they run dummy loads across the border for the time being. “With all due respect, Don Eladio forbids outside suppliers,” Gus reminds him. Don’t go in that briar patch, Juan Borsa! With his boss’s permission in hand, Gus takes a sample of his new product to Gale for testing, who is pathetically eager to start giving him real quality. “You were meant for better things” than making a kilo here and there after hours in the university’s facilities, Gus tells him. Oh man, he’s gonna love that laundry lab.
So it’s all about who wants in and who doesn’t have a choice. Kim and Nacho are being dragged along by circumstances that are outpacing their ability to respond. Dr. Caldera is ineffectively trying to keep discipline in the face of increasing demands. Gale is an artist eager to rise in the estimation of his patron. And Jimmy? He just wants to seize the opportunities that the universe drops in his lap and not worry about the niceties. Every relationship on this show is laced with rat poison.
- Three episodes in, and we’re already at the point where there’s so much going on in plot and character that there’s barely any time to appreciate the audaciously beautiful imagery this team is creating. I especially loved the way Nacho’s POV echoed and parodied the typical fluorescent-lights-overhead shot of a gurney in a hospital corridor — but he’s being carried, not wheeled, and it’s a vet’s tiny grimy hallway.
- Jimmy’s disbelief when Mike refuses his golden Hummel-tunity (and Mike’s classic withering glance in response), and his impatience at Caldera’s desire to maintain operational distance between his underworld contacts, together deliver all you need to know about his state of mind. There’s no other dimension that transcends the moment, no principles or bigger picture to be considered. Just the obstacle of other people in between Jimmy and taking whatever the suckers so badly want to have taken from them.
- Mr. Neff is listening to a Stephen Covey seminar about the Time Management Matrix, which directs you to place tasks into one of four quadrants defined by urgent or not urgent on one axis, and important or not important on the other. I don’t remember Covey being very au courant in the 2000s (as opposed to the nineties), but Neff Copiers does seem to be trapped in an earlier era. Even the owner’s marital troubles are right out of a fifties sitcom.
- “Some guys in the office cross you? Done you wrong?” Mike’s code means that you don’t hurt people who don’t either deserve hurting or absolutely have to be hurt. Jimmy, attuned to his audience as ever, tries to put an altruistic spin on the heist: “We make some nice Hummel-loving happy and we make a bundle! Let’s do some good here!” But his exasperation soon makes him blurt out his real code: “It’s free money!”
- “I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, but …”