Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

It's Saul Goodman on the streets and Jimmy McGill between the sheets on a gorgeous Better Call Saul

Justice matters most? Or just make money? Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman, Saidah Arrika Ekulona as ADA Gina Khalil
Justice matters most? Or just make money? Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman, Saidah Arrika Ekulona as ADA Gina Khalil
Photo: Greg Lewis (AMC/Sony Pictures)
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From the very first frames of this episode, I was head over heels. There are more right angles than an episode of “The Anal-Retentive Chef.” DP Marshall Adams and director Melissa Bernstein square up the camera like they’ve been studying their Wes Anderson, keeping all their actors in profile, face-on, or back-turned. But because this is Albuquerque and we’ve got a Gilligan house style, Adams captures these perpendicularities from some unexpected placements, like underneath the mesh of a metal bench. And movement creates multiple combinations, as when Jimmy and Kim turn from facing the marriage license clerk into a profile view facing each other—echoed in the moment when the judge has to make a turning gesture to get them into vows-reciting position.

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All these compositions emphasize the deep irony of their promise of mutual full disclosure. They take care of the marriage business simultaneously, but not together. In one shot, they stand on opposite sides of a desk with a divider in the middle, filling out forms in silence, focused on their task and apparently oblivious to each other. And that’s the biggest lie of allthe one they tell each other because they think it’s what the other wants to hear. This is strictly business, all about spousal privilege in court. No rings; “we didn’t do that,” Jimmy non-explains to the judge. “It’s not about that,” Kim reassures Jimmy when he apologizes that this isn’t the wedding she dreamed of as a girl. “Just— everything we talked about.”

But secretly each is delighted and moved. Repeating their “short vows,” they get a little emotional and a lot vulnerable. I get that. I remember. There’s no way to look in someone’s eyes and make those promises without it feeling momentous, whatever you tell yourself. And then when they get home from their separate legal worlds, they fall into bed positively giddy with what they’ve pulled off. Because of the terms of their union, though, they have to dance around the idea of honesty; Jimmy doesn’t want to tell her about becoming a cartel lawyer, and she doesn’t want to hear it. He tellsbecause that’s their deal, “if I have the urge to not tell you something, I’ve got to tell you”but she only wants the fig leaf of reassurance that he’s not going to follow through with getting Lalo out on bail, that he’ll “put up a fight just for show” and that it will all be okay. The lies are even worse when they’re delivered under the pretense of full disclosure.

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Kim is leveraging strategic honesty, too. She and Rich prostrate themselves before Kevin and say all the right things, even getting a nice plug from Paige for the quality of their pre-Acker legal work. But after Kevin sends her off with a parting shot about her taste in men“This fella McGill or Goodman or whoever? You could do a lot better”—she gets her back up, for much the same reason Jimmy always does: who are you to judge me? “The truth is you ignored our guidance,” she tells Kevin, and goes on to lay out in detail all the times Kevin blew past her strong advice. She’s not wrong, but she doesn’t include how self-serving that advice was. Sure, Kevin was foolish to let his pride and bullheadedness get in the way of taking the win-wins Kim offered. But Kim implies that she was only looking out for Mesa Verde’s best interests, and that’s a lie by omission. In the end Kevin decides he wants a lawyer who’ll stand up to him. Wexler is back on the case.

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But the cartel has both fists around Jimmy, squeezing hard. Lalo really comes into focus as the coolest of characters this week. “No trial, no deal,” he interrupts Jimmy’s standard lawyering; Saul Goodman is going to work his magic and get him bail. And just after Jimmy uneasily assures Kim that the judge would never go for it, Mike shows up at his door with exactly the same message from Lalo’s mortal enemies: “I need you to get him out on bail.”

The second scene in the courtroom, where Jimmy uses both his own shyster skillset and Mike’s information to cast doubt on Lalo’s arrest and flight risk, is a well-deserved showcase for Tony Dalton. The insouciance of the man! Glancing back over his shoulder at the fake family Jimmy’s recruited, complete with “love of his life,” kids, and mother-in-law. Then eyeing Fred-from-TravelWire’s very real family on the other side, whose grief makes Jimmy so uncomfortable that he blacks out for a second before finding himself on his feet before the judge talking about the mysterious “Dave Clark.” Leaning back in his chair enjoying the show as Saul Goodman does his thing to such great effect that the judge sets bailan astronomical number to Jimmy’s relief. And finally assessing that number with an offhand “Seven million? I can do that. I’m gonna need you to pick it up.”

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On two fronts, the facade is becoming ever more solid and indistinguishable from reality. Gus has to burn down a restaurant to cover for Nacho, who received those orders from Lalo’s jail cell, while at the same time reassuring his backers in the Madrigal group to stay the course, tamp down their panic, and wait out the Salamanca threat. And Jimmy, triggered by Howard’s hurt at his proffer being spurned and his lifestyle being pranked, finds himself saying the quiet part loudreally, really loud: “You look down on me? You pity me? I travel in worlds you can’t even imagine! I’m like a god in human clothing! Lightning bolts shoot from my fingertips!”

That gorgeous reflection shot, Jimmy’s face bifurcated as he peers around the corner, illustrates the duality of Jimmy McGill and Saul Goodman. But in that final moment, there’s only one man screaming. And it’s not the man Kim vowed to have and to hold.

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Stray observations

  • Huell is such a kindly soul, offering to steal a ring for Jimmy and set him up with a honeymoon at his friend’s B&B in Roswell. “We should do it up right for the rug rat!” he explains.
  • What a bounty of wonderful signage in this episode, from the letter-paper printouts on the marrying judge’s wall (NO RICE! NO GLITTER! NO BUBBLES! NO LITTER!) to the franchise names at the Madrigal meeting (Stingin’ Rays Hawaiian BBQ, Polmieri Pizzeria, Haau Chuen Wok, Whiskerstay’s, and perhaps the most brilliant fake restaurant name of all time: Luftwaffle).
  • Whiskerstay’s Avocadomania promotion has been a huge success, but Los Pollos Hermanos’ new Spice Curls (“the curly fry with the southwestern kick!”) are really going to drive some Q2 profits.
  • It is really too bad these two crazy kids don’t have a future, because married Jimmy and Kim are adorable. “Soaring stone is the best kind of stone,” Jimmy riffs as he reads real estate listings. “A casual yet luxurious lifestyle.” “I’m casual yet luxurious!” Kim riffs right back.
  • Another mention of Fring’s mysterious Chilean past: It seems Herr Peter Schuller was involved. “Do you remember Santiago? Our backs to the wall? I will never forget what you did. You are still the same man,” Gus says to buck up his courage as Peter talks about the walls closing around him and Lydia flutters nervously nearby with champagne.
  • I’m glad those books from the library sale last week make a reappearance, with Kaylee begging Mike for just a few more pages of The Little Prince. “What does that mean, ‘ephemeral’?” he reads. “It means ‘in danger of speedy disappearance.’”
  • Why yes, a frozen chicken hitting a hot fryer will explode in spectacular fashion. And you’ve got to love the appraising look Gus gives to the fryer basket before inverting it to serve as the base for his hotel pan chicken slide. Looks like that location’s Lyle has been doing a stellar job.
  • “Do you have documentation of your two previous dissolutions?” the clerk asks Jimmy, neatly tying up a loose end some of you eagle-eyes spotted after Kim proposed last weekin Breaking Bad Jimmy mentions his “second wife screwing his stepdad.”
  • Lydia has ideas how to handle the Lalo situation: “It’s not my area of expertise, but don’t people get killed in prison all the time? Shanked, or shivved?”
  • My biggest laugh this episode came when Rich, sidelined at the meeting he arranged to rehabilitate Kim, pipes up with “Guess we’ll get out of your hair” a beat after Kevin takes Kim back.
  • “That’s right, your honor! Witness tampering!”
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Donna descends from her ivory tower every year or two to recap any TV show Vince Gilligan decides to set in Albuquerque.

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