Does ‘Better Call Saul’ Offer Hope for Jimmy? (TV RECAP)

[rating=9.00] Piñata”

There’s the kind of person Jimmy wants to be, and the kind of person Jimmy is.

The Jimmy McGill that Jimmy wants to be is kind, considerate, forward thinking, and successful. We see glimmers of this several times in this week’s episode—the cold open, showing us a young Jimmy and Kim working the mailroom at HHM (and a younger, less dead Chuck), the Jimmy who doodles the Wexler-McGill logo fanatically, like a schoolgirl with a crush covering her notebook with the name of her beloved, or the Jimmy who is moved to tears at the news that an old client of his, the one with the Hummel collection seen in season one’s “Alpine Shepherd Boy,” has passed. It is, frankly, the Jimmy we want to see, too.

Despite knowing that Jimmy is destined down a path of shady criminality, The Path of Saul, let’s call it, we wish that Jimmy would do what he—and we—knows is right. In his heart of hearts, we know Jimmy McGill to be a decent guy. He cares for his girlfriend, he tries to succeed, and in his own way he even cares about Howard. True, he harangued him mercilessly over the impending implosion of the firm, but in Jimmy’s mind it was clearly a motivational speech. “Get angry,” he meant to say. Anger leads to hunger, hunger leads to success.

That’s how he sees it, anyway. It’s clearly a wrongheaded move, guided with good intention though it may be. It’s the move that leads him away from the therapist’s office, much to Kim’s chagrin, as he grapples with the death of Chuck. It’s emotion swallowing, down playing the pain with excuses and stubbornness, and letting it fester until it’s a cesspit of toxicity and regret.

That’s the kind of Jimmy McGill that Jimmy is. He’s the Jimmy who takes shortcuts, like get rich quick schemes involving a pallet of prepaid cell phones and who associates with the criminal element as a means to elevates his position. It’s the Jimmy that Chuck tried to save, appealing to his better instincts to get his life together and become a lawyer. How high Jimmy climbed, and how far Jimmy slips.

Thus far we haven’t seen Jimmy do anything too terrible. Suspect, sure. Morally grey, yeah. Slightly shady, okay. But bad? Not really. Not until this episode, when he teaches the gang of kids who rolled him for his ill-gotten gains last week that payback, truly, is a bitch. Maybe he didn’t actually hurt them. Maybe there’s nothing he did that can’t be fixed with some reprioritizing and Jesus. Bully for him, but that doesn’t change the fact that he hung three teenagers by their ankles and threatened to beat them like piñatas. It might have been a great moment of retribution, but it was also pretty fucked up. We’re getting closer and closer to the edge of the moral grey zone and headed right into darkness.

But hey, at least we saw Huell.

Kim’s crisis of law is deepening as all of this plays out. Try though she might to stay focused on Mesa Verde, she can’t help but hear the call of righteousness. That leads her directly to Schweikart and Cokely, which we were first introduced to back in season two’s “Inflatable.” Kim Wexler is someone that Rich Schweikart has wanted under his roof for years, and now she’s finally got an offer that will work for them both. She’ll build their banking division, anchored by her relationship with Mesa Verde, and with her legal aids doing the bulk of the heavy lifting she’ll have time to continue her pro bono public defender work. It’s win-win.

For everyone except Jimmy, of course. This deal moves his dreams of Wexler-McGill from the backburner to the trash. It’s largely as a response to the feelings of loss and helplessness that he embarks on his latest cellphone scheme. Shortcuts. Half measures. It is with these that Jimmy’s path to Saul is paved. If only he had gone to therapy.

The night’s best moment, however, went to Gus. While Mike is busy putting together a space for the group of German engineers to live while they build his meth lab—which is fascinating to watch and gives us amazing insight into just how Mike operates—Gus is trying to stay focused on the bigger picture: Revenge.

With Hector still comatose, an infection has started to spread, raising concerns that he won’t make it. For Gus, this won’t do. His decades long plan for vengeance shan’t be derailed by matters of life and death. He meditates on this at length to Hector, delivering a brilliant, blood-chilling monologue recounting his days as a destitute youth in Chile. It’s almost kind of sweet seeing Gus reminisce like this, telling the story of bringing a lucuma tree back to life and using it to provide for his family, culminating in revenge on a coati who’d eaten the fruit.

Though clearly we’re meant to take away that, in this situation, Hector is the coati, it also adds a layer of tragedy to Fring’s story that becomes more apparent with every passing episode. We can’t help but picture Gus in his final moments, telling Hector that, after all these years, he’s won, only to have his face crudely blown off by Walter White in a sacrificial gambit agreed to by Hector. All the work, effort, and care put into avenging the death of his friend (or lover, depending on the theory) laid to waste because Walter White sucks.

At least we know Walter is dead. With Jimmy, there’s still the ever-lingering chance at redemption. Perhaps he’s able to crawl his way out of the Hell of Saul Goodman and find some peace as Gene. Maybe Walter White is a detour on the path to decency, the one we know lurks somewhere inside of Jimmy’s heart, try though he might to shove it down and disregard. Just because we know where we’re headed doesn’t mean we know the destination. As bad as it’s about to get, we can still hope that the future shines bright.

Better Call Saul airs Monday nights at 9/8 central on AMC.

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