Tuesday, May 23, 2017

REVIEW: 'Better Call Saul' - Jimmy Deals with the Everyday Realities of His New Life in 'Expenses'

AMC's Better Call Saul - Episode 3.07 "Expenses"

Jimmy tries to settle debts. Nacho reunites with an acquaintance. Mike helps Stacey with a project and makes a connection.

Jimmy McGill got his victory. He defeated his brother Chuck in a court of law. He bested him in the one institution Chuck loves more than anything else. Plus, Jimmy only got a one-year suspension from being a lawyer instead of being completely disbarred. It was a victory at the end of a very brutal and taxing war. Last week's hour examined how everyone was coping with the fallout. They all found ways to move on with their lives. They no longer felt the need to hold onto the same grudges as before. Chuck admits that he needs help to address his psychological condition while Jimmy has a new way to pay the bills. Jimmy didn't want anything to change because he was no longer a lawyer. He wanted the perfect life waiting for him once he could return. And yet, time can be very cruel and unforgiving. The pacing on this show is very deliberate. It could move ahead and show all of the characters at the end of this journey and how they'll deal with Jimmy returning to the law. Instead, things continue to move slowly as the pressures keep mounting for Jimmy. Suspension isn't going to be as easy as it first seemed. It's going to be very difficult and have major consequences for his life.

Last week Jimmy created the Saul Goodman personality. He did it to build his new business while not destroying everything he has built in his legal career. He saw it as a fun identity to help him flesh out this new business of creating local commercials. It was nothing more than that. Of course, the audience knows better than that. Soon, Saul Goodman will overpower Jimmy McGill. He'll turn from a sympathetic man who does horrible things for honorable reasons to a corrupt attorney who manipulates the law to help his criminal clients. There is such a likable quality to Jimmy. It's easy to want him to be happy in this life even though it's wrong to think that given where the story is headed. It's pointless to think anything good will come out of all of this. Jimmy McGill is destined to fade away and be replaced by Saul Goodman and later on Cinnabon Gene. That transformation is already becoming apparent. Jimmy is no longer the upbeat and charming guy he once was. He's fallen on hard times and is struggling to survive. That's making him meaner and more spiteful as a result. That's a quality that will only continue to grow as well until the transformation is complete.

Jimmy just can't seem to catch a break this week. Things shouldn't be easy for him either. He did all of the things he was accused of doing. He would say he did them for noble reasons. He sabotaged Chuck so he'd make a fool of himself in court just so Kim could get the client he believed she rightfully deserved. He won the hearing in front of the bar by forcing all of the ugly truths about Chuck's condition to the surface. He did these things for selfish reasons but he has the justification to make things better than they seem. That's the kind of lawyer he is. He wasn't happy when he was working at a firm and had a corporate apartment and car. It's this kind of work that really excites him. Commercials may present that opportunity for him again. But right now, he's just desperate for money and work. He's crippled by community service cutting into his time to woo potential clients. Plus, he has to deal with small business owners who don't know if it's a good deal for them. Of course, Jimmy has his con man charm to make it seem appealing. But he's working very hard for very little in return. That's a pattern that grows defeating after awhile. His car is broken down and he's stuck paying his crew with money out of his own pocket. Things are getting bad and depressing for Jimmy McGill.

And thus, Jimmy wants to return to a simple con with Kim using their Viktor and Gisele personalities. He does that because he wants to feel the rush of conning someone out of their money. He needs that control because the world is breaking around him. Kim has had fun with him like this in the past. She enjoys the rush of the con too. It's a good break from the stress of her work and the guilt of what she and Jimmy did to Chuck. She has remorse over their actions. She wonders if they went too far? Did they push things further than they should? Was it necessary to involve Rebecca at all? She has these doubts. And thus, she doesn't actually want to do a con with Jimmy. She just enjoys the fantasy and speculation of it all. But he desperately needs it. They are no longer feeling the same way. They aren't united. The more and more Jimmy embraces the Saul persona, the more likely it is to push Kim away. She loves him but she only has so much tolerance for his questionable legal antics. Jimmy McGill is a sympathetic hero while Saul Goodman is an arrogant asshole. The cracks are forming and she has no idea what's about to be released onto the world.

Jimmy's inner Saul comes rushing out during that final scene. He's hoping for good news from his malpractice insurance. He hopes he can pause it during his suspension. And yet, that's not the case. It will continue. Plus, when the year is up, his premiums will rise significantly. That's a defeating final moment in an episode designed to kick Jimmy down. His emotional breakdown may seem genuine at first. The world has just gotten very overwhelming as of late. He's finally reached his limit and his emotions are coming out. That's not it at all. It's a performance he puts on just so Chuck gets punished for this whole experience as well. It's not something he does because he has to. He does it out of spite and malice for his brother. It's him making sure life isn't easy for Chuck either. If he has to deal with all of this, then so should Chuck. Again, it's a move of him exerting some control over his life when he has none. But it's also a very Saul Goodman move to make. Jimmy exits that room with a smirk on his face feeling confident with what he has just done. He's doing this simply because he hates his brother. There's no other rationalization than that. As such, Jimmy is starting to become less likable and more of the criminal we all were first introduced to on Breaking Bad

Some more thoughts:
  • "Expenses" was written by Thomas Schnauz and directed by Thomas Schnauz.
  • Do the members of Jimmy's camera crew have names? The makeup artist and cue card holder is sympathetic to his situation but there is a detachment there too because it's just a job for these three. They don't feel the pressure the same way Jimmy does. 
  • One of Jimmy's potential marks in the bar is very Chuck-like. He's rude and makes his complaints known. It's also telling that Jimmy wants to employ the same strategy he did with Chuck - play the helpless victim who fools the man seemingly in charge in the end. 
  • Kim's guilt is even affecting her with Mesa Verde. She justifies her actions towards Chuck as helping the world see a sick man. But she doesn't like the appreciation and admiration she gets from Paige. She lashes out in an unprofessional way she won't forget anytime soon either. 
  • Nacho reaches out to the pharmacist to get the pills that Hector is taking. The pharmacist in turn reaches out to Mike in fear of this arrangement. It mostly just suggests that Nacho is directly responsible for what ultimately happens to Hector. 
  • Is Mike developing a romantic interest in Anita? She's another woman from the grief support group. She lost her husband under mysterious circumstances. It's only after their conversation that Mike agrees to be a part of the drug world again.
  • And yet, why does Mike agree to interact with Nacho and the pharmacist once more? Does Anita's story remind him of the pain of not knowing what happens to the beloved family members and his fear that this deal will go wrong somehow? Or is it still remorse from getting that innocent bystander killed during his operation to take down Hector?