Monday, June 5, 2017

REVIEW: 'Better Call Saul' - Slippin' Jimmy Returns While Mike Finally Finds Some Justice in 'Slip'

AMC's Better Call Saul - Episode 3.08 "Slip"

Jimmy is pushed to desperate measures. Nacho picks up a skill. Mike explores an alliance. Kim stands up to Hamlin.

A lot of the actions from the main characters on Better Call Saul are fueled by their desire to do the right thing. Jimmy wants to be the person worthy of Kim. Chuck wants the law to be untarnished by someone who doesn't respect it. Mike wants to leave enough money for his family to be taken care of. Kim helps Jimmy because she believed he was finding the right path as a lawyer. Nacho doesn't want his father corrupted by the criminal operations of Albuquerque. The core conflict of the show is how these desires clash with the people these characters actually are. In his youth, Jimmy was a con man. He was Slippin' Jimmy. The cold open of "Slip" reminds the audience of that. It features Jimmy once again in Cicero with Marco getting ready to do the coin con once more. It's all centered around Jimmy's feelings towards his dad and how he was the biggest sap in town and everyone knew it and took advantage of it. Jimmy didn't see his father as a saint like Chuck did. Instead, it encouraged him to take advantage of the system because it was so easy to do. Over the years, that's gotten harder for Jimmy. He genuinely wants to be a better person. He doesn't want to be Slippin' Jimmy. This entire series is fundamentally about Jimmy's resistance to falling into that persona again when it tragically will once he takes on the Saul Goodman identity. As such, "Slip" is a very significant episode for that character arc.

This hour features a lot of characters returning to the ways they used to be. Jimmy once again becomes a con man by slipping on a job and forcing the people about to screw him to take pity on his situation. Meanwhile, Chuck is full of a desire to put in the work to treat his condition and get back to being a top lawyer in the city. It's still the characters reacting to everything that went down in "Chicanery." The show is set largely in setup mode regarding their various ventures in life. But it's so compelling to watch because Jimmy and Chuck simply can't retreat to these familiar identities. Life has changed them. They are no longer the people they used to be. So now, it's worse that Jimmy is becoming a con man because he had this life of relative success as an eldercare attorney. And now, he's simply doing whatever is necessary in order to make money. He's holding to his values of paying half of the expenses with Kim. But his desire to do so may actually be driving a wedge between the two. Right now, that could be disastrous because Jimmy needs a frequent reminder of humanity in his life. Meanwhile, Chuck is using the medications and tools to get better with his condition. He's able to venture out into the world and push through the pain that is still there. He has accepted that the disease is all in his head. And yet, Howard still shows up to deliver bad news about the malpractice insurance. So, it's all abundantly clear that things won't be returning to normal any time soon.

It's interesting to see what all of this has done to Kim as well. She was a very willing participant in what happened to Chuck at the bar hearing. Much like Jimmy, she was doing whatever it took in order to win. She's personally connected to this family feud as well. She has chosen Jimmy's side. She is fully aware of all of the sketchy things he has done for her. She got Mesa Verde as a client because of Jimmy's manipulation of the files at Chuck's house. And now that everything is over and the fallout has hit, Kim is reckoning with the personal ramifications of her actions. She saw it as ousting a sick man who is making a mockery of the law himself. He needed to be exposed so that Hamlin, Hamlin and McGill would stop lying to their clients. But she's questioned if they went too far. She looks at Jimmy now and doesn't connect with him as well as she used to. He really did hurt his back running this latest con. He's willing to take full advantage of that. That final sequence at the community service shows just how willing and open he is to conning people in order to get money. It's him continuing to slip into the Saul Goodman persona. And that's a person whom Kim can't understand at all.

So, it's fascinating to see Kim try to exert some control over her life. That's essentially what's she doing when she takes on a new client. Her sales pitch to Mesa Verde was that they would be her only client. But now, she's been given permission from Kevin to take on this new work. It may be too much to handle. She's doing it in reaction to seeing Jimmy on the floor playing his new guitar. She sees him overextending himself. She wants to help. She doesn't want him to descend into this con man person he's becoming. And yet, he's too proud to accept her help. As such, she is throwing herself into as much work as possible. That's how she can do some good in this world to offset the moral ambiguity that comes from helping Jimmy. The same is also true of her standing up to Howard. It's fantastic to see her flip the script and take control of the situation with him. She still feels indebted to him. And thus, she tries paying him back for her student loans. It's a power play that shows that she still feels dominant professionally following the bar hearing. She is still able to give off that impression even though Howard is still condemning her for what she did to Chuck. She does feel that pain and uncertainty. But right now, it's also great to see her rise above it all to win one over a patronizing man.

Elsewhere, some of the best sequences of the episode come from the criminal part of this universe. They fit thematically with everything else happening on the show as well. Mike is finally able to find some peace over accidentally getting an innocent bystander killed during his attempt to disrupt the Salamanca business. He finds the body in the desert and makes sure the police find it. It's a very cool shot when he's out there digging and the time lapse shows him in many different places at once. It's him finally addressing this issue that has been weighing on his conscience for awhile. And then, a practical concern for his situation is addressed too. He never wanted to get into business with Gus. But now, he sees no other choice if his family is going to get the money he has stashed away some day. He sees it as the right thing to do even though it's going to lead to a much more fraught relationship between the two of them. And finally, Nacho is becoming a significant part of the main story. He's once again trying to take out his boss in the criminal underworld. He's hoping to have better success this time around because the stakes are even more personal. He wants to keep his father from this life for as long as possible. The approach to this story is very practical as well. It's fun to see Nacho practice over and over again making the switch of Hector's pills. It's a key moment. Plus, it shows that it's much more difficult than Huell makes it look. Nacho still gets the job done but only after a very intense sequence. That's very compelling and exciting to watch.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Slip" was written by Heather Marion and directed by Adam Bernstein.
  • It's always nice to see Mel Rodriguez pop up on various shows. Marco plays a significant role in Jimmy's past even though he hasn't been a huge part of the show. As such, it's great to hear his voice in the opening moments of this hour. The scene itself shows just how comfortable Jimmy is with breaking the rules and knowing the system well enough not to get caught doing so.
  • Chuck can be such an insufferable asshole a lot of the time. That's the way the character was designed. And yet, there is a humanity to him in his story this week. He's coming to the realization that he has caused so much pain and chaos in the last few years. He's hopeful that he'll be able to put it all past him eventually. Time will heal his wounds and he's already made a ton of progress. But things will never truly be the same for him because of what this disease did to him.
  • Business did pick up for the music store after the commercial aired. As such, Jimmy returns to film more commercials as were the terms of their deal. And yet, the brothers who run this business were right to point out that they didn't need to film seven different commercials. It would be much cheaper just to keep running the one. That's what forces Jimmy to do the slippin' con. It's a way for him to regain control once all is seemingly lost.
  • It's a nice little detail that the body Mike is searching for was buried on tribal land. It gives him an excuse for everything he does. He can claim that he was searching for arrowheads with a metal detector and he doesn't want to give his name because it's technically trespassing. It may just be a coincidence but it does show just how smart Mike is.
  • There's some significant stunt work in this episode. First, it's Jimmy's fall which does have physical consequences for them. And then, Nacho has to make quite the leap in order to sabotage the air conditioner at the restaurant where he and Hector collect all the money. So now, Nacho has made the switch. But it could be even more complicated and risky to switch the meds back once everything actually happens.