Monday, June 12, 2017

REVIEW: 'Better Call Saul' - Isolation and Desperation Fuel Everyone's Decisions in 'Fall'

AMC's Better Call Saul - Episode 3.09 "Fall"

Jimmy visits a friend and takes up an old pastime. Chuck and Hamlin argue over the future of the firm. Kim faces challenges.

The structure of this season of Better Call Saul has been incredible. Yes, there have been complaints about the action moving too slowly. But that has only allowed for more deeply personal character moments that shape every single action that they make. It's been so compelling and interesting to watch. The climax of the season happened in the middle with the remainder of the year focusing on the aftermath. That has proven to be a really insightful and significant way to tell this story. It makes it clear that the legal battle between the McGill brothers wasn't the end of this story. It was a resolution to one aspect of it. But it also put these characters on different paths. Ones that separated them. They are all feeling the isolation at the moment. They feel the pressure to do whatever it takes to survive in this world. That has been a very strong and engaging quality of this season. It has fueled the choices these characters are forced to make. They are hitting their breaking points which reveal their paths to destruction and chaos.

All of this is especially true for Jimmy. He no longer has anything good in his life that is keeping him committed to the path of being a good lawyer and not a con man. The love for Chuck is gone. He considers him dead after everything that happened between them. His career is gone. He can no longer make money or practice the law for a year. His relationship with Kim is slipping away as she deals with her personal feelings for what she did to help him. So, Jimmy no longer has the pressure to be the good guy who is making the right choices in life. Now, he can make the selfish choices to ruin someone else's life in the pursuit of bettering his. It's sick and twisted. But it's also in line with the trajectory the character was always going to have. He was destined to become Saul Goodman, the sleazebag lawyer from Breaking Bad who worked with dangerous criminals in order to get the most amount of money. He's continuing to slip into that identity because he's continuing to con and manipulate people into getting what he wants.

Jimmy's actions in "Fall" are perhaps the worst he has ever done. He still feels remorse. So, he hasn't totally become Saul Goodman yet. But that identity is coming out more and more. He no longer has the pressure to fill the commercial air time he still had. Last week's Slippin' Jimmy stunt took care of that problem. But he still needs money. So, he returns to the Sandpiper case to get it. That case hasn't been mentioned since Jimmy quit Davis & Main last season. That's not surprising considering class action lawsuits usually drag out for a long time. But it's important to remember that Jimmy is going to get a percentage of the profits when the case is finally settled. And now, he's trying to make that happen sooner than everyone expected. He does so by manipulating the representative for the class, Irene. It really is so cruel what he does to her throughout this episode. It's entirely because he's selfish. Howard is able to see through his con the moment he appears in the parking garage. But Irene still sees him as the lawyer she can trust. She is never aware that he is swindling her to get the money. He turns her group of friends against her. It makes it so her winning a game of bingo and no one clapping for her is one of the most dramatic and devastating moments of the hour. It really is amazing how this show can take a small moment like that and have it carry so much weight. Jimmy felt bad about destroying this woman's life. But he still does it. And perhaps he can still argue that the law firms were manipulating the class as well to line more of their pockets with money. But Jimmy still ruined a person's life to get this money. That's wrong and proves that he's officially on the path to becoming Saul Goodman.

However, Jimmy isn't the only character being defined by isolation at the moment. In fact, many of the characters are dealing with that. The only one who is sitting comfortably right now is Mike. Even with him, he still has questions and concerns about Gus' operation. With Chuck though, he's committed to returning to being one of the best lawyers out there. But the insurance premiums are becoming an issue. It forces Howard to push Chuck to retire and pursue a life in academia. That friendship has been very key and important. And now, it's being destroyed because Chuck is too proud. He doesn't want this life to be over with just yet. He's making his recovery. He's so close to being on top again. And yet, he's not as healthy as he believes he is. And now, he's turning on the one friend he still has left in the world. So, that could lead to a very devastating ending for him. The same is also true for Nacho. He has to sit his father down and tell him that Hector will be taking over his store very soon. That conversation tells the audience so much about their relationship and just how destructive these words actually are. Nacho warning his father and telling him to do nothing about it is essentially the thing that ends their relationship immediately. Nacho is trying to save his father from being corrupted by this life. And yet, that's the exact thing that is pushing him away as well. Plus, the new drugs for Hector aren't working fast enough. That's why Nacho needs to have this conversation in the first place. He may eventually get Hector out of the picture. But the damage has already been done with his relationship with his dad.

And finally, there's Kim who is taking on too much and it finally breaks her down. She is taking on more work and avoiding Jimmy for many reasons. She's doing it to ensure that the business has enough money to cover the rent for the next year. She's doing it because of her guilt regarding Chuck. She's doing it to have distance from the McGill brothers. She's seen as a miracle worker. And thus, she has to uphold that perception. And yet, it's a very high standard for her. She holds herself to it and it's really spinning her out. This new client has very urgent and immediate problems. He needs a solution within two weeks. So, Kim is spending all of her time and energy on him. She has the solution and the pitch to make it sound good for everyone. But she's running herself crazy by needing everything in perfect order. The world isn't agreeing with everything she's trying to do. First, her car gets stuck in the desert. And then, she actually runs off the road. She's taken on too much and it's having major consequences on her health. The hour closes on the brutal image of that one vehicle accident and her carefully constructed paperwork all over the place. This could be a wake-up call that what she has been doing lately isn't healthy for her. It could perhaps bring some of these characters closer together once more. But that could also reveal how they are farther apart than ever before and may have changed too much to ever go back to the way things used to be. And that's a very exciting place to end things heading into the season finale.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Fall" was written by Gordon Smith and directed by Minkie Spiro.
  • Whenever a character is driving and the camera is shooting things from the passenger's perspective, the driver is going to get into an accident. It's become so conventional and expected in this medium. And yet, this show finds a new spin on it with a jump cut. It's very sudden and jarring. It's still the same twist but shown in a different way which is very much appreciated.
  • Breaking Bad only got to say "fuck" once per season. So, it was always a mystery over who would get to say it. Since then, cable has become more relaxed on the frequency of saying that word while also dropping the audio on it when it's used. As such, this show gets that moment where Hector gets to say it multiple times in Spanish with subtitles.
  • Speaking of Hector, he is pissed that he and Gus will have to continue to share the smuggling transportation route. His medical symptoms in that moment are worse as well. And yet, the pills are still working for him. They probably won't for much longer considering the state he is in six years from now.
  • Mike has a sit down with Lydia to discuss the financial endeavor they are about to embark on. It's a way to clean the money that Mike has. It also reveals to him just how powerful Gus really is and how highly Gus thinks of him. This is the first time Lydia has had to do this for Gus. It will grow into quite a dynamic between Mike and Lydia as well where he puts up with her quirks but has little patience with them.
  • It's important to see that scene where Jimmy doctors the bingo balls to ensure that Irene gets a bingo as quickly as possible. It shows him putting in the effort to get what he wants. He needs this money so badly that he's willing to rig a simple gang of bingo just to isolate this elderly lady. He built up that relationship throughout this episode only to tear it down in the end. It's just completely brutal and devastating.
  • Better Call Saul is a period show that never brings attention to it being a period show set in 2003. However, this episode features Howard reference Gollum from The Lord of the Rings and someone using a segway in the Madrigal offices. Both of which were more popular during this particular time.