Monday, August 13, 2018

REVIEW: 'Better Call Saul' - Jimmy Hits the Job Search While Kim Meets with Howard in 'Breathe'

AMC's Better Call Saul - Episode 4.02 "Breathe"

Jimmy seeks new employment. Gus navigates the fallout from Hector's collapse. Kim endeavors to support Jimmy in the wake of Chuck's death.

There is so much power that comes from Howard's confession about Chuck's death probably being suicide. This was always bound to be such a defining moment in Jimmy's life. The moment that would make his transformation into Saul Goodman all the more inevitable. And yes, it does appear that this is the moment that has broken him. He was so distraught in the immediate aftermath of learning that his brother is dead following a fire at his house. But it was equally painful knowing that Chuck probably killed himself. To Jimmy and the audience, it immediately presents as a direct correlation between Jimmy's actions with the insurance company and Chuck's death. After years of their spiteful conflict, it has now come to an end. As such, anything Howard does could come with the perception of him picking up the legacy of continuing to hurt Jimmy. Howard likes Jimmy. He wanted to hire him. He gave him multiple opportunities. He respects Kim as a colleague as well. They are all very cordial with one another. And yet, he always opted to side with Chuck. He always wanted to protect the best interests of the firm. That meant needing to fight alongside his business partner. As such, it was easy to look at him as the enemy as well. Now that Chuck is gone, Howard is the only connection to that world. There is still so much to figure out and deal with. The estate has to be settled and distributed. Jimmy understands that if there is anything important Howard will reach out. He has already done that throughout this entire process. Howard called about the fire. He called about the obituary. He came over to talk about his sneaking suspicion about the role he played in Chuck becoming suicidal. Howard's life is forever connected to this conflict. But does this confession only do more damage? Jimmy had an immediate reaction after learning the truth about what happened. Kim observes the change. It does break Jimmy in an unexpected way. And now, she needs to ensure that this pattern doesn't continue even in the wake of Chuck's death.

Kim wants to protect Jimmy. She wants to be the support he needs during this time of need. She isn't pressuring him to go find a job. She believes they can make do for a little while. There shouldn't be any pressure about either of them returning to work. It's because of their work that they are in their current predicaments. Kim was in the accident because she was trying to do too much and not expressing her own difficulties. Jimmy needed to hurt his brother and that eventually led to his death and Jimmy's suspension from the law. This is all of Jimmy's making. He put all of this into motion. He is just now having to cope with that tragedy and the awareness of the role he played in it. He wants to continue moving on with his life. He has a promising lead for a new job. He could easily work for the remainder of his suspension as a lawyer as an office manager or a salesman. He certainly has the spirit of someone who tries to sell products. And again, he is able to pitch himself well. He knows how to keep talk until the other people in the room are also buying what he is selling. This is a core part of his identity. It's who he was as a con man. It's who he was as a lawyer. And now, he's struggling to understand his identity. He could accept this job as a copy machine salesman. He knows the product and the importance of it to a business. He makes an impression on the people in charge. He doesn't want to take no for an answer. But he still is very scattered with what he wants. He would rather just be perpetually on the lookout for a job instead of believing that two people could genuinely be impressed enough with him to hire him that day. He wants to believe that the world is more difficult than that and that he needs to craftily maneuver his way through it. That's the life he has always known. That's who he has always been. And now, it's clear that that is going to remain so destructive for him.

All of this ties directly back to Chuck's death and Howard's confession. Kim feels the need to be Jimmy's champion. She's perfectly fine with whatever he decides to do with his life. She is working from home. She loves the support she gets from him even though it's still unexpected to be woken up to a juicer. She doesn't know how to react to what he is doing. She just wants to ensure that Chuck doesn't continue hurting and belittling him. Jimmy doesn't want to go to this estate meeting. He knows Howard will still do the right thing in informing him of anything important. But Kim chooses to go. She wants to be Jimmy's representative. She already understands that Jimmy isn't a big part of the will or the estate. In fact, she thinks it's ridiculous to see how pleasant Howard and Rebecca are choosing to be about all of this. They knew the relationship that Chuck and Jimmy had. Any attempt at making this as easy as possible is still going to be painful because of that fraught relationship. There is nothing of Chuck's that Jimmy would want even if it survived the fire. Moreover, Chuck cut Jimmy out of his estate just enough to ensure that it sent a clear message to his brother. Plus, he left a personal note behind. Kim doesn't read it but she does assume it's going to be one last message of contempt. The brothers never got along and Chuck never thought highly of whatever Jimmy was doing. He chose to only see a con man not knowing that that opinion would eventually lead to Jimmy always being stuck in that persona. Kim is right to call out Howard for continuing to play into this narrative. He chose to tell Jimmy about his theory of Chuck's death but not Rebecca. Howard may have thought he was being personal and close. But at the end of the day, he just wanted to feel less guilty. That ultimately led to him causing more pain and dysfunction. As such, it's easy to understand why Kim wants to push all of that away so that she can just enjoy a nice evening together with Jimmy.

But again, it's clear that Jimmy is going down the slippery slope into being a con man again and embracing the Saul Goodman identity. When he is interviewing for this job, he notices that the former owner left behind a bunch of valuable knick-knacks that Jimmy recognizes from one of his previous clients. He knows just how lucrative these pieces can be. And so, it seems like he is already plotting to steal from them. He wants to make some quick money without having to actually make it as a legitimate working man during this suspension. That's the life he is choosing to pursue. He even has the contact already to figure out how to do it in a way that won't lead to them being caught. At first, it seems like nothing more than a reason to get Jimmy and Mike interacting again. There is the hope that it will allow them to spend even more time together. Mike has the freedom to do whatever he wants now. Lydia questions his intrusion on their businesses and doesn't want him to create even more problems for them. But Gus ultimately sees no reason to be suspicious about Mike being seen by the many employees of the various Madrigal buildings in the region. He just wants to give Mike whatever he wants because he knows he can be trusted. He does solid work and may actually have a point about better ways to protect their business interests. Of course, Mike doesn't have that clarity just yet. He has a sit down with Lydia that mostly results in a stalemate between the two sides. They aren't getting along just yet. But that also may make this the perfect time for him to be distracted by something from Jimmy. It's just going to be very fascinating to see how he reacts to this change as Jimmy will come calling on him more and more in the future.

Elsewhere, it's so incredibly tragic to watch as Nacho is unable to get out of the criminal life. He was able to save his father and his business. Poisoning Hector was all in service of that. He needed to ensure that the garage wasn't turned into a front for money laundering. He wanted to save his father from all of that. In doing so, he damaged that relationship with his father now worried enough about what will happen to his son because of these choices he has made. He only wants to know if he will be getting out soon as well. That's clearly what Nacho is angling for. But he's still the man left in charge of the Salamanca business. Hector is still alive but making no visible progress in the hospital. Nacho is there to see the impact of what he has done. That's significant and meaningful. Everyone is closely monitoring Hector and making sure that he gets the best treatment in the world. So many people want him to recover but for various reasons. Gus wants him alive because he wants to be the one to decide how he dies. He wants that punishment to himself. He doesn't want Nacho to take it away from him. That's what makes it so crushing when Gus makes his influence known to Nacho right away. He needed the confirmation that Nacho really did poison his boss. At first, it seems like Nacho is continuing down a dark path because he is willing to pull out his gun in order to intimidate Victor into filling the drug order the same as always. But instead, that moment of pure despair and destruction comes when Gus kills Arturo while making it known to Nacho that he knows exactly what happened. So now, Nacho is at the mercy of Gus. He has simply traded one abusive and destructive criminal boss for another. That means he won't be leaving this life anytime soon.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Breathe" was written by Thomas Schnauz and directed by Michelle MacLaren.
  • There is a fair amount of insomnia going on with Jimmy as well. He is always getting up before Kim and just getting everything ready for the day for both of them. There is nothing inherently work with that. But he's also awake even after they have sex which then prompts him to concoct this new scheme that is only bound to lead him down a dark path. As such, him having this time to think can't be good.
  • When is Chuck's letter to Jimmy going to be discovered? Right now, Kim has hidden it away in her files. She wants to save Jimmy from that pain. She doesn't want to get it all over and done with yet. She is allowing this to be a lingering threat to their relationship. She is the strong and supportive girlfriend. She is allowing him to make many of the decisions. She is strong with Howard. But keeping this a secret could backfire on her as well if Jimmy happens to find it first.
  • The Cousins are already in town looking over Hector as he faces an uncertain future. They are the only family who can visit him in the hospital as well. Tuco is still in prison. And they remain such intimidating presences too. They are encouraged to speak to their uncle. But instead, they have Nacho and Arturo do so. That also allows them to become aware of what's going on with business.
  • Of course, Gus was also worried about what Hector's hospitalization would mean to the drug world of Albuquerque. The future was uncertain with Nacho and Arturo in charge. And now, Gus kills Arturo and forces Nacho into working for him. As such, that is bound to radically change up the local drug trade in ways that Gus isn't expecting at all. That may afford him new opportunities though.
  • Mike's argument is that it's ultimately good for employees at Madrigal to be able to recognize him. If the organization is ever investigated, then it won't look suspicious if he is listed as a security consultant without ever actually being seen on the properties. Lydia is just worried because his payments are secretive and she doesn't want people at the properties actually seeing him and knowing about him. To her, that's the real danger.