Monday, August 27, 2018

REVIEW: 'Better Call Saul' - Jimmy and Mike Don't Know How to Process Their Grief in 'Talk'

AMC's Better Call Saul - Episode 4.04 "Talk"

A restless Jimmy embarks on a new endeavor while Mike burns bridges. Kim pursues her bliss. Nacho tries to survive a turf war.

Are the characters happy with their current lives? If not, is there any hope of changing these patterns? Or are they doomed to be stuck with what they have for the foreseeable future? The audience already has some clarity in this regard because we know the tragic fates coming for many of the characters. But it's also so vital to see the many ways in which those fates from Breaking Bad could have been avoided. It's easy to see a reality where Jimmy works this job at an empty cell phone store for the next ten months of his suspension and then gets right back to being the lawyer he was before. And now, he could flourish with his own identity because he's not completely fighting with Chuck anymore. Meanwhile, Mike could actually talk during this group therapy and share the trauma he endures from feeling responsible for his son's death. If he was actually willing to embrace and deal with the pain, then he could just comfortably live in retirement being a grandfather for Kaylee. However, these are characters who need to keep moving. They can't just stop and embrace the trivial details of their lives because the past would then catch up with them. They would have to process their feelings about these really pivotal deaths in their lives. Jimmy doesn't know how to react to Chuck's suicide. Right now, he's mostly doing everything to deflect from figuring that out. He has no interest in this job until Kim brings up therapy. Similarly, Mike would rather be cruel and condescending to this group that is actually doing some good for Stacey instead of actually embracing the struggle that comes from a life with his son no longer in it. It's all very fascinating character work that still manages to get things moving forward for the season.

"Talk" starts with a simple memory. A younger Mike is once again just being seen as the handyman able to put something together. A young Matty is just as entranced as the audience always is watching him do this. It's a very sweet and innocent moment. It's the kind of moment that Mike doesn't allow himself to remember all that often. It's the moment that he misses the most because he was robbed of any more with his son. He believes he's the reason why because he was the officer who didn't do what he was suppose to do. And now, it's clear that this memory breaks him. It's just slow to reveal that. That flashback opens this episode right before a smash cut to group therapy with the people all listening in on what Mike has to say. The audience could assume that he was simply sharing this story about his son. It wasn't about the tragedy of his death or the reasons behind it. It wasn't about how he is coping in the aftermath. It could just be this simply memory that Mike is choosing to hang onto. But that's not what's going on at all. Again, it would be so easy for Mike to rely on the people in this group. In fact, it's clear that he and Anita have formed quite a strong friendship offscreen. She visits the diner often enough to have her own order known by the waitress. She could represent a solid romantic future for Mike. They are even able to have some silly fun betting on the shares that will come later that night during group. But what starts as silliness doesn't end that way. Mike has been able to sit and listen to Henry just lie about having a dead wife. After listening to Stacey's share though, he can't tolerate that kind of betrayal.

Stacey is simply talking about a morning where she didn't think about Matty at all. She fears that means he is fading from her memory. Soon she will forget what he looked like and what he sounded like. She doesn't want to lose that. She knows she has to move on but she doesn't want to forget her husband and the father of her daughter. All of this is very moving to Mike as well. So much of it is told through Mike's perspective of the story. Stacey is the one sharing with the group but the audience sees Mike's extreme reaction. His nostrils are flaring. He is fidgeting. He is growing quite intense and emotional. It's all completely silent from him. This should be seen as progress for Stacy. And yet, it underscores just how far Mike has gone to repress all of these emotions. They are all coming to the surface now. He articulates them through lashing out at the process of this therapy. He attacks instead of opening up. He shames the group for wallowing in their sadness and using the trauma of each other in order to avoid dealing with anything in their lives. He believes he is healthy because he is moving on with his life. He has a job that gives him a purpose. He is looking out for his granddaughter. But he is so abundantly cruel in this moment. He probably won't be going back to that group ever again. He ruins his friendship with Anita. Things may even be tense between him and Stacey. She too could be realizing just how little he is coping with what happened. In addition to all of this, Gus wants to meet with Mike. It could be a scary moment where Mike could be in fear for his life. And yet, it's a lifeline that comes at the right time. Gus has a job and that will give Mike something new to focus on instead of actually dealing with his grief.

That's what Jimmy is deciding to do as well. He doesn't have to be working right now. He could be taking some time off in order to address the death of his brother. But he doesn't want to go to therapy. He doesn't even want this job at first. But he takes it in order to get out of the house. Sure, Kim doesn't have any more purpose in her life. She is still rattled after the accident at the end of last season. She is realizing the scope of Mesa Verde's expansion plans and just how boring that could be for the next few years of her life. That job could easily define her career. And yet, she's looking for inspiration from the law. She's essentially having a midlife crisis that one judge doesn't want to encourage. He's telling her that miracle cases aren't going to come along. She just has to accept the jobs that she can get and be happy with the money she is making with this one massive client. She's still stubborn though. All of these characters are so persistent and determined. They want to keep moving forward. Jimmy can't just sit around in an office bouncing a ball against the wall all day long. He doesn't even have to be working. Selling the Bohemian Boy was more profitable than he was expecting. Ira ensures that Jimmy gets an equal share of the money as well. This is the start of a solid working relationship. Jimmy wants to partner with him again. He just doesn't have a project right now. When inspiration hits though, it's already clear that it's going to have profound connotations for the man Jimmy becomes. He decides to reshape the marketing of this cell phone store. He is essentially trying to attract criminals who are afraid the government is always listening in on their conversations. That will ensure even more seedy individuals from Albuquerque cross paths with Jimmy. And perhaps they will become some of his most loyal clients when he becomes Saul Goodman.

Finally, Nacho is still struggling in the aftermath of getting shot. He's hobbling around everywhere. He still has such vast importance in the narrative. He is still being used as a pawn by many individuals. But now, he feels trapped in a situation of his own making. He had to kill Hector to save his father. That decision only doomed him further in this criminal life though. He was now the man in charge. Except he was now reporting to Gus because he happened to see what truly happened with Hector. As such, Gus is taking his rage out on Nacho for interfering with his plans. Of course, Gus is still doing an incredible job of adjusting accordingly. He is still coming out of this ahead and with even more power and responsibilities. But Nacho is incredibly defeated. He is essentially being babysit by the Cousins. They are on a mission to seek retaliation for the hit that almost destroyed their organization. The way that the show depicts that assault on the rival gang's fortress is absolutely genius and breathtaking. The Cousins already have an aura of being seemingly invincible. They survive even during the most daunting of odds. This entire sequence though is shown from Nacho's perspective as he is just sitting in the car being completely in shock as to what these two guys are trying to do. He thinks it's incredibly risky and probably won't work. And yet, he too has to get in on the action. Even though he is very weak at the moment, he still tries to provide some assistance. The Cousins probably don't need his help at all. He is still falling on the ground because it's still too hard to stand up. He kills one person for them. That was influential. All of this also means that the Cousins are leaving the city until things cool down for them. It means Nacho is free and left in charge of this business despite his injuries. He's still at Gus' mercy though. Him being able to deduce that Gus is doing all of this for more territory actually impresses Gus in the moment. As such, he has more plans for Nacho. And yet, that's incredibly defeating for Nacho as he is forced to retreat to the comfort of his father's couch not knowing if his father will welcome him back into his life. He tried to get out and it only led to an even bloodier mess for him.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Talk" was written by Heather Marion and directed by John Shiban.
  • It's also very unlike Mike to just ignore a phone call from Stacey. And yet, he declines her incoming call following his outburst at the group meeting. So, there is going to be some tension between them moving forward. Or perhaps he doesn't answer it because he's working and doesn't want the distraction. He is pointing out a number of problems with the way that the truck has been loaded after all.
  • In fact, it's still so amusing to just watch Mike tell people the many ways in which they've done something wrong. He is just pointing out common sense problems as well. The temperature isn't set right. Boxes are stacked on top of each other despite the written warnings not to do so. And the straps are too loose with no one knowing for sure if they will stay tight during transit. This really is a job he excels at doing.
  • It's also very funny that the judge who calls Kim into his chambers just starts describing the plot of The Verdict in order to get her to see the lunacy of her hopes. She may be hoping to catch that once in a lifetime case that will remind her of her love for the law. That only happens in movies though. The reality of it is actually pretty boring and procedural. And yet, that doesn't mean she won't find inspiration from sitting in this courtroom. She is still there even after he says he'll make her act as a public defender.
  • Nacho's father has the sensible reaction upon seeing his son bleeding out on the couch. He wants to call 911. His son tells him not to because it isn't safe for him at the hospital. Nacho's father hanging up the phone without saying anything shows that he is choosing to protect his son. And yet, aren't ambulances still required to respond to any 911 call even if no one says anything or the emergency has been resolved?
  • Would Jimmy fit in with the grief group that Mike and Stacey attend? It's up for debate considering there's no way he would even hear about it and potentially go. Mike wouldn't recommend it because he doesn't see the value in it. Moreover, Jimmy has such animosity with Chuck whereas the other members of the group all love their respected family members who have died. They probably wouldn't know how to help Jimmy. But a trained therapist would.