Monday, September 10, 2018

REVIEW: 'Better Call Saul' - Kim Informs Jimmy of Her Plans for the Future While Mike Sets Up a New Space in 'Piñata'

AMC's Better Call Saul - Episode 4.06 "Piñata"

While Jimmy daydreams about reconstituting Wexler-McGill, Kim sets out to secure her own future. Mike puts a plan into motion for Gus.

So much of the story this season has been prompted by Chuck's death. That was a development that pushed so many of the characters forward. Jimmy, Kim and Howard are spiraling out because of that shocking moment. It is forcing them to reflect on the lives that they have and their own ability to change. Are they capable of doing anything different now that this conflict with Chuck has reached its final conclusion? But now, it's clear that the dissolution of Jimmy and Kim's relationship is just as vital to this season. They are still together as a couple. It's not a simple story of the two lashing out against each other in this big explosive way where they feel like the other simply doesn't understand them any more. They are still trying to be a couple. They keep reaching out yearning for each other. They want this to work out. They have such a long-standing dynamic as well. The big development that happens in the cold open this week is Michael McKean's return as Chuck. That's a moment that made me gasp when I saw it. And yet, it's also so interesting to see how Chuck isn't the real focus of that scene. Instead, it is all about Kim and Jimmy. They are literally working the same job. Jimmy is in the mail room while Kim is helping him during her time as a law student. He is reaching out and forming personal connections with the staff. She is actually learning the business and making a good impression for those helping her get through school. They are two completely different people in the same environment. They met here even though they didn't start dating until much later. But it's a healthy dynamic. It just highlights how they may have different ambitions for their lives. They have always been able to get along. They appreciate each other now more than they did in the past. And yet, all of this showcases that Kim has the potential to thrive in a corporate setting. She may have gone off to do her own thing. But now, she is realizing just how beneficial this arrangement could be for her career. It just means having to distance herself from Jimmy once again. That's a horrifying and destructive realization that he has to accept. Instead, it only pushes him further into becoming Saul Goodman. Kim is just as vital to that transformation as Chuck was. She may not have to die in order to cement that tragedy though.

At the moment, Jimmy is holding onto the hope that at the end of his suspension he will be able to reopen his practice with Kim. They are just ten months away from the new incarnation of Wexler-McGill. It's the one thing that is really driving Jimmy forward. He is marking his time just waiting for this suspension to be up so that he can pick up the pieces of his life. He remains in such a limbo at the moment because he's just thinking about the future and what he can plan for already. Meanwhile, everyone else is living in the reality of the present as they have the freedom to make these changes to their lives. Jimmy doesn't know that Kim has been taking on overflow cases from the public defender's office. He doesn't know that she has been showing up in court defending criminals. Nor does he realize just how much it excites her right now. It may be the new form of law that she feels passionate about. She just feels guilty for feeling that way because she already promised herself and her career to Mesa Verda. She is making all of these big decisions about her life and telling Jimmy after the fact. He's not on this journey with her. Instead, she has been exploring these uncertain feelings and what she is willing to do about them. She came to this decision on her own. She reached out to Rick Schweikart in the hopes of taking him up on his job offer. She presents a new department for the corporate law firm that will only expand its influence in the city even more. She continues to present herself as this brilliant and transformational addition to the team. Meanwhile, Kim would have a support staff that helps her with the Mesa Verde details while still giving her the time to actually focus on her criminal clients. It all presents as a way for her to have everything that she wants. It just means completely destroying Jimmy's dreams because she can make this transition right now and he can't.

It's also so meaningful and heartbreaking to see where Kim decides to tell Jimmy this news about her career. She invites him to the fancy hotel restaurant where they have put on their roles as Viktor and Giselle. This is a significant location for the two of them. It's where they allow themselves to become completely different people while still operating as a team. It presents as an opportunity for them to do something they wouldn't do in their regular lives. It's a release from all of the stress that they may be feeling. But Kim doesn't call Jimmy here in order to pull a con on someone staying at the hotel. Instead, she is informing him about her decision to become a different person. She tells him that she has been exploring these doubts about her career and that she is going to transition to something new. She is going to take this new job that will allow her to keep Mesa Verde as a client while continuing to do criminal law. She feels very confident about it. She just doesn't want to disappoint Jimmy because she knows the big plans he was making for their future as business partners. It's so absolutely devastating to Jimmy. That moment where he is trying to process all of this and recompose himself is so powerful. His dreams have been shattered. His love has made him realize that he was foolish to believe that any of this was possible. But again, he's choosing not to be angry about it. Sure, he may not be expressing how he truly feels. He may be bottling all of this up because he wants to be supportive. He even suggests that they could reteam later on because he too has been thinking about criminal law lately. But all of this is just a coping mechanism. He is trying to keep the people he cares about close even though the entire world is changing around him. If it continues along this path, then he is going to once again be conning his way through the world in the hopes of making some money.

Even Jimmy's new job is invaded by his old life and how it is no longer the same. Jimmy was so distraught when he had to tell all of his old clients about his suspension from the law. He could no longer be the charming lawyer representing their best interests. And now, he is planning for the future when he gets a phone call about one of his former clients. Mrs. Strauss has died and the family is distributing what she specified in the will. She was a client whom Jimmy genuinely loved. He became aware of Hummel figurines because of her. She was always willing to do so much for him. She starred in the commercial when Jimmy was fighting the Sandpiper case. And now, he has missed these final moments of her life. He didn't know that she had died. The service has already been held. He can't pay his final respects. He can't even be there to help the family as they are trying to figure out every detail of the will. They don't know that Jimmy has been suspended. They are just looking for someone to explain the will to them. Jimmy is unsure if he can even advise this person because he is no longer suppose to represent himself as a lawyer. He can't properly convey just how much this woman meant to him. Instead, he has to refer the family over to Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill. It's still confusing for them though. Plus, things are even more tragic when Jimmy learns that the firm is essentially downsizing. Chuck's death has rocked the business and Howard no longer has the fight necessary to rebuild it back up. He has been so destructive and defeated as a man. That too is startling to Jimmy. This is no longer the environment he has always known. This firm seems destined to die just because Chuck killed himself. That's too much change for Jimmy though. And so, he literally has to yell at Howard in order to ignite that fighting spirit again. It works. Will it pay off though? That remains to be seen.

That moment with Howard also inspires Jimmy to take action in his own career. He is realizing that he too has to step up and make something of his life. He can't just sit around waiting for something to happen. He wasn't exactly doing that at his new job. He was still making calls preparing for the future. But they were also completely unrealistic. He wasn't making plans that could have actually happened. And now, he buys a hundred cell phones and is storing them in his office space at the nail salon. He is once again going out on the streets. This time though he needs to let the teenagers who beat him up know that he isn't to be messed with. He is proving that he is still this powerful individual who knows exactly how to get respect by threatening violence. Even when he is running away from these guys who wish to do him harm, he is leading them into a trap because he knows exactly how to handle things differently this time around. He is now demanding the respect of the streets. He is doing so simply by hiring two guys to help scare these young street hustlers into cooperation. It's an intimidation tactic that proves this is the person he is becoming because it's where he feels most comfortable. It's going to be so destructive to his life. But right now, he is committed to being a cell phone salesman who is pushing a product that very much enhances the criminal enterprises of the world. He is relying on these connections he is making. He is able to adjust accordingly when the warehouse with the piñatas is the only space available for this ruse. It's still very effective though because Jimmy knows exactly what he is doing. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Piñata" was written by Gennifer Hutchison and directed by Andrew Stanton.
  • It's also so disorientating to watch that piñata sequence as well. So much of the action is centered around the three guys who are hanging upside down from the ceil. The framing of the story makes it seem like they are the ones who are right and the world is upside down. It's strange but so unique as well. It really helps the audience get into their mindset while never taking the focus away from Jimmy and what he is willing to do in this moment.
  • The men that Jimmy hires for this job are Huell and a new character played by Stefan Kapicic. The later is even more intimidating because he is such a towering presence. Plus, both of them prove very effective with this job. As such, it's easy to understand why Huell becomes a reliable employee for Jimmy. The money is good and he can handle himself well in these situations where Jimmy needs assistance.
  • Gus visits Hector in the hospital. He has been told that Hector may be dying due to an infection. Now, the audience knows that not to be the case. So instead, the focus is on this story Gus is telling about a time when he was a young boy and caught a coyote after it was stealing the fruit from the tree he brought back to life. It shows that this vicious streak was always present with Gus. It also parallels nicely with the journey that the audience knows Gus and Hector will remain on.
  • Mike is busy setting up the housing environment for the workers hired for the massive job that Gus has planned. They are going to be kept in complete isolation for at least ten months. That's how long this project may last due to the secrecy involved. As such, Mike wants them to remain entertained while closely monitored. It's a lot of story set up. And yet, it already seems inevitable that someone will be problematic due to the restrictions and secrecy of the job.
  • Mike visits Stacey for the first time since his big blowup at group therapy. He doesn't apologize for what he said. He only regrets when and how he said it. It's enough for him to get back into their lives. However, it also signals that he doesn't wish to return to that meeting of grief again. That's not something that works for him. He just wants to be able to pick up his granddaughter from school and enjoy time with her. He doesn't worry about Stacey ever forgetting Matty.