Monday, September 17, 2018

REVIEW: 'Better Call Saul' - Jimmy and Kim Commit to New Jobs Despite Their Impact on Their Relationship in 'Something Stupid'

AMC's Better Call Saul - Episode 4.07 "Something Stupid"

Jimmy expands his business, but runs into a problem that only Kim can solve. Gus intervenes in Hector's medical care. Mike deals with a setback.

The Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul creative teams absolutely know how to produce a montage to great effect. These writers have always been very careful in depicting the timelines for the characters as well. This show didn't just want to jump ahead to when Jimmy's suspension from the law was over. They were keenly aware that this time away from his practice would be absolutely transformational for him as a character. This had to be the time in his life that cemented his future as Saul Goodman. And so, the show has spent this entire season in just the beginning months of his suspension as he is growing restless and Kim has been exploring other career opportunities. In fact, this episode rightly points out that Jimmy and Kim are a good couple while Saul and Kim are bound to end in tragedy. The montage that opens this episode is so absolutely painful and devastating to watch. It highlights a couple completely in sync with one another to start with. Jimmy is hurt by Kim deciding to move her talents to another law firm. She has the potential to fill her life with every aspect of the law that intrigues her right now. She is so fulfilled professionally. She is able to continue representing Mesa Verda. During the months that transpire in this opening montage, she gets several plaques commemorating the opening of a new location for the banking company. Kevin and Paige continue to love her. Meanwhile, she is still able to represent the clients who need a public defender who actually cares about the law and will fight to help them avoid any kind of serious punishment. She has the backing of a strong firm that allows her to pursue whatever cases she is interested in doing. In a short amount of time, she has proven herself to be a key asset. She may have spent the entire season so far with her arm in a cast. But that quickly comes off and she immediately throws herself into her work. She no longer needs Jimmy's support to squeeze the toothpaste out of its container.

This doesn't stand in stark contrast to Jimmy's life either. There could be so much compelling storytelling through the framing of Kim's life going so well and Jimmy's life being nothing but stagnant. But he is moving forward with his career ambitions as well. He was so reluctant about this job at the cell phone store. He didn't know if he could be out on the streets making a profit by selling these devices for a profit. But now, he has built an entire career out of it. Sure, he is still at the store just bouncing a ball against the wall. That's how he fills his time during his days at his official job. Elsewhere though, his life is booming. He is sailing through this product. They aren't stuck at the nail salon for very long. He and Huell keep going back to that storage space to get more of them. They have a solid system in place as well. The customers actually come to Jimmy. He has staked out a location in the city and actually made it official too. He believes he's doing everything in a perfectly legal way even though he is selling burner phones to less than savory individuals. Of course, it's crucial to learn that he is advertising himself as Saul Goodman. That's the persona he has put on for this business. That's the name on the business cards. That's the name his customers call him. It's even what he is referred to by the police officer later on. Jimmy sees the benefits of concealing his identity while also being perfectly fine taking on this new name. It presents as a separation of himself even though he embodiments aspects of that identity in every part of his life. This montage ends with Jimmy and Kim still together but seemingly far away as well. It's so tragic because it's just a simple fading away over time even though they are still making the active choice to be with each other.

That's where this episode picks up its story as well. Jimmy's suspension is over but he doesn't have his law license back just yet. He's touring a new real estate property in the hopes of converting it into his office as well. He's so excited and passionate about being able to share his version. It's such a distinct way to frame that moment to the audience as well. It is presented as if Jimmy is telling every detail about his plans to the audience. He is speaking directly to the camera. For the longest time, it's unclear who is actually in this house with him. It's eventually revealed to be Huell who just doesn't understand the vision at all. When he thinks of a lawyer, he sees someone in a corner office with a view in a high-rise building. It's essentially the life that Kim is already living. She fiercely defends her clients in the courtroom and negotiates deals with the prosecutors. But she has this office at her new firm. In fact, it's a part of pride for Jimmy to measure just how big her office is in comparison to his prospective one. It's several feet bigger. As such, Jimmy still feels like he has fallen behind Kim in his career. This suspension has really been damaging to the lives they once envisioned having together. As was clear in the previous episode, Kim is more than capable of thriving in this environment. Jimmy is not. He is able to be perfectly charming. He is the life of this office party. However, he also makes a big spectacle as well to the detriment of the managing partner. He is able to go into detail about how extravagant this corporate retreat to Aspen could be. He makes it sound amazing. And yet, there's no way this firm is going to finance something like that. So, it's ultimately about Jimmy putting on a show to simply prove that he will always be doing whatever best suits him in any given moment.

This episode is seemingly all about the growing distance between Jimmy and Kim as well. They were such a strong couple who supported each other through so much. The montage highlighted how time and new business opportunities drove them apart. They are still supportive of each other. And yet, they both agree that Jimmy's performance at the office party was inappropriate and reckless. It was damaging. They don't even have to say much during the car ride back home. They both just instinctively know. That's the first big moment that is essentially bringing them back together. They spent these last few months focusing on their careers. They have thrived. But now, they need to insert themselves back into each other's lives and potentially complicate them once more. All of this time Kim has had no idea about Jimmy's side business. She just saw him as working this low level job just biding his time until he could become a lawyer again. He has talked about his plans to get back into the law after all of this is over. But she's not the person he is showing around his potential new office. That is very telling as well. Now, he is much more forthcoming with Huell because he's the person he can be completely genuine with. And yet, Jimmy and Huell are still just getting to know each other. Jimmy trusts Huell to protect him and his business. That protection just ends up costing both of them though. A police officer rolls up on the van asking Jimmy to move his business to somewhere else. Huell sees that as a threat and knocks the officer out with a bag while he is also listening to music. He doesn't hear Jimmy saying that it's a cop and that it's not necessary to do anything. Huell just instinctively acts though. It just happens to be a decision that could cost him dearly. That's what the episode ultimately pivots around. Kim and Jimmy have drastically different ideas of how to help Huell out of this predicament without going to jail.

Jimmy and Kim agree that Huell can't run. He has to face these charges head on. If not, they will forever be hanging over his head. He believes he could escape because D.B. Cooper famously did. That's an extreme example of the system failing to catch up to someone. But it's also ironic because Jimmy is giving Huell this advice when he eventually goes on the run and changes his identity in order to avoid prosecution for his crimes as Saul Goodman. That makes all of this thematically rich material that also highlights how Jimmy still has further to go before this transformation is complete. Of course, the distinctions are already stark and plain to see. Jimmy wants to help Huell by discrediting the police officer who was assaulted. He believes the best way to get the case dropped is to simply point out this cop's history of drunken behavior and to fool him into stumbling into the courtroom and unable to tell the judge an accurate depiction of the events that happened. That's absolutely horrifying because it's so abusive to a guy who was simply trying to do his job. Kim is only willing to take over this case as a favor to Jimmy. She is still completely shocked to learn he has been running this side business. She had no idea he was getting into this kind of trouble. Nor does she see his escalation of tactics as a welcome development. In fact, it could hint that she may no longer feel comfortable in this relationship because of what he is willing to do. He was suspended because he broke the law. He did so as retribution against Chuck. Now, she believes that Jimmy has gone on to a better life. That's not true though. He has reverted to his old ways. And now, she's afraid of what he may do as soon as her strategy doesn't pay off. She believes she can simply point out the hypocrisy of Huell facing two and a half years in jail for a crime that this prosecutor has handed out incredibly light sentences on previously. That doesn't work. But Kim may still have found the solution. It just involves craft supplies which is always a welcome development with her.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Something Stupid" was written by Alison Tatlock and directed by Deborah Chow.
  • The time jump was bound to have an impact on Gus and Mike's stories as well. And yes, those consequences are seen here too. They have less importance than the ongoing drama with Jimmy and Kim though. So, it should remain fascinating to see how things will continue to develop with their stories and if they will be interacting with Jimmy again any time soon. It feels like the divide has been even more clear this season.
  • The Germans have made a ton of progress with the excavation that Gus has hired them for and that Mike is overseeing. They have dug out the structure where meth will one day be cooked by Walter White. It's a potent visual. Of course, there are still added complications to this construction site - like the workers going a little stir crazy and making mistakes that will only delay the timeline further for completing this project.
  • It's also just amusing to see Mike learning German. He has formed a bond with the architect of this project. Sure, it's mostly just conversational dialogue with poor pronunciation. But Mike continues to let his presence be known. He hasn't grown tired of this job just yet. And yet, he also understands the workers will need rest and relaxation sooner rather than later to ensure the project keeps moving forward as planned.
  • It's absolutely chilling to learn that Gus is ultimately responsible for Hector's condition at the start of Breaking Bad. Nacho was the man who poisoned Hector and made him have a stroke. Gus brought him back to life by ensuring he got the best care. But now, all he cares about is getting the evidence that proves he's still the same man he was before. Once he gets that clarity, he is more than comfortable stopping the physical therapy. Hector could have made a more meaningful recovery but Gus point a stop to it by keeping him in a wheelchair and moving only one finger.
  • Nacho and Howard are no where to be seen following the time jump. They will still be important and vital characters for the show. It's just going to be fascinating to see if Howard was able to get the firm back on its feet and if Nacho is still indebted to Gus. Both options seem likely. And yet, it's always unclear what the show is capable of doing. A massive twist could just be one episode away in any of these stories.