Monday, May 16, 2022

REVIEW: 'Better Call Saul' - Kim Decides Exactly What She's Willing to Risk to Complete the Con Against Howard in 'Axe and Grind'

AMC's Better Call Saul - Episode 6.06 "Axe and Grind"

Kim and Jimmy enlist a knowledgeable contact. Howard scrutinizes Jimmy's business practices.

"Axe and Grind" was written by Ariel Levine and directed by Giancarlo Esposito

Kim is absolutely vicious. She has all the skills and charm to achieve exactly what she wants without having to con people. Those opportunities present themselves. She has impressed Cliff Main by choosing to leave the straight-and-narrow path of what was expected of her as a corporate lawyer. He sees her in court vigorously defending her client. She holds a microscope up to the law and questions the actions of those who try to exploit it to their personal benefit. She is absolutely incredible. She would be a powerful voice for a criminal justice reform organization that wants to move into the area. Kim saw the benefits of pushing an elevated schedule for the Sandpiper case so she could finance her dreams as a public defender. She saw the necessity of this legal work. So many people are railroaded by the system. The resources meant to help defend them are fleeting. All the money is poured into high power firms and prosecutor's offices. Her role is just as vital. It demands investment. Kim doesn't have to worry heading into this meeting. Her position will convince everyone in the room that she is the right person for the job. She stumbled into all of this when she merely wanted to coerce Cliff into believing Howard was a drug addict. The only problem in accepting this offer is the meeting falling on D-Day. She and Jimmy meticulously plotted their scheme against Howard. By the time he caught on, it was too late to change anything. Of course, his life is already miserable. His marriage exists in name only. Cheryl can barely tolerate his attempt at niceties. Instead, his neuroses simply present as being disruptive to the environment she wishes to create. They stay together mostly becomes it's convenient to project that strength to the outside world. She knows she annoys Howard. She does so anyway because it's the power she gets to exert. Meanwhile, he is caught in this vicious cycle battling Jimmy. He knows something is about to happen. He wants to be armed with as much information as possible. However, Jimmy and Kim have already done the majority of the leg work. They are comfortable picnicking outside the HHM offices the night before. They celebrate victory because everything is inevitable at this point. They have access to the Sandpiper meeting. They have the drugs to make Howard seem high. They have production stills of the mediator to shape their narrative. Human error is the only possible thing that can disrupt this plan. That's exactly what happens. The retired judge happens to have a broken arm. Jimmy is willing to call the whole plan off. They can get Howard another way. Kim turns around determined to make this happen. That's the choice she makes. She turns her back on achieving everything she ever wanted. She is fully intwined with the con now. That cannot be ignored or explained away.

All of this is informed by such searing character work on Kim as well. As a girl, she was embarrassed to be with her mother. She could see the reckless nature of the woman meant to be raising her. She witnesses how she could get exactly what she wants simply by talking enough with a convincing lie. Her mother isn't upset with her for stealing earrings. She simply creates a story to earn sympathy and leave the mall cop distracted. Kim gets what she wants. It doesn't feel good to be aligned with her mother. And yet, she has carried forward that example ever since. She was seduced by the extreme choices. It places her in familiar company with Jimmy and her mother. They didn't force her into being something she's not. It's learned behavior. It's that simple. She is attracted to the art of the con just as much as anyone else. That's true despite the inevitable consequences she will face for the embrace. Howard must fall on this day. Nothing can disrupt that plan. Nor can Kim safely leave it all to Jimmy to accomplish. She came up with this scheme. She has been determined to make it succeed. And so, she turns her car around and returns to Albuquerque. This is the only way to ultimately be satisfied by this mission. It will be costly to her personal aspirations. That too may be the expected outcome. Kim remains one of the few characters with an unresolved fate going into Breaking Bad. Jimmy's open embrace of being a criminal lawyer is nearly complete. Kim's actions here will cement that stance. Francesca decorates the office to have some modicum of decency. It's not the gaudy environment familiar to viewers. That's coming given what these characters seek from their lives. Jimmy can't understand Dr. Caldera wanting to leave the criminal business behind. He's good at connecting people together for various crimes. He has a little black book with so many details. He holds the key. He is happier treating pets. That's his calling. That's what he wants to do. That's the path he wishes to pursue. People can't ignore these basic instincts. They have simply been revealed as their true essences. Things can no longer have any doubt. Confrontations are happening. Those will shape the consequences for the fallout of the entire series. Mike can't allow anything to happen to his family. He can't be with them because of his service to the job for Gus. He refuses to end their security detail. He sees the importance. They mean the most to him. He will do anything for them. The threat remains far away. It creeps closer though. Lalo stages a confrontation in Germany to know what Gus is building. Those characters are one step closer to facing off. It's all careful and precise build up. It creates plenty of excitement. Dread lingers over the proceedings as some characters seem particularly doomed. Surprises are inevitable too despite how well everyone thinks they have thought things through. That is painfully human which is one thing so many refuse to accept until it's too late. Even then, they may not like the people their choices have created even though they were committed to each of them in the moment. That can never be walked back.