Moxie might be in short supply these days, but the season finale of Better Call Saul gave us a heaping load of that and then some by shying away from the flash and bang that is the standard fodder of season finales, and instead diving deep into the flesh and bones of its characters.
Content to go at its own pace and not rely on it’s louder, older sibling, Breaking Bad, the entire team delivered a solid season that set Saul apart and cemented it as a brilliant show in its own right.
If I might be so bold… I think I prefer this highly nuanced show to its predecessor.
Hit the jump for the recap and review of “Klick”.
We open in the hospital. Jimmy waits by the bed next to… Chuck? We’re in a flashback. In the bed is their mother, close to death. They’ve been at her side for three days. Jimmy tries to lighten the mood, telling a story of how he once erroneously invited two dates to his mom’s birthday but Chuck points out it’s just another example of Jimmy breaking the rules and making others clean up after him. Jimmy says they need to go eat, but Chuck refuses to leave her side and when Jimmy offers to go get them something, Chuck stays behind. As Jimmy leaves, Chuck weeps.
Their mother wakes up, but only for a moment, and she asks for Jimmy before passing away. Chuck is devastated and seemingly irritated by his mother calling for Jimmy in her dying breaths. It’s as though he knows on some base level he’s just not as lovable as Jimmy.
When Jimmy arrives back from getting sandwiches, he is stunned to find his mother dead. He asks if she said anything before she died and Chuck flatly answers “no”.
That slimy rat-bastard.
Cut to credits.
We reenter the present where we left off last week. Jimmy rushes into the copy store to help Chuck and call 911, giving himself away but overcome by the need to help his brother. Chuck is vaguely aware but clearly not all there.
In the hospital, we are treated to some sweet cinematography as we witness Chuck’s journey through the halls. The scene is long; it’s off-putting and disorientating and is a great insight into Chuck’s point of view. The medical intervention is causing even more distress than the whack to the head has. He pleads with them to stop but the scans are for his own good. It’s painful to watch and a credit to Gilligan’s direction.
Later, Jimmy waits outside his hospital room. The doctor can’t tell him much because Chuck won’t allow any tests. He won’t be “bombarded by electricity.” Ernie waits nearby. Like at the beginning of last season, the doctor suggests again that Jimmy commits his brother, but he refuses, his loyalty to his brother strong despite the trouble it will surely cause him once Chuck regains his senses. Jimmy is a good guy. Stupid and smarmy, and eager to break any rules he thinks he can get away with breaking, but generally good, and it hurts to watch him struggle with having to tell his brother that he’s taking temporary guardianship over him.
Jimmy enters the room and greets Chuck warmly.
“Well, if it isn’t Johnny on the spot,” Chuck snarkily answers.
Apparently the bump to the noggin hasn’t shaken any of Chuck’s animosity loose. Chuck immediately starts grilling Jimmy on why he was at the scene, getting more and more riled up.
“You wanted to see me suffer, have a laugh at my expense,” he rants.
Ernie, in a surprising show of friendship to Jimmy, tells Chuck he called Jimmy earlier in the evening, as he was worried about Chuck. It’s a bold-faced lie and Chuck orders them both out of the room. Before he leaves, Jimmy tries to tell him about the guardianship. But Chuck already knows what Jimmy has planned and he isn’t impressed.
“You finally got me where you want me,” Chuck says.
In the hallway, Jimmy asks Ernie why he covered for him.
“I didn’t want to say anything, but your brother, the way he’s been talking about you lately, it’s like he’s really out to get you,” Ernie says. “And, I don’t know, you’re my friend.”
“I miss the mail room,” he mutters on the way out.
You can’t really blame the guy.
We cut to the back of a van. The ice cream truck driver is bound and gagged and being driven to the desert. It doesn’t bode well for his fate. In the drivers seat is Nacho, looking uncomfortable with what they are about to do. Next to him, sits Arturo. Mike watches with interest from a safe distance behind. This is a series of events he has set into motion and he looks about as comfortable with the situation as Nacho does.
In the hospital, Chuck continues to plead with his doctor not to do the tests. The doctor goes forward anyway and again we get a Chucks-eye-view of the procedure. It’s unsettling. Real or imagined, the man is clearly pained by his “allergy”.
Jimmy and Kim wait for the results while on the television Jimmy’s commercial airs. It’s beautiful. All those covert scenes we’ve watched being shot, combined and united into one glorious advertisement for Jimmy. It makes you wanna chant: USA! USA! USA!
“Gimme Jimmy,” his elderly clients beseech the viewers. “Jimmy McGill… a lawyer you can trust.”
He cringes and turns off his phone when the screen lights up with a call. Despite the raging success the ad seems to be, and Kim’s beaming pride in him, the guilt seems to lie heavy on the man. After all is said and done, his need to one-up Chuck and go out on his own is the reason they are now waiting in the hospital.
Dr. Cruz finally arrives with the results. The good news is that Chuck is fine, there are no signs of a stroke or cardiac arrest. The bad news is that Chuck had a panic attack and the current round of tests has sent him into a state of self-induced catatonia.
The doctor leads Jimmy to Chuck’s bedside and indeed, Chuck isn’t responding. Now might be the time for Jimmy to relent and have Chuck committed; it would sure as hell save him a lot of grief. But for all his faults, and there are plenty, Jimmy is a guy who loves his big brother. He is angry with the doctor for insisting on the tests and refuses to leave Chuck’s side until he wakes up.
Mike meets up with his gun dealer in the desert and practices his shot on a target. He likes the weapon and after some advice from the dealer he buys the powerful gun and some ammo.
“No offense,” remarks the dealer as he carefully cleans the weapon of all his prints.
There’s no doubt about what Mike will be doing with the rifle.
“None taken,” replies Mike, droll.
I really do love Mike’s scenes and the parallel storyline he brings to the show. While my heart is with Jimmy and Kim, Mike brings a sense or urgency to episodes that could otherwise begin to feel agonizingly slow-paced.
At the hospital, Chuck is finally coming around. It’s been twenty hours and Jimmy has faithfully stayed by his side the whole time.
“Where to next?” Chuck asks. “Some insane asylum in Las Cruces? Some place you can really tuck me away for good.
I see the extended nap hasn’t made Chuck any friendlier either.
Jimmy tells him the “T” stands for temporary, and he intends to take Chuck home. Not one for letting things go, Chucks is grumpy while Jimmy fusses over him. He wants to be left alone. Jimmy finally agrees to leave, but only if Chuck agrees to call Ernie. Chuck agrees, but only long enough for Jimmy to leaves. As soon as the younger McGill is out of there, Chuck wraps himself up in a space blanket and heads for the garage. With a pair of tongs (the garage is filled with all kinds of electronic modern conveniences), Chuck rummages around until he finds what he’s looking for.
Back to Mike, who is on the trail of Nacho, Tio, the cousins, and Arturo, who are holding the ice cream truck driver. Armed with his newly purchased rifle, he gets into sniper position and watches through the scope as the driver is led outside.
Nacho stands close beside Tio and Mike seems agitated that he can’t get off a quick shot. Has Nacho spotted him? It seems like he might have and is protecting Hector by staying close.
The scene is another long one, and we witness the driver's death through Mike's POV, alternating between his view through the scope and backward, toward his eye. Arturo finally begins to bury the body and Mike is startled by the sound of his horn going off. He carefully makes his way back to his car, gun drawn, to find someone has left a stick wedged between the seat and the horn. A note is left on his windshield: “Don’t.”
This entire sequence is great, tense and full to the brim with the ambiance of Breaking Bad. Crickets chirp and the desert spans wide, arid and imposing; it practically oozes Vince Gilligan and I couldn’t be happier to have him at the helm for the finale.
At Jimmy and Kim’s office, business is booming. The waiting room is full of elderly clients and Jimmy is running behind schedule. Kim interrupts; Howards has called and it’s important, it’s about Chuck.
Jimmy returns the call to find a frantic Howard who is holding a letter in his hand.
“I have just one question.” He says. “Are you behind this?”
Jimmy rushes over to Chuck’s house but since the locks have been changed, he has to pound on the door, until the grumpy Chuck will let him in. Eventually, Chuck capitulates to a comically persistent Jimmy.
When he enters, Jimmy finds Chuck in the middle of an apparent descent into full madness. He’s wallpapered the entire house in space blankets. Jimmy seems truly concerned about Chuck’s sanity at this point, and fearful for his safety as he stands high up on a ladder space-blanketing the ceiling. What he really needs is a proper Faraday cage, Chuck comments. I have to wonder why he hasn't thought of this sooner. It might be my one complaint with the episode.
Jimmy finally convinces him to come down and take a break, and as they sit on the couch, Jimmy asks about his resignation from HHM.
“You should be relieved,” Chuck says.
But Jimmy is truly concerned about his brother.
“So, you retired? Not just from HHM, but from the law? That’s not good, Chuck. The law needs you and you need it,” Jimmy says. “What brought this on, Chuck? Because I don’t know what you are if you’re not a lawyer.”
Jimmy jokes with Chuck, trying to get him to reconsider. “How are you gonna retire before you get me disbarred? Before you run me out of town?” he laughs.
Chuck still isn’t moved. Jimmy asks if this is about Mesa Verde. He doesn’t admit to doing it but tells Chuck to get angry and fight back.
But Chuck is morose, saying he feels he’s not up to the job anymore, claiming he now realizes he transposed the address numbers.
“It’s this goddamned electricity!” he cries. “It’s wearing me down, it’s wearing my faculties. My brain, my mind, it used to work. And now it doesn’t anymore. And people got hurt… because of me! It’s time to end it.”
Jimmy is overcome with the guilt and finally admits what he did. “It was me. I would have made Nixon proud.” He sighs. “It all went down exactly like you said, I mean, exactly… it is insane how you got every detail exactly right. So you can relax, because that brain of yours is chugging along at a thousand percent efficiency.”
Chuck asks Jimmy to confirm it’s the truth and that he’s not just saying it to make Chuck feel better.
“You’d go to such lengths to humiliate me?” he asks. Because it’s always about Chuck.
Jimmy gets angry now, telling Chuck he did it not to hurt him, but for Kim. She earned and deserved the Mesa Verde case. Not Chuck and certainly not HHM. He didn’t think Chuck would particularly care. Jimmy thought Chuck would say, “Oh, crap, I made a mistake” and go on with his life. “Like a normal person! But oh no… wishful thinking!”
Spent, Jimmy asks Chuck if he can tell Howard he isn’t retiring. Chuck doesn’t respond. Jimmy is done with a capital “D”. He says he’s going to go call Howard. But first, Chuck has one last question.
“Jimmy, you do realize you just confessed to a felony?”
“I guess. But you feel better, right?” Jimmy says. “Besides, it’s your word against mine.”
Except, it’s not.
As Jimmy leaves, we find out what Chuck went looking for in the garage. It’s a tape recorder, which he had stashed under some crap on the coffee table. Chuck grabs his trusty pair of tongs and turns off the recorder.
F@#k that guy!
And so, season two fades to black and I am left yelling at my screen for more.
Slippin’ Jimmy ain’t got nothing on Slippin’ Chuck. In a season filled with underestimations on the parts of all the characters, this one has to be the greatest. Jimmy clearly misjudged just how strong Chuck’s need to be right was, and in the end Jimmy’s love for his brother might be what finally snaps his thread to humanity and unleashes the enigma that is Saul Goodman on the world. At this point, Walter White seems like a peach compared to Chuck McGill.
Where do we go from here, Saul fans? What will Chuck do with the recording? Is he willing to send Jimmy to jail in order to get back at him? Is there any hope left for the brothers to reconcile? It seems unlikely. And what will Kim do when she finds out Jimmy told Chuck the truth? And what about Mike? Was it Nacho who left the note, or does somebody else have eyes on Mike? (Hint: Revisit the episode titles, paying special attention to the first letters…)
So many questions were raised is this brilliant season finale and I cannot wait until we get more.
That leaves me with just one final question: Why must the wait be so long?