This episode features two separate storylines and only one major revelation, so let’s start small. Mike gives granddaughter Kaylee the puppy he had checked out by the vet (adorable), and protects a first-time criminal as he sells prescription drugs to Nacho (less adorable). While it’s nice to see Nacho again, it’s a plot thread that doesn’t connect at all (yet).
Meanwhile, continuing off last week, Chuck continues to fight his “sensitivity” to the electricity of the outside world, while Jimmy continues to build his class-action case against Sandpiper Crossing’s crooked assisted living facilities. The case is looking good; so good, in fact, that Chuck convinces Jimmy to bring the case to Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill for “help.”
HH&M’s version of help, it turns out, is to pay off Jimmy with a finder’s fee and remove him from the case. Jimmy looks to Chuck for help, but Chuck can’t overturn the HH&M board’s decision and the situation looks helpless. Even Kim, after an unseen conversation with Howard, tells Jimmy to take the deal. “Be your own man,” she pleads with him.
Jimmy then figures out what really happened: Chuck told Hamlin to keep Jimmy off the case, because despite everything that’s happened, Chuck doesn’t think that Jimmy is a real lawyer. The ensuing confrontation between Jimmy and Chuck results in Jimmy declaring that he’s done, speeding off after delivering his last batch of ice and bacon. The dream of the McGill boys, working together against the man, now seems forever dead.
Opening Credits Extreme Close-Up
Today, we’re watching an unknown stream of urine soaking a Saul Goodman matchbook that’s been discarded in the urinal. Stay classy, “Saul.”
The Least Legal Move
Mike’s temporary “boss” probably takes the title here, handing over a box of unknown pills in exchange for cash and becoming, in Mike’s words, a full-on criminal. Not that it makes him a bad person.
Remembering What Hasn’t Happened Yet (The “Breaking Bad” Tie-In)
Boy, that factory location where the drug deal went down looked familiar, huh? But also, Mike’s descent into the local criminal underworld is apparently as key to this series as the question of when, exactly, Jimmy will take on his new identity. Mike’s knowledge of the major Albuquerque players, after only a short time in town, is further proof of how a humble beat cop from Philly might be the smartest guy in the state of New Mexico.
Oh, That’s Right, It’s a Period Piece
It’s all about the cell phones. Oh, the days when phones flipped open and shut. That’s really the only thing that this show’s made me feel nostalgic about.
What’s Wrong With Chuck?
Chuck was by far the most lucid he’s been in a non-flashback capacity this week. Unfortunately, it turns out that a lucid Chuck is a cruel one. What’s wrong with Chuck? A lack of faith in his brother, established by decades-old bad behavior but, in his mind, only reenforced by Jimmy’s more recent actions.
On The Journey From Jimmy to Saul
Of all the things that might literally contribute to Jimmy’s transition into Saul Goodman, Criminal Attorney, discovering Chuck’s betrayal is probably the biggest reason for why Jimmy ends up changing his name. Now that he knows what Chuck thinks of him, holding onto McGill might no longer be a priority.
Gin, tequila and “good Kentucky bourbon”! Mixers, too! Jimmy lays out quite a party spread for Kim at the nail salon to “celebrate.” Too bad it’s not really a celebration.
God, this was tough. Mike has a beauty of a monologue, delivered to his client “Price,” about the lines between law and lawless, and good and bad: “I didn’t say you were a bad guy, I said you were a criminal.” It’s an entire character bible, contained in one speech.
But then, the final confrontation between Jimmy and Chuck is stacked with beautiful cruelty, capped off with this terrible zing from Chuck: “Slippin’ Jimmy with a law degree is like a chimp with a machine gun.” How can a funny image also be such a knife to the heart? A question for the ages.
“It’s From a Movie!”
“We can ‘Erin Brockovich’ the shit out of this case!” Jimmy proclaims at the beginning of the episode, before he knows anything. Chuck corrects him on an important point, though: Even Erin Brockovich had outside help. (I don’t remember that from the movie, but I’ll go along with Chuck on this.)
In Conclusion, Your Honor
Covering TV, you get used to shows having a specific rhythm, and one fairly well-established pattern is that the second-to-last episode of a season is where, for lack of a better phrase, shit gets real. Bombs get exploded, secrets get revealed, Starks get murdered. The penultimate installment at the very least sets the stage for a blowout finale, and at its most is the dramatic realization of the whole season’s potential.
“Breaking Bad” didn’t always adhere to this, and honestly I’m a bit on the fence about whether or not “Better Call Saul” has done so here. At the beginning of the season, Chuck’s purpose in the series was a bit nebulous. He was more like a satellite orbiting around Jimmy than a fully operational player in the drama. But week-by-week, it became clearer what Chuck, and more importantly Chuck’s respect, meant to Jimmy: Everything.
Everything in “Pimento” builds to this quiet scene between two brothers, but while the emotional seismic impact is on par with Hector Salamanca’s final ring of his bell, narratively there’s so much more to “Better Call Saul” that needs resolution. Plots have drifted in and out of the show’s focus over these nine episodes, and while week by week the experience of watching has been pleasant, a season finale without real fireworks is going to be deeply unsatisfying. For giving its central relationship between two brothers the attention and care it has, “Better Call Saul” must be applauded. But for weeks now there’s been a sense that something big is coming — and at this point, we’re impatient for it.