Tuesday, May 09, 2017

It's a Thin Line Between Cain and Abel

I'm not sure I can begin to tell you how much I loved last night's new Better Call Saul. Satisfying and cruel, its simple cleverness only half concealing a much thornier reality. Bob Odenkirk and Michael McKean deserve great praise for this one.

Spoilers after the screenshot

On the one hand, this is a story about how Jimmy (Odenkirk) escapes from and claims victory over the seemingly inescapable and petty machinations of Chuck (McKean). On that level, it feels good. Chuck manipulates the situation in order to humiliate Jimmy because of the lifelong axe Chuck's had to grind against him, Jimmy's obvious affection never being enough to satisfy Chuck's need.

On the other hand, this is a story about how Jimmy sabotaged Chuck's business and reputation and then gets away with it by publicly humiliating Chuck in a way Chuck could never have been prepared for, exposing Chuck to a truth about his own psychological state about which Chuck was firmly unaware. Whatever else may have happened, there are few things crueller than what Jimmy did to Chuck at the end of this episode, and yet what choice did Jimmy have?

The courtroom drama has all the structure of a satisfying hero versus villain story. It looks like Chuck and Howard (Patrick Fabian) have an iron-clad case and Jimmy's going to get disbarred, probably eventually dragging Kim (Rhea Seehorn) down with him, and she's clearly not ready to face directly her own complicity in Jimmy's crime. So the effect on her would be professionally and psychologically devastating. So the sudden reversal thanks to a plan Jimmy and Kim hatched to have a battery planted on Chuck has the feeling of a dramatic, last minute heroic act. Yet . . .

Theoretically, suffering professional and psychological repercussions are what should happen to people who commit fraud for personal gain. It's only that Chuck and Howard had been such dicks to Jimmy and Kim that gives us pause. This is where the show hits the same grey area as Breaking Bad with Walter's built up resentment over the success of his former business partner.

I honestly thought they'd made all the hay they could from the Chuck storyline in season one but this episode shows I was definitely wrong. Now I want to see the fallout. But I still want Jimmy to start wearing the cool suits.

On a side note, what happened to the attorney played by Kimberly Herbert Gregory, I thought she was representing Howard and Chuck?

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