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Better Call Saul "Pimento" Recap: Chimp With A Machine Gun

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Last week on Better Call Saul, Chuck got back to work, Mike looked for a new job, and Jimmy went to the opera. This week, Chuck went to the office, Mike made some money, and Jimmy was offered a deal. Let's talk about the newest episode, "Pimento," below.

"You're Not A Lawyer:"Saul has been on a hotstreak in the second half of the season, and "Pimento" was probably the best episode of the series thus far (or at least the equal of the Mike-centric one), a showcase for everything it does great. More than anything, it's a rebuttal to anyone who still thinks Saul is an unnecessary stretching of the Breaking Bad mythos.

Despite having the veneer of relatability for years, Walter White's grotesqueness was undeniable to everyone on and offscreen by the final episodes of Breaking Bad (just like Tony Soprano). But even for viewers turned off by that element, Breaking Bad was able to hook them in by encouraging them to ask the same question again and again as Walt dug a deeper and deeper hole for himself: "What would I do in this fantastical, extreme situation?"

While this made for consistently thrilling television over five (and a half) seasons, Saul has taken a far different, far more grounded, far more human approach during its first season. Saul is telling the story of a small-time lawyer with (relatively) small problems; a small-time crook struggling to be taken seriously; a brother let down by the family member he most idolized and respected.

All season we've watched Jimmy struggle to fight his baser instincts, do the right thing and walk the straight and narrow (and what is more above boards than elder law, right?). In this episode, the universe slaps him in the face for trying to be something other than Slippin' Jimmy, in the cruelest way imaginable. Chuck breaks his heart and ours.

"Finally Out Of The Mailroom: What happens when people with considerable skills are rejected by their chosen profession (and then their family)? What happens when people are forced to find fulfillment in alternative ways? (In this way, Jimmy is a direct parallel to Walt—both feel extreme rejection, both crave respect from their peers, both come up with highly imaginative new personas.)

Showrunner Peter Gould talked to EW about the fractured relationship between the brothers:

“Part of the reason Jimmy’s always gotten into trouble is because he could never equal Chuck,” Gould continues. “Chuck was always the good brother. But from Chuck’s point of view, Jimmy was the one who got all the attention. Jimmy was the kid who would make everyone laugh with a joke. And Chuck, for all his ability and all his brains, really doesn’t have the common touch. And we realized—and it came as a shock to us—that on some level, Chuck is jealous of Jimmy. And that Hamlin wasn’t the problem for Jimmy, really; it’s Chuck. Chuck does not want Jimmy in his law firm. It makes Chuck deeply uncomfortable for so many reasons—some of them legitimate—to have Jimmy be a lawyer at his level. And one of the things I love about the scene at the end of episode 9 that [co-executive producer] Tom Schnauz wrote, and that Bob and Michael played, is that Chuck is not all wrong. Especially those of us who watched Breaking Bad know that there is an element of truth to what he says: ‘The law is sacred. If you abuse that power, people get hurt. This is not a game.’ And that brings up the question: How much is that a self-fulfilling prophecy? Does Jimmy act out because deep down, he believes what Chuck thinks of him?”

Because of BB, we already know where Jimmy is headed. By the time the semi-rehabilitated Chuck snuck outside to grab his phone from the mailbox to call Howard Hamlin, we could see the writing on the wall about Chuck not wanting to work with Jimmy. It was pretty clear from both Hamlin and Kim's behavior that this was where the episode was leading, but it didn't make it any easier to swallow. As we're written before, Jimmy's story is elevated into the realm of tragedy exactly because we know he will fail, despite his best efforts.

We knew there'd be a final straw that would send him over the edge, that would "inspire" him into a state of mind that could imagine Saul Goodman as a better option for his life than being himself. That's why the final confrontation between Jimmy and Chuck hits as hard as it does—well, that and the fact that Bob Odenkirk and Michael McKean are incredible, and wring every last emotion out of the scene. It's especially painful because, as Gould pointed out, we can completely understand Chuck's perspective. The fact he values the company—and the letter of the law—over his brother is a dire milestone for Jimmy.

"If You're Going To Be A Criminal, Do Your Homework": Gould and co-creator Vince Gilligan attended an early screening of the episode this week and commented on Jimmy's journey to become Saul:

According to Gilligan and Gould, how he gets there is less a question of specific steps and more one of establishing motivation. “I worried all through Season 1 that we weren’t getting to Saul Goodman fast enough,” Gilligan said, but added “now I’ve come around 180 degrees and I’m thinking ‘God, I don’t want to get to Saul too quick’, I love Jimmy McGill so much.” The key question, so Gilligan and Gould said, isn’t “how long does it take to turn Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman,” but “what kind of problem does becoming Saul Goodman solve?”

A Flashback That Wasn't: The episode writer and director Tom Schnauz revealed to The Hollywood Reporter that there was originally a six minute opening flashback which had to be cut for time. It doesn't sound essential, but it would be fun to see how the writers conceive pre-teen Jimmy.

There is a whole six-minute teaser that exists that is not shown in this episode. The episode was so over length that instead of death by 1,000 cuts of trying to trim here and there, we decided to lift the entire teaser and make the first scene of Act I the teaser. There's a teaser that shows a very young Jimmy McGill back in the day. He's like nine years old. These actors did such a great job. I'm crossing my fingers that we get to use this teaser for an episode next season and not just make it a DVD extra, which I would feel terrible about.

What Did Mike Do This Week? Since Jimmy and Chuck got all the heavy stuff this week, Mike's story was a much funnier slice-of-life story (assuming the life in question involves paralyzing neck punches). Mike demonstrated his considerable professionalism (and made a lot of quick cash for his granddaughter) by protecting a nerdy would-be drug dealer.

It's been fascinating parsing the differences between Jimmy and Saul, but Mike in Saul has mostly seemed like the same guy who used to lecture Walter White about hazard pay. But while Mike has accepted that he's a criminal—an honorable one, as he tells his employer in a memorable car conversation—he didn't bring his gun to the job; he still thinks he can dip his toe in the underworld water without being submerged.

Also...did Mike's employer remind you of anyone? Alan Sepinwall writes: "I like that they dressed Mike's boss for the day very much like Walter White. Whether this particular business relationship continues or not, it's not hard to imagine Mike having a picture of "Pryce" in his head during his early encounters with Walt, thus driving him to underestimate this seeming fellow nebbish."

O Nacho, Where Art Thou? After being setup as the main antagonist in the early episodes of the season, Nacho/Ignacio disappeared for several episodes before making a brief, quiet cameo in Mike's story. Schnauz filled The Hollywood Reporter in on why that is:

We were very surprised too how little Nacho (Michael Mando) was this season. When we started the season, we thought, "of course Jimmy McGill is going to quickly slide towards being Saul Goodman." What we discovered while breaking it was the transition was much slower than we realized, and that he doesn't become Saul Goodman immediately. The crossing over with Nacho—it just didn't make sense, once we started getting into it. Once he was done with Nacho in episode four, he didn't have any scene to go back and make a lot of money with him, and Nacho didn't come to him with some grand ideas. If you asked me when we started episode one, how much Nacho we would have had, I would have thought he'd be in every episode.

The Honorary Huell Babineaux 'What The Huell Else' Section:

  • Giancarlo Esposito, aka Gus Fring, really wants to be on Saul, and decidedly to be pro-active about it. He reportedly told fans at Dutch ComicCon, "I told Vince Gilligan: If you do not put me in Better Call Saul, I will kill your wife. I will kill your son. I will kill your infant daughter."
  • Vince Gilligan promised fans Saul would be faithful to the continuity of Breaking Bad, as if anyone even remotely doubted this. "We’re beholden to the fans, the fans who pay strict attention and we want to honor them for that, we want to reward them for that," he said.
  • Check out a sneak peek of next week's season finale, "Marcos." The Dalai Lama's got nothing on Jimmy.

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