I know, what’s new? Better Call Saul sees Jimmy land in hot water often. He was always going to do so again. “Witness” took his missteps to another level, though. It also widened the divide between the McGill brothers, possibly beyond any ability to bridge. As usual, this all went down with the outstanding quality you expect at this point from this excellent show.
Oh, and Mike met an old friend this week. Let’s dive in.
Spoilers for 3×02 “Witness” below
Chuck starts off this week with his plan in full motion. He locks all his windows and doors for the night and checks outside while a private investigator waits with him. Mike continues his own plan by following the men who took the tracker from his car. They exchange the tracker with someone else and Mike’s target changes. The new guy stops at a couple supply drops before leading Mike back to…Los Pollos Hermanos! It’s happening! He leaves after a while but the tracker stays at the restaurant.
The nostalgia doesn’t stop with Mike. Jimmy’s first appearance involves job interviews for a receptionist. The first person through the door is Francesca, who later becomes his receptionist during the Saul Goodman days. He and Kim interview her. Jimmy’s distracted by time throughout and wants to hire her immediately because he has a commercial about to air. Kim has objections but gives Francesca a trial run.
Of course, Jimmy hovers over her throughout every phone call and coaches her. Mike calls and sets up a meeting. They meet at Pollos Hermanos, where Mike wants Jimmy to go inside and watch the guy Mike tracked before to see what he does with a bag. Jimmy orders some food and is extremely obvious while watching. The guy Mike tracked leaves without doing anything. Jimmy checks the trash he throws away and meets Gus in the process. He reports to Mike afterwards.
Gus sweeps outside so he can watch them leave. Mike continues watching the restaurant later. An SUV shows up briefly and drives off, driven by Victor. It’s a regular Breaking Bad reunion this week. Mike’s tracker tells him the tracker left with Victor so he leaves after him.
Ernie shows up at Jimmy and Kim’s office later and calls Kim from the parking lot. She meets him outside where he reluctantly tells her about Chuck’s tape. Because Kim is nearly perfect, she takes a $20 from Jimmy so she has confidentiality as his “lawyer” and asks him about the confrontation with Chuck. Jimmy tells her what he said and she tells him about the tape. She reaches the same conclusion Hamlin did last week that the tape is easily opposed legally.
While Jimmy stews, Kim does research. She tells him about the legality of the tape and the strategies against it, and wonders what Chuck’s plan is. Jimmy’s anger gets the better of him when she leaves and he storms out of the office. Meanwhile, Mike follows the tracker signal to an isolated spot where a ringing phone waits. He answers it.
Hamlin jumps some fences to get to Chuck’s house after parking a ways away. Turns out Chuck’s private investigator has been there around the clock for 8 days on HHM’s dime. They agree to limit PI time to nights only when Jimmy comes angrily banging on the door. He kicks the door open, finds the tape, and destroys while screaming at Chuck all the while. Hamlin reveals himself and the episode ends with Jimmy basically screwed.
Oh, Jimmy. You poor, poor man. Say what you want about Chuck but he definitely knows his brother as well as Jimmy knows him. Most of all, both brothers really know how to push each other past the brink. We’ve seen both do so to the other now, and probably permanently sever their relationship in the process.
Ever since season 1’s revelation of Chuck’s role in stalling Jimmy’s career, the relationship between the two has grown increasingly antagonistic. Jimmy lost the idolized image of his brother that inspired him to be better and become a lawyer. His continued success ate at Chuck. However, they never lost their love for each other throughout most of season 2. They still tried to reach each other and repair the relationship. This dynamic was never going to last, though, and something was bound to break.
Chuck’s breaking moment came after Jimmy’s photocopy scheme. He threw the relationship aside in his obsession to punish his brother. And now Jimmy has experienced his with the tape revelation.
The premiere showed how Jimmy still, despite everything, wanted to get back in his brother’s good graces. He still cared about his brother’s approval and was eaten up by Chuck’s hostility. This continued throughout this week. We’ve seen throughout the course of Better Call Saul how Chuck’s disapproval often drives Jimmy to do bad things. Chuck is always right, after all, and if Chuck thinks Jimmy can never be anything besides a bad person than clearly Jimmy should just be a bad person.
It happened when he returned to scamming with Marco after finding out Chuck sabotaged him at HHM. It happened when he concocted the squat cobbler scam after Chuck returned to HHM to “bear witness” to Jimmy’s failure with Davis & Main. While the photocopy scheme was meant to help Kim, Jimmy’s motivation also had to do with the belief Chuck was punishing him by punishing Kim.
This week, his eagerness to help Mike was driven by his guilt over confessing to Chuck. When he found out Chuck manipulated him to tape a confession, there was never a question Jimmy would do something stupid. The only question was just how stupid.
He did something pretty damn stupid.
What will the consequences of breaking into Chuck’s house be? I have no idea. I’m no lawyer and I don’t know the charges which may or may not be brought against him. His actions look awful. He kicked his brother’s door down and broke into his desk. Hamlin and the private investigator can testify to Jimmy’s violent behavior.
Also, how does this affect Kim, who has set herself up firmly (and legally?) on Jimmy’s side? Or Ernesto, who wanted so badly not to get into trouble but was always expected to? Those are questions for future episodes. This week Better Call Saul was all about the McGill brothers.
For them as well, the future consequences take a backseat. What matters is that Jimmy experienced his shattering moment. Whatever the consequences, Jimmy will desperately seek retribution. Just like Chuck did after the photocopy scheme. Chuck played this brilliantly. Vindictively, but brilliantly. He knew Ernie would leak the existence of the tape. He knew how his brother would react. The only thing he underestimated was just how badly it would affect Jimmy. And boy did it affect him badly.
I’ve argued for years against the show having a single “Saul” moment where Jimmy changed for good. I still am. This might end up the closest thing to such a moment, though.
It says something when Gus finally makes his appearance and something else overshadows him entirely. The debate still rages over whether Better Call Saul should focus more on Jimmy and the legal side of the show or Mike and the criminal side. Chalk up “Witness” as evidence for the legal side. Jimmy and Chuck’s relationship continues to shine as one of the best things on television. For all the callbacks in this episode to the show it spawned from, Better Call Saul continues to excel most when at its most original.
And it definitely helps when you have two actors as great as Bob Odenkirk and Michael McKean playing these characters. They don’t just excel within the roles of their individual characters, the two somehow manage to surpass even that high standard every time they share the screen. The two have a chemistry together that lifts every scene together into the dramatic stratosphere. It’s no coincidence that the most memorable scenes of every season tend to be theirs. I expect the end scene of “Witness” might be that scene for season 3.
They are two excellently acted, excellently written characters who create more and more magic with every episode.
Of course, as Mike’s storyline with Gus ratchets up in intensity, they may make their own case. Mike’s story continues to move at Better Call Saul’s notoriously slow pace, but is doing so effectively. Gus has always been an intelligent brand of criminal. Mike as well. It makes sense that the two would play such a cat and mouse game with each other before Mike began working for Gus.And as much as I like the original stuff, the Breaking Bad callbacks still make me giddy.
Better Call Saul just keeps getting better, though, and the reasons why have little to do with its connection to its parent show. Saul keeps succeeding on its own, and keeps suggesting it may go down alongside Breaking Bad on the TV pantheon.
- Kim continues to be amazing, to her own detriment. She knows the trouble of defending Jimmy here but she’s too damn loyal a person to split. I can’t help but think she’ll suffer more than Jimmy in the end.
- The McGill side of the Wexler-McGill logo was crooked. I see what they did there, Better Call Saul.
- Also, sorry Jimmy but the logo 100% looks like a stock market crash.
- Kim’s “give me a dollar” moment was just like Saul’s when Walt and Jesse kidnap him in Breaking Bad.
- Did they seriously just throw that job at Francesca and let her start the same day? Why has no one ever done that for me?
- Los Pollos Hermanos has the quickest turnaround time in fast food history. It was like 30 seconds from Jimmy ordering to Jimmy getting his food.
- Hamlin running and jumping the fence was unexpectedly hilarious. He ran like someone desperate not to crinkle his suit.
- Gus is certainly smart, but Jimmy made it easy on him in the restaurant.
- Jimmy’s clients LOVE him. And I get it, loving Jimmy is easy. He’s highly charismatic.
- “No wonder Rebecca left you!” Ouch, Jimmy. He’s almost certainly right, but ouch.