“You’re not a real lawyer” And with that, ladies and gentlemen, we have a TV series. In its first season, the quality of Better Call Saul could be described as “good.” The overall range has swayed between “very good” to “it was good, I guess.” It’s had good acting, good scripts and good aesthetic choices. To quote “Slippin” Jimmy McGill: “S’all good, man.” Even in moments where I wanted to criticize for its lazy pace or lack of a piercing hook I’ve had to consider that when compared to much of serialized TV (which is in a much-heralded Golden Age) it holds up fairly well. Yet, the lack of definition has been apparent as the show has forgone a true antagonist. The two introduced before this episode have been either in the case of Howard Hamlin, nebulous in motive and disposition, or in the case of Nacho Varga, completely absent from most events. Both these characters make very important appearances in “Pimento” so let’s start with the former. Howard Hamlin has been very, very confusing to me since the first episode. Actor Patrick Fabian has played the character right down the middle in terms of the zeitgeist of a lawyer: slick and assertive with a touch of douchebag. However, outside of surface details little has been revealed of Howard, we’ve seen no personal moments or even really any actions that would deem him the villain. In last week’s episode a flashback showed that Hamlin had previously denied newly certified lawyer Jimmy a position at Hamlin, Hamlin and McGill but we received absolutely no motive for the decision. The same thing happens in “Pimento” when Jimmy and Chuck bring their Sandpiper Crossing fraud case to HHM. After receiving mounds of documents from the law firm of Schweikart and Cokely the elder McGill unloads the hard truth on his young bro: a case of this magnitude is literally impossible to handle between two people as the opposing lawyers will drown them in paperwork and frivolous injunctions. Chuck explains that in order to get a speedy and successful resolution to this case it is in their best interests to hand it over to HHM who have the resources to get results. Jimmy is very reluctant but he also knows his brother is an expert and it’d be best to follow his lead as he has their best interests at heart. Or so he thinks. Jimmy is also banking on another assumption: bringing the case to HHM will finally result in him getting a job there, an aspiration that clearly satisfies and excites him. When he discusses terms of the case (a sweet twenty thou upfront and 20% of the final result) Howard Hamlin firmly shuts the employment request down. Jimmy spits venom at him expecting an explanation but Howard offers none. He simply defaults to the wishes of “the board.” The heart of the episode’s success lies within Howard’s motive. He initially offers none, even when Kim pleads for an answer on behalf of her friend. He’s cold and non-responsive, he refuses to confirm or deny whether he actually holds a grudge against Jimmy. It’s right around there that I started to get an odd feeling that some other force was involved in Jimmy’s terrible luck, and many signs pointed to Chuck. First, we got that not-so-subtle moment of him sneaking outside to make a secretive call on Jimmy’s cellphone, but even more, the entire scene of Jimmy and Chuck’s visit to HHM implied that Chuck truly is a “rock star” and he assuredly has enough clout to get Jimmy the job he’s always coveted. Toward the episode’s latter stages I knew Chuck had a part to play in the drama but I was absolutely confounded as to what motive the guy would have to bar his brother from a prime job. My inquires were answered with flair in the final five minutes, a scene that to this point defines the show and gives it the bite that it’s been lacking for the first 8/10 of the season. Perhaps the show’s most likeable character does one of the best face-heel turns I’ve ever seen, and it’s even more amazing it was all set up in less than ten episodes. When pressed by Jimmy about deleted phone calls and secret pacts Chuck McGill goes off, lambasting his brother for his generic law degree and his general demeanor. Law isn’t about theatricality and joviality, it’s about statute, debate and analysis, he explains. Chuck looks at his younger sibling and still sees “Slippin’ Jimmy”, the con artist from Illinois he constantly bailed out of trouble. He does not view him as a lawyer; rather he’s a “chimp with a machine gun.” So, for years he’s subverted Jimmy’s career because he believe he has made a mockery of Chuck’s life work. The irony being that while he chastises Jimmy for being a con man, Chuck has employed deceptive measures to block his betterment. With this development so many pieces of the story fall into place. Chuck’s sometimes odd behavior (outside of the whole electricity allergy thing) is perfectly explained and Howard’s vague antagonism makes complete sense. One was an agent for the other and it has resulted in tremendous character depth for both. These characters flip-flopping, Chuck as the spiteful saboteur and Howard as the dutiful friend and business partner, plants seeds for some great interactions in the future. With Chuck pulling a Vito Corleone and becoming a sort of main antagonist the show’s other bad guy makes a return after a (too) long hiatus. Nacho Varga shows up, but not quite in the way you’d expect. Mike’s subplot detailing the origin of his crime life shows us his first job, a protection gig for a squirrely guy named “Price.” This man, a sort of proto-Walter White, hires three badass dudes to stand around and look like badass dudes as he makes a drug deal. One of the guys, a gun-obsessed jabber jaw, gets a bit contemptuous with Mike over his lack of firearms which causes the stoic ex-cop to put the talky, cocky man on his ass. Price and Mike head to a spacious meet-up area where they convene with, you guessed it, Nacho and his crew. The two quiet macho men size each other up a bit, but it’s a scene that mainly serves to bring Nacho back into the action after disappearing for about half the season. He buys a box of pills from Price and later Mike speculates he’s doing deals outside of his main crew operation. We have plenty of hints that Nacho is a patient planner but we’re firmly in the dark about the nature and scope of those plans. “Pimento” did big things, and just in time. Better Call Saul was given a two-season order right at the start of production and with that berth the creators had room to set up a beautiful twist that gives the whole show credence. Chuck’s sabotage reveal almost excuses some of the more padded and wandering plotlines, but it also sets a bar for all episodes following. I can’t imagine the show taking a big step back after this hour. The finale should be a funhouse. Better Call Saul 1.09 "Pimento"Jamil's Rating4.5Overall ScoreReader Rating: (0 Votes)Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.