Better Call Saul 2.08 “Fifi” Jamil Scalese April 10, 2016 Reviews, TV The first scene of last week’s Better Call Saul opened a time warp and sent the viewer back to the 70’s to give us a look into the origin story of Jimmy McGill. This week presents something similar except that this cold open is less concerned with the main character and more demonstrative of the show’s essence. An elongated tracking shot follows a refrigerated box truck as it crosses the US-Mexico border and gets pulled into Customs. The vehicle is inspected and cleared and after the deadpan Latino driver is sent on his way he pulls alongside the road in the remote desert, pulls a gun out of a box hidden buried under a rock, and stakes a popsicle stick into the ground among several others. Whoever this guy is he’s been doing whatever he’s doing a long time. This prologue is BCS all day. Exquisite camerawork depicting a playful and thoroughly executed premise that is seemingly aimless and sidebar to the plot. I’m not even necessarily complaining. It’s like a prolific NBA player with a funky jump shot. If it goes in it goes in, why whine about it? The norm of Season Two, thus far, has been to slow the Jimmy-centric plot while allowing the rest of the cast to play catch up. Last episode pointed the spotlight more toward the main character but this one scatters the ray and returns to an ensemble feel. In fact, just about every actor gets a memorable beat or two, save Michael Mando. I often crave nachos, so craving Nacho isn’t outside of my forte. Kim: Though much welcomed, the amount of attention given to Kim Wexler this year is surprising. “Fifi” is chiefly concerned with continuing the storyline of her shifting employment situation and her deepening relationship with Jimmy. Face-to-face showdowns with men are a defining motif to Kim’s journey through this episode. The first time we see her she’s at the Dog House (a locale we saw a few times in Breaking Bad) cementing plans to open a joint firm with Jimmy, laying down the law, so to speak, regarding the nature of their collaboration. Soon after Kim faces off with Howard Hamlin who is already keen for her resignation. What he doesn’t know is that Kim is actually aiming for a solo venture, which flips his mood from callous to supportive. He even offers to absolve her of the college loan debt owed to HHM. All is well, until she overhears Howard trying to arrange a meeting with Mesa Verde Kim full-on runs through the office to get to her phone (the scene reminded me of Walt’s mad dash to beat Hank to get to Skylar back in BB’s “Buried”). She gets on the horn with her contact at the bank, Paige, and arranges a meeting with fellow bigwig Kevin Wachtell. Once again Kim squares off with a powerful male, selling herself as the logical choice to head up the institution’s legal concerns. She later tells Jimmy she completely and utterly nailed the pitch and was rewarded in turn. Our girl is literally shaking with joy. Yay Kim! She’s gung-ho about doing the shared office space thing with Jimmy…until she gets some bad news regarding her first client. Howard: Without being a prominent component to the plot Howard receives some sneaky good moments. First, the audience is offered scope to his backstory as he relates to Kim that he envies her opportunity to start anew and that he considered something similar before helping his father build up the family business. In just a few lines it’s clear this guy has some regrets. Later, Howard shows up unannounced at Chuck’s dimly lit abode to inform him they are set to lose the Mesa Verde account. Their relationship is one of the series’ more intriguing dynamics the interplay in the scene is awesome. Chuck is somewhat astonished by Kim’s coup and scoffs in disbelief that Jimmy, whom he dubs a “Svengali,” has convinced her to go solo. Howard, perhaps purposefully, prods Chuck into action. Chuck: Donning a business suit (sans space-blanket liner) Chuck is determined to retain Mesa Verde whilst not looking insane in the process. He tells Howard he’s going to venture right into the middle of the electromagnetic storm to win back the lucrative account. We’ve seen pieces and parts of Chuck’s legal acumen but we get the full load in the meeting with Kevin and Paige. Framing his pitch as a recommendation for Kim Wexler he slyly details the complex, constantly evolving world of banking law and pretends to portray his years of experience as a possible detriment to their cause. He throws out terms like Community Reinvestment Act and softly reminds the Mesa Verde that a team of lawyers is inherently better than a solitary one. All the while he never speaks an ill word about Kim and still manages to make her look weak and ill-prepared. A simply masterful performance by Chuck. After the successful meeting Howard, who played a sort of straight man to the whole routine, commends his colleague on the good work, which is then punctuated by Chuck completely passing out. Jimmy: Before Jimmy is roped into the above hoopla he’s on a bit of a personal mission with his amateur filmmaker buddies (do they have names?). In a trip to a military base Jimmy and his crew, including an old pervert dressed as a distinguished vet, manage to chase away their tour guide and capture some video of a massive B-29 airplane named Fifi. It’s probably safe to assume that Jimmy is filming a Better Call Saul-like advert, but the creators of this show have often banked on the audience expecting one thing to only then veer sharply in another direction. Jimmy then seeks out an office space for Wexler and McGill headquarters. A former dentist practice with two separate offices and a shared reception area looks to be the perfect fit, and Kim agrees. That is until she’s hit with the news that HHM has ripped Mesa Verde from her. Jimmy tries to console his bae with typical platitudes of perseverance but it kills him to see her disposition swing so wildly in such a short time frame. Jimmy gets the call that Chuck is in the midst of a major episode during the Fifi scene but only rushes over to his place after Kim’s professional letdown. After relieving Ernie/Ernesto from Chuck Watch he finds his brother out cold on the couch looking like a giant baked potato. Glancing to his left Jimmy notices some boxes labeled “Mesa Verde.” The following sequence, yet another phenomenal montage, stands as perhaps the most vile thing the protagonist has done to date. Jimmy rifles through the box, pulls out the forms that list Mesa Verde’s address, takes them to a 24 hour copy shop, uses an Exacto knife to cut 6’s and 1’s from the address lines, switches the digits, pastes them back onto the page, makes copies of these forms and then swaps them into Chuck’s file box. There are more tragic forms of evil, for sure, but a lot of those acts are things that happen in the immediate. Hell, even most justice systems recognize that a crime of passion is different, perhaps even more forgivable, than something premeditated. Jimmy’s “cut and paste” move is so utterly calculated, so meticulous, that it’s hard to believe that this sabotage won’t result in a catastrophic end. Whose end? I got no clue. The following morning Jimmy greets a groggy Chuck and immediately asks him why he’s trying to ruin Kim’s career. The older brother replies that there is nothing personal in making a pitch to Mesa Verde, and he’s completely right in a superficial way. Everything Chuck has done so far to stop Jimmy has been above the board, that is, categorically legal. Even for the audience it’s hard to tell if Chuck met with Kevin and Paige to win back a huge client or to thwart Jimmy’s attempts to put his monkey-mitts on an AK. Before exiting the room he pauses to thank Jimmy for staying with him, and if things were “reversed”, a word that softly points to Jimmy’s latest scheme, that he’d do the same for him. I believe we’ve officially reached the point of no return for Jimmy’s soul. Hold on to the ship’s guardrail, Saul ahoy! Mike: Once again, Mike is on his own. Completely isolated from just about every other plotline Mike the Cleaner continues his season-long arc of trying to procure money while trying not to attract violence. I’ll admit I have little idea what the hell Mike was doing in much of this episode. He barely has any lines and the ones he does speak toward the end are soaked in untruths. He spends a lot of time watching the Salamanca ice cream shop, recording in his notebook when the truck from the opener roll in, as well as when Tio/Hector pulls up. Another scene shows Mike watching a different location as the same truck arrives. This results in Mike and his granddaughter drilling holes in a garden hose which he later fills in with large nails. It’s apparent Mike is making a spike strip, but the exact blueprint of his plan and its purpose are undisclosed. This apparent vendetta against Hector and the Salamanca crime family feels a bit contrived as Mike has already sated the request that he change his statement to the police. Is he scared of retribution? Trying to rob them? Looking to become a vigilante? The purpose of this particular story might be hidden in Kaylee’s comment about learning fractions in school. Is Mike about to give a lesson in half-measure and full-measures? Saul: He’s not here yet, but he’s on the way. This show has adopted the “style over substance” demeanor of its title character. Typically, that phrase would be use to describe a poor, hollow quality but the visceral elements of Better Call Saul are so on point that they excuse the otherwise sluggish plot. I still have some issues with that but I also trust the writers, cast and crew to accelerate this bad boy at just the right time. That said, Breaking Bad was groundbreaking in several ways but one structural element that blew me away was how the season’s climax typically happened before the finale (see “Phoenix,” “Half-Measures,” “Ozymandias”). The first season Better Call Saul followed this trend with Chuck’s big reveal he was blocking and dissuading Jimmy’s career, and that effectively made the S1 finale a kind of epilogue. I’m looking for a similar move to be made this upcoming Monday evening. Right now the show is something like Frankenstein’s monster — a bunch of intriguing parts smashed together in funky ways just waiting for a jolt to bring it to life. After Jimmy’s numeral switcheroo it looks like the thunderstorm is on the horizon. Better Call Saul 2.08 "Fifi"Jamil's Rating3.5Overall 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.