Spoiler Warning for Season 3, Episode 9 of “Better Call Saul,” as well as all seasons of “Breaking Bad.”
Jimmy McGill has always operated in the moral gray area and we’ve definitely seen shades of Saul Goodman, but in the latest episode, a single despicable scam might just be the final nail in the coffin for Jimmy. The other McGill brother gets his hands dirty as well in order to get what he wants. Mike takes several steps forward toward his “Breaking Bad” storyline and then there’s Kim, who’s time in the series just might be up. This penultimate episode is another fantastic hour and perfectly sets everything up for a thrilling season finale.
One of my favorite plots from “Better Call Saul” so far has been the Sandpiper Crossing case that Jimmy was involved in during Season 1; upon paying a visit to the retirement home, Jimmy checks in with the lead member of the lawsuit, Irene Landry (Jean Effron). It’s no secret that Jimmy is quite popular with the elderly residents of the retirement home, mostly due to his sweet-talking and seemingly genuine nature. With HHM now representing the Sandpiper residents in the lawsuit, Jimmy decides to question Irene about the settlement offer; if the residents settle, Jimmy will receive a payday for his role in forming the case. He learns from Irene that should they accept the offer, each resident would get a hefty paycheck, but that HHM has urged them not to take the offer yet. Jimmy decides to confront Howard about the case and accuses him of acting in the interests of HHM rather than the elderly clients; HHM will make more money if they are able to negotiate a better deal. Howard calls Jimmy out for wanting a quick handout, but Bob Odenkirk’s expert acting makes it difficult to tell if this is Jimmy’s actual intent.
I just HAVE to talk about the most exciting part of this episode; the awkward meeting of Mike and Lydia. Last week’s episode ended on a chilling note as Gus and Mike solidified their partnership to assist in Erhmantraut’s money laundering. Back in “Off Brand,” we saw the brief return of Lydia, but this episode dives deep into her relationship with Gus, as well as her new life as a cover for criminal activities. Mike meets with Lydia at the Madrigal offices, where she sets him up on their payroll to allow for his large quantity of money to be properly laundered; there is a clear sense of uncertainty that Mike has, worried to put his real name into the system and expose himself. Lydia tries to quiet his fear, but also makes him aware of the fact that she has never done something like this. That being said, she does have a working relationship with Gus, even describing him as being so much more than just a “drug dealer.” Seeing Mike getting involved with Madrigal and Gus is incredibly compelling to watch, especially considering the grim way this involvement ends for everyone; we know that a few years from now, Mike, Gus and Lydia will all be dead…at the hands of Walt to be specific. Seeing the prequel and main show come together so perfectly adds a whole other layer to the overall story and makes the characters all the more rich. I always loved the interactions between Mike and Lydia in “Breaking Bad,” so seeing their first meeting is incredibly satisfying.
This is a huge episode for Chuck, one that proves that the McGill brothers aren’t all that different. With Jimmy’s decision to expose Chuck’s meltdown to the insurance company, there are heavy consequences for HHM; the premiums for the practice’s lawyers will go up, something that obviously angers Chuck and Howard. It really seems that Chuck has managed to keep his electromagnetic sensitivity under control, but he absolutely loses it during a meeting with the insurance company and threatens a lawsuit against them. Howard realizes that he must save face and protect the integrity of HHM and proposes that Chuck retire from the law. This sets Chuck OFF and he literally threatens to end HHM with a massive lawsuit; would Chuck really be willing to destroy a company that he worked hard to build just to prove a point? We’ve seen Chuck do plenty of slimy things over the three seasons, especially to Jimmy, but this move proves to me that he and his brother are both wired the same; using people to get what they want isn’t exactly difficult for them and they will do whatever it takes to keep themselves from going under.
Speaking of Jimmy, we see him constructing his most reprehensible scam thus far; using a fancy pair of shoes, Jimmy manages to manipulate the residents of Sandpiper Crossing into turning against their friend Irene. By talking to them behind her back, Jimmy puts it in their head that Irene doesn’t care about her friends and is allowing the class action lawsuit to go on longer solely to fill her own pockets. At the beginning of the episode, Irene is shown to be quite popular, but as Jimmy’s scheme goes on, Irene slowly loses her friends and is forced to power walk around a local mall by herself. She is also left alone at a bingo game, where she just so happens to win (thanks to more trickery by Jimmy), something that doesn’t go well with her “friends.” Irene rushes out of the bingo hall in tears, but Jimmy comes to her side to provide some fake comfort and encourage her to follow her heart and accept the settlement offer. And just like that…Jimmy’s money problems have vanished. I have to be honest, this was painful to watch (yes, I know this is fiction, but the writing and acting is so incredible that it is so easy to be enveloped in the story, plus I have a soft spot for lonely old people); I just want to give Irene a huge hug and tell her everything is going to be okay. Seeing an innocent and friendly old lady being manipulated by our “hero” character provides the viewer with plenty of proof that Saul Goodman is here…and there is no turning back.
Over the course of the episode, I had this uneasy feeling in my stomach as I watched Kim. I’ve made it clear that I fully believe her death is imminent and this episode might just be setting that up for the finale. We’ve seen Kim struggling with what she and Jimmy did to Chuck while also working hard for Mesa Verde; no one works as hard as Kim, but this seems to have caught up to her. She meets with Billy Gatwood (Chris Mulkey), the client that was referred to her by the Mesa Verda folks, to discuss her potential representation for issues he is having with his oil drilling business. Kim agrees to take on even more work, but this is obviously the wrong move as she is already pulling all-nighters at the office to keep up with everything. This overwork culminates into a terrifying end to the episode as Kim rushes to a meeting with Gatwood; thanks to some grade-A editing, it is revealed that Kim has crashed her car into a boulder just off the highway. Her car is totaled and her files are scattered all over the ground, but more importantly, Kim is injured. How exactly did she crash? Did she fall asleep at the wheel or was this intentional? My theory is that the overwhelming stress from work and the guilt from Chuck’s hearing caused Kim to attempt suicide.
Season 3 is wrapping up and the various storylines are reaching their climaxes as the characters make drastic moves to get themselves out of trouble. Jimmy’s horrible manipulation of the elderly may have been difficult to watch, but it is some truly gripping evolution of his character. The meeting of Lydia and Mike is the definite highlight of the episode for me though; I really hope we see more of their relationship moving forward. Kim’s crash is devastating, especially considering we have never really seen her character like this. Will we find out what happened or will this be a cliffhanger for next season…if Kim even survives? This episode features fantastic performances from the entire cast, but most notably Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn, Michael McKean and Jean Effron as Jimmy, Kim, Chuck and Irene respectively.
Be sure to tune in to the Season Finale of “Better Call Saul” next Monday at 10 p.m. on AMC.