Spoiler Warning for Season 3, Episode 8 of “Better Call Saul,” as well as all seasons of “Breaking Bad.”
I’ve said time and time again that Season 3 of “Better Call Saul” is the best of the series and is on the level of “Breaking Bad” in many respects. With the level of intensity being raised significantly, there is an overwhelming sense of urgency present in the series as connections to the parent show are beginning to form. Seeing the slow evolution of the characters has been incredibly rewarding and the latest episode furthers this by laying the groundwork for many of “Breaking Bad’s” storylines.
In Season 1, viewers were introduced to an early version of Jimmy, nicknamed “Slippin’ Jimmy,” who scammed people alongside his friend Marco (Mel Rodriguez) in their hometown. I never particularly enjoyed these flashbacks, although they do showcase what kind of a person Jimmy was prior to his career as a lawyer. This episode opens up with another flashback and it’s far more emotional than the previous scenes with Marco. Still, I’m not too crazy about this scene as it feels somewhat out of place in the overall story, but it does provide some interesting insight into Jimmy’s past. Also the inclusion of the flashback serves to demonstrate a parallel between Jimmy in the past, present and future. Slippin’ Jimmy makes a return (emphasis on the word “slippin”) as he schemes and tricks the still hesitant music store owners into purchasing the remaining ad spaces; he dramatically falls on the ground and alludes to a lawsuit against the owners, leading them to accept Jimmy’s offer, effectively freeing him from having to be a mediocre commercial producer. Jimmy/Saul is literally so skilled at scamming people that it’s almost scary; with how much trouble he has gotten himself into, it’s a wonder why he would risk getting caught in a scheme like this.
“Better Call Saul” has done a great job at introducing original characters that weren’t featured in the original series and Kim is probably the best example of this. She proves herself to be an even bigger badass than before as she continues her work with Mesa Verde; even after a few bumps in the road, she is still on good terms with the head honchos and they even refer her to a fellow business owner, something that she initially rejects, but later seeks more information about. While having lunch with the two Mesa Verde folks, Kim is rudely interrupted by Howard, who just so happens to be eating at the same place with some of his own clients. Howard is condescending to Kim in front of her clients, so decides to give him a taste of his own medicine and interrupt his lunch meeting; she also writes a check and presents it to him to pay off the debt that she owes him from her law school tuition, which he covered. He refuses to accept the money and continues to act like the annoying man-child that he is. We also see a brief moment where Kim catches up with Jimmy at the office and offers to pay his rent, but he refuses and proclaims that he can take care of himself. Kim has quickly become one of my favorite characters in the series, but as I have said, I truly believe her time is running out and the focus the has been placed on her lately provides me with more evidence; obviously her death would shift the series right in the direction it’s supposed to be headed, but I have become so enamored with the character and Rhea Seehorn’s performance that I am beginning to dread the final few episodes.
This episode also deals with Chuck and in a surprising turn of events…I actually feel sympathy for him. While I do think he is a complete asshole for the way that he treats Jimmy and the people around him, he is suffering from a mental illness and that is out of his control. He speaks with Dr. Cruz (Clea DuVall), who has helped him deal with the electromagnetic sensitivity, about his dreams of living a fuller life without the constant pain and stress that his illness causes. Dr. Cruz warns him against rushing back into his old life and advocates for a slow transition, but Chuck is eager to get better. He takes a trip to the grocery store and comes in contact with plenty of electricity, but handles it fairly well. Upon returning home, he is met with a new problem, the one that was caused by Jimmy last episode; Howard is the one to let him know that there is an issue with his malpractice insurance, but it seems like we will have to wait to find out what exactly is wrong. Chuck’s story and rather quick turnaround (or apparent turnaround) is definitive proof that Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould are complete masterminds when it comes to crafting a story and developing characters. I never thought that I would be able to like Chuck after all the shit he has pulled, but here I am, actually hoping for him to get his life back together.
A few episodes back, I mentioned that I was interested in seeing Nacho take on a larger role in the series and this week, he finally does that and it is intense; actually “intense” does fully capture what Nacho goes through this episode, terrifying is more accurate. We’ve known that Nacho operates in the morally gray area, but he clearly wants to keep his criminal life away from his personal life, especially his family. To do this, he must take a very dangerous risk, one that he must prepare and practice for. Operation Kill Hector Salamanca is in full effect this episode and there is no going back. Nacho creates some type of poison pills that he slyly switches with Hector’s medication in what will go down as one of the series’ most intense sequences. Fans know just how ruthless of a man Hector is and any suspicion that one of his own is plotting against him would definitely result in death and Nacho is aware of this, but still goes through with his plan. While future Hector has clearly suffered from a stroke, it remains to be seen if it was Nacho who causes this; hopefully we find out before the season is over, but I predict that Nacho’s plot fails and he is forced to suffer Hector’s wrath.
While Jimmy’s time as a sleazy ad salesman may be over, he still must continue his community service. After his slip in the music store, Jimmy really isn’t feeling a day of picking up trash, so he decides to lay down for a bit. This causes problems with the man in charge, who threatens to withhold Jimmy’s credit hours. Jimmy recruits a fellow worker, who wishes to leave and be with his sick daughter, to assist in another scheme; after charging the father $700, Jimmy threatens a class action lawsuit against the man in charge if he doesn’t back off. He complies and Slippin’ Jimmy is successful again, but these shady moves are becoming more and more regular and just may catch up with him. Meanwhile, Mike is featured in this episode slightly as he finds a body out in the desert and reports it to tribal police, but the real exciting part of his story comes at the end when he pays a visit to Los Pollos Hermanos. He meets with Gus to discuss the possibility of money laundering all of the extra cash that he has, setting in motion the partnership that turns fatal in “Breaking Bad.” This is yet another expertly crafted connection to the main series that allows viewers to witness missing pieces falling into place.
“Slip” is both thrilling and rich with character development, specifically for Jimmy, Kim, Nacho and Chuck. With all of the great connections made this season, the world of “Breaking Bad” feels all the more richer and full of life. This episode really serves to set up the final two hours of the season, which will likely progress the series into even darker territory. I’m most looking forward to seeing Chuck’s recovery, but also how Nacho’s predicament plays out. I’m also curious to see if we see any more cameos in these next two episodes. The penultimate episode of the season is next Monday at 10 p.m. on AMC.