Better Call Saul shows its quieter side with ‘Rebecca’

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut and Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill - Better Call Saul _ Season 2, Gallery- Photo Credit: Ben Leuner/AMC

Photo Credit: Ben Leuner/AMC

Better Call Saul does not shy away from violence and bloodshed. But as this week’s episode shows, the show can be just as effective when it takes a pause from the machinations of the Mexican drug cartel, and instead focuses on the internal struggles of the characters at the heart of this show.

Chiefly among these struggles is the one that Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) continually faces between how he views the legal system, and well, how the legal system is actually supposed to work. He bristles when a second year associate tries to give him some notes on his legal brief. And he is incredulous when the same associate blocks his attempt to “give a gift” to a court clerk in order to secure a favorable court date. As a lawyer who has always played things rather fast and loose, he does not quite understand why the law requires all these pesky rules and regulations. And the sobering realities of what it means to work within the constructs of a large firm continue to weigh on him, sapping him of the creative and scrappy energy that made him such an effective sole practitioner.

And where is Mike (Jonathan Banks) amidst all of this legal frustration? Dealing with the fallout from his plan to send Tuco Salamanca to prison. Banks has just a few brief scenes in this episode, but they include a cameo by a familiar face that I will most definitely not reveal here. That being said, it is among the most noteworthy scenes of the show thus far.

Meanwhile, Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) has her own struggles, having been banished to doc review for the sins of the brother. In Kim, we see the same dogged determination that drives Jimmy, but firmly grounded on the right side of the law. Whereas Jimmy tells Kim that her best way out of doc review is to sue HHM, she instead decides that hard work and resolve is her best bet (crazy, right?). She cold calls dozens of former friends and acquaintances to try to drum up business for her firm, and finally lands a whale in the form of Mesa Verde bank.

However, Kim soon discovers that this alone will not get her out of the doghouse. In one of the episodes more contemplative moments, Kim and Chuck McGill (Michael McKean) share an early morning coffee where Chuck tries to give Kim some insights on Jimmy’s character. It is a telling monologue that truly encapsulates the conflict between Jimmy’s good intentions against his struggle to take the easy way out. According to Chuck, “Jimmy has a good heart. He just can’t help himself.” This is an apt description for Jimmy, a guy that doesn’t ever think through the ramifications of what he does. He lives from moment to moment, success to success, and doesn’t bother to consider the long term impacts of what he does. And although this will serve him well in the short term, we already get a sense that this laissez faire attitude to the law will end up taking him down the wrong path. And even though we know where this path ultimately leads, the twists and turns that are yet to come are more than enough reason for me to continue watching.

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