If we’ve learned anything over the course of nine episodes of Better Call Saul, it’s that nothing ever comes easy for poor ol’ Jimmy McGill. Whether he’s being sneaky, snarky, or disconcertingly noble, he never earns any praise, a paycheck, or even a pat on the back without struggling for every inch of progress. And now that the guy has gone and built himself a truly impressive class action lawsuit, the sort of case any law firm would kill to get their claws on, we cannot help but just sit there and wait for the other shoe to drop. Because nothing’s ever easy for Jimmy McGill.
Suffice to say that the other shoe does drop, and quite resoundingly, as the quietly excellent “Pimento” progresses from a success story to an expected struggle to a rather powerful betrayal. Also there’s some pretty cool Mike Ehrmantraut subplot material, and that’s always a good thing, but the bulk of episode 9 is dedicated to the relationship between Jimmy and Chuck, how the massive Sandpiper lawsuit will come to impact not only the McGill brothers, but also Howard, Kim, and the whole damn HHM law firm.
“Pimento” is a particularly well-written episode, which is saying something on this series, and the best moments come as simple, sometimes heated conversations between Jimmy and Chuck. An idea that seems ludicrous at first — to bring Howard Hamlin in on Jimmy’s big case?!? — is settled quite astutely by Chuck: “Could two men build the Brooklyn Bridge? Maybe. But it would take forever!” So Jimmy, ever-skeptical but always practical, decides to meet with the massive HHM law team and offer to share this treasure chest of a case with them. All goes swimmingly until that darn Howard Hamlin insists on buying Jimmy out…and refusing to give him a job, which doesn’t go over really well. As we’ve seen in previous episodes, Jimmy doesn’t always want the quick payoff; sometimes he just wants a little respect, dammit.
Meanwhile, as the ill-fated Sandpiper negotiations progress, Mike ambles his way through a seemingly random (but thematically complementary) B-story in which he signs on as a temporary bodyguard for a nerdish pill-pusher, one that (hooray!) ties into the Breaking Bad universe, if only in a cursory fashion. There’s also a great sequence in which Mike out-thinks and then simply overpowers a multiple-gun-toting thug, as well as a few nifty parallels to what’s going on over in Jimmy’s side of the episode. Let’s just say that Jimmy and Mike have more in common than would be apparent from their wildly different attitudes and lifestyles. (They also both seem to enjoy taking advantage of being underestimated.)
Another great little moment arrives at the end of a long sequence in which the entire HHM staff welcomes Chuck back to the office with a brief round of applause. Once all the hand-shaking and back-patting is done with, the actual grunt work (as in: lugging the legal files up the stairs) is left solely to Jimmy, and the only one who hangs around to help? It’s Kim. It’s a quick touch, but it says a lot.
The penultimate episode of Better Call Saul’s first season is filled with great little character beats, and it sure seems like everyone involved wants to paint every single character in ambiguous shades of grey. Yes, Howard Hamlin is a pompous ass, but maybe he’s also sort of a good guy in his own right. Up to this point in the series, Chuck has been a character worthy of empathy, sympathy, and admiration — but here he shows his underhanded side as well. Even the ever-loyal Kim seems to have sided against Jimmy on the whole Sandpiper issue.
At this point, and with just one episode to go, it sure looks like Jimmy has nobody to rely on but himself — and that means we should be in for a pretty fascinating finale.
I do hope we get at least one more moment with those wonderfully obtuse Kettlemans, though. I’m fine with all the Jimmy/Chuck/Kim/Howard legal shenanigans, and Mike Ehrmantraut can make standing around in a parking garage seem interesting, but I need some closure on those Kettlemans. And a little something from Nacho before season 1 wraps up would not go unappreciated. But, then again, simply tossing all of the supporting characters into the season finale is sort of a conventional thing to do, and by now it’s been well established that Better Call Saul has no interest in being conventional.