At the start of tonight’s second episode of Better Call Saul, “Cobbler,” when Howard left after telling Chuck about Jimmy’s new job and Chuck sat back down at the piano and stared at the metronome, I jotted down a note to myself that simply said, “Chicken or egg.”
We know that Chuck thinks his brother is actually very dangerous, since he told him to his face last season. (“Slippin’ Jimmy with a law degree is like a chimp with a machine gun!”) So when he stared at that ticking metronome, knowing his brother was at a real law firm with a real future, it felt like he was staring at a bomb that only he realizes has been lit. Of course, we know it too, and we know that Chuck isn’t wrong–James McGill and all of his skills are a real, inevitable danger.
Yes, Chuck is absolutely going to be proven right, technically, because this is really a “chicken-or-the-egg” situation. Is Chuck going to be right because he understands who his brother really is, or because Chuck is creating the monster?
The single most important relationship in Jimmy’s life is the one with his brother. Chuck was his savior first, and then he became his hero. He aspired to be a lawyer to make his brother proud of him; he tried to work hard and do the right thing, and just like Chuck was there for him, Jimmy was there for Chuck in his greatest time of need. Then Jimmy found out that his hero hates him–that Chuck detested everything he was trying to become.
So not only did Jimmy find out his hero despises him, we are also finding out that his hero is, well, a total asshole. Make no mistake about it, Chuck is not a good person. He is far more like his brother than he realizes, and the more we learn about Chuck the more we realize that Jimmy picked the wrong person to aspire to be. Chuck isn’t just proud of his accomplishments, he’s resentful that his brother would even try to make it in his profession, let alone make actual headway. When he showed up to “bear witness” we also learned he is petty and vindictive. Chuck can’t wait for Jimmy to fail so he can bask in the disaster that he predicted. Poor Jimmy chose a pretty terrible hero.
It’s all so tragic, though, because we continued to see that “James McGill” is actually a really good honest attorney when he wants to be, one that can see things even other respected, powerful lawyers have overlooked. We already know he can do the moral thing too, even when it’s the much harder option personally. Everything is in place for James McGill to succeed legitimately, on his own merit. Yet we know he won’t, and more and more it looks like it might be Chuck that pushes him away from the right path, and instead down a road where he’s lying to cops about fetish films involving pies.
This episode is a brilliant follow-up to last week’s final scene, where Jimmy couldn’t help himself with that “Don’t Touch” light switch. There’s obviously a big part of his nature that can’t help who he is, but he’s trying to win that battle. He so desperately wants to to succeed, but this life doesn’t fit him naturally, the way his new coffee mug doesn’t quite fit in his new car. He needs support to make it–instead he has a brother that wants him to fail.
It’s a classic exploration of “nature vs nurture,” and it’s making for a great story, and this was another excellent episode. If Chuck wasn’t such a pretentious jerk with so much pride that he’d intentionally undercut his brother’s attempts at being a better person, maybe Jimmy would actually become a better person, instead of becoming the Saul Goodman we know he will.
So what came first? The chicken that Chuck thinks his brother really is, or is Chuck laying an egg that will hatch Saul? It’s a fascinating question Vince Gilligan and company have created, and it’s why Better Call Saul continues to be one of the most engaging shows on television.
Just a few random notes, because “I’m just keeping it real.”
–How many shows can be as funny with nothing more than its main character sitting at a table with two cops making up a story? I feel like I have 5,000 words to write about those pie videos, but I wouldn’t be able to do it justice.
–Are we going to get to see that video eventually?
–No, really, are we? I feel like we need to see that video.
—Jonathan Banks should start winning awards for Mike. Has he ever had a scene as this character that you didn’t love?
–That last moment with Kim felt like a very meaningful and sad moment in the development of Saul Goodman. For all the obvious reasons, she told him she can’t hear about those types of legally corrupt things, like creating fake evidence, ever again, and Jimmy said she won’t. That was an outlet, and more importantly a voice of reason, that Jimmy no longer has now. Without someone that cares about him able trying to protect him from himself he’s more likely to get burned “playing with fire.” Kim isn’t wrong to tell him that, but it was sad nonetheless.
–Dumber criminals: The Kettlemans or Daniel Wormald? On the one hand the Kettlemans didn’t get away with it, but on the other they didn’t have to make, ahem, a video with some pies. Personal preference I suppose.
–No, really, are we going to eventually see that video or not?
So what did you think of tonight’s episode? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.