This week’s episode, “Gloves Off,” certainly didn’t pull any punches, but both Mike (literally) or Jimmy (metaphorically) came away bloodied.
After last week’s slower episode, tonight picked up the pace, with Mike taking up Nacho on his offer to help him make Tuco “go away,” but in a much different way than Nacho expected. As much as we think of this show being about Jimmy McGill’s descent into Saul Goodman, this season has also showed how much of a transformation we are going to see with Mike. Eventually he will be a man willing to execute someone at the behest of his employer, but that man does not exist yet.
While Mike might not have told Nacho why he was willing to take the much harder/being-punched-in-the-face route to do a job that would have paid more if he just killed Tuco, we can see that he is not yet ready to take that step from being a generally good person with a questionable moral code to a hitman.
While he may have felt pride at taking Tuco’s best punch (and I doubt anyone is surprised that Mike Ehrmantraut can take a punch) Mike isn’t stupid either. He knows on some level Nacho is right, and we got to see how and why Mike will eventually go down the path he is destined to follow, one where he sacrifices his own soul for his family (again).
As for Jimmy, the fallout of his commercial stunt was swift. He only held onto to his job by the absolute slimmest of margins (I have to agree with Chuck, it’s crazy he wasn’t fired, but something tells me that those 200+ new clients didn’t hurt), and Kim, the only person in the world that truly cares for him, became collateral damage.
That all led to the great scene between Bob Odenkirk and Michael McKean, where Jimmy finally confronted his “asshole” brother about Chuck’s hatred for him, with Chuck perfectly calling out Jimmy for his twisted view that all of life is an episode of Let’s Make a Deal.
This moment didn’t have the inherent energy and violence of a crazy drug dealer on meth pulling a gun on someone, yet it was way more exciting for its sparseness. What makes the writing on Better Call Saul so good is that a scene where two people are just talking and yelling can be just as intense as any standoff. Jimmy was pleading with Chuck to accept a deal with the Devil to get what Chuck really wanted, and Chuck, as much as you could see it in McKean’s performance, wouldn’t cave in as much as he wanted to. Yeah, Chuck might be an asshole, but he’s not a felon, and more importantly he’s not his brother.
With Jimmy repeatedly insisting he needed to hear the words come out of Chuck’s mouth to accept the offer, I kept waiting for Chuck to do it, only to have Jimmy whip out his cellphone revealing he had recorded all of it.
I loved everything about this scene, and the fact that Jimmy doesn’t totally hate his brother, apparent in how he cared for him before the argument, made it all the better. Chuck wants Jimmy to do well, just not in the field of his beloved law; Jimmy wants to do the right thing, he just wants his brother to realize he isn’t some paragon of virtue, and therefore not a better person.
If either of them could just understand that the other one is completely right, Jimmy McGill could be saved, but alas they are far too similar, which is why they are both making Saul Goodman an inevitability.
Just a few random thoughts as I wait for my number 4 order to be finished:
–Mike is old enough that he isn’t being ironic when he drinks a Pabst Blue Ribbon.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Take off your gloves and tell us in the comments below.