This week puts Kim's fight out of the doghouse at center stage, while introducing a pair of possibly influential new characters from the past and the present.
Better Call SaulAirtime: Mondays, 10pm
Cast: Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn, Michael McKean, Jonathan Banks
Subtitle: Season 2, Episode 5 - "Rebecca"
Air Date: 2016-03-14
In previous reviews, I've talked about how Better Call Saul has one thing, above all else, that it's had to grapple with as we enter the heart of season two: the balance of its two main forces, Mike (Jonathan Banks) and Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk). They seem content with trading back and forth, checking in with them every week, but giving one a more dominant storyline over the other. Their orbits will no doubt begin to converge, but for now they’re in their own worlds, dealing with their own issues. What episode five, "Rebecca", does is put both Mike and Jimmy in the backseat, letting the capable Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) take the wheel, while also inviting along a pair of what appear to be important women, one past and one present.
No one does opening sequences quite like the law office of Gould and Gilligan, and this week’s episode is no different. It begins with a close-up of Chuck McGill (Michael McKean) calmly changing a light bulb. He hasn't magically gotten over his irrational "sickness", and the trained Breaking Bad-verse viewer soon recognize this as a flashback to a time where Chuck was not only one of the best lawyers in New Mexico, but was in a happy marriage with one of the country’s most respected violinists, Rebecca McGill (Ann Cusack).
Shedding his electrophobia and setting him up with a lovely wife doesn’t make Chuck any less detestable, as he’s usual pompous self, talking about wine and Italy and classical music, and clearly feeling he should be in the running as the next Dos Equis sponsor. Soon, however, Jimmy's ringing the doorbell at the elder McGill's home with a six-pack in hand and a plethora of not-so-flattering lawyer jokes at his disposal. Chuck is at first mortified and embarrassed by his crass brother, but this soon turns to some sort of perverse jealousy after Rebecca begins to chime in with her own joke comparing and contrasting sperm and lawyers.
You can't blame Rebecca for her amusement. Sure, she's fancy and dignified and knows good wine and plays in the orchestra, but you need some liveliness to go with all that stuffy pomp and Jimmy is just the ticket. Chuck’s attempt later on at his own lawyer joke -- a good one but told with truly awful comedic timing -- gets only a courtesy laugh from his wife, and it’s here where see the first signs that perhaps Jimmy and Chuck’s relationship isn’t as one-sided as we’ve been led to believe. We know Jimmy has always looked up to his honorable, successful big brother, but never have we considered that Chuck, despite how little he cares to admit it, may be just a little jealous of his little brother’s effortless charm and affability.
One person who’s had quite enough of Jimmy's easy-going charm is Kim, who continues to toil away in document review as punishment for Jimmy's commercial stunt. Kim is unique in Gilligan's fictional Albuquerque universe simply because she has yet to show her tragic flaw. Where we want to like Jimmy, even though we know he's helplessly fated to be up to no good, Kim's motives have been unimpeachable at every turn and, for all her good intentions, she's stuck in the HHM doghouse with little to no way out.
Perhaps wisely, she seems dead-set on taking a break from Jimmy and getting herself back on track by her hard work alone. Hard work we see play out in a classic Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul manner: equipped with a Spanish-language version of Frank Sinatra’s "My Way", Kim's determined to land a new client, through her own ingenuity, which will prove to Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) that she deserves out of doc review and back doing more important work. This makes it all the more heartbreaking that despite finally bringing in new business, in the form of Mese Verde National Bank, Hamlin leaves her firmly planted in the basement, stunning and demoralizing Kim to her core.
So back to the basement she goes, still determined to revive her career the right way. It's during one of her late nights that she runs into Chuck in the office, who has decided that coming in the wee hours of the morning is his best strategy to get work done in an electricity-free environment. This is the first scene we see Chuck and Kim share, and the talk quickly and predictably turns toward their mutual associate, Jimmy.
Chuck takes the opportunity to debase his brother even further in Kim’s mind with a story of their father back in Cicero. Chuck describes McGill Sr. as a man of irreproachable honesty, a man who worked his way up from nothing to open his own corner convenience store only to have his youngest son slowly steal his money and put him out of business.
We can sense the importance of this moment as if it was then that Chuck first decided that Jimmy couldn't be trusted. Although we can easily see Jimmy making some questionable decisions, especially in his younger years, something tells me there is more to this story of a completely righteous man having been duped by his son than Chuck is telling, or perhaps even admitting to himself. I wouldn't be surprised to hear Jimmy explain his side to Kim in the coming weeks, with an important tweak here or there.
Jimmy’s not exactly in the basement at Davis & Main, but he might as well be, as the firm has assigned a chipper second-year associate Erin (Jessie Ennis) to keep an eye on him and get him on track. Playing almost like the conscience Jimmy seems not to possess, Erin's set on not letting him take the easy way out, even thwarting his attempt to bribe the city clerk with her favorite beanie baby. It'll be interesting to see how much of a role this new babysitter has in Jimmy's life, but watching him fight with her over every little rule will be fodder for some excellent comedic sequences at the very least.
Oh, and, of course, we have to end the episode with a little check up on Mike, his badly beaten face, his daughter-in-law, and Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis). The man we last saw pounding away at a bell attached to a bomb in his nursing home is back and looking better than ever.
At this point, he's clearly still the head of the Salamanca crime organization and flexes these muscles by urging Mike to perhaps consider taking the fall on the gun charge, so as to lighten Tuco's (Raymond Cruz) sentence to something a little more reasonable than the eight years he’d get otherwise. Mike doesn't agree right away, but we can tell by his face after the meeting that he realizes that his beaten face may not be the only result of last week’s moderately successful set-up.
Forcing both Mike and Jimmy to the background is a risky move for a show that could already be described as meandering, but the advancement of Kim as a character, as well as the introduction a few more possibly influential figures of the past and present, is more than enough to make up for the stasis of our two main forces. "Rebecca" is less about what happened and more about the reasons why it did. In a show as rich as Better Call Saul, that's more than enough for an episode to take on.