Not to sound like an inspirational sign in a high school English class, but Better Call Saul, like life itself, is about the journey and not the destination. This being the case, this episode marked an important step in the moving process for a few of our protagonists. We know where this story ultimately ends up, but it’s not as simple as a name change and a new address. This is a show about the minutia involved in such a move: contacting the real estate agent, appraising the home, scanning the classifieds, slowly packing your belongings. It’s not as sexy as the moment you turn the key and enter your beautiful new home, but it’s just as essential to the process and thus needs to be present in a story focused so acutely on change. Kim (Rhea Seehorn), Mike (Jonathan Banks) and, to a lesser extent, Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) all took some small, but important steps towards permanent change in this week’s episode “Bali Ha’I”.
It’s interesting to see, as Better Call Saulnow enters the second half of its second season, how the creators seem to be running with the nuanced, beautifully played character of Kim Wexler. Where she easily could have become fodder for romantic sequences and little else, she’s become just as essential to the program as Jimmy or Mike. As I’ve talked about before, Kim’s unique to this show for her unwavering morality, an especially impressive feat in a world where finding such steadfast integrity is a dubious task, to say the least. This why tagging along with her, which we do for much of episode six, is both satisfying and fascinating.
When we last Kim, she was completely dejected and doing her best to come to terms with a possibly never-ending career in the basement, when Chuck McGill (Michael McKean) handed her a lifeline in the form of his goodwill. He would talk to Howard (Patrick Fabian) and everything would be solved. While this did actually come to pass, and Kim’s now back in her office above ground, she still doesn’t have the respect from Howard she clearly deserves. In swoops Rick Schweikart (Dennis Boutsikaris), a lawyer on the other side of the Sandpiper case, who immediately recognizes Kim’s criminal under-utilization and quickly offers her a job at his firm — one that will land her firmly on the partner track.
Up until this point, Kim has been incredibly loyal to a job and a firm that hasn’t exactly treated her like their next young star lawyer. It feels nice for Kim, and, in turn, us as viewers, to see her finally acknowledged and rewarded for being good in the face of so much depravity, which is why it’s strange that it feels even nicer to see her celebrate by being more like the show’s immoral center, Jimmy.
Overall, we admire both Jimmy and Kim for very different, yet oddly similar, reasons. Jimmy’s an attractive character because of how his portrayed: as a natural trickster who’s doing his very best to play things above board. Inversely, we like Kim because she’s a kind-hearted woman, but we like her best when she lets her hair down and joins Jimmy in his grift, like she did in the season’s first episode. This kind of inconstancy is what makes this one of the most nuanced dramas on television. We’re excited for her when she gets the job offer, but we’re thrilled when she calls Jimmy and utters the decidedly Saul words, “I got a live one on the hook”. In her own way, this line is as essential as Walter Whites’, “I am the one who knocks”. She’s still the show’s heart, but the moral high road isn’t only lonely but boring. This week’s short detour shows Kim is as susceptible as any to the low road.
Mike, of course, is someone who knows that the high and the low road aren’t as different as people think. He’s not as concerned with own morality as he is with his own interests. His daughter-in-law and granddaughter are worth any kind of concession he must make to his code of conduct, and working to free Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz) is preferable to having the Salamanca twins, last seen in Breaking Bad, threatening his family at their poolside home.
It takes some prodding but Mike eventually agrees to take the gun charge for Tuco in exchange for $50,000. The important thing, however, isn’t the money or the threats, but the fact that this seems to officially mark the beginning of the working relationship that’ll eventually bring Mike to Gus Fring, and then to Walter White and to his untimely death. Mike doesn’t know it, but meeting in this week’s episode will turn out to be one of the most important moments of his life.
Jimmy, at least, prior to the call from Kim, seems set in a kind of stasis we’ve yet to see on Better Call Saul. The opening sequence, which shows him unable to get comfortable in his Davis and Main-provided apartment, is a not-too-subtle metaphor on how his situation, while convenient and healthy, isn’t helping him sleep at night. His new assistant, whom we meant last week, is making every menial task all the more infuriating, his Sandpiper commercial has been replaced by an informational bore and, worst of all, his coffee mug will still not fit in the goddamn cup holder.
“What’s not to love,” he says semi-confidently to Kim about his new life the morning after their grift, before taking a crowbar to the company car’s cup holder. Jimmy has everything he’s supposed to want and isn’t satisfied with any it. He’s content for now, but don’t be surprised if Slippin’ Jimmy and his questionable morality make an appearance in the next couple of weeks.
Mike’s deal with the devil, Kim’s sudden rule-breaking, and Jimmy’s boiling frustration make for some important character development, as well as some effective set up for a second half of the season that’ll have plenty of plot twists and turns. One interesting thing to look out for is how Mike and Jimmy will seemingly become entwined once again before the end of this year, especially now that Mike’s firmly planted in the Albuquerque underworld, and Jimmy’s becoming further and further removed.