For the first time all season, "Nailed" is in a hurry to give not only answers, but plenty of action to go along with them.
Better Call SaulAirtime: Mondays, 10pm
Cast: Rhea Seehorn, Jonathon Banks, Bob Odenkirk
Subtitle: Season 2, Episode 9 - "Nailed"
Air Date: 2014-04-11
There were plenty of questions to be answered entering the latest episode of Better Call Saul. How long would it take for Chuck (Michael McKean) to feel the effects of Jimmy’s (Bob Odenkirk) document tampering? Would he ever possibly suspect Jimmy? What did Mike (Jonathan Banks) have in mind for that spiky hose of death he made with his granddaughter? Well, it turns out that, for what seems like the first time all season, "Nailed" is in a hurry to give not only answers, but plenty of action to go along with them.
The first answer we're given was one that was never really in question. Mike wasn't just passing time as Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) orchestrated his diverse crime ring; he clearly found his mark in the form of the truck driver who so easily passed through customs during the opening of last week’s installment. Mike, moving in his typically methodical pattern, easily brings the truck to a halting stop before eventually finding the goods (in this case, money), hidden in the one place it seems a customs officer is not trained to look: the tire.
This scene is so classic Breaking Bad that it actually seems a little out of place in the Better Call Saul world, except for one important factor. Mike, as we've seen earlier in the season with the young Salamanca, is not the same man we eventually meet in Breaking Bad. Not only is he nowhere close to as integrated into the Albuquerque drug scene, but he hasn't yet learned one of his most memorable mottos: "No half measures".
In retrospect, this season seems almost entirely devoted to showing the origin story behind that very phrase. The man we meet in the late '00s is ruthless and direct, and knows what he wants and how not to get caught getting it, but Mike in the early part of the century is still adhering to that pesky, "thou shall not kill" motto. Sure, he’s characteristically careful to not give away his identity to the truck driver, but why not, in the words of Nacho Varga (Michael Mando) later in the episode, "clean up". It’s hard to believe this won't come back to haunt him, especially it seems that the driver just might've seen Mike's car.
While Mike's act of mercy may hurt him during next week's finale, Jimmy's act brotherly betrayal doesn't take long come to the light. Chuck's doing what he admits is a "victory lap" by attending a hearing with the Mesa Verde clients, when he's blindsided by the news that he, the greatest lawyer in the world -- according to him at least -- could possibly make a mistake so lackadaisical as to mistake an address. It doesn't take him long to decide, not even suspect, that Jimmy must be behind this error. Is he right? Well, yes. But is he also an arrogant, untrusting bastard of a brother? Yes, that too.
The thing is, we knew this and if we aren’t really surprised to see Chuck accuse Jimmy, just as we weren’t really surprised Jimmy did it the first place. These are two brothers stuck in a situation that's faced by many siblings throughout time. They know each other so well, or at least think they do, that nothing can really shake their convictions. They're stuck in a destructive circle that won't end as long as they live (and lie), and maybe even after.
While we pretty much knew how both of these men would react to the news, what we didn’t know, partly because she plays things so close to the chest, is how Kim (Rhea Seehorn) would handle the situation. The effects of Jimmy's actions work exactly how he intended, with Mesa Verde dumping HHM in favor of the more detail-oriented Kim. She barely gets a minute to celebrate, though, as Chuck's ready to give her the speech he has been seemingly waiting for a lifetime to give. Watching Kim's face as Chuck rails on his little brother his heart-breaking, but it's what she says after he's done that really matters.
Kim has very much been the standout on this season of Better Call Saul. Many critics, including yours truly, have discussed the push and pull that Jimmy and Mike exert on the series, but this season has seen Kim come to the forefront more than once. This is due, in part, to the fact that Kim has a fresh future. All we know about Ms. Wexler is that she isn't around when Walter White (Bryan Cranston) comes bursting through Saul Goodman's door. Whatever the reason, this was largely her season, and "Nailed" was, without a doubt, her episode.
She waits calmly for the bickering brothers to stop their yelling before ripping into Chuck with the diatribe of a lifetime, one that he’s deserved since the moment the series began -- probably even before that. She calls Chuck on all his bullshit, ending with a well-placed, "You made him like this" before admitting that she's sorry for the both of them. I mentioned last week how Kim seemed stuck in the middle of this unending familial feud, and it seems she not only realizes this fact, but is ready to be fully done with it.
The fireworks that occur at the conclusion of the episode, which leave Chuck passed out on the floor of an all-night copier, are essential to the plot moving forward, but it’s how Kim's relationship with both the McGills has and will change that's equally important. What we can be sure of is that both Chuck and Kim don’t make it to the Breaking Bad years, but how and why they’re no longer in Jimmy's life remains to be seen. Perhaps we'll get a better picture after next week’s finale, but each character seems destined to follow Mike’s simple motto going forward: "no half measures".