One of the most interesting things about Better Call Saul is that though the show uses many touchstones from Breaking Bad (both in style — oh those low angles! — and story), Jimmy manages to be something completely different from the character we knew as Saul. Better Call Saul has, so far, shown us a man who is very good at getting himself out of trouble, but who is also partially responsible for getting himself in that trouble to begin with. He’s a man warring with himself, trying to both save his hide and keep his conscience (and maybe, if he’s lucky, make enough money to not have to sleep in his nail salon law office boiler room forever).
Though Jimmy has a righteous triumph at the end of “Nacho” (and will hopefully be receiving that Edible Arrangement — heavy on the pineapple!) he’s still not off the hook with Nacho. Tracing back to cause and effect of Jimmy’s current predicament is already a windy path, but what makes it compelling is watching Jimmy’s inner battles have out. “I’m no hero,” he says after he tipped Kim off to the Kettlemans being targeted. Still, he doesn’t think it’s enough. He drives out to a pay phone to warn them himself, which sets off the bizarre circumstances that led to them kidnapping themselves.
The cold open showed Jimmy heading down a path of petty crime, which Chuck rescues him from only if he promises to turn himself around. That debt still weighs heavily on Jimmy’s conscience, which is one reason he seems to tiptoe between being a white hat or a black hat. The other major factor though is, above all else, that he is interested in self-preservation.
When Jimmy called Nacho umpteen times from the payphone, he offered to help him, possibly as a way to gain information, and possibly as a way to get a big payoff. Like most things with Jimmy, motivations can be murky. He called Nacho back several times to assure him that this wasn’t a setup, and that he wasn’t a rat, yet, seemed pleased that Nacho had called for him in to be his lawyer. Further, he immediately falls into defending him whole-heartedly, something he does for even his guilty clients (like the case he badgered the prosecutor about in the bathroom). Nacho is guilty, just not of this particular crime (and mostly because Saul preempted his attack by his warning call). Ultimately, though, he isn’t interested in finding the self-kidnapped Kettlemans to get his client off the hook, but to get himself off the hook.
It’s also been fascinating to watch Jimmy’s tumultuous relationship with Mike, which began as a series of irritating parking ticket incidents, and culminated with Mike pinning him down on the ground after Jimmy stepped to him. The wary alliance the two formed regarding the Kettlemans’ disappearance though was a lovely moment; not only did Mike not press charges because he believed Jimmy, but he also gave him some helpful advice, gleaned from his former days as a Philly cop. Though it seems unlikely that Mike will let up on Jimmy’s lack of stickers or cash, he may at least allow him to get a ticket again. It’s enough to make us forget that we know how this ends. The beginning is just so damn interesting.
Jimmy’s world is one that is based on the shortest line between cause and effect. His actions have direct, and often unfortunate consequences. In “Nacho,” though, he managed to notch a few wins, because he did ultimately do the right thing (in very roundabout ways). Clearly, though, the split money bag portends that his entanglement with the Kettlemans and their cash is only beginning. That’s what makes the tension in Better Call Saul so great, though: Jimmy’s choices and actions. The fallout, for good or ill (and usually both), is always imminent, and increasingly complicated both logistically and morally.
Episode Rating: ★★★★ Very good
Musings and Miscellanea:
— “So you didn’t cry and beg mom for help?” – Chuck.
— Interested to learn more about Jimmy’s history with Kim.
— How long were the Kettlemans planning to camp out, though?
— Pay phones are such a huge part of Saul’s life ….
— “For the sake of everyone, I’d like to open a dialogue” – Saul to Nacho’s voicemail.
— “His guys are going to turn me into a meat piñata!” – Jimmy.
— “Here’s Johnny!!!” – Jimmy.
— Favorite series of scenes: Jimmy trekking through the New Mexico prairie to a soundtrack of Elvis, “Find Out What’s Happening.”
— “Nacho is not cho guy” – Jimmy.