TV Review: Better Call Saul (1×09) – “Pimento”

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There are television episodes with scenes so powerful that they can sometimes overshadow the rest of an episode. What do you mean stuff happened before the Red Wedding? Oftentimes these are scenes that a show has been subtly building towards without us realizing it, but once they arrive their power and impact is undeniable. Better Call Saul achieved this once before with Mike’s teary monologue/confession to his daughter-in-law Stacey, and it reached that level again with the final twist in “Pimento.”

When looking at their relationship in retrospect, the brotherhood between Jimmy and Chuck was never going to last. Even if we ignore Chuck’s absence from Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul has been dropping breadcrumbs leading up to this event between them: Chuck demeaning Jimmy’s law ambitions/accomplishments as easy handouts to a man who could revert back to Slippin’ Jimmy once he gains more power. What Chuck doesn’t realize though is that his hurtful sabotage attempts are almost certainly the catalyst for Slippin’ Jimmy to reemerge in his brother, and for Saul Goodman to eventually be born.

Perhaps the most interesting facet of this painful turn in Jimmy and Chuck’s relationship isn’t between the two brothers, but its what the future could hold for Howard’s character development. Howard being a vitriol puppet against Jimmy at Chuck’s behest suggests that the “real” Howard is still a mystery to the audience, which helps to erase my concerns of Howard being written as a one-dimensional antagonist. Gould and Gilligan are simply too detail-oriented and forward thinking to create an easy black-and-white bad guy. There’s a glimpse into the cracks of Howard’s persona when he lambasts Kim for supporting Jimmy and he calls her back into the office. Patrick Fabien has played the slime ball side of Howard to a hilt, so it’ll be intriguing to see where his rivalry with Jimmy will go from here.

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Meanwhile, Mike’s side of the episode seems tangential to the lawyer drama going on but concludes with a monologue that sheds some light on these characters and also the show’s sense of morality. After a great sequence where Mike is recruited as a bodyguard by a pill seller and customarily embarrasses the other two guys, one of whom towers so tall over Mike that his upper body is cut off at the top of the image and the other is played by Grand Theft Auto 5’s Trevor voice actor Steven Ogg, the two of them go off to a sale with returning thug Nacho. The seller, named Pryce, worries that Mike thinks he’s a bad person, to which Mike responds, in Jonathon Banks’ wonderfully tired drawl, “I didn’t say you were a bad guy, I said you were a criminal.”

This line in particular stands out because not only is it a succinct summation of how Saul and its parent show often views its characters, it’s also a summation of the majority of the male anti-hero television boom from the last 15 years. From The Sopranos to Mad Men and Dexter, many of these zeitgeist shows are able to trick us into liking men doing bad things and then examining their psychological states. The difference between those shows and Saul is that Tony Soprano and Don Draper really are terrible people, whereas Jimmy treads around the line that Mike’s speech draws in the sand.

Jimmy leaves his criminal persona by the wayside to make a genuine effort of positive change, and yet Chuck still fears for the worst. “Slippin’ Jimmy with a law degree is like a chimp with a machine gun,” says Chuck in his condescending tone. What’s great about this blowup is that, based on what we’ve seen of Jimmy’s past and also his future on Breaking Bad, Chuck is right, and writer/director Thomas Schnauz doesn’t paint him as the bad guy. There’s dueling sides to this where the audience instinctively stands on Jimmy’s side because we see his honest efforts to make a difference but we also know that Jimmy/Saul really is capable of the criminal behavior that Chuck warns of. Jimmy definitely has the criminal element residing in his soul, but is he actually a bad man? I have a feeling that Mike, a beloved character who killed two cops in cold-blooded revenge, would say no.

EPISODE RATING: 9/10

August is a 23-year-old aspiring film critic and college graduate in Film/Media who hails from New Jersey. He began developing his taste and passion for film after starting high school, and just in the past few years has gotten back into television too. He also enjoys a good video game every now and then too when he isn't doing a Netflix marathon or keeping up with news in the entertainment industry. Often finds himself collecting books and comics more than he actually reads them. He started his own blog for film reviews entitled License to Review, on account of James Bond being his favorite series and character, and then followed that up by becoming the Entertainment Editor at his college newspaper. Ask him what his favorite anything is and he'll immediately jump to Aliens, Seinfeld, Led Zeppelin, and everything from Blizzard Entertainment and Naughty Dog.