Previously on Better Call Saul, “Nailed”
Better Call Saul - s2e10 - Klick | Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Rhea Seehorn, Michael McKean, Michael Mando, Patrick Fabian, Brandon K. Hampton | Writers: Heather Marion & Vince Gilligan | Director: Vince Gilligan
Better Call Saul’s second season finale ends with few expected turns, yet wraps this year’s installment with a foreboding whopper of a cliffhanger. After the chilling ending to “Nailed” last week, Jimmy’s guilt overwhelms him and he sticks his neck out for Chuck once more, despite big brother seeking retribution so intense it puts Cain and Abel’s relationship to shame. Concurrently, the devious agenda Mike has patiently constructed for the last five episodes would be complete, if not for a last minute interruption by an unknown party.
MY BROTHER’S KEEPER
For a majority of the season, the kinship between Chuck and Jimmy was antagonistic at best and wholly destructive at its worst. Say what you will about the brothers, this season and the finale has proven that the McGills are in fact two sides of the same coin. Jimmy is always going to be slippin’ no matter how strongly his peers - and James himself - try to stay on the straight and narrow. The most entertaining aspect of Saul this year was the unseen effects James had on everyone in his immediate circle. In an almost effortless manner, Jimmy was able to draw out unyielding support and friendship from the minor characters, in spite of his detestable activities. There’s no mistaking that James is an affable, down-to-earth guy. The only problem is taking his wacky brand of charm at face value, or remain wary and accept it as a facade that shrouds his true purpose.
What was especially remarkable to witness is every respective lead that portrayed themselves as sanctimonious beings regressed - intentionally - after repeated exposures to McGill. Rather think of Jimmy as a parasite (that would be too harsh), he’s more like a black hole… sucking in all matter and light and wholesomeness from nearby celestial objects to satiate the perpetual emptiness that resides in his core. Perhaps that’s a bit brutal, but recall how much Kim (Rhea Seehorn) has changed in demeanor and ambition. How much coordinated chaos McGill spread around Davis and Main during his short stay. And of course, the physical and psychological torture inflicted by Jimmy on his already edgy, know-it-all bore of a brother Chuck.
Whether you side with or absolutely detest Charles McGill, one must give all the credit in the world to Michael McKean for conceiving a man who elicits such pronounced reactions from viewers. Chuck and Jimmy, like some siblings we may know, have a relationship that’s akin to a conundrum wrapped in a charade wrapped in an enigma. Witnessing the discord among the two - which was fleshed out by a series of flashbacks - affirmed the hang ups each cannot shake. For Jimmy, it’s his complete lack of empathy in most matters; for Chuck, his deep seated jealousy for his more favored sibling. McKean’s performance during season two - achieved through marvellous writing by Thomas Schnauz, Gennifer Hutchison, Gordon Smith and others - fashioned a tragedy so profound and distressing, even Euripides would slump back on his couch with mouth agape in shock.
The first five minutes of “Klick” was a particularly unnerving scene superbly directed by Vince Gilligan, effectively transporting viewers into Chuck’s world of isolation and confusion. The disjointed overhead shot itself presented Charles at his most vulnerable, restrained for his own safety and slowly panicking under the bright lights of the OR. Despite the internalized horror he puts himself through, along with a bout of self-induced catatonia, Chuck is as determined as ever to throw the book at his felonious brother. By episode’s end, it becomes quite clear the acrimony he has for Jimmy radiates intensely like the electric fields he frantically avoids.
There’s no going back after “Klick”. While neither brother is a saint, Chuck is now willing to do the devil’s share to finally be rid of Jimmy.
I CAN’T GET NO SATISFACTION
Gilligan continues to dust his particular brand of dark, nebulous magic across “Klick” with Mike Ehrmantraut’s private war against Hector Salamanca. In the years following Mike’s first appearance in Breaking Bad, the surly old coot has gained a following that carries an odd air of sentimentality and admiration for a character that certainly wasn’t the most virtuous in the series’ 5 year run. The laconic gun-for-hire has been a very entertaining addition to Saul, and better yet, the furtiveness and earnestness from Ehrmantraut that is revered by fans has been retained in spite of the continual expansion of his recent history.
As essential and transformative as Michael McKean’s presence is for the entirety of Better Call Saul’s primary arc, what would this show like be without Jonathan Banks? Be it half an episode or a five-minute scene, Banks’ ability to add weight in every scene is a testament to his growing presence on the show. No frame is ever squandered. No line is ever irrelevant. Which is why Ehrmantraut’s one-sided feud against the Salamancas has been a thoroughly engaging experience. After accepting the job to set up Tuco - and was blindsided soon after by Hector - Ehrmantraut’s behavior as of late has been contrary (at least for this past version of Mike) to his policy of leaving no trace anywhere at any time. Since setting roots in the Land of Enchantment, Mike has become bolder in his exploits and with such high rewards he was bound to face the high risks of freelancing.
It turns out Stacey (Kerry Condon) was right about being harassed by random hooligans, who turned out to be in the employ of the cartel’s most intimidating enforcer. Due to Mike’s desperation to provide for his family, he’s entirely to blame for bringing such horrible people so close to his kids’ lives. After the loss of his son, Ehrmantraut is not going to see another day in which he fails them again. It appears in New Mexico the best defense is a good offense and everything was closing in just as Mike planned, right down to the final moments of Salamanca’s last steps on this earth. Regrettably (or thankfully, depending on one’s perspective) his best chance to alter the landscape was squandered.
So who was it that stopped Ehrmantraut from putting a 168 grain hollow point in Hector’s skull? Honestly, it isn’t all too difficult to hazard a guess. Though it was only two words on a piece of paper, it easily points to the eventual inclusion of everyone’s favorite restaurateur. You know if he’s lurking out of the shadows, things are only going to get a helluva lot worse in 2017.
After an admirable yet imbalanced first season, Better Call Saul straightened out all the kinks in its second year and fashioned what could be argued as, with great confidence, the finest acted, best written program on television today. There is now no excuse that could be used by anyone for not giving Saul a chance. Law and order has never looked so beautifully chaotic.
Better Call Saul S2E10