November 28, 2023

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Better Call Saul “Bingo”

Season One, Episode Seven.

The thing that I have generally liked about this show and Breaking Bad is how often they subvert expectations.  Walter White is not the tough guy he thinks he is, but he comes out on top anyway.  Jesse Pinkman is not that hardened a criminal.  Now, with Better Call Saul, there’s that built in audience expectation on what kind of man Jimmy McGill is, and he keeps being not that guy.

It’s actually rather impressive.

Take this episode.  First, there’s a general wrap-up to Mike’s problems (they aren’t really problems), and then there’s some dealings with Chuck, and finally, Jimmy takes Kim to see the office space he wants to set up shop in.  Things may finally be going his way, and he wants Kim as a partner in his new firm.  She declines because she’s close to making partner at Hamlin, and Jimmy seems to get that.  It helps that Kim is maybe about to finish off the Kettleman case.

And therein lies the problem.  I would have expected a show like this to drag the Kettlemans out a bit longer, maybe show Jimmy somehow getting them off in the season finale because he’s a shifty lawyer, a lawyer maybe two steps removed from being a criminal himself.  Instead, the problem comes down to the Kettlemans themselves, mostly wife Betsy.  Last time I saw her, she was insisting they didn’t steal the money that they very clearly had because she felt Craig deserved it.  She gave Jimmy a big wad to go away, one he called a retainer and she called a bribe.

So, naturally, when Kim gets the best possible plea deal of 16 months in county with a guilty plea, Betsy says no.  Never mind it’s Craig that would be going.  He doesn’t say much.  The Kettlemans decide Kim sucks and quit using Hamlin’s services.  They instead go back to Jimmy.

Now, Jimmy is clearly at least friendly with Kim if not more.  He may hate Howard, but he doesn’t want Kim getting hurt, and this is clearly setting her career back a few years.  Betsy insists Jimmy find that way to keep Craig out of jail and even reminds Jimmy that he has some of that money and would be going with Craig to jail if he doesn’t get the Kettlemans off.

So, my expectation is that Jimmy will somehow do just that.  My expectation is not what happens, that he instead has Mike find the money in the Kettleman house in the quietest way possible, take it back to Jimmy, and then return it to the county with Jimmy’s “retainer” included.  Jimmy doesn’t want this.  He knows Kim got the best possible plea for the Kettlemans.  He knows that the Kettlemans were not only criminals but that they were blatantly stupid criminals who have no chance of prevailing in court no matter what theatrics he pulls out.  And Mike owes him a favor anyway.

As it is, without the money, the Kettlemans have nothing, and even calling the retainer a bribe means Betsy could also see jailtime if the two don’t go back to Kim and take the plea deal.

So, Jimmy did the right thing even if he clearly didn’t want to on some level.  He wasn’t gloating when he saw Howard, and he knew he could only do so much.  He used his resources to get something done that was right for somebody, and he sacrificed having an actual office for a change.

For now at least.

Damn, I think I am really gonna love this show as I go through it.