July 21, 2024

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Better Call Saul “Something Unforgivable”

Season Five Finale

OK, when I stop to consider all the things that might be the downfall of Jimmy McGill…I did not see that one coming.

One of the hallmarks, for me, of good serialized television is taking characters I care about (at least in  the abstract) and putting them into situations that are nearly impossible to predict but still based strongly on the “rules” of the setting and the people involved.  Take he early seasons of Game of Thrones as an example.  True, those were based on a novel series so many of those twists were pre-existing to anyone who read the book, but the show managed to create a number of characters, played by charismatic and likable actors, and put them into situations that are often unpredictable but still work given the rules of the world.  In any number of other fantasy settings, characters like every last member of the Lanister family would be irredeemably evil.  Maybe Tyrion would be OK, but he would be the outcast who just turns his back on his family, but the character audiences got to know never quite did that.  Likewise, his brother Jamie went from a guy who pushed a kid off the top of a high tower, attempted murder of a child, to a fan favorite that people cheered on.  The Red Wedding is shocking, but there was nothing that happened there that wasn’t hinted at broadly if you know where to look.

It isn’t until, you know, the last couple of episodes when Daenerys, for example, goes insane and starts murdering peasants with very little build-up that all that falls apart, and that’s even with me taking into account how difficult fan expectations make it to give any popular and long-running series a satisfying conclusion.

Likewise, this episode does something I didn’t see coming, but it does fit in with the characters here.  I don’t mean Lalo’s survival after the hit attempt, one that is going to put Nacho in the crosshairs, or even Mike’s grumpy consent to tell Jimmy, well, anything.  I wouldn’t mind if Jimmy and/or Mike just said how it seems unlikely that Mike even likes Jimmy, but the point stands.  Mike told Jimmy just enough to lay the lawyer’s fears to rest, and he did so in part because Jimmy, deep down, is really only worried about Kim.

That’s all more or less known character traits.  Mike does care very much for other people.  He’s just very good at hiding that underneath a stonefaced exterior.  A Mike who didn’t care wouldn’t keep going to bat for Nacho.  Likewise, much of what Jimmy does, he does for Kim.  Yes, his greed and drive get the better of him from time to time, but that’s to be expected.

As a result, it was a surprise to me that it was Kim who decided the time had come to ruin Howard.

Howard’s an odd figure on this show.  Theoretically, he hasn’t done anything worse than being a bit of a douche.  Jimmy hates him because of what happened with Chuck.  It’s understandable if a bit extreme.  But Howard’s somewhat condescending efforts to give Kim career advice means she is remarkably OK with what Jimmy has done to Howard, to the point where she finds the destruction of Howard’s car and Jimmy’s sending prostitutes to see Howard in a public place is actually very funny to her and not something that, in the past, might have had her lecturing Jimmy on not doing things like that.  Instead, she’s thrilled enough that pranking Howard becomes a form of pillow talk.  I get that the point is that Kim knows Jimmy well enough to be not at all surprised, and after everything with Lalo, whatever Jimmy did to Howard is such small potatoes that it doesn’t even matter.

But when Kim wants to bring Howard down for the crime of, well, being a dick, and it is Jimmy “Saul Goodman” McGill who is questioning if it’s wise to do that, well…yeah, something tells me this is going end a lot worse for Jimmy.

Then again, those flashforwards already show Jimmy is living alone without Kim, so maybe I shouldn’t be that surprised.