How's Jimmy Going To Ruin Things With Kim On Better Call Saul?
And more...uh...burning questions about the season finale, 'Lantern.'
As the somewhat subdued third season of Better Call Saul shuffles to a close, I still have some frustration about the pace of the plot...and some questions.
This whole building full of lawyers couldn't parse Howard's announcement about Chuck?
After Chuck's bitter, petty lawsuit threat in the last episode, Howard calls his bluff, assembling the firm's board and giving Chuck the chance to hang himself with his own arrogance and thus affirm the faith everyone should have in Howard's leadership, before sliding him a cheque for $3 million: "The first of three payments, as per the partnership agreement." Chuck knows the firm can't afford it, gasping, "You're not shutting down, are you?" He's not: "I would never endanger the firm. This is mostly from my personal funds, and a few loans."
"You're paying me out of your own pocket," Chuck breathes. "You won," Howard replies. Though there are other ways this could still go, Howard is sufficiently confident that Chuck will take the buyout that even before giving Chuck his cheque, he's assembled everyone at the firm, apparently including the custodial staff, for his announcement.
"I have some bittersweet news to share," says Howard. "I'm sorry to say, but our fearless leader, Charles McGill, will be leaving HHM, effective immediately. I wanted to take this moment to thank Chuck for everything he's done for HHM. We started off with six employees, and Chuck helped grow us into one of the largest firms in the state. We will be forever grateful for his dedication." He turns to Chuck to offer him a chance to say a few words, which Chuck silently declines, stalking off down the stairs.
But as Chuck goes, various HHM staffers stop him to shake his hand and apparently offer congratulations. At least some of these people must be attorneys -- and yet they weren't paying attention to the careful, lawyerly phrasing of Howard's sendoff to Chuck? Nowhere in it is the word "retirement"; only the context -- the all-firm assembly; the round of applause Howard leads as Chuck departs -- makes this separation seem like it could be amicable or mutual. Maybe Howard wouldn't have to pay Chuck off with his own money if these boobs were more attentive.
How long was Chuck waiting for Jimmy to come check in on him?
Despite Jimmy's "Chuck who?" bravado with Howard in the last episode, of course he can't help being worried about him, and stops by the house to make sure he's okay -- and, when Chuck lets him in, finds out he's doing better than he has in years!
The appliances are hooked back up in the kitchen, several lamps are on in the living room -- during the day! -- and the stereo's on. Chuck's not just standing in a house crackling with electricity; he's using machines he doesn't even have to! Soon, it becomes clear that Chuck's been waiting for this visit from Jimmy which he calls out as typical of Jimmy's pattern of behaviour: Jimmy does something wrong, makes a "show of remorse," but ultimately learns nothing and returns to his slippery ways. Jimmy protests that his remorse is not just a show, and Chuck says he's sure Jimmy's emotions are real to him -- they're just pointless if Jimmy's not going to change his behaviour. Jimmy should accept what he is and stop apologizing for it; Chuck would respect him more if he did. Jimmy, aghast, feebly asks if Chuck didn't do anything wrong, but that's not the conversation Chuck wants to have: "You don't have to make up with me. We don't have to understand each other. Things are fine the way they are." Chuck steps forward and takes Jimmy by the shoulders to deliver the final blow: "I don't want to hurt your feelings. But the truth is, you've never mattered all that much to me."
As Jimmy stands there shocked, Chuck returns to his desk, sits, and starts reading until Jimmy decides to accept that he's been dismissed and wanders out -- possibly for the very last time ever. Because of the way Chuck's plotline ends, we may never know how precisely Chuck timed out not just his devastating speech, but all the staging that surrounded it. Was he just sitting there waiting and suffering with every note jazzing out of his speakers? Or does he actually know Jimmy well enough to have worked it out to the day? The hour?
Where are things going between Gus and Nacho?
Hector's plan to co-opt Nacho's father Manuel's shop for drug smuggling purposes -- despite Don Eladio's explicit instructions that all cross-border transportation should be chicken-based -- starts poorly, with Manuel, Nacho's father, refusing to pay fealty to Hector, and Hector growling to Nacho on his way out that he doesn't trust Manuel. Nacho, no idiot, knows what that means and decides he can't wait for Hector's fake pills to have their non-effect. Or can he?
That look at the end is Gus taking Nacho's measure and understanding everything in an instant, right? And since the last guy Gus determined was his ally against Hector got a pretty sweet money-laundering deal out of it, may we reasonably assume a strategic partnership between Gus and Nacho is something we should expect next season?
Could the series have gone on if Jimmy hadn't mended Irene's friendships?
Jimmy has, of course, done a lot of shitty things during the series run of Better Call Saul -- to say nothing of the shitty things that, in this timeline, he has yet to do as Saul Goodman -- but deliberately fomenting suspicion of Irene among all her friends at Sandpiper Crossing was low-key one of the worst due simply to the fact that none of the old ladies involved did anything to deserve it, and the only thing motivating Jimmy was greed. So of all the things the finale needed to accomplish, getting Irene back together with her squad via Jimmy's fake hot mic disaster was arguably the most important if we were to continue caring what he does. Jimmy can be as big a scumbag as he wants when his clients are drug dealers; elderly women scraping by on fixed incomes don't need the added stress of grudges.
How's Jimmy going to ruin things with Kim?
The horror of Kim's car crash has one positive effect: it forces her to get real about her schedule, and the limits on how much work she can actually cram into a day, so that when Francesca tells her she can still squeeze in that Gatwood meeting she missed when she, you know, almost killed herself falling asleep behind the wheel, she only entertains the idea for the length of time it takes her to look at her calendar. Kim then does what she should have in the first place -- passes Gatwood off to another firm -- and gives herself the chance to recuperate with an at-home film festival. She also lets Jimmy talk her into giving up the office, and Francesca (who seems dubious when Jimmy says that if they ever set up another office, she'll be their first call). As they're closing up, she stops Jimmy throwing out his Rolodex full of senior clients: he's pretty sure he's been blackballed by all the cottontops in the area after his chair yoga massacre and will need to cultivate a whole new clientele, but Kim tells him, "You never know." And when he takes one last look at his wall, she promises that they'll get another. "A better wall," he says ruefully.
I mean, yes, the next wall will definitely be better -- this one did look like a stock market crash. Sorry.
After weeks of tension between Kim and Jimmy, I believed their relationship more in "Lantern" than I have all season; Bob Odenkirk does a particularly nice job as he enters the ER when Kim's getting her arm casted, barely audible as all he can manage to ask is whether she'll have to spend the night in the hospital. Later, as she enthuses about her latest screening of a lifelong favourite movie, To Kill A Mockingbird, she's not bothered by Jimmy's self-assessment as the opposite of an Atticus Finch; when he mopes about Irene's estrangement from her friends and his failure to fix it with a muffin basket, admitting, "I'm not good at building shit. I'm excellent at tearing it down," her response -- "Sometimes you've gotta play to your strengths" -- gives him the idea to blow himself up with the hot mic scheme. Kim is under absolutely no illusions about Jimmy and accepts him for exactly who he is. What is he going to do to blow them up?!
...Who's the heir to Chuck's estate?
It seems impossible that a lawyer of Chuck's stature wouldn't keep his last will up-to-date. But to whom would he leave his presumably sizable estate? Rebecca? Would he have changed it to Jimmy, by default, after Chuck and Rebecca's divorce? If so, would he have spitefully changed that bequest -- to Dr. Cruz or Ernesto or the Humane Society -- after his Bar Association meltdown?
Why do I ask?
Uh. No reason.