The Return Of Slippin' Jimmy
Jimmy's return to Chicago reminds him how much he loves making a dollar out of fifty cents.
When AMC was first announced that it would produce a Breaking Bad prequel series about Saul Goodman, I was -- as I wrote back at the top of the season -- not especially confident about it. It actually seemed like it could have been conceived on a bet: "What's the least substantial Breaking Bad character we could focus on, rendering him or her more compelling than he or she was in the original series?" (My vote would have been for Gus Fring, but then my vote is almost always for Gus Fring, regardless of the campaign.) But Better Call Saul started strong and remained fascinating through all its first ten episodes, largely because the character we've been watching isn't the one we met in Breaking Bad...or wasn't, until this latest episode.
At the end of the season's penultimate installment, I had actually thought the cataclysmic break between Jimmy and Chuck could have ended the season: granted, it was downbeat, ending with Jimmy drifting off and Chuck, given his disease, unable to follow, but as the credits rolled, I really felt like it told the story of how Jimmy became Saul -- the painful realization that following the rules wouldn't ever earn him Chuck's respect, the one thing he most desired. (Of course, I'm also the one who thought "Ozymandias" could have been the series finale of Breaking Bad.) But since I'm just a garden-variety jerk and not a Machiavellian con artist like Jimmy, I didn't take into account that being spurned by decent society is only part of what makes a supervillain: there's also the thrill that comes from duping a mark and getting away with it. So after handing off Chuck management duties to Howard/Howard's designated underling, saying goodbye to Kim, and going back to his pre-class action suit life of calling Bingo to drum up estate business only to have a complete meltdown at same...
...Jimmy makes his way back to Cicero, and the site of many more victories than he ever earned at the courthouse in Albuquerque.
Of course Marco, Jimmy's old partner in the fake-Rolex scam, is not just still at Arno's but is passed out on the bar when Jimmy returns -- and even though, in the decade since Jimmy left town, Marco's gotten a straight job, he's spent every minute since Jimmy's departure missing him. Chuck might not have wanted Jimmy to be his partner in the law, but Jimmy's reunion with Marco shows him that he had a brother and partner well before he ever applied to the University of American Samoa. Marco doesn't want Jimmy to be anything other than what he is: a skilled short-con grifter. When Jimmy produces his west-facing Kennedy half-dollar and suggests that he and Marco run the related scam on a suit-wearing jerk he's just seen walk into the bar, Marco's hurt from learning that Jimmy had been in town for his mother's funeral and didn't get in touch with Marco melts away; it seems like working with Jimmy again is all Marco's wanted to do for the past ten years, and a week-long con bender ensues.
When Jimmy comes back up for air, he pays off a long-ago Breaking Bad line...
...and tells Marco he's had fun, but that he has to get back to his straight life, and the clients who need him. Marco convinces him to pull one last job -- the Rolex scam -- and then proves once again that no fictional character has ever had a cough that was just a cough. Attending Marco's funeral -- wearing the ring Marco's mother passed on to him -- feels a lot like Jimmy closing the door on his old life and resuming his life as a decent, fairly respectable lawyer even before Kim calls with a job offer from the Santa Fe firm HHM is partnering with on the Sandpiper case. But skills like Jimmy's won't really stay dormant for long.
What did make Jimmy do
back then, anyway? Maybe, as he said, it was his ethics, but it feels more likely that it was fear. And apparently watching the light go out of Marco's eyes right after telling Jimmy that their reunion tour was the best week of his life made him realize that life's too short to do anything remotely like what Chuck would want him to. "Pimento" may have shown us Jimmy giving up on one of the last real and meaningful relationships in his life once he discovered how one-sided it actually was, but "Marco" (and Marco) shows us Jimmy realizing that if there are rubes out there ready to go along with schemes that seem too good to be true, he might as well be the one putting them together. And if a couple of metaphorical Cub Scouts get shat on in the process, well, maybe their dad shouldn't have left them in a running car.