“Pimento” may be Better Call Saul‘s finest episode yet, as both the humor and the emotional payout felt completely balanced. We knew that Jimmy’s Sandpiper case was going to implode on him somehow, but nothing could have prepared him for the betrayal that came from within his own ranks. One of the most devastating things about the revelation that Chuck had always been the one holding Jimmy back at HHM — and not Howard — was a sense of wasted time. Jimmy has hated Howard for so long, making him the focus of his drive for success, and also his revenge. And now, with incredible intrigue, one considers the man of Howard himself. He’s taken shit from Jimmy for so long, anger that he knew should have been aimed at Chuck, and never said a word (until now, to Kim). The implications are incredible to consider.
Throughout this season, we’ve gotten Jimmy McGill’s backstory as Slippin’ Jimmy both in flashbacks and through some of his present-day schemes. With the Sandpiper case, though, he really seemed to be turning things around. After he gave his Kettleman money back and handed them over to Kim (his most selfless move to date), he seemed to be on a new course, morally and career-wise. Only something as severe as Chuck’s betrayal could knock him off of that course handling elder law, and doggedly pursuing a juicy class action lawsuit. He not only had the wind taken out of his sails regarding his new, positive path, but also regarding his hatred, which had for so many years been entirely misplaced. He has nothing.
So, Jimmy finally seems poised to make his full transition into a criminal, set up beautifully by a monologue Mike gives the nerdy, pill-pedaling dealer: “You took something that wasn’t yours and sold it for profit. You are now a criminal. Good one, bad one, that’s up to you.” Jimmy isn’t a bad person — that’s evident from everything we’ve seen so far this season. But he is a schemer. He might fashion himself as a “good” criminal moving forward, but as Mike would put a point on it, that still leaves him as a criminal.
Of course, we aren’t there yet. But Mike’s endeavors suggest that his and Jimmy’s worlds may be colliding again soon (along with Nacho’s). Readers will note that I haven’t been a big fan of the Mike storylines this year, if only because their noir tone does not at all match the rest of Better Call Saul. But for the first time, in “Pimento,” Mike was part of a darkly humorous series of scenes where he also got to be a complete and total badass. Him also slipping into the criminal world (though just for hire) was juxtaposed with his delivering the new dog to Kaylee, complete with all of the trappings (and offering to keep the dog if Stacy wasn’t a fan). Mike is a gentle soul who doesn’t like to make waves, and has a deep-rooted desire to put his family first (particularly after what happened with his son). He’s willing to take shady jobs, if they will help fund a good life for his daughter-in-law and his granddaughter. He’s in a dark place, but he brings to it his own code. Starting with no gun.
Let’s unpack that whole sequence for a minute. There was Mike, with his pimento cheese sandwich, staying completely calm as the loudmouth guy for hire and his six or more guns tried to intimidate him, and then squeeze him out of the plan. Mike deals with him calmly, but with a sudden burst of violence that ended any questions about him being the guy you want for protection (he even sent the huge guy running away afterwards with an innocuous question). He talked the pill peddler through the motions of a drug deal, then stood there and quietly stared down Nacho as he made sure the pill peddler got all of his money — including the $20 that was short. The homework he did gave him a particular confidence, but he also exuded a total “do not fuck with me” vibe, regardless. And of course, perhaps most importantly, he and Nacho have now met, bringing him one step closer to Jimmy’s world.
“Pimento” had a quicker pace for a Better Call Saul episode (which as a whole tend to be exceptionally languid) and it was a really fine hour that played with a lot of dark humor in ways that were reminiscent of Breaking Bad, without directly calling back to it. (Although the meet at the abandoned factory did feel visually familiar). “Pimento” also revealed an essential turning point for Jimmy, in that the man whose approval he has so desperately sought over the years has always found him to be a fraud and a fuck-up. That devastating revelation will start an important turn for Jimmy, the fallout from which we’ll start to see in next week’s finale.
Episode Rating: ★★★★ Very good
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Chuck — aside from being the worst by the end of the episode — was so great for most of the hour. The shoeless scene was sweet, the foil-lined suit was impeccable, and his 2 a.m. phone call both terrible (in its content) and hilarious (in its execution).
— “We can Erin Brockovich the shit out of his case!” – Jimmy.
— I like that the show let Jimmy clearly say “lying, miserable pig fucker,” even though it was censored.
— “Slippin’ Jimmy? With a law degree? It’s like a chimp with a machine gun, people could get hurt!” – Chuck.
— I think we all knew something weird was up with Chuck and HHM and Jimmy being shut out, but still, it coming out the way it did was heartbreaking.
— “Pimento is a cheese. They call it the ;caviar of the South'” – Mike, a.k.a. Uncle Fester.
— “Hail satan, I submit to the dark side” – Jimmy.