With only three episodes left, Better Call Saul‘s “Bingo” marked an intriguing turning point for the show. All season, we’ve learned about the background of Jimmy McGill, his Slippin’ Jimmy roots, and his trajectory (mostly of his own making) of sliding towards criminal enterprise. Yet, “Bingo” showed him doing the right thing, to the detriment of his big plans. This wasn’t part of some overall scheme or another ploy — his breakdown at the end of the hour confirmed that.
The rise and fall of the Kettlemans has sort of been a barometer of Jimmy’s success and failures. While they were still on the run, Jimmy was at a low point, struggling to make ends meet, and to even find any clients. When he was able to track them down and find them camping with their money, his fortune changed. They bribed him, he took the money, and started making big plans. But the Kettlemans went with HHM instead of Jimmy, and their paths diverged for some time. In “Bingo,” they crossed once again. This time, Jimmy came out with the “winning” hand (putting those nutbars in their place, and winning points with Kim), but at a huge loss to himself.
In fact, almost everything Jimmy did in “Bingo” was selfless. He offered Kim the bigger office in the space he was looking to lease, hoping she would be his partner. He took case files to Chuck’s house to entice him to start working again, and it seems like he might have taken the bait. He genuinely tried to convinced the Kettlemans to go back to HHM, and when they refused, he did what was best for them by getting their money to the DA, along with the piece he had taken. Finally, he got Mike to do the job of getting that money for him, squaring the two when it came to Jimmy’s fees.
Though Jimmy specializing in elder care started off as a cover and then a joke, he really has made it into a booming business (or at least, a business). But he’s still settling when he knows he’s meant for bigger things. “Bingo” was so different from this season because it showed Jimmy being completely honest and sincere. And as we can see, that gets him nowhere. It’s not an excuse, it’s just a fact. His desperation is dearly felt.
Better Call Saul, at its best, is a comedy with overtones of tragedy and sadness. Jimmy is the epitome of the sad clown figure, dancing as fast as he can to perform, because if he slows down he’ll breakdown. We got a glimpse of that in this hour, and it was ugly. “Bingo” had a lot of humor and quirk to it, though, from Jimmy’s time in the bingo hall, to him allowing Chuck to pretend he’s building up a tolerance to electricity, and of course everything with the Kettlemans.
The best example of that quirky noir the show does best, though, was the extended scene where Mike staked out the Kettlemans, planted the money, and the collected the rest. Five apples and part of a ballgame later, we watched (along with Mike) through the Kettleman’ picture window to see a glimpse of their life. We knew them well enough at this point not to need any dialogue or explanation — the pantomime told the whole story, like the game of charades they were playing to start the night.
“Bingo” was another artful episode, with the framing of the Wanted posters to the start the hour, the juxtapositions of Jimmy in the bathroom calling Kim in the big office with the giant windows, and at the end when Jimmy kicks the door shut on us and freaks out behind it. It was the opposite of the scene with Mike and the Kettlemans. Here, we could hear but not see. But again, we didn’t need both, and it was more powerful to not have the full picture.
Next week, it looks like Jimmy gets caught up in trying to uncover a fraud scheme against his elder patients, which again takes Better Call Saul in an interesting (and different) direction. This is the Better Call Saul I adore. It can be very slow and very ordinary in terms of what’s happening in certain scenes (like extended scenes regarding plea deals or discussing commercial real estate). But the show is Jimmy McGill, and while it puts a lot on Bob Odenkirk to have to lead and own every scene, he does so naturally and masterfully. Such deep emotional turmoil and metaphysical pondering is all presented with such minimalism. Saul is where the ordinary and the absurd meet. Watching Jimmy’s struggles, and the outcomes of where his choices lead, remains bizarre, tragic, and mesmerizing.
Episode Rating: ★★★★ Very good
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Aside from the stakeout he went on for Jimmy, whenever Mike becomes the center of the story, it feels like an entirely different show. Him dismissing Jimmy at the start of the episode to talk to his old Philly cop buddy was like a scene change in a play, where Jimmy is now off stage, so something totally different is about to happen. Mike’s story, in Better Call Saul, brings a completely different tone to the series. It’s not that I don’t like it, I just don’t think it fits. Again, this has nothing to do with Jonathan Banks, who remains exceptional. It just feels really disconnected.
— Speaking of that storyline, though, there were a few lines in there that were so painful given the revelations we learned last week, like “Hopefully whatever you are didn’t rub off on the rest of your family.”
— “Pennsylvania can extradite individuals for bringing back a note pad? That is a bold legislature” – Jimmy.
— I adored the Wanted posters in the background. Were there any Breaking Bad Easter eggs among them?
— Hmm, the caterpillar and the cocoon … visual metaphor time?
— I never have much to say about Kim except that I like her, and that she’s a great ally for Jimmy.
— “Murderers and rapists!” – Mrs. Kettleman, on who the courts should be focusing on.
— Betsy Kettleman: “Thief!” Jimmy: “Takes one to know one.”
— “The 25th Hour, starring Maude and Ned Flanders” – Jimmy.
— Liked the nod to The Odd Couple, when the lady said one of her Siamese cats (named Oscar and Felix) just won’t bathe himself!
— Jimmy will bounce back, he always does. I’m actually hoping that at some point, the show turns into a sequel to Breaking Bad, and show’s Jimmy/Saul getting back on his feel somehow.