Beyond the superficial commonalities of a shared fictional world and a handful of characters, Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul are very different shows. From its in-no-hurry pacing and more satirical tone, right down to the soul of its overall story, the rise of James M. McGill, Esq. is exactly what Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan set out to make: a new, distinctive series that enriches some of what comes after it.
The qualities that the two shows do have in common, however—impeccable production value, masterful scene structuring, performance, and dialogue—have been a treat for fans throughout the first nine episodes, and it’s these sometimes less noticeable characteristics that make an episode like “Pimento” really stand out.
Take the first shot, for example. A simple image of Jimmy and Chuck from the rear, both sitting outside on a park bench, perfectly renders the change we saw at the end of the previous episode. Chuck, previously crippled by his sensitivity to electromagnets, sits with his brother under a transformer of all things. It’s from there that the scene then dives into pushing the story forward. The older McGill thinks that the lawyers from Sandpiper Crossing are probably going to attempt placing a restraining order on Jimmy, to keep him away from his potential clients for the impending class-action suit. That turns out to be the case, except for a minor detail.
The Sandpiper’s lawyers are trying to keep Jimmy off the premises, not away from his clients. His opponent argues that Jimmy’s eccentric behavior would disrupt operations at the elderly care facility. The judge throws out the request, but Jimmy’s victory is short-lived. The firm has sent boxes of discrediting information about the suit’s possible claimants over to Chuck’s in hopes of stalling progress on the case and keeping the number of defendants low. The retirement home is going to bury them in paperwork unless—as Chuck is sorry to report—he and Jimmy farm the case out to HHM, because there’s no way that they’ll “Erin Brockovich the shit out of this case.” Jimmy is forced to see the light, but agreeing to work with Hamlin isn’t enough to make Chuck a believer, as he sneaks outside late at night to make a phone call to his brother’s nemesis.
Completely unrelated to everything that’s happening with the Sandpiper suit, Mike got his own plotline that would have made for a perfect, standalone short film.
After gifting Kaylee with the dog he bought to meet the vet, Mike heads to a parking garage, packing exactly one sandwich, to follow up on “a lead for a job opportunity.” The work is a civilian protection gig, and it comes with two other hired muscles, one of whom is particularly chatty. The talkative guy can’t believe that Mike would neglect to bring a gun to the job. “I’ve got at least two guns on me that I’ll tell you about,” he tells Mike, but the former cop is as steely as ever. When the organizer of the job arrives on the scene in his minivan and Dockers, there’s further discussion about Mike’s lack of weaponry. What happens during the job when Mike needs a gun? He’ll take one of the talkative thug’s pieces, and Mike is kind enough to demonstrate how that would work. Unfortunately for his potential co-worker, that kind of sharing entails a swift jab to the throat. Left as the only man who isn’t choking on the ground or running away, Mike gets in the car with Price and is promised the job’s full $1,500 payout.
It’s an utterly perfect scene. From the set-up of the three thugs, to the Price reveal, and the explosion of violence, this kind of writing separates Better Call Saul from almost everything else on TV, including Breaking Bad in many ways.
Chuck and Jimmy’s trip to HHM, on the other hand, did share one key aspect with the preceding series: an excellent, censored curse word! But the road to that swear is long and awkward. The brothers (and Chuck’s secretly space blanket-lined suit) receive a warm, electromagnet-free welcome at their former workplace and quickly get down to business. Hamlin is willing to take on the suit, which he considers a slam dunk, and pay Jimmy both 20 percent of their earnings from the settlement and a $20,000 “of counsel” fee. The two figures sound great to Jimmy, but he’s itching for the office next to Chuck’s. That ain’t happening, though. Howard explains that it was the decision of the board that Jimmy shouldn’t be hired, so Jimmy has no other recourse but to tell that “pig f–k” to go to hell. He’s not giving HHM the case.
NEXT: The Mike and Price Show