The undulating line of an electrocardiogram trickles across the screen. Jimmy McGill sits watch over a supine body wrapped in a white sheet. “Klick,” the 10th and finale episode of Better Call Saul‘s second season, marks Vince Gilligan’s return to the director’s seat, and it ostensibly picks up right where the last episode ended: Chuck, overwhelmed by the pervasive electricity in the all-night copy shop, lost consciousness, cracking his head on the counter, while Jimmy stood outside watching, intoning, “Call 911… call 911…”
Now we see Jimmy in the hospital, watching the still body, looking sullen, sad. But Gilligan loves tricking his viewers, playing off expectations. The camera pulls back and the nurse moves aside to reveal Chuck sitting beside Jimmy and their mother lying in the hospital bed.
Jimmy leaves to get a sandwich, saying their mom has been there for days, what’s gonna happen in the next 10 minutes? Well, she dies in the next 10 minutes, when Jimmy is out getting his sandwich, and only Chuck’s there to witness their mother’s dying breath.
“Jimmy,” she says, sounding at ease. “Jimmy.”
And she’s gone.
Jimmy returns, stepping into the wash of light pouring down the hallway like the promise of halcyon days. Gilligan, aficionado of exaggerated angles and using lenses to keep characters ostracized in the far corners of the frame but in equal focus, pins Chuck in the bottom corner while Jimmy rushes over.
“Did she wake up?” he asks. “Did she say anything?”
Chuck, without thinking about it, responds, “No.”
This might be heresy to some, but one of the reasons season 2 of Better Call Saul was an improvement over the already-great first season is Gilligan’s limited involvement. (Series co-creator Peter Gould, who wrote and directed last week’s sublime episode, has more involvement.) Gilligan’s a fine showrunner, and has worked on two of the greatest shows ever (Saul might get up there if it has a few more seasons as good as this one), but his writing and directing tend to be a little too obvious — hyperbolic, if you prefer. His visual metaphors can come at you like haymakers, not giving the viewer a chance to cogitate before four symbolic knuckles crack you in the jaw and tell you, forcefully, how to feel. “Klick” has none of these vices or bad habits — it’s some of Gilligan’s best directorial work — and seems to be drawing from the motifs established by the season’s other directors.
“Klick” is visually enunciated, each frame lucid and precise but not clobber-you-over-the-head obvious. When Chuck is brought into the hospital, Gilligan perches the camera so Chuck’s head hovers at the top of the frame, still and steady as the workers hustle around him. He’s upside down but appears right-side up, sees the world from a different angle than everyone else.
“What he wants and what he needs are two very different things,” the doctor tells Jimmy. Having seen Chuck earlier in the series, she’s familiar with his fictitious affliction.
Chuck lies in bed, prattling on about how his condition is akin to a patient having a penicillin allergy; the doctor isn’t sure his analogy is relevant. He starts to go on about Jimmy’s scheme, nailing every detail with remarkable lucidity — how did Jimmy get to the copy shop so fast? — but Ernie steps in and says he called Jimmy.
Chuck seems to sink into the bed. “Get out.”
NEXT: Chuck Is Out to Get Jimmy
Jimmy asks Ernie why he lied. Ernie says, “Chuck is really out to get you,” that Jimmy and Ernie are friends. People are always lying for Jimmy, helping him out — they don’t know him like Chuck does, as Chuck has said on several occasions.
Jimmy will take Chuck into Temporary Emergency Guardianship; “you finally got me where you want me,” Chuck says.
Gilligan uses a wide shot to show Jimmy helpless and tiny in the corner of the hospital waiting room. Kim joins him. They’re both wearing blue, so they blend into the blue chairs. (Better Call Saul loves making its characters wear the same colors as their environment.)
Jimmy’s commercial, which he’s been filming for most of the season’s second half, festoons the screen. “Gimme Jimmy,” the old people say, because moxie is in short supplies these days. It then cuts immediately to a Weasel garden tool.
Ignoring Chuck’s insistence that sticking him inside a magnetic tomb will mess him up, the doctors run the gamut of standard tests on Chuck, who consequently enters a self-induced catatonic state.
At this point, we have no idea whether Chuck will live or die. It would be dramatically poetic if he died, but we would then be deprived of Michael McKean’s resoundingly poignant performance; he brings empathy to the character but never delves into self-pity, plays Chuck as competent but afflicted. Whereas the first season began with a pretty lame attempt to breed suspense by putting Jimmy in mortal danger (as if he would die in the second episode of his own prequel), this season has done a spectacular job of teasing the unknown fates of Chuck and Kim, characters who could very well die at any point. The main theme of the show is that Jimmy ruins the lives of those around him, after all.
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Better Call Saul is, after just two seasons, one of the best prequel series ever because it quickly learned, after that ill-conceived ruse with Tuco and the scheming skateboarders, what to tease and when. Hector, whose initial appearance on the show was unexpected, has become a phantom haunting Mike, but we know Hector will, somehow, at some point, become a mute paraplegic. How does this happen? Will Mike shoot him and paralyze him? Will Nacho? Saul teases his fate by instigating Mike to plot against Hector, giving him a reason to try and kill the guy, but we also know that Mike is, as Nacho says, not a guy who pulls the trigger. We know he can, as was evident last season when he offed his son’s killers, but since then he’s been less kill-y.
Here, we see him testing out a massive rifle, calculating, calibrating; we see the gun seller wipe his prints off the barrel before giving it to Mike.
NEXT: Will Mike Pull the Trigger?
After Chuck emerges from his catatonic state, Jimmy brings him back to his catacomb-like home. Chuck is a relic, back where he belongs, among the walls of books and those yellow-tinged light shafts coming through the windows. (Almost every director has taken a turn playing with the visual elegance of Chuck’s home, taking advantage of the chiaroscuro lighting possibilities it offers. It’s become one of the great sets on TV. For my money, “Cobbler” had the best scene in Chuck’s house, but every subsequent episode has had its own great moments there.)
Once Jimmy leaves, Chuck goes to work. Swaddled in that silvery space blanket, he grabs a lantern and heads into his garage, where all of his electronic devices are quarantined — lights, keyboards, microwaves, radios, recorders. Wires like tendrils hanging out of every crevice. Chuck looks like the looming, cloaked figure on those Led Zeppelin T-shirts they sell at Hot Topic.
Chuck closes a door, and Mike opens one. Rifle in tow, he sets up on a rock, peering into the forlorn valley. He watches Hector, Nacho, et al bring the gray-bearded truck driver out, force him to his knees. Cicadas hum loudly. Mike gazes through his scope; he pans the scene, the gun slowly roving over each potential target. Hector emerges from the lone, ramshackle building, but Nacho gets in the way. Mike doesn’t pull the trigger. The cartel shoot the bearded man in the head.
The hum of the cicadas gradually dissipates, and the far-off baying of a car horn swells.
Mike slings his rifle and goes back to his car, where a tree branch is shoved into the horn. A note on the window says, “Don’t.”
Jimmy receives an urgent call and returns to Chuck’s house, which Chuck has covered in space blankets. It looks like a paranoid cocoon, something you might see in a low-budget ’80s sci-fi film, all glistening foil surfaces with crinkles and creases.
Chuck, Jimmy learns, has quit H, H & M. “Retired,” Chuck corrects him.
Chuck says he blew it — he messed up the Mesa Verde paperwork because the electricity pervades his walls, has corroded his ability to think coherently. “It’s this goddamn electricity!” he bellows. “My brain, my mind — it used to work!”
Sadness washes over Jimmy’s face. He comes clean, tells Chuck everything. He says his plan “would’ve made Nixon proud!” Says it’s amazing that Chuck got every detail right in his paranoiac ramblings to Kim, at the copy shop, at the hospital.
Jimmy confesses to a crime, Chuck says, a felony.
“It’s your word against mine,” Jimmy says, before walking out.
Chuck hits the STOP button on his hidden tape recorder.