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