"Jimmy probably can't talk his way out of this one," says the star in an exclusive interview
[SPOILER ALERT: This story contains plot details about “Klick,” the season 2 finale of AMC’s Better Call Saul, which aired Monday night.]
Jimmy McGill admitted that he transposed a 6 and a 1, and now his brother has his number.
The season 2 finale of Better Call Saul ended on a cliffhanger confession that could contain huge consequences for our big-dreaming, always-scheming lawyer played by Bob Odenkirk. Jimmy, as you know, has been engaged in a tortured sibling rivalry with his big brother, one in which he has struggled for love or simple validation from Chuck (Michael McKean), the legal mastermind whom he let down for much of his life with his Slippin’ Jimmy exploits. And their relationship has only grown more complicated and fraught as Jimmy pursued a career in the law — and also took on the role of caretaker as Chuck suffers from a bizarre-yet-debilitating allergy to electricity. And if you thought Chuck radiated negative energy toward Jimmy before watching “Klick,” you know much more now.
The beginning of the episode set the tone: a flashback of their mother’s hospital death, with Chuck dutifully at her bedside and Jimmy off fetching some sandwiches. (Her last words were “Jimmy” and “Jimmy.” More festering fodder for Chuck.) We returned to the present-day ER, where Chuck had been taken by Jimmy after falling in the copy shop and suffering a nasty head trauma. What was he doing at that copy shop? Getting very close to discovering that Jimmy was lying when he said that he had nothing to do with an address on Chuck’s Mesa Verde documents that erroneously stated 1216 instead of 1261. But with Jimmy’s girlfriend, Kim (Rhea Seehorn), Chuck’s personal assistant Ernie (Brandon K. Hampton), and Lance the copy guy covering for him, Chuck, after recovering from a bout of self-induced catatonia, feebly seemed to admit defeat after his hospital stay, calling his HHM partner Howard (Patrick Fabian) to resign and retire from the law in shame. The breaking of Chuck apparently was too much for Jimmy to bear, and when he saw his brother descend deeper into space-blanketed madness and sadsackery, he came clean (“I ratf—ed you…. I would’ve made Nixon proud”), revealing his document trickery and urging his brother to reconsider his decision. Chuck did, and then asked Jimmy if he realized that he had just copped to a felony. “I guess, but you feel better, right? Besides, it’s your word against mine,” tossed off Jimmy before exiting the house, leaving Chuck to turn over a pillow and turn off the tape recorder that he had planted to record the confession. Click. Slippin’ Jimmy was just out-slipped.
Yes, the situation involving the brothers McGill just turned electric, and we are surging with questions. Perhaps this would be a good time to ground ourselves and pick up the phone to get Odenkirk’s take on “Klick” — and where things possibly go from here. Turns out, he’s not a big fan of Chuck right now.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: There’s been a pretty intense game of sibling rivalry chess especially over the last few episodes. At the end of the episode, did we just see “Checkmate”?
BOB ODENKIRK: [Deep breath] Man, that’s a good question. I mean, I know [series creators] Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould like to put themselves in corners that seem impossible to get out of, but I kind of think we did. I’m not saying there aren’t any more moves to make, but as far as… I don’t know what can happen next. I don’t know how Jimmy keeps his law license. [Laughs.] I don’t know how he doesn’t get disbarred. He doesn’t, though, because Saul has a license, we assume. So I guess we haven’t, but I think what we’ve seen is like a place where you have to escalate beyond cleverness. Maybe clever moves aren’t going to get us to the next place, but blunt force [laughs], in some capacity. Jimmy probably can’t talk his way out of this one.
You and I talked before about Jimmy getting closer to the edge of becoming Saul. We thought we were seeing the end of Jimmy McGill at the end of last season, so we ask again now: Is this the fall of Jimmy McGill, and will Saul rise from these ashes possibly next season? How close are we now to transformation?
Well, that you’d have to ask Vince and Peter for a definitive answer, but I do think we’re close. The thing you have to remember is everything I say is conjecture. I really don’t know, but I think it’s the characters in between these guys that are going to pay for their battle. I’ve said this a couple of times, so I don’t feel bad about saying that I think the journey from Jimmy McGill to Saul is like falling off a cliff. At a certain point, it’s not a gradual thing at all, so when people ask, “How long will it take?” I think that it’ll take a day. It’ll be one day where he goes, “Okay, that’s it. I’m going to be one of those lawyers, and the reasons for that are numerous.” You can imagine numerous reasons, one probably being I could embarrass the hell of out my brother….. I think people sometimes feel like it’s going to take forever at this pace, and I just don’t think that’s true. It’s more a matter of building up the building blocks and then they all fall down in one fell swoop.
To use a different analogy, Jimmy seems to have put himself in quite a pickle with his admission, but he doesn’t yet realize how sour this pickle is about to get. What was your first reaction when you read that scene?
I liked how much it was about brotherly love, that moment of Jimmy just kind of surrendering and saying, “Look, it was me,” and admitting it and doing it for his brother’s sanity and health. I really like the emotion of it, and I also feel like I get the exhaustion of just the wanting the fight to stop, you know? I have great empathy for that whole thing — whenever you see couples fight, you kind of feel like, “Don’t you guys just get exhausted? Don’t you just want to go, ‘Hey. You know what? I give up.'” But then, the fact that the brother really hasn’t given up and the brother was manipulating this whole time on some level just makes me hate Chuck more. As much as I love Michael McKean, Chuck is a f—ing asshole. He’s a f—ing asshole. Come on! You really need to do that? And he’s got to win at all costs. I mean, really it’s Chuck who has to win at all costs.
How much of Chuck’s descent in this episode was a ruse? From the self-induced catatonia to the Mylar room, at what point did Chuck start playing Jimmy, and how much of it was real and how much of it was fake?
It was a combo platter of real and fake. It was his anxiety just run amok, but it was fueling his crazy plotting. He was genuinely relieved to finally have an excuse to put up his walls of Mylar [laughs]. I’m sure he’s been thinking about that for years and he felt like he’d been pushed to the limit and he could just do it. But also he had to grit his teeth like crazy to go pick out the old tape recorder and set it up and plug it in, and yet it was worth it to him. And the crazy thing is, if you think about it, if Chuck thought that plan was going to work, what he realized was: When I show my brother how much my sanity is at stake, he will break down. That’s what will break my brother down. I will show him my sanity has been taken and I will use that against him. I know he loves me enough and cares about me enough that he won’t be able to keep up his front in the face of my own health issues, but then I will use his love for me against him. That’s pretty s—ty. Of course, we don’t really know what Chuck’s going to do with that, but I imagine he’s going to try to get Jimmy disbarred. I guess if he really loves his brother, he might say “Okay, I have this tape now. Don’t f— around anymore.” But I don’t think that’s what he’ll do.
That was my next question: We don’t see Chuck show Jimmy that he has proof of his crime. Is it possible he’s going to sit on that for a while and figure out how he play that card? Or do you think he’s already got a plan in place?
I think he’s got a plan in place. I keep thinking about Howard Hamlin [Patrick Fabian], who has kind of turned out to be this fairly reasonable guy in every way — legally, he’s not overly selfish. He takes people into account. When you meet Howard Hamlin, he comes across as such a snake, but then as we’ve gotten to know him over these two seasons, he’s got a balance to him, which is pretty amazing to see. And you believe it too, so I don’t know if Howard would step in there and go, “Look, okay, I get it. It’s a s—ty thing your brother did. But we don’t need to take him down. Let’s just move on.” That seems to be Howard’s attitude….
You know how a battle that you’re in that has your ego involved, it just will not leave you alone? It can be the dumbest thing. There’s all kinds of disagreements and challenges we have in our day that we can set aside and take on as we approach them. And this kind of thing, this thing that involves your ego, is the kind of thing that you just can’t get it out of your f—ing head and it drives you. So I think in this case, Chuck has got this disease, he believes it’s real, and it is weakening him, and then he’s also thinking, “You know, I can use it against my brother. I can use his sympathy for me and what I’m going through.” Because ultimately, he always comes through. He always comes back. I mean, Jimmy checked in on Chuck even after everything. He checked in at the beginning of the season, you remember, there was a feeling of like, “Well, is he going to ignore his brother, try to avoid him?” And he drove by the house and looked at the house, and there was Ernie coming out, and he asked him how his brother’s doing. So that’s sort of a deeper motivation for Jimmy than anything else. It’s just his feelings for his brother.
When do you think he hatched the plan to record Jimmy?
I think when Ernie left the hospital room after saying, “I called Jimmy.” He just couldn’t allow that to be true. He can’t allow any of this to be true. If he believed Ernie then he’d gave to start to believe he actually had made that mistake—
That he was fallible.
That he was fallible, that he had made that mistake numerous times over and over. And he’s a man of details, you know, so that is not the kind of mistake he makes. So it’s all kind of real, and it’s all kind of put-on. It’s all kind of real, like I guess part of him is thinking, “Maybe I am losing it. And then I got nothing to lose. If I pull this and he doesn’t admit to it, well, then I really am over anyway.”
Do you think that Jimmy even realizes that he did something horrible by switching the numbers on the address?
Yes. He does. Yes, and he’s really, really mad at his brother, and he knows that this will really piss Chuck off and drive him f—ing bats, but I think the fact is that he doesn’t actually think it would make Chuck question whether he should be alive anymore [laughs]. I think he would just perceive it as just Chuck’s going to be so peeved. But I think what he’s realizing is Chuck can give up on life. He’s going to quit the law and he’s going to basically let himself die or something.
And he was blinded by the fact that he was doing this for someone else. It wasn’t just for his own gain. This was for someone he loves.
He was. He was not taking it all into account, and he did not see how deep the consequences would feel for Chuck. But he knew it would really get Chuck right where he lives. He knew that.
And Chuck had sabotaged his legal career before previously, so it was fair game maybe.
Oh, for sure. Of course, I’m on Jimmy’s side.
Well, a lot of people are.
Oh, boy, I’m surprised they are. I’ll be honest with you. When I was doing that whole plot, I thought, “We’re going to lose people’s affection for Jimmy if he’s this cunning and pulls this off,” but I don’t think we did. I think people felt like Chuck deserved it. Kim deserved Mesa Verde. It was s—ty that Chuck even took it. So in the end, Chuck is getting his just desserts, but yeah, you better watch out. Don’t underestimate Chuck, man. Ever.
Kim is aware that Jimmy bent/broke the law to help her land Mesa Verde; she finds out after the fact. Will she be willing to go deeper to help him out here with the recording? Is she about to enter her biggest moral dilemma yet? And is she going to wind up as collateral damage somehow?
Boy, those are the questions! Those are the questions I have too. I can’t answer it. I’m going to say that based on her willingness to partake in some of Jimmy’s schemes, what she’s shown, that maybe she’s willing to go further with Jimmy, staying on his side, maybe joining in on some of the retribution and gamesmanship. She’s proven herself to be willing to participate to a point, which is not something we thought she was when we met her. I think she’s growing up. She was a student. She was so thankful to be given this opportunity to become a lawyer. We don’t know her past either… but I think she might hang with Jimmy a little further, a little farther on the petard. [Laughs.]
What was Jimmy’s plan if Ernie didn’t cover for him? That was a sort of leap of faith.
I don’t think he had a plan. That was an absolute leap of faith, and it was a leap of, “Look, I’ll deal with the consequences later.” He does that fairly often. Like, he’ll say what’s expedient in the moment, and weirdly, what we’re talking about is in that moment of rushing into help to his brother, what was expedient to him was taking care of his brother. “I don’t care about anything else. I don’t care about me. I don’t care about what this looks like. I don’t care about justifying it. I’ll get out of the quagmire somehow that this creates, because I’ve got to save my brother.” So I think that he’s pretty good at flying by the seat of his pants and he knows it. So in that moment, he did the math, and he said, “My brother’s health is paramount, and I’m just going to run in there and save him, and then I’ll deal with the consequences later.” I don’t think he had an answer. And he also he kind of had cover. I mean, his brother is perceived as mentally unstable, certainly by the doctors in the hospital, so he probably felt like he had that to help him too like, who’s going to be on my brother’s side when I say, “I don’t know what he’s talking about!”
Do you know who wrote the “DON’T” note on Mike’s windshield (when he was trying to kill Hector)? Obviously it feels like it might be the reintroduction of Gus (Giancarlo Esposito)….
That’s a good question…. I think you’re right. I don’t know.
I know the writers just started working on season 3, but can you give us one hint about next season, maybe even summing up the dynamic between Chuck and Jimmy?
Look, I have no idea what they’re going to do, but I would just say look at the people caught between them. That’s who matters. And that’s certainly Kim and also Howard, I think. I really do think Howard’s kind of caught in between them too. He just doesn’t hate Jimmy on anything like the level — I don’t think he hates Jimmy at all. Chuck’s the ones who’s all wrapped up in it. At some point, it’s going to be a problem for him that his lead lawyer who he relies on so much is just obsessed, just kind of losing it with obsession over his brother. So the people in between them are the question of what happens, more than anything.
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