Better Call Saul creator: 'This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen Jimmy do'
Peter Gould breaks down Jimmy McGill's ill deeds, Kim's surprise in 'Fall'
[This story contains plot details about Monday night’s episode of Better Call Saul, titled “Fall.”]
Of all the schemes, cons, and sins committed by Jimmy McGill, the betrayal of Mrs. Landry just may reserve him a special place in hell — or at least purgatory.
Down on his luck and barred from practicing law for a year, Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) has been desperately plotting ways to make a paycheck so he can keep funding his half of the office that he shares the only person who believes in him, Kim (Rhea Seehorn). A few weeks ago, we were treated to the beta version of Saul Goodman (who can make you, local businessperson, a TV star!). Last week, he threatened legal action against his community service officer so he could pocket $700 from a drug dealer. But in Monday’s episode of Better Call Saul, the suspended attorney suspended his own morality by delving into the dark art of deception, and he was damned good at it. But it came at a cost, especially for Irene Landry: He fouled one of the few things in his life that was relatively pure — his work in elder law.
When Jimmy learned his old Sandpiper case hadn’t settled yet because the lawyers were advising Irene (as the designated representative for the plaintiffs) to hold out for a bigger payday, dollar signs lit up his eyes, and he devised a devious ploy to change her mind: He systematically began to turn Irene’s friends against her by giving her a pair of spiffy walking shoes and fixing a bingo game in her favor (Mike would be impressed by his magnetic precision) to make it appear that she was in it for herself and that she didn’t have the interest of the greater group at heart. Before long, Irene’s mall-walking friends had completely frozen her out. By the time she fretfully asked him what she should do and Jimmy manipulatively told her to follow her heart, his own heart had blackened a few shades.
Transitioning from blackened to blacking out, Kim suffered quite a scare at the end of the episode. Working all season at capacity — or over capacity — she agreed to take on extra work to help out the friend of a Mesa Verde executive (and maybe to bank some extra cash in case Jimmy needed help in easing of his financial burden). But those long hours and too-short naps finally caught up to her. As she raced over to a meeting that she was late for — and one that Jimmy inconsiderately tried to make her even later for so he could savor his ill-gotten victory with her — the next thing she knew (or we knew), she was in a ditch in a smashed car, all bruised and banged up, clutching her arm, with no idea exactly how she got there.
How exactly did we get here? And where are we going? Instead of AAA, let’s dial Better Call Saul co-creator Peter Gould for immediate assistance.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: That car crash was rather disturbing. What exactly happened? Kim has definitely been overwhelmed and under-rested, taking on another case on short deadline in addition to Mesa Verde. Has she bitten off more than she can chew to help keep up her business with Jimmy, maybe even both sides?
PETER GOULD: Anybody who’s worked really hard, and most people have, when you burn the candle at both ends, if you’re not sleeping, it can be genuinely dangerous. In a lot of ways, sleep-deprived driving is as bad as drunk driving. Little PSA for you there. [Laughs.] And she has been burning the candle at both ends. Kim has always been a hard worker, and that’s something I admire about her. She has hustle, she has focus, and she cares deeply about getting her work done right. And we saw that all the way through the seasons, but this season, she’s taken that to a place that may not be healthy, and that comes to climax in that car accident.
Of course, if you think back to episode 7, there’s that moment before Kim goes into Mesa Verde where she realizes that she’s a little bit early, so she sets her alarm and wants to try to take a catnap and then the five minutes goes by in an instant. That seemed to me to be a precursor to this. We’ve seen that even when she was just working at Mesa Verde, she’s working as hard as she can possibly can — maybe harder than she should be. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that old story about John Henry, who was the man who could lay rails better than anyone else. Then the machine came and raced him, and he beat the machine, but then he died. [Laughs.] Kim has a little touch of John Henry there. She’s doing a job that probably a whole office full of lawyers should be doing — and she’s doing it by itself. And she can do it, but now she takes on this extra thing in episode 8 — she took it on, maybe because of what’s going on with Jimmy, maybe for reasons of her own. I think it’s a little bit for us to decide, and maybe we’ll learn more about that in episode 10.
She gets out of the car, but she appears to have hurt her arm pretty badly. Exactly how injured is she?
We had an option that we considered — and if it had been a different TV show, we might have taken — which was to have the crash and then not show her getting out of the car. There’s a phrase that we used to use in the Breaking Bad writers’ room, and we use in the Better Call Saul writers’ room, and it’s something we try to avoid. We call it schmuck bait, but basically, it means leaving the audience to believe that something enormous has happened to get them to keep watching past the commercial or to the next episode, and then taking it off the table as soon as you get back. We really try to play fair with the audience. The question in my mind is: How badly is Kim hurt? And also what does this mean? What caused the car accident? And what is she going to take out of all of this?
How is Jimmy going to feel after that last interaction with her? And is she going to be upset with Jimmy?
They had this terrible conversation before she left the office, and Jimmy was really a jackass to Kim, so you have to wonder how he’s going to feel when he finds out that she’s had an accident. And if you look at the car, that’s a pretty terrible accident, so she’s damned lucky to be getting out of that car, no matter what kind of shape she’s in…. He was more or less demanding her attention while she was busy heading out for this important meeting, and how’s he going to feel about the fact that he was behaving like that and then she went off and had this accident? This is a very consequential moment for us. And we know that Jimmy has two people in his life that he cares deeply about: Kim and Chuck. And, of course, those relationships are at the heart of Jimmy, and the idea of possibly losing Kim — it’s a game-changer for Jimmy.
Kim is often surprising. We may think that she’s going to act one way, and she’s sometimes zigs when we expect her to zag, and Rhea Seehorn plays her beautifully. She’s a very intelligent person who has a lot of understanding, so that’s the one thing I’d say about all of that.
We need to talk about Jimmy’s ill deeds in this episode. He had a gift for elder law, and for all the games he plays, he seems to care about his clients. But his desperation for a paycheck here trumps all of that, and it makes him betray Irene and corrupts that side of his business in what admittedly was a shrewd and complex con game. Should we consider this another line crossed in his dark transformation into the Saul Goodman that we will come to know?
This is actually the worst thing I’ve ever seen Jimmy do. It’s really, in a way, as bad as anything Saul Goodman does. Because Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad would advise people to do terrible things, but he was never pulling the trigger himself, whereas Jimmy McGill in this episode specifically tries to ruin this woman’s life — this woman who he cares about, who is a true innocent in every way. He goes out of his way to try to ruin her life because she stands between him and lots of money. That is as dark and amoral — or immoral — as anything that we’ve seen him do, ever. I understand why he does it, and of course Jean Effron, who plays Mrs. Landry, is just spectacular. You can’t look at her without feeling [laughs] that Jimmy’s really doing something awful. And you’re absolutely right: He’s violating his own morality. Ever since he’s started elder law, he really has done his damnedest to provide these folks with the best possible service that he possibly can. He’s wonderful with these older folks. And now he’s using that ability against an innocent woman, and it is terrible to behold. And the way that Bob plays it, it’s horrible; I also find it, in a very dark, bleak way, very, very funny.
Elderly bingo was ruined, Peter! If we lose elderly bingo, we’ve lost everything. We’ve lost Jimmy!
[Laughs] I agree. It’s funny you say that, but I remember when we started with this path of elder law in season 1, my great concern in season 1 was, “Will the audience see Saul Goodman when we’re trying to show them Jimmy?” So I was very concerned that people would assume that when he took up elder law that he was trying to rip those folks off, but of course that was the furthest thing from the truth. He was in elder law, and he found his niche there, and he was damned good at it, and it made his life better, and he was actually arguably contributing to the betterment to the world. But now he’s turned all those good intentions into something really sour and dark. But as always with Jimmy, for arguably good intentions because he wants to keep Kim, and he wants to keep the office, and those two things are linked.
A small, humble request: Can there be a Better Call Saul spin-off that centers on Sandpiper mall-walking group?
Aren’t those ladies wonderful? That whole sequence where he’s turning those folks against Mrs. Landry — it’s a special favorite of mine. We’ve done a lot of montages to this point, and that’s one that’s unique to me.
And the shot of the Crazy 8 store in the mall was a perfect wink and also gives interesting additional fuel to the spin-off.
We love malls. And the malls in Albuquerque have been very good to us, so hopefully the malls in Omaha will be also.
NEXT PAGE: Gould on Mike’s Madrigal decision, Chuck’s recovery, and the finale
Mike (Jonathan Banks) reluctantly goes on the Madrigal payroll through Lydia (Laura Fraser) to wash that $200,000 for his family, against his better judgment. We know how integral Mike becomes to Gus’ empire, but here he tells her he’s just in it for the quick launder. When will Mike decide that he’s in this for real? And can you hint at what kind of circumstances will prompt him to stay with Gus?
Mike is trying to draw all sorts of lines, saying, “This is temporary. This is a one-time deal.” But I see in the way that Jonathan Banks plays it that he knows in his heart that this is a momentous decision that he’s making. He has a lot of complicated feelings about what he’s doing. Certainly some of what’s going on with him and Lydia has to do with the mechanics of what they’re talking about, which is: Is it safe for him to give her the information that he’s giving? But the other part of it is, he’s signing on to something, and he knows that damn well that once this criminal operation has his name on the books, he’s giving away some of his power to him. I wouldn’t say Mike is going in naively, but he’s letting himself be pulled forward by events and by his guilt, most of all over his son, but now also his guilt over getting this good Samaritan killed, and this feeling that if he dies, what will that money that’s in the floorboards of his house all have been for? He wants to make sure that he has some legacy to leave behind. And, of course, that’s a continuing preoccupation of his in Breaking Bad as well.
Is Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) wanting to keep Mike around in case things go south — or should we say, even more south —with Hector (Mark Margolis)? Because things are really deteriorating with Hector at this point.
It could absolutely have something to do with Hector. As Breaking Bad Gus says, “I like to think I see things in people,” and Mike has proven to Gus that he is a unique talent. And he’s also someone who the cartel doesn’t really know, and certainly they have no idea of the connection between these two men. And of course we know from Breaking Bad, Mike is incredibly useful to Gus. At this point, Gus has already sensed this or figured it out, or he’s certainly highly motivated to bring Mike into the camp. And as we’ve seen with Hector, Gus has a lot of problems to solve. He’s got a long way to go before he can free himself from the cartel and get his revenge. And having someone who has the abilities of a Mike Ehrmantraut, that would be a huge asset for Gus.
Chuck (Michael McKean) seems to be on the painful path to recovery after he was exposed at the hearing. Especially after watching him with Dr. Cruz (Clea DuVall) last week, we started to wonder if there is a redemption story in the works…
There’s definitely that possibility. I know that most folks in the audience hate Chuck. That has been made clear to me. I don’t feel that way. I feel that there was something admirable and heroic about the things that Chuck has been doing, since that terrible scene — well, terrible for him — with the bar hearing, and it was proven to everyone around him that his illness is a mental one, not a physical one. He’s been resisting that idea since we first met him, and the fact that he would struggle through electricity and then see Dr. Cruz — and you gotta think that they’ve seen each other a few times, maybe even quite a few times at this point — I think that’s wonderful. And at this point in the season, I’m really hoping that he can keep up his progress.
But in this episode, we also see that he has exhausted the patience of his one big ally, Howard (Patrick Fabian), especially after the malpractice insurance rate for the firm doubles, thanks to Jimmy’s work in a previous episode. When Howard tries to gently tell him that it’s time to retire, Chuck objects and decides to sue him, warning: “You think I’m trouble now as your partner? Imagine me as your enemy.” Is Chuck now fighting on too many fronts?
Chuck is a brilliant guy. I would never want to underestimate Charles McGill. He obviously is feeling much better. The fact that he’s able to clutch an electrical desk lamp in that wonderful scene in the conference room, he’s doing things that he’s never been able to do before. And it seems to me he’s feeling stronger for it. And one thing he is, he’s not going to give up the law when it’s right in his grasp. You saw in episode 8, [when he said,] “I want to go back into court. I haven’t argued a case in years.” And now Howard is suggesting that maybe he should throw in the towel. He’s not going to do that. And also, as he says to Howard, he coached Howard for the bar exam. He’s not going to take any guff from this guy. He knows how important he is to HHM, and as he says in episode 9, he’s called Howard’s bluff — or that’s how it seems. The question is: Is Howard really ready for a knock-down, drag-out conflict with Chuck? He sure has never been where he is up to now.
Nacho (Michael Mando) has one tie to the legitimate business world through his father, but that seems to be all-but-destroyed when his swapped-pill plan doesn’t seem to work and he has to tell his dad that Hector (Mark Margolis) is coming for his business. His father is upset that Nacho is back with the Salamancas and tells him to get out of the house. The topper to that heartbreaker is watching Nacho putting the glass in the sink, by the way. Is this the beginning of the final hardening-over of Nacho? And will he go after Hector again?
It’s up to the viewer to decide, but I think Nacho’s great preoccupation is making sure that his criminal life doesn’t impact his father. And he knows that if Hector and his father get into proximity, and his father acts as his father would — because his father seems to be a man of great integrity, someone who’s not going to knuckle under to any criminal, someone who will potentially go to the police — he knows that that’s going to end well for his father. He’s seen who Hector Salamanca is. He’s trying his damnedest to avoid telling his father that he’s back in the crime business working for the Salamancas, but now Hector forces his hand. And he has to go tell his father the truth, but it’s only because he wants to save his father, so in some ways, this is as noble as we’ve seen Nacho. He’s giving up his relationship with his father in a last-ditch effort to save his father’s life. What is his father going to do with that? It’s very hard for Nacho to know. But as you pointed out, the next time he’s probably not going to be working at a sewing machine making seat covers. His ties to his father are never going to be the same. Nacho is not going to allow Hector to do anything bad to his father. The question is: How far is Nacho willing to go to save his father’s life?
None of this seems to bode well for Nacho.
It’s something that will become clearer in episode 10. Is Nacho deterred by what his father said? Is that going to push him further into criminality? Of course, if his father had said, “I don’t like what you’re saying, son, but I’ll knuckle under, I see what the logic of what you say, I will accept Hector Salamanca as my partner,” then Nacho would have left having made a great sacrifice and sacrificed his relationship with his father, but also leaving with what he wanted, which is the thought that his father’s life would be saved. Things are not looking good for Nacho Varga, absolutely.
How would you tease what viewers can expect next week in the season 3 finale?
A lot of things that have been cooking, for maybe up to three seasons, come to a boil.