If there’s one thing we’ve learned from “Better Call Saul,” it’s that sometimes doing the right thing just doesn’t get you what you really want. That’s what Jimmy finally comes to realize in the season finale of “Better Call Saul,” a quirky, tragic and beautiful episode that gives us the insight into Jimmy’s past we’ve been begging for.
Now we know how Jimmy ended up in jail many moons ago and unsurprisingly, it’s totally disgusting.
After suffering a minor breakdown in a bingo hall over the repetition of the letter “B,” he begins to tell a story. A few years ago, Jimmy was living in Chicago and knew a guy named Chet. Chet owed Jimmy a whole lot of money and, as a kicker, had been sleeping with Jimmy’s wife at the time. As an act of revenge, Jimmy decided to treat this man’s car to what’s called a “Chicago sunroof.” He explains that Chet owned a white pearlescent BMW 7 Series with white leather interior that was practically begging to be ruined. Jimmy spotted the car outside of a Dairy Queen and proceeded to crouch down on top of the vehicle and…relieve himself (a.k.a. defecate) through the sunroof, spoiling the seats and entire interior below.
“Guy wanted some soft serve. I gave him some soft serve,” Jimmy tells a packed bingo hall full of shocked and appalled geezers.
Even more horrifying is that Chet’s children were sitting in the back of the vehicle during this incident, so that’s how Jimmy’s indecent exposure charge came to be.
Now that we’ve got that image imprinted in our minds forever, we know just the type of guy Jimmy once was and also the kind of antics Jimmy may soon be returning to. After nine episodes of playing the good guy, Jimmy’s officially had it.
His ultimate realization comes after a quick trip back to Chicago to see his old friend Marco, a key character in the formation of Slippin’ Jimmy. The first time we saw Marco this season was back during that Rolex scam in Episode 4. (Coincidentally, that’s the episode where we learned how Saul’s going to get his name — “It’s all good, man.”) The finale, appropriately titled “Marco,” opens with a flashback to Jimmy telling Marco that’s he’s gonna move down to Albuquerque because his brother is getting him a “real job” at his law firm. My, how times have changed.
In present day, when Jimmy waltzes into the bar where he left Marco years ago, it’s like the friendship — and the business arrangement — never ended. Quickly, we learn that their idea of fun revolves around scamming other bar patrons out of hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Their schemes range from telling customers about a Nigerian prince’s impounded possessions to selling an antique, priceless violin. Their tricks are varied, but they all begin with the same question: “Can you keep a secret? Because I really shouldn’t be telling you this…”
The most interesting and elaborate scam we see in this lengthy montage involves a rare coin for which Jimmy is the seller and Marco is the buyer. The set-up is this: Jimmy explains to Marco, with a heightened voice, that this coin he has is very valuable. It’s a JFK half dollar but instead of Kennedy facing the east, he faces the west. Allegedly, only a few thousand of these were made before the mint caught on and now only a few hundred are floating around.
A man in a sharp-looking suit listens in. Jimmy says he’ll sell the coin to Marco for $100. According to Jimmy, it’s worth much, much more (like $700 more) but Marco’s his friend so of course he can just consider it a favor. While Jimmy escapes to the restroom to let Marco come to a decision, Marco makes a fake call to his coin-collecting friend to talk real value and the man in the suit chimes in, “So, what’d he say?” This is exactly what Jimmy and Marco wanted. The coin, of course, has no value at all but with the guy in the suit interested, Jimmy and Marco end up splitting $110 in cash, which means a few more rounds at the bar and a few new clients.
The next morning, Jimmy wakes up next to a woman who was convinced that he was actually Kevin Costner, which would have been an amazing conversation to witness. After clicking through 15 voicemails left by clients on his phone, he breaks it to Marco that he’s gotta go back home. Up until this point, Marco had no idea Jimmy was a lawyer and his reaction is priceless. “Holy crap. Slippin’ Jimmy’s a lawyer?”
After their hugely profitable night, Marco begs him to stay and just help him out with one last scam. It’s all that’s worth living for anymore. It’s the only thing that makes his heart race. Like any good junkie, he just needs one more to tide him over before Jimmy leaves for Albuquerque.
They decide to reenact the Rolex scam from Episode 4. Marco lays down in the alley so it looks like he’s passed out drunk. Jimmy and a new friend come upon a wallet stuffed with cash, and then look over to see Marco laying flat on the ground. Everything seems to be going just as planned until Marco misses his cue and Jimmy realizes that his friend isn’t just playing dead.
The other guy bolts away and Jimmy is left to watch his only truly trustworthy friend and partner in crime breathe his last few breaths. At the funeral, Jimmy gets a potentially life-changing call from Kim.
The Sandpiper case is growing too large for HHM to handle alone, so they’re bringing in another law firm in Santa Fe to help them. That law firm, Davis and Main, is interested in bringing Jimmy on as a partner.
This could be Jimmy’s big break. Free at last from his brother, who has a new assistant named Ernesto who looks eerily similar to a very young Gustavo Fring, and free at last from any direct connection to Slippin’ Jimmy, this could be the turning point.
But as he peels into the courthouse parking lot back in Albuquerque, you can see that he’s having second thoughts, and he looks to Mike for some guidance. “I had $1.6 million just sitting on my desk… We could have split it 50/50. Why didn’t we? What stopped us?”
“I remember you saying something about doing the right thing,” Mike says.
“Yeah, well, I know what stopped me,” he scoffs. “And you know what? It’s never stopping me again!”
With that, he peels out of there, humming the stoner classic “Smoke on the Water.” It’s a delicious outro to whatever dirty deeds may come next for Jimmy McGill.
The idea of doing the right thing is what this entire scenario is about. The right thing in this case would have been to offer himself and his services to this law firm that wants to hire him as a partner, but that’s not what Jimmy wants. He wants something more exciting, more independent. He wants something that’s all his. He’s more dangerous and ruthless than ever before and as viewers anticipating a second season, we should be thrilled about that.
There’s another underlying theme to this episode as well, and it involves family. During the opening flashback this week, Jimmy tells Marco that he’s heading down to Albuquerque for his brother, and Marco tells him that he thinks it’s “a waste.” “He’s my brother,” Jimmy says with a shrug. Jimmy had a life there in Chicago, but he abandoned it for stability and a loyalty to his family. He abandoned it because he thought it was the right, grown-up thing to do.
In the very next scene, we see Jimmy meeting with Kim at HHM, where he repeats “He’s my brother,” again, matter-of-factly. Then much later, as he’s explaining to Marco that he really has to go back home, Marco insists, “Hate to break to you, but your brother’s a stuck-up d—–bag. He doesn’t even like you.” Again, Jimmy responds, “He’s my brother.” He’s embedded with a kind of loyalty that’s both frustrating and admirable. This was a finale that left you wanting to see more. Questions were answered but at the same time, characters were shown in a brand new light. Who knows who Jimmy will be next season. Who knows how much time will pass until we see those wonderful brown suits again. But in any case, I’ll be looking forward to it. A job well done, Vince Gilligan. A job well done.
Best Jimmyisms of the week:
“Dalai Lama’s got nothing on me.”
“It’s like a Georgia O’Keefe hellscape out there.”
“I mean, what is it with this place? It’s like living inside an Easy Bake Oven.”
“Guy wanted some soft serve. I gave him some soft serve!”
“You ever see the movie ‘The Hills Have Eyes’? It’s a documentary!”
“Kitty cat notebooks for everybody.”