Sunday, August 26, 2018

Limits testing

[This one is obviously very late. Life and schedules and ambition kind of conspired against me. Episode 4 should be much more timely.]

What we hide from people is often just as important as what we say. Similarly, what we're willing to do is often equally as important as what we're not willing to do. Episode 3 of this season was all about those two concepts, as many different characters were asked to find their limits, while Jimmy, for the most part, sailed through it all.

From Ignacio acting out the cover story that has him getting shot and operated on by a veterinarian in a Jiffy Lube (patiently hovered over by the cousins) to Mike simply turning down a B&E for a rare figurine, these are the decisions that shape these characters, not only for the audience, but the sake of the character's identity. Ignacio, disenchanted as he is with the drug scene, is now serving two masters, either of whom will kill him at a moment's notice if they feel he's a liability. This is the tragic case of someone forced to test his limits for a world that he no longer wants to inhabit; to give in the utmost for a cause that he not only does not believe in, but actively detests.

And then there's Mike, who's not only obviously disappointed that Jimmy would approach him with something so pedestrian, something which doesn't test his abilities at all, but is also clearly disappointed that Jimmy would sink so low as a simple robbery in order to make money. Mike knows that Jimmy is capable of more and so does Jimmy, inherently, but circumstances have put the latter in a situation where immediate cash flow seems more important than the style with which it is delivered. Mike, OTOH, has no such issues and can now pick and choose jobs that suit him. Even so, it's highly likely that Mike would never have bothered to risk himself in a job so simple and with so little payoff.

But Kim is the one we should be paying most attention to, because she ends up seeing both ends of the spectrum in this respect. Her rewrite of what we assume was Chuck's scathing departure letter into a tepid encouragement shows just what she's willing to do to try to salve the wound that Jimmy is feeling and not drive him further into the pit of guilt, despite the fact that he earned it in some respects. When she dissolves into tears, we're left uncertain as to whether it's about her own sense of guilt for having deceived him or the angst over the fact that the letter she wrote couldn't help him without giving away the lie and so simply leaves him in a state that's not worse, but still not good.

On the other end is the meeting with the CEO of Mesa Verde. No small bank suddenly expands into a half-dozen more branches (and elaborately-styled ones, at that) without something happening off the books. She wanders around the display room, knowing that she's gotten herself into something that's going to violate her ethics as surely as what she's just done to Jimmy and has done with him before. Like Ignacio, she's uncomfortable with that, so now comes the test: How far are you willing to go?

The one exception to this overall theme is presented by the return of Gale Botticher. Gale, in his usual constantly positive and endlessly inquisitive way, wants to do more for Gus than the latter actually wants. He's disappointed with the quality of what Gus is working with now and wants to show him a way to do it better. There is no question of willingness of Gale's part, which was always the case in Breaking Bad, as well, which is what made him part of one of the best moments of that show, when Jesse was pushed past his limits and almost broke from Walt completely. On the one hand, it's amusing to see Gale make his return. OTOH, knowing that the most emotionally poignant moments of the character's existence are the ones we've already scene and which won't be a part of Better Call Saul is mildly disappointing.

Episode 3 was a bit of a step back from the majesty of episode 2, but they can't all be park-clearing winners. Plus, this episode managed to lay down a lot more of the interesting themes that will be pursued this season (Nacho's travails, Mesa Verde, Gale, etc.), so there's still plenty to look forward to.

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