Better Call Saul season 3 episode 5 review: Chicanery
This review may contain spoilers.
Trial episodes in shows that do not classify themselves as courtroom drama always bring some intense, character defining moments. Game of Thrones has done it brilliantly with the Tyrion’s trial episode in season 4, and Better Call Saul makes an hour in courtroom no less exciting. As Chuck McGill puts it in this week’s episode, “the rule of law, the idea that no matter who you are, your actions have consequences”. Episodes like these are what show us these consequences, in one way or another.
Chuck’s black-and-white view of the legal system has many downsides, as this episode demonstrates. The law is there to supposedly separate the bad from the good, the lies from the truths. But when emotions are involved, and when it is made personal, it is nigh impossible to do so. This time, it is very personal indeed.
It is a very confined episode, taking a break from whatever is happening with Mike, Gus and Hector, and focusing solely on Jimmy and his trial, on which he stands for forging Chuck’s documents. It serves as a final stand-off between the McGill brothers, and it is fair to say their relationship goes into shambles afterwards. And Jimmy is there to make sure it happens since the very beginning.
The hearing scene takes up most of the episode, and what time is left, is spent on an extended flashback and minor set-up scenes. It might sound like it’s a slow-paced, boring episode if you look at it that way. And while it is slow, it is by no means boring – it is only as slow as it has to be to make the last scene as impactful as it can be. The cold open flashback in the beginning lasts for almost 10 minutes, but those minutes are necessary and sets up the climax of the episode.
The most brilliant thing about it is that Chuck is caught in a trap ever since he first enters the room – Jimmy and Kim have it all set up so that Chuck loses. It shows their brilliance and serves as a reminder why Jimmy was so good as Saul Goodman, too. He set up the arrival of Chuck’s ex-wife to throw him off, he got Huell (yes, the same reasonably ha Huell from Breaking Bad) to plant a phone battery in Chuck’s pocket, and he made sure that Chuck spilled the beans to everyone about his condition not affecting his mental state so that his outburst at the end irrefutably clears Jimmy of all charges.
As far as courtroom drama goes, Better Call Saul has managed to reach the heights of the very best of the genre. However, what helped it reach those heights is the fact that virtually the entire show was building up to it – Jimmy’s strained relationship with Chuck, his relationship with Kim and Howard, Chuck’s hypersensitivity to electromagnetism, all led to this episode; so when it all exploded at once, we know why, and it makes it all the more powerful.
The episode has some defining character moments. I’ve talked about Jimmy and Chuck and how the episode forever alters their already-poor relationship, but Kim Wexler’s characterization shines through too in this one. Kim remains a faithful companion to Jimmy, even (or especially) in the face of adversity. Her reaction when he hears the recording where Jimmy reveals that he was doing it all for Kim speaks volumes. The kind of loyalty she has for Jimmy is almost scary, as one can just feel that at some point soon it’s going to have to end. When asked if the legal repercussions regarding Jimmy will somehow impact Mesa Verde, Kim reassures Paige that the company won’t be affected by it. The only thing Paige asks is an ominous “are you sure?”, and that sounds like foreshadowing.
A few loose thoughts:
- We find out more about how Jimmy got into the life of a lawyer through Chuck’s testimony. It doesn’t add much, but it’s an interesting tidbit.
- It is sometimes hard to believe it’s a prequel when all the Breaking Bad cameos appear visibly older than they did in the original series. But hey, that’s just a price we pay to see them again in the first place.
- Jimmy asks Chuck what would happen if instead of his condition he had lung cancer, and if he would lie to his family about it. Need I say more? Well, maybe. I may be reaching, but it is very possible that during Breaking Bad, Jimmy (or Saul) sees some Chuck in Walter White, and by helping him he is hoping to ‘fix’ the broken relationship with his brother. Again, it might just be my over-analysing self looking way too deep into it.
The third season of Better Call Saul keeps the bar high, and episode 5 might just be the best entry so far. While being slow and not featuring any real action, it manages to keep you at the edge of your seat and watch in awe as the relationship between the McGill brothers crumbles before your eyes.
Image credit: AMC