What this finale means for Jimmy and Kim

Say goodbye to the high road, you two.
Photo: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Spoilers ahead for the midseason finale of You better call Saul.

There’s an image late in Monday’s midseason finale of You better call Saul — before the unexpected entrance, the gunshot and the death of a significant character — which serves both as a prefiguration and a metaphor. Just as Lalo Salamanca enters the front door, the wind in the room changes, as evidenced by the close-up of a candle on Kim and Jimmy’s coffee table. The flame suddenly blows the other way, heralding the arrival of a menacing force that rearranges the molecules in the room as soon as he enters armed with the gun he will use to mercilessly assassinate Howard. It also means a change of fortune for Jimmy and Kim, who used to be able to somewhat separate their “legit” legal careers from the seedier drug cartel aspects of their lives. It’s over now.

In these last minutes of the first half of the last season of You better call Saul, Jimmy and Kim have unwittingly traded their status as flawed anti-heroes who love to run a long scam or two. They are now associated with people on the wrong side of the law, which places them firmly on the wrong side as well. There is no coming back from this. In front of Howard, their former superior at HHM, and Lalo, the drug kingpin who holds their future in his hands, it is clear who their boss has become. Guys like Howard Hamlin – arrogant, authoritative, but working within the confines of the legal system – are, literally, dead to them.

In a lesser show, these shifting winds could have been telegraphed through on-the-nose dialogue or a flashier way to convey where Kim and Jimmy stand now. You better call Saul is too elegant for that. Instead, through subtle but intentional cinematic choices like that candle, combined with events that recall key scenes from previous seasons, the show makes it clear to us that Jimmy and Kim must now roll with the lowlifes and let go of any idea that ‘they could still take the higher route.

Thomas Schnauz, who wrote and directed “Plan and Execution”, plays around with the concept of levels skillfully throughout the episode. In the opening sequence establishing that Lalo is spying on Lavandería Brillante, the laundry service that serves as the front for Gus Fring’s meth lab, Lalo is seen exiting a manhole, walking to a rest area, shower, then return to the same manhole and back down into the sewers. At first glance, it’s an absurd series of events: why go clean yourself up if you immediately descend back into the mud? But it’s a metaphor, both for the futility of trying to escape a life of crime — both breaking Bad and You better call Saul taught us that once you get involved with a Salamanca or a Fring, you’re stuck with them — and for what Jimmy and Kim have been doing throughout their careers. After engaging in reckless or immoral behavior, Jimmy and Kim – especially Kim – often tried to rise above their lower tendencies by being good lawyers, the kind to watch over little guys. that they have always considered themselves to be. But inevitably, they make choices that set them back. They continue to wash away dirt, only to get dirty again almost immediately.

Schnauz frames parts of Lalo’s scenes so that even the viewer feels low to the ground, if not entirely below. The first image of the manhole cover is taken as if the camera was resting on the street itself. Once Lalo settles into his sewer perch, where he watches like a drug-dealing Pennywise, cars drive past our line of sight. It’s also significant that Lalo can’t actually see Fring’s meth trade because, like Lalo’s spying, it also happens underground and out of sight. The implication of these visual cues is pretty simple: if you side with Lalo or get involved in the feud between the Salamancas and Gus, expect a filthy existence spent beneath where normal people try to lead a decent life.

In contrast, scenes set in the HHM conference room are often shot from a high angle, such as when the Schweikart & Cokely crew enters and the camera instantly pans out and up. These moments, which take place at that long oak table where Jimmy and Kim always felt they deserved a seat, represent a world where they often felt they were looked down upon. At this point: the person who occupies the highest position in the room is Chuck McGill, whose portrait has hung in a high place on the back wall where he can always look down condescendingly on everyone who enters this space.

After Howard praised Chuck for having “the greatest legal mind I’ve ever known”, it’s worth noting that his breakdown – in which he accuses the mediator in the Sandpaper case of paying off Jimmy – makes him too paranoid and unhinged as Chuck was. It’s no coincidence that Jimmy and Kim devised their ruse to make Howard stupid when he’s so smart he was actually able to decipher every page of the Kim/Jimmy playbook. That’s exactly what Jimmy was doing to his brother.

When Howard finally confronts Kim and Jimmy, he says he can’t understand why they would go to such lengths to turn his life upside down. “You did it for fun,” he said. “You do not care.” Howard is not mistaken, but this is not the only reason for their actions. “Plan and Execution” plants some subtle callbacks to two important moments that acted as catalysts for what Jimmy and Kim ultimately do to Howard, and underscore how things have changed for Jimmy and Kim.

The first takes place in the second episode of season four, when Kim blows up at Howard after telling him that Jimmy will inherit a mere $4,000 from Chuck’s estate and is asked to keep all the items he has. he finds while rummaging through his brother’s wreckage. at home. “And did I hear you correctly?” She adds. “You want him on the board of a scholarship committee? A scholarship Chuck would never have given Jimmy in a million years. Howard and Chuck disrespected Jimmy and, to a lesser extent, Kim. But in Kim’s and Jimmy’s minds too, these men symbolize everything that has held them back from earning the status they deserve while practicing law that really feels good. They don’t just want to knock Howard down a notch or two, as Howard says. They want what they always wanted: justice. Kim and Jimmy have learned that the only way to do this is to circumvent a system that, as Sandpiper’s story reminds us, is either too slow or unable to truly give people what they deserve.

Things happen in “Plan and Execution” that seem orchestrated to remind us of that argument between Kim and Howard. When Kim met with Howard to discuss Chuck’s estate, his arm was broken and in a sling. In Monday’s episode, Howard is again thrown off balance by someone with a cast on his arm, but this time it’s the mediator, a respected judge who finds Howard equally unreasonable, for different reasons. While Howard was then talking about Chuck setting up a scholarship program for deserving young people, in “Plan and Execution” Gus Fring is seen handing a massive check to a youth program, a bond that reflects the new threat to Jimmy and Kim. -be. This heated conversation in season four takes place in Howard’s office, which is also where the completely unhinged Howard begs Cliff to take his Jimmy theory seriously. Howard had the upper hand in his exchange with Kim, a woman with only one functioning arm. In Monday’s finale, he lost the advantage by accusing a man in a cast of taking an amount of money from Jimmy that Chuck’s estate would never have allowed.

As Howard recounts his past with Jimmy and Kim in their apartment, he mentions the bowling balls Jimmy once threw at his car, triggering the memory of another important season five scene. At the time, it was Jimmy’s turn to explode after Howard, impatient with Jimmy for a host of reasons, including bowling balls, rescinded a job offer to join HHM. How Howard accuses Jimmy of stalking him – again, rightly so! “Jimmy tells him he looks unbalanced. Jimmy is also outraged because he thinks Howard’s job offer was only extended out of pity, and the last thing Jimmy McGill or Saul Goodman want is to be pitied. by Howard Hamlin. Although the show never tells us explicitly, this conversation must be the one Jimmy returns to, in his mind, whenever he has second thoughts about Howard’s so-called D-Day.

“I travel to worlds you can’t even imagine!” Jimmy screams as Howard walks away from this confrontation. “You cannot imagine what I am capable of! At the time, Jimmy came across as sputtering, absurd, and a bit pathetic. But fast forward to the end of “Plan and Execution,” and those comments now seem prophetic.

In the last moments of his life, Howard realized that Jimmy wasn’t lying. He truly travels to worlds beyond Howard’s imagination. Howard really couldn’t fathom what Jimmy or Kim were capable of. But there is no satisfaction for Jimmy in the realization of Howard. Neither he nor Kim took power here.

In the final shot of this episode, Schnauz makes another deliberate choice, not focusing on Howard’s body, nor the shocked expressions of Jimmy and Kim. It’s Lalo whose face takes up the whole frame. “Okay,” he told Jimmy and Kim with ominous calm. “Let’s talk.”

That’s who they’ll answer as we enter the very final chapter of You better call Saul: the man who hides in a sewer and cleans himself from time to time, but does not hesitate to fall back into the mud.

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