Better Call Saul S3E5 “Chicanery”

*Spoilers Ahead*

The brewing war between Jimmy McGill and his brother Chuck reaches it’s boiling point this week and to mark the occasion the show transforms into a full-blown courtroom drama. I’m honestly surprised it took the show this long to put the focus almost completely on a legal proceeding but it makes perfect sense to save it for a moment as big as Jimmy and Chuck battling in court.

Outside of a flashback and a few scant scenes here and there, the majority of the action this week takes place in one small courtroom where Jimmy must plead his case, or more accurately, find his way out of the trap his brother has ensnared him in. Part of the tension in this episode is in knowing that Jimmy will be, at least, partially successful with his scheme. After all, not even Saul Goodman can make it back into the law game after being disbarred and so, we become entranced in just where Jimmy is going with all this and how much of it will pay off for him.

Chuck managed to trap his brother and set up this whole plan because he thought he knew his brother but the one thing Chuck has always failed to realize is just how much Jimmy actually cares for him despite Chuck’s resentment. This is clear in the opening flashback where Jimmy goes to great lengths to help Chuck hide his condition during a dinner with Chuck’s ex-wife, Rebecca. An unfortunately timed phone call ends up ruining the evening and while it’s clearly set up for Rebecca’s return in the courtroom it’s also used to show how Chuck’s condition has affected him. Chuck reacts strongly when his condition is referred to as “mental” and it’s the first sign that he’s beginning to slowly break when he ends up on the witness stand. Rebecca, for all she means to Chuck, is a decoy. someone Jimmy uses to lure Chuck into thinking his brother is pulling simple mind tricks when what he’s really doing is far more cruel.

Jimmy has a man (Huell!) bump into Chuck outside the courtroom and plant his cell phone battery on him. Realizing that the condition he has spent so much of his time believing he had is now called into question, and more importantly, realizing that Jimmy has once again slipped out of his clutches, Chuck goes on a tirade.

Michael McKean bites into perhaps one of the best monologues ever given to a character on television and delivers it with all the disdain and contempt that Chuck has been hiding for his brother. Chuck’s fall is at once cathartic and sad, costed by his own arrogance but also humiliated in front of the colleagues he holds in the highest regard. Jimmy has won the battle but it’s clear he takes no pleasure in this. Chuck apologizes for his outburst but the damage has been done. Chuck stares at an exit sign as we fade out on the scene and the exit might be coming for him sooner than he wanted.

Bits ‘n Pieces

  • McKean did a wonderful job but I’d also like to praise Bob Odenkirk for showing how much this entire thing pained Jimmy with very few audible words calling attention to it.
  • No Mike or Gus this week and I was honestly okay with it, this episode belonged to the McGill brothers
  • Kim Wexler is a damn fine lawyer and I took great pleasure in her getting to take down Hamlin just a little bit.
  • Speaking of Howard, he seemed less than thrilled with how the entire situation with Jimmy mixing up the numbers on the Mesa Verde file makes HHM look and I doubt he’ll be happy with the fallout of Chuck’s outburst.
  • “He has a way of doing the worst things for reasons that seem almost noble.” – Chuck pretty much hits the logline for Jimmy as a character.

Jesse Swanson is a would-be writer, podcaster and funny guy who covers TV shows of all shapes and sizes. You can find him on Twitter @JesseSwanson