Discord. A little buzzing in your ears. You hear it at first, but you think you can just pretend and go on until it’s no longer on your mind. But it gets louder. Maybe something happens and you become more irritated, you hear it even more intently. It becomes harder to pretend, harder to focus, and the noise gets louder and louder. You know that one day, as the noise gets louder, it will inevitably diminish your ability to go on, your ability to be normal. So the question then becomes: What are you willing to do to make that feeling go away?
“Cobbler” is a fantastic episode of Better Call Saul, and is an indication that the show is only going to keep on getting better. It’s an episode about the discord that runs through the lives of the characters, how it is continually amplified by the little buzzing noises in their heads, and how there’s only so much that can be done before people have to act in order to feel normal and right again. Little signs of discord are fixated on throughout the episode: the metronome’s dull ticking, the ripples in the cup of coffee, the shadowed presence of Chuck in the back of a room, all of it clouds minds and forces people to do things they would otherwise rather not have happen. And really, all of it is based on history, on the past coming back and tearing into the present. If Jimmy would have given up life as a lawyer, things would be different. If Mike would have chosen not to aid criminals with protection, things would be different. There’s a hole that these people are digging themselves into, and while they fail to see it, it’s still there.
Mike’s story is still only tangentially related to Jimmy’s, but it’s a great way to show how the past informs the present. Daniel, the idiot with the giant yellow Hummer, decided to go to the police to have them track down his baseball cards (which actually did exist; I didn’t think they did and was baffled for a moment that Nacho actually had them). Only the police are onto him, as Mike suspects, and he has no idea. So Mike has to get the baseball cards back from Nacho, keeping Daniel from involving himself with the police and keeping the blowback from coming back onto both him and Nacho. It’s the past coming back to haunt him; Mike’s involvement with somebody as foolish as Daniel bounces back and causes discord within his own life, his past actions becoming a liability as he attempts to move forward. It’s the same problem that plagued Walt in Breaking Bad; past actions built up more and more until there was no way to escape the discord.
Jimmy’s story, however, intersects with the past more furiously than Mike’s. Chuck comes back in this episode, and his presence is a nagging feeling for Jimmy, a way to disrupt how he’s slowly able to fit into his role at the new firm. Jimmy is trying to find ways to fit in with his new role at the firm, but little things keep on disrupting his peace. His cup holder in the company car is too small. Chuck shows up at the firm. He’s able to keep on moving after Kim supports him, but when Mike gives him the opportunity to slip back into his Slippin’ Jimmy character, he dives right in. Because that character gives him the opportunity to feel like himself again, as it is more authentic to the person that he is. When you ask the question, “Who is James McGill”, the answer isn’t Slippin’ Jimmy or the lawyer that he is at the new firm. He’s somewhere in the middle, and Slippin’ Jimmy is the overcorrection to that dissonance. So when Mike asks him to do something that is “morally flexible”, Jimmy jumps at the opportunity.
The episode’s greatness comes from its hilarious “Cobbler” scene and the fallout that ensues. Jimmy intersects with Mike’s story when he acts as a lawyer for Daniel, fabricating a crazy story in order to sell Daniel’s wealth and his secrecy. It’s a hilarious scene, and even though it goes on for quite some time it never really ceases to be hilarious. It draws you in, just in the same way that Jimmy is drawn in by his own scheme. It’s not until the final scene, the one where Kim explains the ramifications of manufacturing evidence for a client, that the gravity of the situation really sets in. Reverting to his Slippin’ Jimmy persona can be fun when ripping off some rich guy, but when it involves breaking the law and threatening Jimmy’s entire career, it becomes far more malicious. And while Jimmy agrees not to tell Kim about it anymore, it’s not clear that he understands the full weight of what he’s doing, even if he sees some of it.
Ultimately, Jimmy sees that he’s slipping. The issue is that he doesn’t care. It’s comfortable to create that for himself, not only because it dilutes the frustration he feels, but also because it makes him feel as if he has some control in the world. And even if exercising that control means self-destructing, sometimes it feels better to self-destruct than to let the world push you around. And Jimmy is slowly self-destructing, piece by piece until he’s gone.
So what did you think of this episode of Better Call Saul? Is the show continuing to get better? Let me know in the comments.