No matter how decent we are, we’re always trying to figure out how much we can get away with. Where’s the line? It’s okay if we pick up a $50 bill off of the ground and pocket it, but if we see somebody drop it, it’s not quite as okay. We all have defined lines that we use to guide our actions, and we all abide to it as strictly as one would abide to a code. But the interesting thing about that line is how it isn’t permanent. It can be moved, little by little, if we habitually push as it. And there isn’t a limit to how far it can be pushed, no end of the spectrum that we can inevitably hit. Humanity has the capability to do just about anything, and that can be a scary fact to think about.
Better Call Saul’s fantastic third episode, “Amarillo”, emphasizing the importance of these lines, how one action that crosses it can inevitably push you further and further down that spectrum. Both Jimmy and Mike’s stories walk along the same thematic path, as both of them cross a line and pay the consequences, but it is absolutely riveting to watch it happen. Even though we know how it is going to end, how Saul will end up a worker at a Cinnabon and Mike will end up dead in a field, something about the simplicity of watching these characters go from point A to point B is fascinating. It’s both the strongest asset and greatest weakness of a prequel, the inability to create your own ending but the ability to be intrigued and even enlightened by the path from the beginning to the end. There’s something to be learned from seeing the path, and that’s something the best prequels keep in mind as they progress.
Mike’s story is tangential to Jimmy’s, though I’m sure it will connect before long, but he has to deal with Stacey’s paranoia that somebody is shooting a gun in the neighborhood every night. Even though Stacey tells him not to worry about it and not to intervene, Mike has to do it, even though he’s likely doing it for himself. He cares deeply for his daughter-in-law, and he wants to see her safe, so that care supersedes what it is that his daughter requested him to do. But when he finds out that the sound is just newspapers hitting the sidewalk, he can’t tell Stacey about it because it incriminates himself. That secret leads him to agree to help her move to a new place, which leads him to take more morality-bending work from the veterinarian. One transgression leads to the next.
Jimmy, on the other hand, doesn’t really break any rules, at least not until the end. He is in charge of client outreach for the Sandpiper case, and he does a great job with it (even though he’s technically soliciting to potential clients). When Kim finds out that he’s soliciting, and when Chuck questions the validity of his client outreach, Jimmy wants to prove to them that he’s not crooked. He makes a commercial with a couple of film students, and he does a great job with it, but the cleanliness of the act doesn’t appeal to him. He has to push a little bit; he has to wrench a little control back from the machine that keeps sucking him up. So he doesn’t go to his boss for permission to air the ad, and he instead makes the call himself. The ad goes over extremely well, which Jimmy thinks buys him some goodwill, but his boss is furious and calls him into a meeting the next morning so he can deal with the consequences. Jimmy essentially does this to himself, and for nothing. But it’s not for nothing. There’s an element of control that Jimmy needs in order to feel like a person, just as Mike needs control over Stacey’s safety. Both are trying to take back this control from an entity that only takes more when it is threatened.
Just as the first season pushed Jimmy over a line, this season is slowly working up to another crossed line, another step towards the edge that he’ll plummet over when he finally decides to become Saul Goodman. But it’s not that he wants to cross that line. He tiptoes over a couple smaller lines, tries to get away with more than he can, and ends up farther gone than he thought possible. And that’s the way it usually goes. We want control but that control is denied. We try to be good, we try to be decent, but we end up more screwed up than we thought possible, wondering just how it all happened.
Sorry for the delay! Midterms are a pain. But what did you think of the episode? What do you think Mike will have to do for Nacho? And how will that intersect with Jimmy’s storyline? Let me know in the comments!