BETTER CALL SAUL, 5.7 – ‘JMM’

better call saul - jmm
Saul and Kim build a legal firewall through marriage; Kim sets things straight with her clients; Gus calms troubled waters in service of his plot to build an empire; and Mike does damage control...
4 out of 5 stars

Did anyone expect Saul (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim (Rhea Seehorn) to get married this quickly? I also didn’t even consider the motivation was a spousal privilege, as now Saul can talk to his wife about cases without lying. Nevertheless, it was a depressingly joyless sequence, considering their love story’s been unconventional but based on genuine affection and could be something mutually beneficial and positive in both their lives. But now, it’s a business arrangement for both, with Huell (Lavell Crawford) the only person clearly unsettled by their decision. It could’ve been worse, I guess; despite a rushed wedding and no exchange of rings, their kiss came from a place of true affection. It was just a shame their “honeymoon” meant going their separate ways for the rest of the episode, back to work…

The title “JMM” came from Saul’s briefcase, which once stood for “James Morgan McGill”, but has now become his motto “Justice Matters Most”. Unfortunately, Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton) has enlisted Saul’s help in getting him out of jail after being cleverly thrown to the cops after Mike’s (Jonathan Banks) manoeuvring last week, and he wants the letters to stand for “Just Make Money”. If Saul can get this drug lord out on bail before a trial, which is a tall order for someone accused of murder, he stands to become a friend of the cartel — which essentially means a lifechanging amount of money. But it will also mean being permanently under the thumb of the cartel, at their beck and call forever, which isn’t a position that’s easy to get out of. Nor is it a nice position to be in, once you’re grown bored of the financial upsides, as Nacho (Michael Mando) has discovered. Honouring his marriage vows, Saul tells Kim everything, claiming he has no intention of getting involved with the Salamanca’s, but he quite clearly will eventually…

Kim’s part in the episode was interesting, too. She apologised to her boss Kevin (Rex Linn) for how poorly the Mr Acker eviction has gone, accepting a chewing-out alongside Rich Schweikart (Dennis Boutsikaris) for how a two-bit lawyer like Saul Goodman managed to outsmart them both. Only she refuses to roll over this time, returning to his Kevin’s office to remind him their legal advice was ignored at every turn, so ultimate responsibility for how things played out rests with him. She’s right. And Kevin knows it, admitting so by taking her advice to listen to them more and arranging a Thursday meeting.

This week, Mike’s family life has improved now he’s on better terms with Stacey (Kerry Condon) and able to read his granddaughter Kaylee bedtime stories. He’s back as “Pop-Pop” at home, but his working life remains worrying fraught. Nacho wants Mike’s help making him disappear with his father before Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) ruins their lives, but Mike’s agreement to talk about the possibility relied on ensuring Lalo Salamanca was out of the picture first. But he’s just as aggravating in prison as he was outside, as someone’s slipped him a mobile phone so he can keep the business running in his absence — with Nacho his right-hand man. At least Nacho is still useful, as he’s able to inform Mike that Lalo wants him to destroy Gus’s Los Pollos Hermanos restaurant as retribution. He clearly knows Gus is the man behind what’s happened to him, and the librarian didn’t really have a moment of clarity about a murder.

Gus’s subplot this week was arguably the most intriguing, as it provided more background and depth to established events and characters from Breaking Bad. For the first time on Better Call Saul, the German-owned company Madrigal Electromotive enters the picture, which we know becomes the multinational business Gus uses to get his meth transported around the world once his Superlab is operational. Madrigal’s CEO, Peter Shuler (Norbert Weisser), appears on the show for the first time, after we witnessed his suicide in Breaking Bad’s “Madrigal” when his affiliation with drug lord Gus Fring became public knowledge. It was interesting to see this minor character again in happier times, getting started with Gus on a huge criminal enterprise, and it seems they met in Santiago during some life bonding event. Alongside Shuler, we also saw his assistance and Gus’s go-between Lydia Rodarte-Quayle (Laura Fraser) — another deceased character in Breaking Bad’s future when Fring’s house of cards comes tumbling down thanks to Walter White. 

The awkward thing about “JMM” is how everything that happened in “Wexler v. Goodman” involving Mike’s plan to entrap Lalo had to be undone. He’s arguably more of a pest in prison than out, where they can keep an eye on him, so Gus had no choice but to let his plot to destroy his beloved fast-food restaurant go to plan. He even helps Nacho commit arson himself, in order to ensure any suspicion there’s a mole in the Salamanca operation is quashed. And you could see the pain in Gus’s eyes when the explosion tore the building apart, no matter how well-practised in keeping a lid on his emotions he is.

The best moments were reserved for the end, with Saul in court with Lalo, having been contacted with Mike and given the means to do the possible and get the suspected murder out on bail. A proven case of witness tampering gives the judge no other option but to set bail (for a staggering $7M) but, to Saul’s surprise, that figure’s treated as only a minor inconvenience for Lalo. So it looks like he’s about to become a “friend” of the cartel, paid handsomely for his work in managing to free Lalo — which was ironically only possible thanks to the work of the man who put him there!

It was almost comical when Howard (Patrick Fabian) made another appearance, again asking “Jimmy” if he’s considered his offer to take a job at HHM. Saul offers his usual non-committed stance, but it seems Howard’s had enough of being given the runaround and withdraws the offer, apparently aware Saul was behind damaging his car with bowling balls and embarrassing him in public with hookers. Has Howard always known, or suspected, or did the number of strange incidents just become too much? Regardless, Saul feels there’s no point in keeping the pretence going, so he offloads on Howard and ridiculed his offer, blaming him for his brother Chuck’s death and scoffing at how grandiose Howard believes he is.

On a high after what’s happened with Lalo in court and what this could mean for his financial future, Saul is seized by a terrible case of hubris and loudly proclaims himself above whatever low-level business dealings Howard would have him involved in. As far as Saul’s concerned, becoming a friend of the cartel with a new motto of “Just Make Money” is the way to go. Oh, how wrong he is…

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