Better Call Saul: Season 2, Episode 5 – Rebecca Review

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★★★★★

It goes without saying that there are spoilers in this review, so don't end up looking like one of Slippin' Jimmy's marks.

This week's episode takes a trip into the past and looks ahead to the future with the appearance of someone we know very well from the world of Breaking Bad. But that's for later. The first image this episode is a shocker: Chuck changing a light bulb. You can immediately figure out that this is a flashback to his healthier years, and we also get to meet the woman from whom the episode takes its title: Rebecca (Ann Cusack), Chuck's wife and an accomplished violinist (we're told this, we don't see her playing.) They're preparing dinner together as a couple, chatting about their jobs.

The dinner is for Jimmy! Who, if we're really honest, doesn't look all that much younger despite a slightly different wig for Bob Odenkirk. But it's clear Chuck isn't so thrilled to have his younger brother there – Jimmy missed their wedding, and while he seems charming, he soon starts in with a deluge of lawyer jokes he's heard while working his new job in the HHM mail room. It's a subtle counterpoint that at dinner, Chuck and Rebecca drink wine, whereas Jimmy is guzzling beer. He comes across as oafish, and soon Chuck is making a secret sign to Rebecca that he wants dinner to be over soon, but she finds Jimmy entertaining enough. Later, in bed, Chuck tries to land one of the lawyer jokes, but just can't master the delivery in his stuffy way. It's another marked difference between the brothers.

After the credits, we find Jimmy in his office at Davis & Main, working on... something. He calls Kim, and tells her voicemail that he wants to make things right since he's the one who got her in trouble at HHM. But before he can leave the office, he's waylaid by perky associate Erin (Jessie Ennis), who has been reading a brief Jimmy submitted to Clifford Main and has notes about house style she'd like to discuss with him. There are a lot of notes, including one about using two spaces after a full stop that reveals Erin and her employers out to be among HISTORY'S WORST MONSTERS, while her use of coloured tabs makes it look like a rainbow threw up on the document. Jimmy is insulted by the idea, but tells her he'll find his pen. And then makes good his escape.

Kim is still stuck in the bowels of HHM on document review duty, and it looks like she's going to be there all night. Jimmy shows up again at the building – we'd be remiss if, like last week, didn't point out that he is the one who knocks at the glass door – and offers Kim his new way out. She could sue HHM for their treatment of her. Which she, somewhat naturally, describes as "career suicide." She declines, and tells him she doesn't need him to be a white knight, even as he's offering to quit Davis & Main... Yeah, quitting a job you hate, Jimbo. Very magnanimous.

The next day, Jimmy is waylaid by Erin again, and amusingly describes her as a "pixie ninja". He tries to make some excuse about a medical condition forcing him to leave, but she's having none of it.

Kim's spending her lunch break trying to drum out new business for HHM, but finding new takers. When she returns to the document review dungeon, she remarks that she had a turkey wrap for lunch. More like a serving of humble pie.

Mike's at work, on the phone to Stacey, who is delightedly describing the new place (an upmarket motel) she's living with Kaylee thanks to her father-in-law's help. Mike's glad they like it, but won't come to visit yet as he's still carrying the bruises from his mano-a-Tuco confrontation in last week's episode. Jimmy and Erin drive up to the courthouse and Jimmy wonders what happened to Mike, who is naturally stoic. We get both a Fight Club reference and Jimmy humming the Rocky theme in such a way that it becomes an instant ear worm. Thanks, McGill.

At the courthouse, Jimmy attempts to charm the clerk (Nadine Marissa) we've met a couple of times, only to be shut down by Erin when he tries to bribe the woman with a Beanie Baby. Escaping into the men's room, he meets a lawyer named Bill who works in the public defender's office and is envious of Jimmy's set up at D&M. It's a fun little scene capped by Jimmy discovering that Bill has vomit on his suit "from one of my defendants" and that he's off to defend someone who tried to rob a library. Poor Bill.

After a montage of Kim trying to drum up more work, she finally gets a bite. She can't help but celebrate, and the next morning joins Howard to greet the potential clients. Paige (Cara Pifko), who got in touch with Kim, and her boss Kevin (Rex Linn). After some pleasantries and a good meeting, HHM wins their business. Kim's quietly thrilled and suggests who could work their cases, clearly intending this to drag her from the doghouse. Howard isn't so sure. Ouch. The look of heartbreak on Rhea Seehorn's face is palpable.

After Howard visits Chuck at home to celebrate the new case, and tells him that Kim probably won’t be working it, we see Chuck arrive at the office in the dead of night, starting his new plan of spending time there when the place is quiet, dark and free of phone calls. But he's disturbed by Kim, who has been there all night again. He asks her to make him a coffee (he can't, because that requires the coffee machine and its electricity) and they sit in a meeting room.

Here, Michael McKean has another standout scene as Chuck, relating the story of the McGill brothers' father. You might expect him to be a drunken tyrant, but in reality he sounds like he was a saint who ran a corner store and was beloved in the community. But after employing Jimmy, he started losing money. When Chuck returned from college to check the books, he discovered that Jimmy had quietly been stealing more than $14,000 through the years. Their father refused to believe it, but he had to sell the business and was dead six months later. It's clearly something that Chuck has never forgiven his younger brother for, and the depths of pain run deep. So he knows how Kim feels when it comes to being betrayed by Jimmy. Still, Chuck knows Jimmy's a good man who just can't help himself. As a parting shot, Chuck says he'll talk to Howard about getting Kim out of document review purgatory, since she did a great job finding the new client.

And so to the final scene, which will make Breaking Bad fans jaws' drop (assuming you haven't already learned this nugget – please read no further if you've yet to see the episode. And what are you doing reading a spoiler-filled recap anyway?). Mike's in his usual diner having breakfast when who should arrive? Only Hector "Tio" Salamanca (Mark Margolis)! It might take a second to register it's him as this is the more vital Tio (only seen this way in Breaking Bad flashbacks during Season 3), before the stroke that left him unable to communicate aside from via a bell. He wants Mike to take the gun charge so that Tuco won't go to prison for too long. And in return, Mike gets $5,000. Mike's not convinced, but Tio tells him to think about it and leaves. What's an Ehrmantraut to do? Cross the most dangerous member of the Salamanca family?

A quiet one, but a good one. It's so good to have more details filled in about Chuck and Jimmy's past, and the story about their father was both wonderfully written by Ann Cherkis and brilliantly delivered by McKean. Add to that the little moments between Chuck and Rebecca early on, and Chuck once again seems less and less like a stuffed shirt villain who always wants Jimmy to fail. There's real feeling there, and now we truly know Chuck's problem with him.

Odenkirk gets some good material, least not the oafish early Jimmy, and Seehorn channels Kim's pain and frustration with subtlety and nuance. Her montage also features some fantastic shots courtesy of director John Shiban (one of co-creator Vince Gilligan's old X-Files cohorts, who consulted on and directed a Breaking Bad) and cinematographer Arthur Albert. There's a real noir feel to her framed by rain as she makes her calls.

As usual with the show, the plot is moving glacially, but the scenes always crackle thanks to the people bringing it to life, both behind and in front of the camera. We can't wait to see how Mike gets out of his latest scrape, and you gave the feeling that there are real confrontations coming between Jimmy, Kim and their corporate overlords. And while we're in no hurry to get to the Breaking Bad era, that final scene? Ding! ding ding ding ding ding! (Continued for several paragraphs)