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Better Call Saul: Season 2, Episode 9 – Nailed 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 – written and directed by Saul co-creator Peter Gould – is called Nailed, and the title couldn't be more apt for both the major storylines.

We start in the desert with a literal interpretation, where Mike has been laying a trap for the ice cream truck used by Hector Salamanca and his minions to transport drugs and cash. The home-made stinger Mike was working on last week sends the truck screeching off the road in the middle of nowhere. Soon, Mike has the driver trussed up and is slicing into the tyres, finding a hefty haul of cash that was making its way south of the border. Soon enough, the only place it's heading is the boot of Mike's car.

After the credits, we're at Chuck's house, where the older McGill is dressing to go outside. Howard's in the living room ready to drive him to a hearing to approve Mesa Verde's merger, and is convinced he can handle it himself – after all, this might too much electromagnetic exposure for his work partner. But Chuck is insistent, and even braves the metal detector at the building where he and Howard, joined by Kevin and Paige of Mesa Verde, are meeting the State Banking Board. But before that, we see Jimmy watching them leave Chuck's house, and sneaking in to replace the documents he doctored with the originals.

As expected, the approval hearing appears to go well until the address discrepancy Jimmy inserted into the filing documents is discovered. Soon, things are erupting in confusion and the mood is tense between Chuck his clients. It's exacerbated by the fact that the hearing board can't reconvene for six weeks. And Chuck starts to suffer from the lights; this episode features another great representation of how all the crackling electricity around affects him. Back at his house, Chuck is furious even as Howard tries to mollify him. But Chuck is convinced there was now mistake. He knows who is to blame...

Talking of rage, Mike is once again planted across from the ice cream parlour, quietly drinking in the sight of Hector "Tio" Salamanca tearing a strip off his henchmen for the loss of the truck's cargo. Later, at a bar, Mike slips one of the big bills he stole from the truck, and buys a round for the house. Three cheers for Mike!

At Kim and Jimmy's office – or at least the building that will become their space – they're busy removing the dentists' chairs and redecorating. They're painting the place themselves because they don't have the budget to hire anyone. Kim gets a call: it's Paige, asking her to take over Mesa's business! Jimmy is thrilled for her, but Kim is a combination of worried and suspicious. Still, she starts trying to figure out how to handle the new client, and is still doing so when Ernesto calls and says that Chuck is ready to hand over all the documents.

So Jimmy and Kim show up at Chuck's place for the handover and we're treated to another grandstanding Chuck moment. His anger fuels him, and he accuses his younger brother (accurately) of tampering with the documents. Chuck's monologue is a great one for Michael McKean, channeling years of rage over Jimmy's methods, even bringing up his brisk business in fake IDs at high school. But Kim wants evidence of this current crime, and doesn't buy Chuck's accusation... Or at least doesn't appear to. When they're alone in the car outside, Kim seems to be trembling with her own barely-controlled anger, and when Jimmy asks what's wrong, she just punches him on the arm several times and tells him to drive. Uh. Oh...

Still, this latest cause for concern isn't weighing on Jimmy, who is once more filming shots for his new commercial. He and the usual cohorts (plus a make-up artist) sneak into a school to grab a shot of him looking heroic with a flag. Confronted by the authorities, he blabs his way around the problem by explaining – lying – that Pina Colada songwriter Rupert Holmes went to school there and his little filmmaking band is at work on a documentary. And yes, trivia fans, Rupert Holmes was born in England, and while he did move to America at the age of six, he lived in a New York City suburb.

We check in with Mike as he grabs breakfast at a diner and mildly flirts with the waitress. But then Nacho calls and asks to meet. At the usual abandoned warehouse, Nacho confronts him about the truck, puzzled as to why he did it, but telling him he's not there to take him down. Hector Salamanca might have forgotten about Mike, but Mike didn't forget about him, but he does say it's over. And there's the usual display of cold Ehrmantraut steel when Nacho seems to be reaching for his gun. Yet after Nacho tells him that Hector killed the good samaritan who came upon and then helped the driver, you can see the weight of that consequence in Mike's eyes as he prepares to drive away.

Jimmy and Kim are in bed at the end what has been a long day, but while they seem to be okay, she's still a little distant, ploughing through Mesa files. As Jimmy tries to sleep, she mentions that Chuck will be quite the adversary and that her boyfriend had better have checked all the angles on his latest scheme. Which sends Jimmy to the all-night copy shop, where he spots Ernesto interviewing Lance, who helped Jimmy with the materials for forge the Mesa documents. Smartly figuring that Ernesto will return with Chuck, he bribes Lance and then retreats to watch him lie to Chuck.

A frustrated Chuck is having no joy with Lance, and it's clear that he's really starting to suffer standing in the copy shop, which with its humming machines and bright fluorescence, is basically Chuck's Kryptonite. And as he becomes angrier about Lance's recalcitrance, he starts to collapse... But as he goes down, he strikes his head on the counter. Even Jimmy, watching from across the street, flinches at the sound it makes. This will not end well for anyone.

Holy crack. And no, that's not a typo. Nor does it refer to drugs. It's the shocking moment from the end of this week's episode, another refutation of the idea that shows such as Saul, which take their time slow-cooking their plots, characters and themes, are no less entertaining than something that makes explosions fun. As Gould and co. tighten the screws on the various plot lines, pushing the ever-present Jimmy/Chuck rivalry to the forefront pays dividends. The team always gets good results when they let Michael McKean rant, and throwing in Chuck forced to brave the fizzing electronic world, thinking his fury at Jimmy will carry him through, is a fantastic scene. Admittedly, it's a little convenient that Jimmy happens to show up at the copy shop just as Ernesto is talking to Lance, but we'll let that slide when the show is reaching peak conflict. Rhea Seehorn also gets a few wonderful moments as Kim, especially her twin reactions to Chuck's accusation.

Bob Odenkirk also gets to go full Slippin' Jimmy in the scene at the schoolyard – it's not every TV series that has its antihero sing a chunk of the Pina Colada song as he's trying to con two school officials into letting him shoot in their playground. Another favourite moment? Jimmy describing the final (as yet unseen) commercial as "the greatest 60 seconds on television".

In Mike's world, the truck heist goes smoothly, but the fallout looks sure to come back to bite him. Still, it's great drama and when you have someone like Jonathan Banks, who can play everything from happiness to sad anger across his face, it's easy to appreciate. Next week is the season finale, so we're expecting big things.

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