One of my favourite things about Better Call Saul is its fascination with the mundane. It’s a show that exists in a world growing increasingly crazier, a show that perennially promises to notch up said craziness as the timeline gets closer and closer to the days of Breaking Bad, yet also one that, even in the midst of all that, can devote a good chunk of the episode to routine and minutia, even while it’s pushing the time frame forward.
The cold open for “Something Stupid” is the perfect encapsulation of this. Its purpose is to push the show eight months into the future, to place it in a time where Kim and Jimmy have mostly grown apart, to the end of Gus’ timeline for building his underground meth lab, to the precipice of Jimmy getting his law license back. But the way it does it is almost comically simple, presenting this lapse in time through a montage of Kim and Jimmy’s routines. With a thick black bar splitting the screen right down the middle, we see Kim and Jimmy getting ready for their days, Kim as she works for Mesa Verde and on pro bono cases, Jimmy as he peddles burner phones out of a van. At first, they’re brushing their teeth together, sharing meals, doing, you know, couple stuff. By the end, Jimmy’s eating alone, watching movies alone, brushing his teeth alone as Kim buries herself in work, eventually fading out the opposite of how it fades in, with Jimmy and Kim in the same bed, but worlds apart.
It’s bittersweet, melancholic, and extremely well done. In other words, par for the course for a show like this as Director Deborah Chow knocks it out of the park. It’s also necessary. A big part of this fourth season has been about Kim and Jimmy growing apart, potentially realizing that their relationship is a matter of convenience rather than actual affection. I mentioned last week that while we’ve seen them kiss and do couple stuff, the show has always strayed away from showing them in any significant amount of intimacy. And while I don’t expect a show from a writer as unconcerned with salaciousness as Vince Gilligan to venture into the territory of sex scenes or indiscriminate intimacy for the sake of portraying a relationship (Kim and Jimmy brushing their teeth together, watching movies and deciding on that night’s takeout order is enough), the lack of intimacy or even the words “I love you” from their relationship is a clear choice, one that’s been manifesting itself more and more in recent weeks as they realize they’re different people, as Jimmy realizes that Kim’s goals are different from his own, as Kim realizes that Jimmy might not be the man she thinks he is.
But eight months to be out of love with someone and stay with him is a long time. They’re still “together” after that montage. Kim brings Jimmy to an office cocktail party where he schmoozes with her coworkers and even sort of embarrasses her boss by talking up how cool it would be for him to take his employees on a company retreat to Aspen on a private jet. On the way home, Jimmy and Kim barely even have anything to say about it before returning to their routines. And it’s particularly jarring in a scene late in the episode. Jimmy’s security, Huell, gets busted for hitting a plain-clothes cop with a bag full of sandwiches when he thought Jimmy was getting accosted. Facing an unnecessarily cruel amount of jail time, Jimmy enlists Kim’s help to get him out of trouble since he won’t have his license back for a month. Kim’s immediate response is surprise that Jimmy’s been spending his days peddling phones out of a van. Jimmy brushes it off as unimportant, but for the sake of storytelling it’s crucial. Kim doesn’t know what Jimmy does with his time. She hasn’t known for the better part of a year. In previous episodes we’ve seen Jimmy brush off his job as boring an uneventful, but it’s been eight months, and it’s just as much on Jimmy for not telling her as it is on Kim for not even caring enough to figure it out.
And that tells me a lot about where this might be going. Most people will point to this episode as proof that when Jimmy goes Full Saul, Kim won’t be around to suffer the consequences. But part of me still wants to stick to my guns and hang on to the other (admittedly unlikely) scenario, where the Kim we see now, the one that stuck by Jimmy all this time and even joined in on grifting with him at one point, is way past the point where she can escape Jimmy’s black hole of gravitational pull. It’s been nearly a year since Chuck’s death, since Jimmy’s behaviour in the wake of what happened left her concerned and even recoiling from him and who she perceived him to be. Yet they still share a bathroom vanity and a fish. If they passion is gone, then why are they still even together?
What’s more, even after Jimmy reveals the terrible thing he’s been doing for the better part of the year and the seedy people he’s associating with, even after he suggests doing something shady to get Huell out of prison as if it’s the obvious solution, she still agrees to help him and even, as we see at the end of the episode, enacts a mysterious plan involving loads of office supplies to help him and Huell without Jimmy having to slip and slide. I believe that this show is daring us to think that Kim will leave Jimmy when he breaks bad. The question is whether she’ll be a willing participant or enabler in the Saul days, or whether a more Chuck-like fate awaits her.
The time jump does a lot advance the story between Kim and Jimmy, but it also serves an important purpose on the other side of Better Call Saul’s coin, as we catch up with Gus, Mike and the construction as well. The German suggested it might take eight months to build the underground meth lab, but after that amount of time they’re barely halfway done, and frustration and boredom seems to be getting the best of some of the young workers; an ennui that’s put on display through a second musical montage. Mike floats the idea of sending Kai home but it probably wouldn’t lead to anything positive. Instead they decide to give them some much needed R&R. In any case, this looks like it’s heading down a no-good path in the final episodes of the season. Meanwhile, Gus sends Hector’s brain doctor home after he sees what he does (spilling some water to get a good look at his nurse) in the latest test session, satisfied that, even without his ability to speak, he’s back to his former self.
That stuff seems to mostly be setup, but it doesn’t really take away from another great episode of Better Call Saul where the characters and their relationships are still paramount. “Something Stupid” gets 8.5 bags full of sandwiches out of 10.
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