‘Better Call Saul’: And thus I clothe my naked villainy
Season Three, Episode Five — “Chicanery”
By Brandy Dykhuizen. The sky finally fell on Chuck, in an epic backfire of his Henny Penny attempts to discredit Jimmy. During a disbarment hearing that took up the lion’s share of the show, the brothers took turns poking enough holes in the other’s integrity to shed light on their seedier sides. And while Jimmy undoubtedly erred in doctoring the Mesa Verde files and confessing as much to Chuck, it’s the latter brother whose judgment is truly clouded by his own dark past.
Even Chuck admits there’s a certain nobility in the way Jimmy circumvents the law. Sure, he committed a felony, but only to right a wrong executed by Chuck. Jimmy’s motivations are usually mostly moral, in a cut-rate Robin Hood sort of way.
Chuck, however, is convinced that he adheres to the letter of the law, but the only justice he seeks is the kind that leads to personal gain. He’s not in the law game for integrity. He’s coiled that lawyer persona around himself tightly enough to mask his true goal – to be seen as his brother’s intellectual and moral superior.
But the spring snaps one last time, and Chuck is exposed for who he is – an insecure, anxiety-addled lunatic who surely should not be trusted with the law. Chuck has done a phenomenal job over the years compartmentalizing his anxiety and panic attacks, convincing even himself that he’s the victim of a rare, largely undocumented disease. A master of turning the spotlight on others to deflect his own craziness, he even slaps a phone out of Rebecca’s hand, claiming “It’s incredibly bad manners to answer a cell phone in company.” And Jimmy was there to witness it all, watching and compartmentalizing in his own way, to one day use in court.
We never get the impression Jimmy enjoys undermining his brother. It visibly weighs him down. It’s not a jubilant victory, but a necessary offensive strike. And in yet another fantastic closing shot, in which the camera frames Chuck against the courtroom exit sign, this time the writing is written on the wall.
“In my experience, the bigger the lie, the harder it can be to dig out.” Jimmy, advising Chuck.
Jimmy: “Her?” Vet: “Yeah. Just because you can’t see swinging dicks doesn’t mean you can’t tell a boy fish from a girl fish.”
“Let justice be done, though the heavens fall.” – Chuck.
“She’s not what I expected.” – Kim, on Rebecca.
BEST MOMENT: In a deceptively simple shot, the camera ever-so-slowly approaches Chuck’s grill as he snaps and spills his guts in the courtroom. Michael McKean easily carries the weight of the scene, momentarily forgetting where he is and letting slip the fuel of his anxieties. The uncomfortably close shot mirrors the intimacy the review committee never wanted to feel with Chuck, but which Jimmy intended to expose all along.
EPISODE’S MVP: Michael McKean almost, almost, elicits empathy for Chuck during the episode’s two tantrums: when he flips out on Rebecca in the flashback and, of course, during his epic meltdown on the stand, we witness the extent of Chuck’s illness. It may not be the illness with which he claims to be afflicted, but the ol’ boy is undoubtedly unwell.
– This episode brought to mind the “One of us always lies, and one of us always tells the truth” scene in Labyrinth. It’s not an exact parallel, to be sure, but the hearing committee definitely had to choose the door wisely.
– Kim’s little moment of collecting herself and buttoning up her jacket before squaring off against Howard was a nice touch.
– Another player from the Breaking Bad cast enters the stage – Huell Babineaux (played by Lavell Crawford)!
– Chuck uses number transposition as an excuse for his lack of electricity — the bill went to the wrong address. Is this a detail Jimmy remembered when doctoring the Mesa Verde file, or was it just a nice note to land on for this episode?
– God what a drama queen – comparing Jimmy to Ted Kaczynski? I get the parallel in the brother who outed him, but sheesh.
8 out of 10
Next: “Off Brand”, in one week.
Before: “Sabrosito”, here.