Season Two, Episode Four — “Gloves Off”
By Brandy Dykhuizen. Punches are thrown left and right in “Gloves Off.” Aside from Mike’s overt face-battering, Jimmy’s feeling emotionally pugilistic towards Chuck, Kim throws down what might be her final gauntlet, and Nacho works on getting the monkey off his back and behind bars. Characteristically, nothing in this episode goes off without a hitch, but the conflicts are being set up to interweave nicely down the road.
Jimmy still means well when it comes to Kim, even though he can’t get it through his head that his selfishness directly impacts her life and career. He retains 100% faith in his “let’s make a deal” attitude, as if he can make all bad situations disappear with the right words and a wink. In a truly great scene between Chuck and Jimmy, in which Chuck calls his little brother out on his naivety and seemingly incurable foibles, Jimmy dances around the more experienced lawyer, pushing and driving to make ol’ Chuck make a deal with the devil. Jimmy’s announcement that he will quit law altogether if Chuck just bends the rules and extorts him brings us that much closer to Saul – “No more Jimmy McGill, Esq. Like poof! He never existed!” Perhaps in the near future Chuck will cave and call on his brother to quit the law he is ultimately so poor at upholding, and Jimmy’s transformation into our garishly colored phoenix will be complete.
Mike’s transition into a hired gun has raised more questions than it has answers so far. Nacho serves as the chorus in Mike’s Greek tragedy, making sure the audience knows which questions they should be asking at all times. Why is Mike so loathe to pull a trigger? Why doesn’t he seem worried about Tuco’s eventual release from jail? How can Mike not see how simply Nacho has laid out all these plans for him? While Nacho is a thinker and a planner, he does not possess the depth or creativity of Mike, and the questions are purposefully left just blowing in the wind.
WHAT WORKED: This episode veered more towards the time-hopping plot lines of Breaking Bad than the dowdy lawyer drama it threatened to become last week. Opening with the consequences of the characters’ actions then slowly divulging the impetus and momentum was something that worked well for the original show. It forces the viewer into a snap judgment, which is generally second-guessed and revised throughout the episode.
WHAT DIDN’T: One niggling detail: I’m unclear on when/how exactly Mike obtained Tuco’s boxing gloves necklace. The episode opens with him clutching the necklace, but at the end of the brawl, Mike may have been clutching Tuco’s shirt, but it’s doubtful he could have lifted the necklace itself while being delivered a TKO. Mike also does not seem to be one to collect trophies. How long was the passage of time between Tuco’s arrest and Mike’s payment? Did Nacho deliver the necklace with the $25,000 after someone collected Tuco’s belongings from the clink? Am I overthinking the entire thing?
Mike: (outlining one of many flaws in Nacho’s plan) “Someone comes in behind me, I’m blocked.” Nacho: “Who’s gonna come in behind you?” Mike: “Well, I’m guessing someone who likes tacos.”
“Killing your partner… that’s a bell you don’t unring.” – Mike, speaking from painful experience.
Jimmy: “You are such an asshole!” Chuck: “Why? For pointing out her one mistake was believing in you?” Ouch.
Chuck: “Life is not one big game of ‘Let’s Make a Deal’!” Jimmy: “YES IT IS!”
BEST MOMENT: The fight scene between Tuco and Mike not only moved the story to an important next step, but was choreographed and shot in a way that was almost physically painful to watch. I’m not normally one to shy away from violence, but I felt that last, lights-out punch right in the gut.
EPISODE’S MVP: Mike is a hard nut to crack. Jonathan Banks takes understatement and side-eye to a whole new level, slowly peeling away the layers of Mike’s sordid history. In his meeting with gun-dealing Lawson, Mike hints at his past Marine Corps service in Vietnam: “Wood… warps like hell. Someone should have figured that out before sending them into the jungle.”
– Chuck’s likening Jimmy’s denial and repeated bad behavior to that of an alcoholic was spot-on and brilliant.
– A handful of Breaking Bad characters appear in this episode (other than Tuco). We see Lawson the arms dealer (he appeared in Breaking Bad Season Four, Episode Two, “Thirty-Eight Snub”, and again in Season Five, Episode One, “Live Free or Die”). Then there’s also Domingo, AKA Krazy-8, or the first of many of Walter White’s corpses, getting the Lie Detector test from Tuco. (Domingo first appeared in the pilot episode of BB.)
– There’s also a mention of “Dawg” Paulson, who left a portion of his skull embedded in Nacho’s chest. “Dawg” got his first shout in Breaking Bad Season Two, Episode Two, when poor ol’ Hank Schrader recounts Tuco’s evil deed to law enforcement.
– I will miss Tuco’s shirts once he’s in jail.
– Seriously. Having Mike hold onto Tuco’s Boxing Gloves makes no narrative sense, as Tuco’s wearing those suckers in his debut episode of Breaking Bad (Season One, Episode Six, “Crazy Handful of Nothin’”), which, last I checked, happens after this episode.
– Jimmy seems a little too pleasantly surprised when Kim reveals they aren’t already “done,” which means he will only push his limits further.
Next: “Rebecca”, soon.
Before: “Amarillo”, here.