“The Day Jimmy Died”
The highlight of Better Call Saul’s newest episode was to show you “the day Jimmy died”. The birth and death of a man’s identity is no simple matter. It takes a measured, careful approach to even attempt this sort of thing.
Gilligan and Gould have undoubtedly raised a masterpiece that is so good that life itself would bow down to it. This is no ordinary episode. It doesn’t begin or end to uphold tradition. It is a story without an end and just sadness that speaks out to you. More on this in the recap and thoughts about the episode ahead.
‘Fun and Games’ Recap
“Howard is dead and life goes on”. That, quite succinctly, is the summary of the opening montage of episode 9 for Better Call Saul’s season 6.
The lawyers – Kim and Jimmy – get on with their work at court and office, respectively. The memory of last night’s horror slightly blurred; the suffocation of knowing the truth a little loose. But will it last? Can a conscience as morally upright and philosophically ideal as this bear to stay shut? If yes, for how long? Time answers all. Mike, meanwhile, cleans up the bloody mess in their apartment. He tries his best to leave the apartment as it was, even using a photo to get the slightest detail right. The lawyers come back to normalcy in the apartment. Everything looks clean and in place, just the way it was.
But Kim and Jimmy have different reactions to coming back. The former almost freezes, the sight of Howard falling dead on the floor unravelling in front of her eyes. It is almost as if she froze in time. Jimmy, the exact opposite. He does what is “expected” of him.
A few moments later, the trend repeats. Jimmy mentions something about “one day, we won’t even think about forgetting that day”, while Kim lies unmoved with her back to him. Mike burns away the secrets from the apartment, unceremoniously on the beach. In pitch blackness, with the fire’s light barely uncovering his face, Mike contemplates. His mediation is internal – like it always has been – and not disabling, as is the case for most of us.
He still has a job to do and no one can do it better. A shot from below the fire shows him looking down to ensure every last piece is burnt. Is it a religious shot? Who knows? You are free to think whatever you want to. All I will say is that salvation is the hardest to find when you go looking for it.
Anyway, the story. Gus is called by Eladio to discuss Hector’s accusations. The Salamanca boss is found wanting for lack of evidence. His nephews, Leonel and Marco, sitting behind him watch on, helplessly. Eladio dismisses the allegations and Hector is forced to “bite his tongue”, at least for now. The supremo also sounds off a warning to Gus. “Hate is okay. But never forget who the boss is”.
Back home, Gus breathes like he has received a new life. With the burden off his shoulders, he is focused back on his grand plan to build the meth lab.
Perhaps, in some other life or universe, Gustavo Fring can sit elegantly in a bar, drinking and talking about wine with another connoisseur. His own curiosity facilitates the conversation and he feels right at home. He could do this all night. But Fring has chosen a different life. And he must abide by the rules – and so he does.
The discipline not to slip up lashes the smile away from his face, the reality picks him up ruthlessly from the stool and throws him back into the dark, unforgiving decrypts of “his” world. In that moment, we see the tragic death of another man who “could have been”.
Stoic men like Mike at times feel formidable rocks incapable of feeling anything. We have seen before as well, especially in this season, that the former policeman does not let that be the case. Banks’ nuanced act always lets you in through the slightly open door that remains so and lesser by the minute. Before you know it, he has gone back to being the muscle man for an ambitious drug overlord.
In this instance, we see Mike the father; Mike the human, trying to connect with another grieving soul. Varga’s father, Felipe. Mike’s choice of words says it all. He lets Felipe in with marked sentences that delicately guide him to the realization that his son is never coming back. No, he “won’t be found”. But don’t worry, it was “quick and painless”. He didn’t feel a thing, you know.
Varga was a good kid. Fell in with the wrong kind of people but never became “them”. Felipe looks at him from the other side of the fence, another beautiful metaphor put in there for the ones like me. “Revenge, not justice”, he says. The man might just be a tailor but his wisdom and sense of being, belong in another man – probably one that should be calling the shots.
The lawyers still have to keep up appearances and attend Howard’s memorial at the HHM offices, soon to be some unmemorable name. All those years of sweat and hard work have gone down the drain.
The legacy of HHM now belongs in the hands of men and women who cannot be mentioned in the same sentences as them. Cheryl, Howard’s wife, is still unconvinced of her husband’s perceived fate. She feels a disconnect from the reality that is being forced down her throat. Jimmy rakes up his rustic charm to add strength to the lie, as he usually does. But, when that is not enough, Kim intervenes.
Again, the two faces in a frame trope. The director is trying to tell you something. Even before she starts saying something, you’d imagine she’d say the exact right thing. Not just for the moment, but the right thing as it should be said. Not this time.
Her superficial story betrays our idea of her. We look at the screen, incredulous and indignant. Kim probably looks at herself like that in hindsight. But at the moment, she doesn’t have the advantage and trudges on.
In the parking lot, Jimmy proposes they have done enough to “keep up their innocence”. Kim is again quiet, kisses him, and drives off in her car. It feels like a tipping point in their relationship. For once, it felt like Kim was done playing Jimmy’s script.
This instance felt different than the other times she has supported him like a loyal partner. Jimmy felt it too. He doesn’t move after she is gone, wondering if she will “come back” this time.
The nightmare comes true the next morning in court. Kim, restlessly – and uncharacteristically – taps her pen against her submissions. The judge comes in but Kim asks to be excused. “I am no longer an attorney”.
Cut to the balcony of her apartment, where she calmly smokes a cigarette, anticipating jimmy’s arrival. He does, in a haphazard fashion. But it won’t make a difference. Kim has already made up her mind. She is LEAVING him.
‘Fun and Games’ Ending Explained
” We’re poison together, Jimmy”. Being the great lawyer he is, Jimmy tries to stir up the professional morality within Kim that drives her every day to do so much for so little. He beckons her to stay for her clients. Unconsciously, even he has given up on himself.
The very fact that he does not ask her to stay for “him” in stronger words than we would have imagined tells another story than the one we have been seeing. All the internal deliberations that were never seen on screen – only in fleeting moments that we saw as extensions of the scenes – were piling up. Love is not enough to keep her here. The person she has become staying with Jimmy is someone she enjoys and loathes at the same time.
To Kim’s credit, she does say that “it has been the time of her life” with him. That gratefulness is present and shows her genuineness. Remember how they came together? The scam in the bar in the hotel? Even then, the truth was no different. It is just that Kim has now gone through enough to not be able to live with it. And with Kim, we also lose Jimmy.
The charming, caring man we knew is lost forever. That part of his being disperses in Kim’s absence. Next, we see Saul. And only Saul: waking up in expensive bedsheets alongside a hooker, in a plush bed. His apartment has changed and matched his success status. He is constantly on his Bluetooth, wearing it with pride and like his precious souvenir.
This is the Saul Goodman we always knew. Chirpy, moderately intimidating, and ready to “take you to court”. His work is his worship and the trappings of his luxuries a reminder of the gaping void in his life. Of what he once had and now has lost. He surrounds himself with figures from history, thinking he is himself one in the making. Oh, poor, lost soul. We feel you.
The Episode Review
We are witnessing TV history in the making. Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould could not have unified the universe of Breaking Bad and BCS any better.
Season six has been a hit until now. Every episode has brought forth craftsmanship and courage that no simple man can forge. The captivating world of BCS lives and dies by the capability of their visionaries’ to outdo themselves. Good content or art is that which is subtle, existential, and nuanced. This has always been the norm.
The truth about content has never changed in the decades of its evolution, or devolution, as one might say. “Fun and Games” is just that. If there was just one episode that someone needed to see before making a good/bad call on the show, it would be this one.
This episode in particular is so beautifully shot that the stillness from the portraits scream out at you. They beckon you to look closer and feel, most importantly. You are not allowed merely to sift through images, plot, and story.
Your eye is meticulously guided towards the small, unseen things that make the difference. Sometimes, the act itself isn’t as frightening as what comes after it. That terror has its own language – a complex, unyielding, difficult one that is not so easily forgotten.
In “Fun and Games”, you see exactly that. Jonathan Banks has moments far and in between in the episodes after the break. But boy, does he make them count. His intense, taciturn disposition says and feels so much with so little. Every actor in the cast gives remarkably refined performances.
Watching it, again and again, will leave you with a sadness that you will each time be emboldened to relive and experience. It is all worth it. This is life. This is the truth that filmmakers dream of telling. It is so much more. Epic in the real meaning of the word.