What has Jimmy McGill been after during this season of Better Call Saul? What has been his prime motivation? Before “Pimento,” one could say that his main goal was to make something of his University of American Samoa law degree and be a self-sufficient attorney. One could also have said he wanted the affections of Kim by his side – and in an office with wide windows and a reception area, no less. One could have just said he wanted to get paid as frequently as possible, with him being susceptible to Kettleman bribes and skateboarding cons. However, as the cold open last week suggested and “Pimento” proved, Jimmy has most wanted the respect and admiration of his brother, Chuck.
The justice he hoped to seek with his brother at the end of “RICO” is torn by the closing moments of “Pimento,” written and directed by Thomas Schnauz. Despite caring for Chuck during that near two-year hiatus from the office (and civilization) and continued idolatry of his legal prowess and professionalism, Jimmy is the victim of a harsh betrayal worthy of Brutus this week. In secret, Chuck arranges with Howard to dismiss his brother from the continued legal work on Sandpiper. Jimmy won’t be in an office adjacent to his brother – not when Chuck can only think of him as a servant of the mailroom.
One could initially see this development as somewhat rushed, especially when one considers that at the episode’s start, the brothers are enjoying a peaceful afternoon on a park bench. However, the roots of Chuck’s distaste for the sudden career revival of “Slippin’ Jimmy” were watered throughout the season. He feigned pride and excitement at his brother’s degree in the flashback at the start of “RICO,” and in retrospect, the extra effort Chuck gave to the shredding work in last week’s episode now seems like a reason to one-up the man who was in a dumpster the night before. By the end of this Better Call Saul hour, that dumpster seems like a more welcoming home than Chuck’s hermitage.
What has Chuck been after all season? Has his brother’s recent success spurred him to reclaim his place in the sibling hierarchy? Perhaps. The stunning final scene last week smells more and more like a con job that the future Saul Goodman would become invested in. Chuck doesn’t just want his job back, but things to be restored in the way they were meant to be.
On a first viewing of the climactic scene this week, it seemed that the tone started out congenially between the brothers. Chuck reassured Jimmy that things were going to work out and that he would keep badgering Howard about the deal. However, on a second time around, I recognized the nuances of condescension in Chuck’s voice. He speaks to Jimmy the way a successful parent enthusiastically shrugs off a child who hasn’t proven their merit yet, giving them motivation but without the sincerity.