For this episode titled ‘Nailed’, I’m primarily interested in the closing scene. Although, it is worth noting that it’s the result of 19 episodes’ worth of building up two complex characters — Jimmy, the lovable protagonist, and Chuck, his bitter-sweet older brother. Everything thus far has led up to this moment — like James Franco and the rock in ‘127 Hours’ — Jimmy meets a huge ultimatum at the otherwise humble location of an all-night print shop.
Here, he has bribed the store’s street-smart but book-dumb clerk into not revealing his presence and wrong-doings to the highly suspicious sibling. This results in Jimmy watching from afar as Chuck and the clerk grind away over a subtext the latter refuses to acknowledge. Frustrated and weak from the numerous electrical appliances (the bane of Chuck’s existence but a constant joy for Better Call Saul’s cinematographer), Chuck faints and bangs his noodle in a way that will have you tightly gripping the arms of your chair. I mean, that shit’s gotta hurt.
Following this, we see Jimmy. Still watching from afar. Torn apart.
This is the most ultimate of ultimatums. I cannot speak highly enough for how well this has been set-up. Does Jimmy call an ambulance? And in doing so, make it abundantly clear that he not only forged documents but attempted to cover it up? All to save the brother who has previously defied his dreams and aspirations?
Jimmy is good at heart. And it’s obvious that calling the cops is the right thing to do. The thing he should do. Beneath the brotherly rivalry, Jimmy has always been there to care for Chuck, and you’d imagine he’d do the same now by seeking medical attention. As said by Chuck the morning after Jimmy had to watch over him in full ‘baked potato’ mode:
“Thanks for staying with me. I know we have our issues – but if things were reversed, I hope you know that I would do the same for you.”
It’s true that Chuck has always been hospitable even when double-crossing his younger brother. And this sentiment points out the shambolic side of Jimmy not actually being there for half the night in order to sabotage Chuck’s documents. Surely Jimmy must learn from this and put his brother’s health before professional interests this time? But, then again, would Chuck actually do likewise if the roles were to be reversed?
The ultimatum is a brilliant exhibit of irony in storytelling. There is no perfect option. There is no positive outcome without a negative impact and vice versa. This nature of ‘what goes up – must come down’ has been demonstrated on countless occasions throughout Better Call Saul’s two seasons and the events of ‘Nailed’ are the finest example yet.
Truth is, the only moment of peace without any consequences was when Jimmy bobbed along the pool-water in his inflatable chair without a care in the world. Here, he has never looked more like Saul. Are the events of ‘Nailed’ what tips him over the edge? Would he be able to live with himself knowing that he turned his back on his own brother? Will this thought plague him? Do these thoughts plague him in ‘Breaking Bad’? Or will he help Chuck and consequently throw himself into the deep end?
Only a penultimate episode of such high quality could raise so many questions at the peak of its character’s arcs.