13th Apr2016

‘Better Call Saul 2×09: Nailed’ Review

by Gretchen Felker-Martin

“Who’s the guy who won’t pull the trigger?”


You can’t change the consequences of your actions. You can’t uncrack your brother’s skull or drag a kind-hearted stranger whose face you never saw out of his unmarked desert grave. Whatever joy you had before from the actions that led you to that one un-take-backable moment is tainted and that taint, that spoilage, will weigh on you for the rest of your days. You can see it in the way Mike slumps behind the wheel of his car after Nacho gives him the news. Mike spends the episode riding high after an opening sequence recalling Cormac McCarthy’s The Counselor nets him a quarter million in cash and the undivided attention of Hector Salamanca. He looks happy to be back in the game on his own terms, happy to crack wise at Nacho, to flirt with his favorite waitress, to buy a round for a bar full of strangers and to acknowledge their applause with a grin and a raised hand. He’s won, and he didn’t have to kill anyone to do it.

Someone’s dead, though. All of Mike’s careful planning, unrolled thoughtfully across three gorgeous episodes, and he couldn’t account for another person’s impulse to help a man left hog-tied on the side of the road. Jimmy’s own quest for revenge, not against the cartels but against his own brother, is a similarly dig-two-metaphorical-graves scenario. His elaborate work of forgery earns Chuck a stinging professional embarrassment when his client’s branch opening is stalled by improper filing. Chuck guesses the author of his misfortune without much delay. Robed in foil and framed from below like some sort of deranged Cassandra preaching truth to uncaring crowds, he expounds with frightening insight on his belief that Jimmy sabotaged him. It’s clear that this disaster, along with his series of draining appearances at work and in hearings, is affecting his health.


Kim’s dressing-down of the elder McGill is yet another blow to the older man’s well-being. She calls him out for forcing Jimmy into the form he so despises, for undermining and abusing his brother at every turn. It’s rough stuff, and the revelation that Kim knows Jimmy really did forge Chuck’s papers just makes it harder to take. Rhea Seehorn doesn’t disappoint, moving from an impassioned and at least partially genuine defense of the man she loves to incoherent rage to lifeless but insightful acceptance and abetting of his crime. It’s that insight of Kim’s that takes us squirming and slithering into a third act that’s hard to watch and harder to look away from. Taking Kim’s cue, Jimmy realizes he’s left a loose end in the form of Lance, the all-night copy center guy he hit up in ‘Fifi.’ He scrambles out of bed and drives to the copy center to find Ernesto grilling Lance in preparation for a visit from Chuck. Jimmy squeaks in right on the younger man’s heels and bribes Lance to keep his mouth shut.

Then things go wrong. Chuck arrives, discarding his foil blanket and venturing into the copy center’s crackling, blaring, neon-lit hellscape only to find that Lance has changed his story. Chuck won’t give up, haranguing Lance even as frenzied cuts between his warped perspective and the electrical hazards of the center show his rapidly worsening mental state. Jimmy’s nervously enthusiastic spectatorship from the alley across the street turns suddenly, sickeningly into something worse than just a small-time crook hoping he gets away with his caper when Chuck collapses and brains himself on the side of a table. Ernesto and Lance look on numbly, unable or unwilling to call for help. “Call 911,” Jimmy pleads to no one. “Call 911.” It’s a sobering moment to end on, a stark depiction of what Jimmy’s inability to face consequences does to the people he loves.



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