Better Call Saul S03E07: “Expenses”

This is the first episode this season (and perhaps the first in the show overall) where Michael McKean’s character Chuck is not seen at all, yet the effects of his actions are felt more strongly than ever. The dust has settled after the vicious court battle and Jimmy is beginning to feel the repercussions of it pretty hard. Spoilers below.

The episode kicks off with some symbolic cinematography, finding Jimmy ready to do community service as part of his sentence. What seemed at first like a slap on the wrist is now beginning to take its toll, and the result of the court hearing is starting to look like a Pyrrhic victory. Jimmy’s forced to do degrading work, far from the comfortable offices he’s used to residing in.

It’s a Murphy’s Law kind of episode, as this humiliating labour is just the first of a series of unfortunate events that befall Jimmy. The poor guy doesn’t catch a break for the whole episode! Not one redeeming circumstance.

The bad luck continues even when he dons his filmmaker persona Saul Goodman. Though the work is a little more dignified, his clients are flaking out and leaving him with fewer funds with every shoot. (Side note: the guitar shop guys are the worst!) Jimmy’s pride forces him to keep paying his end of the office expenses though, even when Kim asks him about his financial situation.

There’s another crack in the ice- the fracturing relationship between the two is really becoming evident now. As Jimmy is on the cusp of going down a darker path in life he starts to exhibit meaner tendencies, and though the change is subtle it’s enough for the eagle-eyed Kim to distance herself from his schemes.

She’s having issues of her own contributing to her stress- the guilt of knowing that they scammed Chuck is beginning to take a toll on her and it’s easy to see her potentially losing Mesa Verde as a client. Whether it’s due to her own admission or a glaring error on her part remains to be seen.

Meanwhile Nacho visits notorious pie fetishist Pryce with a new errand. He wants some empty medicine capsules to give to Hector Salamanca. Pryce sheepishly agrees but keeps waffling, continuing his streak of being the most annoying character in the series. He asks Mike for help but the hired gun seems to be in high spirits, having found a new potential love interest.

I was skeptical of this small seemingly throwaway plot scattered marginally throughout the past two episodes, but I should know to trust Vince Gilligan as it seems to be leading to something important involving Mike’s decisions. Already his chat with Anita makes him reconsider his answer to Pryce, and he ends up meeting with him and Nacho to talk about the plan. “Fun grandpa Mike” is not gonna last long.

The episode concludes with Jimmy at wit’s end in his insurance company’s office. A seemingly genuine breakdown leads to him trying a new revenge plot on his brother. It’s a dissonant scene but one that forces the viewers to realize that even comedic foils have a breaking point. The lack of money, the frustrating clients, the demeaning community service, the failing relationship with Kim, and all the other tiny mishaps are wearing him down. We’re starting to see the really morally reprehensible side of “Saul Goodman” coming out. Of course Slippin’ Jimmy’s never been a paragon of virtue but a lot of his actions have been framed as innocuous.

Here he’s vindictive and mean, with the final shot showing an anger never seen in him before. It slipped out briefly in the interaction with the pizza guy and when plotting scams with Kim in the restaurant, but it’s now out on full display. “There are only two kinds of people in this world kid, wolves and sheep,” said the grifter in a season 2 flashback scene, and they’re starting to shape Jimmy into a full-fledged wolf.