NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Better Call Saul” are present in this review
Better Call Saul completely set aside the secondary arcs of Mike Ehrmantraut, Hector Salamanca and Gus Fring this week, now opting to instead focus purely on Jimmy and his legal struggles for this week’s events. After the show seemed to be drifting away from focusing on Jimmy again, this was really satisfying to see, especially when this week’s episode, “Chicanery” proved to be easily Season Three’s best episode to date!
The entire episode more or less focused on Jimmy’s long-awaited bar hearing, and that was just fine, since it finally gave us a big payoff to the growing animosity between the two McGill brothers. With no Mike, Fring or Salamanca business this week, there isn’t as much to discuss about the episode proper, as it’s one ongoing legal web that’s laid out to be untangled by the New Mexico Bar, other than to say that it’s really, really good. It’s genuinely excellent even, and frequently represents Better Call Saul at its very best!
Right from the beginning, this episode kicks off with plenty of intrigue, as we get our latest flashback to the earlier, better days for Jimmy and Chuck. We see Chuck invite both Jimmy and his ex-wife, Rebecca over for a dinner, without telling Rebecca of his electromagnetic sensitivity condition. Rebecca questions why the house is dark and lit only with candles, but it’s not until Chuck freaks out at Rebecca answering the phone, even smacking it out of her hand at one point, that she starts becoming increasingly uncomfortable at Chuck’s post-divorce state. This wonderfully tied in with the climax of the hearing, though I’ll get to that in a bit.
At first, the hearing unfolds in a pretty straightforward fashion, with testimonies between the Bar and Kim’s defense. Inevitably, Chuck’s tape also gets to be played as well, just as Chuck promised. Things look really bad for Jimmy at that point, though obviously, part of that tension is knowing exactly how Jimmy gets out of any given situation, considering that we already know the man he will become by the time of Breaking Bad in the show’s future. Sure enough, once the defense gets to cross-examine Chuck, both Kim and Jimmy do what they can to call the tape into question, even though it most certainly looks like Jimmy is going to be disbarred.
The curveballs start coming once Rebecca attends the hearing however, which it seems is the first time we’re seeing Chuck’s ex-wife during the show’s present-day events. That’s only the first of Jimmy’s curveballs too, as Rebecca’s re-appearance makes Chuck sloppy, right when Jimmy begins going hard at questioning Chuck’s condition. Once he backs Chuck into an appropriate corner on this note, he then reveals that he had an accomplice plant a fully-charged phone battery in Chuck’s pocket, after Jimmy faked having his own phone on him, only to reveal that it had no battery, to give Chuck a false sense of victory. Slippin’ Jimmy definitely exposed his brother’s condition as blatantly questionable, and it’s looking more likely than ever that Chuck has actually been mentally ill this whole time. Even if that’s true though, has Jimmy done the right thing by once again hugely calling his brother’s awareness and competence into question?
Even being very singularly focused on Jimmy and his hearing, “Chicanery” soared in pretty much every respect. The episode was so great in fact that it didn’t even need the Fring and Salamanca rackets, nor the supporting presence of Mike! Those characters still do a lot of good when it comes to expanding the scale of Better Call Saul, but this new crescendo in the ongoing ideological battle between the McGill brothers reached a very satisfying high note in this particular episode. It looks like these supporting characters will make a return in next week’s episode, but for now, Chuck being outed as seemingly the true fraud in this struggle made for one of Jimmy’s most unexpected and awesome victories yet. I seriously doubt that even this turn will bring Chuck down for good, but one thing’s for sure, if there was any hope of repairing the relationship between the McGill brothers, that hope seems to be firmly dead and gone now.
Better Call Saul set aside its supporting players to focus squarely on the McGill brothers this week, delivering arguably Season Three's best episode to date!
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THE GOOD STUFF
Great intro flashback that later leads into Chuck's big downfall
Storytelling soared even without Mike, Fring and Hector
Jimmy successfully defeating his brother at the hearing