Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 7 – ‘JMM’
This episode adeptly ties in the storylines of Gus and the cartel, Mike and Nacho, and Kim and Jimmy. The drama this season is reaching its peak as the drug war between Gus and the Salamancas moves ever closer and Jimmy is roped into serving Gus and the cartel at their whim.
Last episode ended with Kim proposing to Jimmy after a heated argument. ‘JMM’ follows this up by opening with Jimmy and Kim mulling over reasons for their marriage before they opt for a spur-of-the-moment union in the marriage court. Before the ceremony, we see Huel talking to Jimmy and offering him at least a honeymoon to celebrate the marriage but he refuses saying that he has no time to do this. Jimmy tells Huel that the arrangement for marrying Kim is largely so she is able refuse testifying against him in court. As witnesses, Huel and another were present in court with an unenthused, overworked judge officially decreeing the marriage.
This entire scene is clinical in that they get married in such an ordered, strictly legally binding way. It is a ceremony almost void of love or what we perceive as love in movies and tv shows. We know very well that Kim and Jimmy love each other deeply, nonetheless. The showrunners use this to reflect their engraining in the law as lawyers and constant agency and on-the-move lifestyle. I view this as somewhat tragic as there is no real respite or even a holiday that this couple can afford to spend time on. In a way, it’s a representation of the way the government system sets up working life to almost brainwash the working class to serve. Their marriage took place in the morning and we figure out that last episode was set the day before; yet another point to exemplify their hectic lives and workaholic mindsets.
Jimmy and Kim leave the courthouse to about their work without the lunch they planned due to time constraints. We see Kim with her boss, Schweikart, at Mesa Verde in Kevin Wachtel office. Kim apologises for Jimmy’s bold move for the settlement and promises that an event like this would not repeat itself. Kevin accepts the apology and lets Kim off given her excellent and flawless record as a lawyer for the company. Her Schweikart proceed leave the office. While walking along the corridor on the way out, Kim re-evaluates the bank plot fiasco as Schweikart listens. She decides to go back to Kevin’s office and declare her resignation by condemning him for the Acker settlement given his persistence to claim the plot and ignorance towards Kim’s advice. Kim wishes him well and leaves the room.
Meanwhile, we see Jimmy at the courthouse after a case as someone phones him. He answers with Saul’s famous line,
‘Saul Goodman, speedy justice for you’.Saul Goodman
Nacho happens to be on the phone and tells Jimmy that he must represent “Jorge De Guzman” i.e. Lalo Salamana who was ratted out by Mike last episode. We see Lalo enter the courtroom as a camera pans from his lower body up towards his face. Jimmy advises him to act humble and hide his bravado and ego. Soon after, they end up alone in a room to discuss their plans of action. Lalo is accused of murder and one other count and is determined to get bail which is the unlikeliest outcome, however Lalo says that if this is granted he will be ‘a friend of the cartel’.
Jimmy and Kim meet at home after a long day and talk about their day. Kim divulges on the Mesa Verde situation and Jimmy ends up saying that their marriage was the main part of his day. They begin to undress before Jimmy stops to share the Lalo case and bribe to which she replies,
‘Do you really want to be ‘a friend of the cartel’?’.Kim Wexler on Lalo’s bribe
Kim seems to agree with Jimmy’s affirmation as he bellows in joy that he’ll be able to have a private jet and the like.
The Lalo case thickens when a phone is slid under his prison cell door. He calls Nacho to order an explosion on one of Gus’ Los Pollos Hermanos chains. This really underlines his power and influence along with his hate for Gus for the suspected set up. Mike organises a meet with Nacho at the same place we saw them meet last episode. Nacho is hell bent on discussing his father’s safety and his wish to get out of the cartel lifestyle which Mike promised to discuss when Lalo was locked up. Mike listens to him until he informs him of Lalo’s explosive invocation which puts Lalo back into the picture. Mike seizes Nacho’s hopes for an out and leaves to notify Gus.
A beautifully crafted scene pans around a table with the camera following plaques of businesses and business owners until we see Los Pollos Hermanos and Gus Fring. Gus is asked to report on the progress of his chain over the past quarter. His rigid and immovable business front is portrayed in this scene as he impresses the rest of the people on the table. His profits are up by 8.6% with the average for rival chains 4.2% and he brings in a couple of waiters to hand out samples of curly fries with ‘a special southern west twist’. We realise that this meeting is for business apart of Madrigal Electromotive, the connect to international drug exportation we saw in Breaking Bad and earlier in Better Call Saul as Lydia was re-introduced.
The ailing chair of the meeting and owner of Madrigal Electromotive is met by Gus and Lydia in his hotel room as he expresses he is at the end of his tether with Gus’ drug business. Gus sways him with subtle persuasion to sustain his interest and they agree. He informs them of Lalo’s meddling plans and his position in prison to which Lydia responds by suggesting his murder. Gus refuses this and explains that he would be held responsible for Lalo’s death inconsequential of his guilt given him being north of the border in New Mexico.
Mike meets Jimmy and tells him that he must get Lalo out on bail. Jimmy accepts and meets Lalo in court for a final hearing. We discover that “Jorge De Guzman’s” family is present in court to bolster the chances of bail. This demonstrates his family commitments and ties which were refuted by the prosecution previously especially given his birthplace being Mexico. Jimmy realises the scale of crime he is involved in after the staged family and identity sinks in; and he looks over at the victim’s family in remorse and guilt. The inside knowledge of Mike’s private investigation works in favour of Jimmy and Lalo. Eventually, as Jimmy gives his argument, we see him pause for a second as the camera focuses on his facial expressions. This shot was used for the season promos also. The course resolves when the judge grants bail at a mammoth $7 million. Jimmy is overwhelmed until Lalo saying that the fee is feasible to the bemusement of Jimmy and us. The levels of corruption are amplified with this display of filthy wealthiness.
Towards the end of the episode we see a systematic caper by Nacho and Gus to fulfil Lalo’s plans. The Las Palmas branch of Los Pollos Hermanos is broken into from the back by Nacho as he and Gus enter and proceed to vandalise viciously. Nacho wrecks the store front including the soda dispensers and so on as Gus is occupied with a unique plan to explode the building. He begins to break pipes to release gas. He gets a frozen chicken from the storage freezer and switches a deep fryer on for a sustained period. He stages a construction which places the chicken at the top of a metal tray diagonally inclined toward the fryer. As the heat from the fryer transfers to the metal platform it cooks the chicken whose fat makes it slide until it falls into the fryer. The splash ignites the gas filled room which causes an instant explosion that quickly ignites and blasts the entire building as Gus walks away with the spectacle in the background. This is a rather odd, unique method to detonate something, but it certainly serves its purpose.
The final scene of the episode involves the aftermath of the Jimmy and Lalo’s case. Jimmy is peering around the corner at the family affected by Lalo when Howard Hamlin sees him and begins to chat. He asks him if he has considered the job offer to which Jimmy says no. He acknowledges the pranks Jimmy pulled on him and asks why he did them until Jimmy bursts out by blaming him on Chuck’s death. He starts to shout at Howard who begins to walk away. Jimmy berates him as he walks away with a number of insults before asserting dominance over with accusations and proclaiming that he is a God in human clothing. This breakdown and outburst garners attention and stops as Howard leaves the courthouse. The episode ends on this angry and tense moment.
This title has a number of meanings. Jimmy acquired a briefcase with these initials on earlier in the show. He came up with the acronym, ‘Justice Matters Most’, which Lalo sees and laughs. After their meeting and his offer of cartel affiliation, he says the acronym means, ‘Just Make Money’. Also, during the marriage ceremony at the start of the episode we are reminded of Jimmy’s full name, James Morgan McGill, which is initialled, ‘JMM’.
The significance of this is that it crosses three different ideas together. Jimmy’s slogan ‘Justice Matters Most’ reflects the business, salesman-like front he uses. His initials reflect the real Jimmy, the man behind the façade of Saul Goodman. The money oriented meaning reflects Jimmy’s vices and motives. Overall we are given three lenses to Jimmy’s character. His work life, his identity and his affinity to money (greed).
Tony Dalton’s performance as Lalo is tip top perfection as you see his calm, obnoxious demeanour jarred with the havoc he is wreaking. The power of the cartel is flexed in Lalo’s alias, faked relatives and money. This demonstration shows us just what Gus is up against and worries me for Gus’ sake. Despite this, he is always ten steps ahead of everyone so he cannot be written, and very likely wins given his presence is Breaking Bad. Moreover, Giancarlo Esposito’s acting was amazing in his thorough depiction of the cold calculatedness and expert façade of Gustavo Fring. The way Gus enters his hotel room and begins to loosen his tie and take off his shoes to wind down is an interesting insight into his private life. Esposito’s acting pictured this, along with his routine perfectionism and assured disposition flawlessly.
Another actor worth mentioning is Bob Odenkirk, who portrays a conflicted and guilty rendition of Jimmy while reluctantly defending Lalo. The focused shot of Jimmy’s face in the court evokes so many shades to his psyche; it is a masterclass in showing depth solely by facial expression reminiscent of classic acting methods. Jimmy’s breakdown at the end of the episode was represented so vividly as we got to see his anger and stress rampant. He uses Howard as an outlet given his role in Chuck’s death and unloads his guilt from the Lalo case and subsequent stress in this brilliantly performed outburst.
Overall, this week’s instalment was sublime. It has that balance I feel synonymous with the show’s outstanding writing and delivers scenes with ground-breaking profundity. The explosion staging by Gus was an elite tactic which brings the cartel war ever closer. Kim and Jimmy’s marriage was captured more as a transaction rather than a love reunion, despite their close relationship. Mike warms to his role next to Gus and is looking more and more like the Mike Ehrmantraut we saw in Breaking Bad. And Nacho, who I feel never truly wanted to be a part of the cartel or Fring’s business, admits he wants to leave – a precarious venture, but desperate times call for desperate measures.