Series co-creator Vince Gilligan is all about team-ups. The harrowing drama of Breaking Bad all boiled down to the pairing of diametric opposites Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, and now the same kind of emphasis on twinning is manifesting itself in a different but equally fascinating way in Better Call Saul. Last week’s episode solidified the fact that the show is equal parts Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk), Mike (Jonathan Banks), and Kim (Rhea Seehorn), with the latter finally coming into her own with a little help from Jimmy in realizing she may be left out to dry if she stays employed by HHM. In “Inflatable,” our three leads are all at different crossroads, each heading into an uncertain future that could be helped or hurt by the decisions they make and people they trust. “There are wolves and sheep in this world, kid,” a shady grifter says to a young Jimmy McGill in the episode’s opening flashback. “Figure out which one you’re gonna be.”
They realize their predicaments via a trio of small epiphanies, with the show doing its best Spielberg face homage of the three main characters looking outward and inward pondering their risky destinies.
Jimmy’s epiphany comes while stopped at a red light in his David & Main-gifted Mercedes in front of one of those inflatable AirDancer men. Sitting there, watching the constantly grinning and flapping nylon in the hot New Mexico sun, Jimmy understands that he needs to get out of his cushy job because he isn’t able to be truthful to himself. He can’t play by their rules, so he wants to make his own.
The question of when Jimmy becomes Saul Goodman has been in the background of the show since Episode 1, but we get our first literal glimpse when he throws open those bags to reveal a cornucopia of atrociously colored pastel business suits — a maneuver to get fired from stuffy Davis & Main without cause in order to keep his big bonus. The giddy split screen montage that highlights Jimmy’s questionable office behavior, including intentionally not flushing multiple times (“we’re not talking about a number-one,” interjects D&M office babysitter Erin) and an impromptu bagpipe hobby, forces Clifford Davis to give him the axe.
“For what it’s worth, I think you’re a good guy,” Jimmy says on his way out. “For what it’s worth, I think you’re an asshole,” Davis snaps back.
Asshole or not, Jimmy is flush with cash and empowered to bring the idea of teaming up to create Wexler-McGill with Kim right before her big interview with Schweikart & Cokley. She’s initially swayed by Jimmy’s proposal, which includes a die-cut business card and a logo to boot, but even he stops mid-pitch to realize his upstanding lawyer spiel is just another con disguised as ambition. “You gonna play it straight, or are you gonna be ‘colorful?’” Kim asks. Jimmy knows he’s nothing but colorful.
Down but not out, Jimmy marches back to his office in back of the nail salon on his own while Kim marches to the meeting with the S&C partners and nails it. Taken aback that she’ll almost inevitably join the team on partner track, she bids farewell to Rich Schweikart by calling him “Howard,” fusing her current and future bosses in a devastating but enlightening Freudian slip. She wordlessly smokes a cigarette on the top level of the S&C parking garage for her own epiphany: Jimmy was right all along. Like his Davis & Main jaunt, she’d only supplant her business problem with another. Like he said of Schweikart last episode, “That’s just Howard Hamlin under another name.”
But there’s still her worry about Jimmy’s unorthodox and borderline illegal behavior, causing her to suggest they create”Wexler & McGill…solo practitioners,” two separate practices together under one roof. He’d able to go dumpster diving to land the small stuff while she can pull in legitimately big accounts like Mesa Verde Bank while not jeopardizing the other person.
Meanwhile, Mike has to take the rap for Tuco’s gun charge, putting him in his own predicament while pairing him with Jimmy as his counsel again to fess up to the D.A. “The gun wasn’t Salamanca’s is all I can tell you,” he mutters to them before promptly leaving in a separate elevator from Jimmy. Mike has too much pride to let himself get set up like his son, and he sure as hell won’t let himself become a victim like his son either. So when Mike pulls up within a perfect sniper’s firing distance of El Griego Cuinador, the Salamanca family’s base of operations, his moment of clarity is topped off with a little seething anger.
Jimmy, Mike, and Kim have all realized something needs to change in their lives and have become proactive about it. The remaining few episodes will be able to answer whether they’ll go about it like wolves or go about it like sheep.