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Chicanery – on Crossing the Rubicon

I’m really into Better Call Saul . It’s my favorite current TV show, and my personal canon of Great TV Shows . My favorite episodes in particular are the ones that address the relationship between Jimmy and Chuck – the underlying resentment that’s simmering throughout the series. Whenever the series decides to confront the elephant in the room, things complode – it’s like dynamite. I’m thinking of two episodes in particular that really highlight this dynamic – Pimiento and Chicanery. I can address the conflict in Pimiento in another post, but long story short, it’s when Jimmy finally realizes how Chuck has been keeping him down the entire time. It’s an explicit reveal of something Jimmy’s felt all his like – his inferiority complex to his brother, and his brother’s contempt for him. He’s always known his brother thought he was better than him – but this episode is where Chuck comes right and and admits it. But enough about that – I want to focus on Chicanery – the episode when everything comes to a boil.

One interesting aspect of the bar hearing against Jimmy is it’s the culmination of the bubbling resentment finally being unleashed by both sides – Years of harbored resentment finally reaching a tipping point – the thought of having to bail Jimmy out of trouble for years while never seeing how Jimmy had improved over time – While the recording of Jimmy’s confession was when Chuck finally crossed the Rubicon, ultimately, the disbarment case was when Chuck finally brought all the scheming to fruition. Meanwhile, the moment that Jimmy’s resentments finally blow up is when he breaks into Chuck’s house to destroy the tape, but he doesn’t cross the rubicon until after he’s finally let out his resentment. His actions that cross the rubicon – bringing in Chuck’s Ex to inform her about his mental illness, and embarrassing Chuck in front of all his peers – foments from a dispassionate plan to ensure his survival. But ultimately, these machinations against his brother are all a product of that eruption of resentment.

I’m too lazy to synthesize the rest of my thoughts into a cogent post, so here’s the highlights of the episode summarized in a list:

  • Sibling resentment
  • Chuck flipping the addresses in his white lie to Rebecca mirrors when Jimmy plays transposes the addresses to trip up Chuck – gives some more context on why he can sniff it out, even when everyone else thinks he’s crazy. 512 San Cristobal Road to 215 San Cristobal Road -> 1261 Rosella Drive to 1216 Rosella Drive.
  • This episode is a microcosm of the brother’s relationship – the weird emotional codependency on each other, the lingering resentment, the contrast in portrayals -the justification of Jimmy’s work ethic via Howard’s compliments contrasted with Chuck always seeing the worst in Jimmy shown when he finally loses his temper – explains why he’s the only one who can figure out when Jimmy’s pulling a scam, when he only Jimmy’s actions through the lens of Slippin’ Jimmy.
  • Chuck’s explicit statement of what everyone has been tiptoeing about for 2 and half half seasons, which is – he is NOT CRAZY.
  • The whole episode is everyone dancing around Chuck’s mental illness, no one explicitly mentioning it, but talking around it – Howard with the FMLA leave, Jimmy with the TEG, until the State’s attorney finally mentioning Chuck’s mental illness
  • “He’s hoping this will break me down, split me apart at the seams like a murderer confessing on an episode of Perry Mason. Well… I’m sorry to disappoint you Jimmy.” *** Three Minutes Later, immediately confesses ***
  • Chuck and Jimmy’s weird codependent relationship – they both know how to push each other’s buttons. The climax is a result of both brothers finally unleashing a lifetime of unspoken resentment. They both know how their actions will devastate their opposing sibling – indeed, it seems like the point is the devastation.

One other thing I love about this episode – it’s vindication. We’ve been building up this same resentment towards Chuck, as a proxy for Jimmy’s resentment. We want to see him lash out and knock his brother down a peg. But when he finally pulls out all the stops, it’s absolutely devastating. It’s a total pyrrhic victory. Jimmy may have prevented his disbarment, but at the cost of destroying his brother emotionally and professionally. It’s not even a satisfying feeling to get revenge for all the things Chuck has been doing for him over the years. Likewise, he’s gotten Kim roped into his shenanigans as well, and she doesn’t feel any better about the situation. As she says in a later episode, “as far as I’m concerned, all we did was tear down a sick man.”

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