It goes without saying that there are spoilers in this review, so don’t end up looking like one of Slippin’ Jimmy’s marks.
The expenses from which this week’s episode (written as a team effort as usual, but credited to writer/director Tom Schnauz in its final form) are more than simply monetary, but it’s the financial problems that are really starting to weigh on Jimmy McGill. As he’s humiliated in a multitude of small ways – especially while serving community service picking up rubbish as part of his punishment – he truly starts to seethe about his situation. While he’s been able to coast before, the pressure of everything that has happened, and the fallout from that is slowly but surely pushing him ever closer to actually embodying the new name he has come up with for himself.
On the ads front, the Saul Goodman business (which continues to be a reliable source of gentle comedy as we watch Jimmy wheeling and dealing in the face of hesitant or cheap clients) isn’t quite taking off as well as he might hope. With a fun cameo from comedy brothers Randy and Jason Sklar as the music store duo, who eventually send Jimmy into a desperate tailspin of offering to shoot their commercial for free. Which of course doesn’t delight his young team of college students. One particularly effective scene has the character we know only as “Make-Up Girl” offering to hand her share back to help Jimmy, only to be kindly rebuffed. The high overhead shot showing our hero at his lowest ebb is poetic and meaningful.
And finally, his big scene at the insurance office is a superb performance by Bob Odenkirk, who blends what are clearly real Chuck issues with Jimmy/Saul scheming as he tears up at news that his premiums are going up after his suspension. Trying to wriggle out of the extra charges is one thing, but making things harder for Chuck – added to the grim smirk on his face as he leaves – just demonstrates how far he’s slipping (pun intended) in the wrong direction.
It’s not just Jimmy showing the strain. Kim is struggling with guilt about the Chuck situation and her role in it, and is particularly unhappy with Mesa Verde representative Paige appears so flippant about it. It’s a great scene for Rhea Seehorn, one of a couple of solid Kim moments this week. Witness her shifting emotions as she realises that Jimmy might not be joking when he starts talking about pulling scams at the bar they go to unwind. Though she has indulged him in the past, the mean streak he’s displaying definitely worries her. And she’s not wrong to be concerned; you have to wonder what her reaction would have been to the insurance office “meltdown”.
In the world of Mike Ehrmantraut, the expenses are also emotional. Mike’s story this week has him finding a potential romantic connection in one of the grief support group members, but he’s also weighing up the cost of getting back involved, even tangentially with the likes of Nacho. There’s a welcome return for Mark Proksch’s squirrelly Daniel Wormald, who will play a role in Nacho’s plan to take down Hector Salamanca, but it puts Mike back in danger himself. Oh, and if you were hoping to learn useful facts about pouring and surfacing concrete walkways, this week’s episode has just what you need. Oh, Better Call Saul, always the most unexpected little pleasures.
Expenses is more of a transitional show than some of the recent episodes, a quieter, slower show that lets the characters breathe and react to what has been going on in their lives. Don’t get us wrong; it’s never boring, since Saul has always found a way to make quiet times compelling. The beauty of the longer-form storytelling on display here means that when the plot needs to unfold at its own steady pace, the characters and narrative are so watchable that you’re happy to ride along with them.
There’s good work here from the ad producing trio, from Michael Mando as Nacho and even the minor players, such as the nervy chair salesman. It all adds to the world of the series. There are three episodes left in the season, so expect the show to start ramping up, with more from Chuck and plenty of fireworks still to come.
Better Call Saul airs Mondays on AMC in the US and is appearing weekly on Tuesdays via Netflix in the UK.