Better Call Saul, Season 1, Episode 10: “Marco”
Written by Peter Gould
Directed by Peter Gould
Airs Mondays at 10PM EST on AMC
In the crushing aftermath of Chuck’s betrayal in last week’s penultimate episode, the season finale moves at a surprisingly quiet pace, working mainly as a character study for the man who will one day be known as Saul Goodman, while filling in some of the blanks of the timeline as established thus far.
“Marco” opens with another flashback sequence, this time taking place the moment after Chuck bailed out Jimmy and just before Jimmy got on the plane to Albuquerque. Though it initially seems like a throwaway bit to give us another look at how Slippin’ Jimmy turned it around, this is later shown to be false, as a key scene has Jimmy returning to that exact bar in a state of disillusionment.
However, before that, we’re treated to a massive info dump at Jimmy’s weekly bingo competition, where a series of coincidences slowly take him off the rails in the middle of his announcing duties. In a tirade of words, Bob Odenkirk shows all of Jimmy’s various personality facets as he tells a long-winded story about the term “Chicago Sunroof”, and how it pertains to him ending up in this “hellish landscape”. Despite its humorous beats (particularly with regard to a The Hills Have Eyes reference), the monologue is not a crowd pleaser, and there is little fanfare when Jimmy gives up this particular schtick, seemingly for good, as he exits the room in perpetual misery.
We always had an idea as to who this character was, but “Marco”, more than any episode before it, really colors in the lines of this picture. It’s also worth noting that Howard is not only not the bad guy, as revealed at the end of last week’s episode, but is actually pretty decent, and may have had some interest in hiring Jimmy after all. This revelation was sure to be coming, but its delivery, particularly in its seeming sincerity, is a nice touch for the Hamlin character, and one that paints a whole new dynamic between these former “rivals”.
When we do return to the bar from the opening minutes, we get a few more tidbits about Jimmy, as well as the remainder of the timeline and how each of these disparate events have been fitted together over the last decade. What we also get is our first real glimpse of the legendary Slippin’ Jimmy, and just how great of a con man he really is, and after he reconnects with his old friend Marco, the game is on. A slick montage follows their first con, filled with neon lights, a dozen or so dirty scams, and a flurry of dizzyingly disconnected words that show the reunited duo back in action. The best part about this whole series of events is how it all leads back to what was so enraging for Chuck last episode during his closing diatribe: this is why it’s so easy for Jimmy to make people like him, and this is why he has such a knack for getting ahead.
At the end of Jimmy’s week-long Chicago sojourn, he finally checks his messages, only to find that he has a long list of clients who really need him back in Albuquerque, but not before he gets talked into one last scam by Marco. Unfortunately for Marco, this will be the last scam he will ever pull, as he has a heart attack (heavily telegraphed by his two chest-beating coughing fits before hand) in the middle of their final Rolex bit, and rolls off this mortal coil with barely a whimper. The resonance of his death doesn’t really work for the audience, but it does work for Jimmy, and echoes metaphorically as a final death for his alter ego as well.
Back in Albuquerque, Jimmy is given a real career-making offer by Kim and Howard, but as expected, he decides to blow it off. His earlier phone conversation with Kim, as well as what viewers know about his future from Breaking Bad, were both dead giveaways that obviously Jimmy wouldn’t go on to partner with a major law firm in Santa Fe, but the nagging “why?” is what we’re really after here. The show finally answers that in the episode’s closing moments, when Jimmy does indeed kill the deal, but stops by the parking booth on his way out to ask a telling question: just why didn’t he take all that Kettleman money when he had the chance to earlier in the season? Mike gives an answer, Jimmy doesn’t, but what he does declare is that whatever it was (presumably his conscience), he won’t ever let it stop him again.
Though “Marco” is a touch long in the tooth, and the Chicago scenes don’t amount to as much as perhaps writer-director Peter Gould hoped, the finale does set the stage for the birth of Saul Goodman, and what will surely be an interesting second season. It also gives Gould, who created the character of Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad, and co-produces Better Call Saul with Vince Gilligan, a real chance to shine in the director’s chair, with his careful framing and bevy of camera tricks serving as the episode highlight.
As for me, I’m riding off in a yellow jalopy to some Deep Purple folks, see you all next season!