At the start of last week’s episode of Better Call Saul that covered the fallout from the season finale of the Season 2, Chuck McGill (Charles McKean) looked at his brother Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) as the two shared a moment and killed it. “Don’t think I’ll forget what happened here today,” Chuck said to his ethically challenged younger brother. “And you will pay.”
The audience knows what Jimmy McGill doesn’t – that his brother has secretly taped him confessing to a felony. However, it has already been established that the legal ramifications from the tape itself aren’t concrete, and its authenticity can easily be challenged and thrown out in a court of law. Chuck McGill knows the law better than anyone else on Better Call Saul and he also knows his brother better than anyone else on the show. This week’s episode, “Witness,” leaves us to wonder what Chuck’s endgame is until the episode’s shocking, heartbreaking conclusion, a moment that will reverberate through the lives of the McGill Brothers forever and take Jimmy to the lowest point we’ve ever seen.
Before diving into the repercussions that may occur from the startling conclusion, let’s take a closer look at the events of “Witness,” which brings Better Call Saul closer into the Breaking Bad universe than it has ever gone over the course of its first two seasons. “Witness” brings back a couple of familiar faces from Breaking Bad, including one of the biggest characters and an iconic location from that show’s illustrious past.
Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) has successfully reverse engineered the device that was tracking his location. He tracks the mysterious stranger that has been tracking him from a distance, watching as this man makes stops in the dead at night at various locations picking up unseen items. As day breaks, Mike witness this stranger arrive at a local fast food chain – you guessed it, Los Pollos Hermanos.
Meanwhile, at the law offices of Wexler and McGill, Jimmy and Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) are interviewing for a receptionist to handle their growing demands. They only interview one applicant, a former DMV employee Francesca (Tina Parker), before an overeager Jimmy hires her on the spot to answer the phones when his latest television advertisement airs. That isn’t exactly pleasing to Kim as she’s looking for a receptionist with more legal experience. As Jimmy coaches his new receptionist on how to have a folksy approach to his elderly clientele, Mike calls for Jimmy to arrange a meeting for breakfast the next day.
Mike doesn’t join Jimmy for breakfast, instead asking him to enjoy a meal at Los Pollos Hermanos and keep a watchful eye out for the mysterious stranger that Mike has been tracking. Jimmy enjoys his coffee and chicken as he spies on the stranger but failing to find anything to report back to Mike. However, in trying to search the trash after the stranger has left, Jimmy is confronted by the restaurant’s manager, none other than the nefarious Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). Of course, at this point neither Mike nor Jimmy know much about Gus Fring and the restauranteur/drug kingpin helps Jimmy retrieve his watch from the trash. This greatly illustrates the confidence that Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan have with Better Call Saul, refusing to withhold the entrance of Gus Fring until some later date. Gould and Gilligan are simultaneously setting up the characters of the show for some major moments while toying with the audience’s expectations.
Shortly after Jimmy gives Mike the news that there is no news, the stranger takes off and Mike continues to track the one tracking him. He winds up in the middle of a secluded road, his tracking device taking there with no sign of the person he’d been following. All there is a gas cap with the tracker and cell phone on top. It rings. Mike answers. And we’re left to wonder, but not too much, just who is on the other line.
Back at the offices of Wexler and McGill, Jimmy is tending to his elderly clients while Kim works away on her own. Ernesto (Brandon K. Hampton) calls Kim and asks her to meet her outside. He tells Kim of the audiotape of Jimmy that heard in last week’s episode. Kim promptly tells Jimmy about this revelation and the younger McGill is noticeably hurt by this revelation.
This is where “Witness” becomes an emotionally devastating turn in the entirety Better Call Saul, one that brings forth more of the parallels between Jimmy McGill and Walter White. When the workday is over and everyone has left, Jimmy tends to the newly painted logo on the wall that he’s been working on throughout the episode. He removes the tape on the wall in the exact same manner that Chuck instructed him at the start of last week’s episode. Without saying a word, Odenkirk brings the feelings of pain and anger that are simmering in his mind to the surface. He rolls the tape some more before just pulling it away in one fell swoop that ruins all of the exactness of his work.
In a fit of rage, Jimmy drives to Chuck’s house, kicking in the door in an unhinged outburst of emotion. Little did Jimmy know that Chuck had company in the house, a private investigator and his legal partner Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian). There we are witness to Chuck’s endgame – getting his brother on breaking and entering with two other witnesses present. Silent, Jimmy’s rage fades and he looks to the ground as the episode goes black.
Written by Thomas Schnauz and directed by Vince Gilligan, “Witness” really presents the confidence in the storytelling that is happening behind the scenes of Better Call Saul. There’s no need to rush moments, allowing the series to take its time in setting up its moments to achieve the maximum effect. The fallout from the events of this episode alone may be enough to propel the entire season. Gus Fring is lurking in the shadows but his role seems secondary to what will be the fallout from Chuck’s entrapment of Jimmy. Now we’re left to wonder just what will happen to Jimmy after the events of “Witness.” What will his legal troubles spell for his growing practice? What about his relationship, both working and professional, with Kim Wexler? We’ve seen Jimmy McGill at a variety of low points over the course of two seasons, but he always had a brother to help him out in the self-inflicted tough times. Now that he’s lost that and looks to be on the verge of losing so much more, it may be a long time before we ever hear Jimmy McGill say, “It’s all good, man.”