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Better Call Saul: The Interpersonal

If you haven’t seen the entirety of Better Call Saul yet, there will be spoilers. I would recommend you take a week off and binge the whole thing. It’s more than a prequel centered around the comic relief of its predecessor, Breaking Bad. In many ways it elevates the latter and is often a superior show. Jimmy McGill’s relationships with those around him are some of the best portrayals of how achingly complicated and nuanced real ones are. I would like to explore 2: his relationship with his brother, Charles McGill, and his partner, Kim Wexler. 

Chuck McGill is a man who needs control. He is stubborn and arrogant. He is a genius and he can be comforting. He is desperately needy, but can never be vulnerable enough to show it. What we know of his relationship with his brother begins at their father’s old convenience store, where Chuck watched the man he admired most give away everything he had because he was too good a man. He was too generous, too kind, too loving. The store went out of business, but in Chuck’s eyes that could not have been due to his failure as a businessman, no, such a good man could not be capable of failure, it was Jimmy and his sticky fingers. Who knows the truth of the situation? Jimmy might have stolen 15 grand, he might have stolen 50 bucks. Regardless, the image is what matters here. While Chuck was getting his degree and excelling in the world of law, his charming, kind, loved younger brother was alone with his father, and his father died. 

There’s a deep resentment. Painted to us in such clarity when Chuck’s own mother does not call out his name on her deathbed, but Jimmy’s. Jimmy is equally as resentful, his older, amazing brother having turned him away from his own firm. Neither can be vulnerable. Neither can just tell each other that they are jealous. And as this resentment grows and grows, Chuck manifests it in a psychosomatic illness of allergy to electricity. The deep well sinks deeper. If, at any point, either brother just told the other that they were infinitely more jealous than the other could understand, his (SPOILERS) death might have been avoided.

Kim Wexler and Jimmy’s relationship, on the other hand, is a positive cycle of destructive codependency that starts with the “innocence” of taking advantage of the rich and ends with the total annihilation of a decent man. Once again, both parties’ absolute refusal of vulnerability and even encouragement of compartmentalization destroys both parties irreversibly. The show’s creators take time after every more-ambitious-than-the-one-before-scheme to give Jimmy and Kim a chance to confront what they are becoming, and each time they fail. 

Kim needs to use Jimmy to feel alive, or as she says it, to just “have fun.” The mediocrity of everyday life, even if that life is a good one, is too awful to bear. Is this it? Is this all Kim has worked for? A cushy office job where she defends the parasite, every day waking up, making breakfast, taking a shower, going to work, doing nothing good for the world, going home, watching TV, falling asleep, again and again and again and again and there is Jimmy. An out from it. He is the escape, and she needs an escape. But how does one avoid mediocrity in such a way without destroying all around them? How does one do it without destroying themselves?Better Call Saul acts as an ideal state of toxic relationships. It shows how they develop, how innocent they may be, how loving and caring and wonderful they are, and how destructive they are. It asks you to be vulnerable. It begs you to be honest, to stop confronting trouble with aphorisms and surface level truths that do nothing to confront reality. You will never escape if you do not look up.

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