There’s a temptation to label ‘Pinata’ as a slight drop in standards after Better Call Saul’s insanely strong season so far. Initially, it’s a little slower, a little less impressive than, say, the spell-binding opening scenes of last week’s masterpiece. But the thing is, not everything can be Cheap Trick. That is to say, not everything is going to hit you with the instant gratification of ‘Surrender’ or “I Want You To Want Me’. Some things are Radiohead post The Bends; they work their magic slowly and eventually leave you wondering how it took you so bloody long to figure it out. That’s ‘Pinata’. I’m not saying it’s OK Computer, but it’s at least In Rainbows. (If you’re reading this and wondering what the hell I’m on about, I’ve been up since 4am and this is what happens when I don’t sleep enough).
Every cold open is a little nugget gift-wrapped and beautifully presented, this time by none other than Andrew Stanton, director of my favourite Pixar movie Wall•E. It’s not as dramatic as Saul tearing his office apart or Gene’s hospital visit, but it’s a wonderful piece of insight into Kim and Jimmy’s relationship. We’re back in the old days at HHM – 1993 judging by the Howard’s End reference. She’s an intern, he’s working in the mail room, running an Oscars sweepstakes (Emma Thompson lady, I feel you. Hope you spent your winnings wisely) and being so utterly Jimmy in taking twice as long to do everything because he’s too busy making small talk. Chuck comes in like a vanquishing hero after winning an unwinnable case and Kim can’t hide her adoration for him, which visably bothers Jimmy. He goes straight to the firm’s library afterwards, wanting nothing more than for Kim to look at him the way she looks at his brother.
That makes their later conversation even harder to bear. It’s been plain to see that Kim’s work with Mesa Verde has quelled some of her love for law (note how she immediately quotes relevant cases to Chuck in the cold open but can’t remember the relevant ones in her dictation to Viola), and the only thing that’s reignited it at all is her pro bono work on the side. Unwilling to give that up, she goes to Schweikart & Cokely (Jimmy’s opponents in the Sandpiper case. That’s surely going to be a thing) and takes a job heading up their banking division, on the condition that she’s free to carry on picking up overflow jobs from the public defender. Win/win for Kim, punch in the heart for Jimmy. He’s been spending his time costing up his huge Wexler McGill sign, drawing the logo, dreaming of the days when they can work side-by-side. Kim punctures that irreversibly and the deflation of their relationship continues apace. Jimmy’s response? He goes and spends the $5000 Chuck left him on a pallet of burner phones – an even better final f*** you than the one in his brother’s letter – permanently setting him and Kim on their separate paths.
Of course, that leaves the small matter of the three punks who rolled Jimmy after his last night hawking phones on street corners. He approaches them with a deal ($100 a night to leave him be) and they pull a knife on him and chase him down an alley. But Jimmy was never going to let himself be caught out twice. The ensuing scene of the three snotty little s***s (that blonde dude seriously has the most annoying face) strung up amongst the piñatas is absolute gold and one of this season’s funniest, right down to the badass expressions on Jimmy’s heavies’ faces as they strut away. Of course, one of them was the inimitable Huell, bringing us ever closer to Saul Goodman.
Not to give Mike’s story short shrift (he’s setting up the German crew in a warehouse and running into difficulties with one rebellious engineer) or Gus’s supremely chilling anecdote to a still-comatose Hector, but this episode is all about Jimmy. It’s taken us four and a half seasons of brilliance to finally see where the lines between Jimmy McGill and Saul Goodman join and his intimidation routine on the little hoodlums marks a man freed from his responsibilities to try and impress Kim and Chuck. Chuck is dead, Kim has – to his mind – abandoned him, so Jimmy is free to be Jimmy. And as we all know, the real Jimmy is Saul Goodman.