February 23, 2015, 10:00 p.m. (EST), AMC
“Upon this rock I will build my church.”
Jimmy takes the money. Despite all of his protests about not being able to take a bribe, despite all of his efforts to be a better person, when offered a stack of cash and an easy rationalization, he becomes a richer man through the shortest cut he can find. Jimmy McGill is never going to be a hero, but in “Hero” he realizes that he doesn’t have to be to reap a hero’s rewards. He just has to con enough people into believing he is a hero and ride that con to success. Jimmy told us last week, “I’m no hero,” and his tragedy seems to be that self-awareness. He knows who he is. He knows where his limits lie. He knows his weaknesses, and though he might try to avoid their exploitation, if the right opportunity arises, he will stray again. Jimmy isn’t strong, but he’s smart. And often, smart is all he needs to find the next opportunity. When Jimmy admitted to himself he wasn’t a hero, there was a ring of the tragic to it. That hint of sadness remains as he recognizes the founding sin of the legal empire he hopes to build. Good intentions no longer pave this road.
There’s an art to Jimmy’s plan to use Hamlin’s ego to set himself up to be perceived as a hero. Slippin’ Jimmy is an ace con man, after all. But he also, ultimately, does have to climb that tower and dangle himself out there to pull up his confederate. There’s a risk he’s taking, a real risk even if it is also manufactured. That’s the sort of rationalization that we might hear Jimmy (or perhaps a future client) engage in to sleep better at night. It’s not much, but then it’s not nothing either. Again and again, though, when his back is against the wall, Jimmy finds the truth, or a thinly veiled version of it, is his best weapon. He stands up to Nacho by pointing out that he not only got him out of an awful situation but potentially prevented him from doing something much dumber. And while his David and Goliath story seems like a failed scheme, Jimmy’s longer con is a smart one. He paints himself as desperate to every paper in town, so it makes sense he’d have cameras rolling as his billboard was taken down. Nothing suspicious there, just a spontaneous act of heroism documented because Jimmy, and the cameras, “happened” to be in the right place at the right time.
Throughout “Hero,” there are several different types of con being played. In the cold open, Jimmy and the Alley Man’s con plays on the inherent greed and ego of their mark, letting him think he is conning innocent Jimmy out of a Rolex watch. In the hero con, Jimmy plays off of people’s desire to feel special, to feel like they have witnessed something great. He has a widely varied skill-set, one dictated as much by circumstance as by his own personal predilections. Jimmy isn’t a “steal from the rich, give to the poor” guy, for example. He’s more of a “steal from the easiest mark, keep what I can” sort. He’s just decided to start playing his game on a whole other level, treating Albuquerque as his mark, and a flourishing legal career as his hoped for reward.
So after coming to terms with his limits last week, Jimmy stakes out his claim for a place in the ABQ legal market that better serves his skillset. It’s not the church he wanted, but it’s the one he can get his hands on, the place he can expect to find parishioners. He “can’t take a bribe,” except that of course he can. He doesn’t just look like the sort of lawyer a guilty person would hire. He is that lawyer. But in a city like Albuquerque, there’s money in that job, if you can stomach the blows to your integrity and find a way to sleep at night. Maybe the free massage chair, foot bath, and cucumber water help Jimmy get the job done. Or maybe he’s yet to figure out just how to live with himself, and is focused instead on how to survive long enough for that to become a question. In either case, he’s no longer holding out for himself to become a hero. He’s in a different sort of fight.
- “I never did catch your name.” “Saul.” “Saul?” “S’all good, man. Get it?”
- “Possession is like 4/10ths of the, whatever you call it, bro.”
- “Like they say in Silicon Valley: its not a bug, it’s a feature.”
- “You want to talk about legal, well, slavery, that used to be legal. I mean…human slavery.”
- “You’re the kind of lawyer guilty people hire.”
- “You assume that criminals are going to be smarter than they are. I don’t know. It kinda breaks my heart a little…”
Jimmy McGill is never going to be a hero, but in “Hero” he realizes that he doesn’t have to be to reap a hero’s rewards.