March 16, 2015, 10:00 p.m. (EST), AMC
There’s a moment, deep in “Bingo,” where Jimmy McGill is standing over a bag full of money with the man who just helped him steal it. The people from whom it was stolen could never go to the cops, and its existence is ultimately debatable as a matter of law. He admits Mike could have absconded with it pretty easily, and its clear the two of them still could. Instead, Jimmy takes the tiny slice of that huge pie he was handed as a bribe, and places it back in the bag. When a bewildered Mike asks what he is doing, Jimmy caustically says “the right thing,” air quotes and all. “Bingo” finds Jimmy McGill at his most noble, even if it is an ill-fitting role that tears him up inside.
Of course, the “right” thing Jimmy does is steal $1.6 million from the Kettelmans, send it off to the DA, and basically force Craig to take a deal that includes prison time. In the process, though, he estranges a potentially huge client, denies himself nearly $2 million, and basically ensures that Kim will not leave Hamlin Hamlin and McGill to join his theoretical new firm. Throughout “Bingo,” people try to do the right thing and are punished for it. Kim attempts to convince Craig Kettleman to take an amazing deal she has procured for him, and loses both the clients and the favor of Hamlin. Chuck tries to build up a tolerance to electromagnetic fields, enduring great (even if psychosomatic) pain just to stand outside for two minutes. The right thing is rarely the easy thing, the episode constantly reminds us. It takes pain, and sacrifice, and giving up on your own goals for the betterment of other. Doing the right thing doesn’t always feel good, and the concept of nobility can be cold comfort when you’re still nursing fresh wounds.
So Jimmy gives away the ill-gotten seed money for his fancy new offices, with their conference rooms and imaginary cocobolo desks, and he sets about trying to clean up the mess of the Kettlemans the only way he knows how: through a mix of ruthless guile, cheap scheming, and brutal truth-telling. Again tonight, we are confronted with a James McGill whose best weapon is his willingness to be bluntly honest with his clients about their prospects. He’s very persuasive, to be sure, but only because he also happens to be right, and willing to stake everything on his convictions. The thing about Jimmy McGill is that, despite all of his scheming and short-cuts, he actually does want to fight as hard as he can for his clients. He is willing to put everything on the line for the people who hire him, even if that sometimes means acting against their best interest. There’s a bruised nobility to Jimmy’s efforts to just make it as a lawyer in Albuquerque, and for every time he fails to meet his own moral expectations due to weakness or laziness, there’s a moment where he refuses to let his flaws bring him down, where he chooses to do the right thing, even at great cost.
Jimmy’s suffering is ultimately somewhat inevitable. He is struggling against the weight of impossible expectations in a no-win scenario. If he stands by Chuck’s moral principles and does “the right thing,” he’ll never find the success and riches he is hoping for. But if he schemes his way to the top, he’ll never be able to sleep at night. It’s this state of misery that leads him to his momentary breakdown at the end of the episode. But the cracks only show momentarily before he dives back in, convinced that with enough effort and enough elbow grease, he can squeeze his way into the life he has imagined for himself and become the person he wants to be: a good man and a good lawyer who happens to be rich, successful, and adored to boot.
- “He’s alright. He’s just gotta learn, that’s all. Some rocks you don’t turn over.”
- “Felix will wash himself. Oscar won’t. He just won’t.”
- “Picture The 25th Hour starring Ned and Maude Flanders!”
Throughout "Bingo," people try to do the right thing and are punished for it.