When the third season began, this all seemed to be headed toward a dramatic courtroom saga that could land Jimmy behind bars. Chuck had baited Jimmy into breaking and entering his house in order to destroy the audio tape of Jimmy incriminating himself—creating the pretense for Jimmy’s criminal prosecution. But then Chuck showed mercy, offering Jimmy a deal to avoid court by confessing. All Chuck really wanted was Jimmy disbarred—which is to say, all he wanted was Jimmy’s dreams shattered.
The case for disbarment was made in this latest episode, “Chicanery.” But Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s writing team ensured the central procedural hearing tugged compellingly at pre-existing character threads. The episode opened with a flashback in which Chuck hosted Jimmy and Chuck’s ex-wife, Rebecca, for dinner while disastrously lying about why the electricity in his home had been switched off. The takeaway was that Chuck felt some degree of shame for his supposed illness, and that it had alienated him from normal human relationships.
This personal context was in the back of the viewer’s mind as the hearing unfolded. In a setup rich with relationship-based resonance, Jimmy’s girlfriend, Kim Wexler, interrogated her former boss and Chuck’s partner, Howard Hamlin. Jimmy, Howard testified, worked in his firm’s mailroom long ago and “bootstrapped” his way into a law degree without anyone else’s assistance; he was also, Howard indicated, denied partnership at that firm because of Chuck’s objections. In an excellent moment, Kim slyly filleted Howard’s assertion that innocent concerns about nepotism kept Jimmy out of a job: “Nepotism? Your firm is Hamlin, Hamlin, and McGill, right? Who’s the other Hamlin?”
Howard’s response, delivered with an air of begrudging admiration for his former protégé’s legal skill, now being used against him: “My father.”
As Chuck’s fraternal animosity began to take center stage in testimony, the judging committee warned, “Charles McGill is not the subject of this hearing.” This turned out to be false. Lawyers for both sides kept issuing objections on the basis that the law—or, at least, state bar procedural decisions—cannot be determined via speculation about what’s going on in any one person’s head. But the case turned on the question of whether the destroyed audiotape could be considered “evidence,” which meant it mattered how the brothers both saw the tape and, really, each other. By the end, the contents of Chuck’s head became of utmost importance.
While Kim’s cross-examinations demonstrated her fearsome by-the-book competence, Jimmy employed his sneakier, ethically dubious style of getting things done. In a twist that was admittedly on the edge of TV-drama implausibility, he arranged for Rebecca to show up at the hearing—mostly to rattle Chuck. Wasn’t this just cruel? Kim warned Jimmy that Rebecca would end up hating him for what he was about to do to Chuck, and in this Kim, probably, was right.