Warning: Storyline and character spoilers ahead for the “Nailed” episode of Better Call Saul.
This penultimate episode of Better Call Saul’s second season would have made for a fine, cliffhanger finale, but the primetime gods have smiled upon fans and we’ll have one more Season 2 installment to further the major storylines that ramped up in “Nailed.” BCS co-creator and showrunner Peter Gould, who wrote and directed “Nailed,” talks to Yahoo TV about Chuck McGill’s very serious accident — which made one of the most cringe-inducing sounds we’ve ever heard, how Chuck has become a more sympathetic character this season, and how Mike Ehrmantraut’s happy day turned so ugly, so fast. Gould also chats about Mike’s “low-tech” formidable skills, how Kim has been brought down to Jimmy’s level in the Mesa Verde saga, and offers this preview of the season ender: “I think you’re going to see some sides of Jimmy and the other characters that you haven’t seen before.”
I am haunted by the sound we hear at the end of this episode, poor Chuck’s head hitting that counter.
When we watched that, especially in post, I think all of us would wince every time Chuck’s head hit that countertop. I have to tell you, Michael McKean did that stunt, and it was a very impressive stunt. He was, of course, very safe… in fact, there’s a wire that allowed him to seem to hit the counter with a lot of impact without actually hurting himself, but it was very impressive, and he was very game about doing it. I’m very grateful for that.
Did the wire jerk him back or stop him at a certain point before he actually hit?
I can tell you this with some expertise. This is all due to our stunt coordinator, Al Goto. Because when we saw Al had a stunt man do the stunt, and it looked so horrendous to all of us, he told us, “No, it’s really not dangerous.” I said, “Al, I’d really like to do this myself.” I went up to our physical effects facility in Albuquerque, and I actually strapped into a harness, and I did the stunt myself. The trick is that there is a wire coming off. If you’re watching Michael, it’s coming off him camera left. What happens is it’s just the right length so it doesn’t allow you to [make impact], but you come within a fraction of an inch. I did this a few times myself, and I satisfied myself that it was safe and comfortable. I was very happy that Michael was willing to do that also, in the middle of the night, by the way.
It sounds like bungee jumping. Is it that same adrenaline that you would get from doing something like that?
It is. It’s like swinging in a circle and not quite hitting an object. You have to have a lot of faith that the whole set up is working properly. That’s one of our secret weapons in scenes like this, that we have Al Goto, who is just such an incredible stunt coordinator. Not only that, but has such a great eye for what makes things look real. Al will often give the actors little tips and cues and talk them through, in fact directing the stunt really to make it look as bad as possible. He’ll help us place the cameras so that we’ll get the maximum impact. I’m so glad you feel that way [about its impact]. I feel that way too, and I feel sorry for Chuck in this episode. I’m curious to see how the audience feels about it, because I think folks see him as Jimmy’s enemy, which in some ways he is, but he’s also someone with a lot of humanity. Of course, as Michael plays him, it’s an amazing performance.
The things we’ve found out about him, from him, this season — the story he told Kim about Jimmy pilfering from their father’s store, his wife, and the hint that there’s a lot more to that — his wife’s reaction to Jimmy versus her reaction when Chuck tries to tell her a joke suggests that Chuck has certainly tried to be more charming like Jimmy, but it just doesn’t work for him. It’s not who he is.
I think you’re right. Absolutely. Chuck, for all his brilliance, just doesn’t have the common touch. I think in some ways this season, if there’s a tragic element, it’s that these two brothers have known each other for their whole lives, but in some ways, they really don’t understand each other at all. Chuck doesn’t understand Jimmy’s good heart, and Jimmy doesn’t understand, I think, how desperate Chuck is, how little there is in Chuck’s life, how brittle his older brother really is. It’ll be interesting to see how that shapes up going forward.
The picture of Jimmy that Chuck shows Lance at the copy shop, is that from the newspaper article that was written about Jimmy last season?
Boy, you have a sharp eye. It is in fact from The Albuquerque Journal story about Jimmy rescuing the billboard worker last season. This is obviously something that Chuck has kept. Which sort of makes sense, because if you remember, that’s what Chuck ran across the street to nab from his neighbor’s front porch. He’s kept this, and this is a picture that he brings… Ernie also had the same picture with him, when he was on his little recon mission.
Has Chuck kept that photo, the article, because he’s proud, or because it’s part of a file of evidence he has, to keep track of the things that Jimmy’s done? There’s a sadness that that is the photo, from a newspaper, he would have to show of Jimmy, of his brother.
It’s an interesting question. You could imagine there are a lot of reasons that Chuck might have held onto that story. It’s certainly one that got under his skin. Let’s say that.
I’m guessing we’ll find out in the finale how Chuck’s injury plays out. That was a very strong hit. As you said, we all wince. We saw Jimmy actually jump back when he saw Chuck fall. He could possibly not survive this. He could be injured in a minor way, though that seems unlikely with that impact. He could be injured in a way that leaves him further physically incapacitated or mentally incapacitated, which for Chuck, given his pride and his self-image, and as you said, how little he does have in his life… he would probably consider that the worst outcome. What can you say about how pivotal this event, and everything that led up to it, in the storyline of the show?
To some extent, this whole episode is about blowback. It’s about collateral damage. Jimmy has sandbagged his brother. In fact, his brother is such a genius that he’s able to see through Jimmy’s scheme. He can figure out what Jimmy has done, but he can’t really prove it. What’s obvious to Chuck isn’t obvious to the outside world. I don’t think Jimmy in his wildest dreams would have expected that changing two numbers on some documents would cause his brother to be injured physically, that his brother was going to be lying on the floor of a copy shop in the middle of the night. At the same time, I think Mike has a really brilliant scheme that he develops, in the last episode and this episode where he had ripped off the cartel money. He ripped off Tio, and he gets away clean. He does it without hurting anybody. Then somebody does get hurt. There’s this good Samaritan that he finds out about, and this person, through no fault of his own, is dead and buried out in the desert. These two guys, both Jimmy and Mike, have both taken really bold, really successful actions, but they have repercussions that go beyond what they could have ever imagined.
The look on Mike’s face when Nacho tells him what happened to the good Samaritan and he gets in his car… he’s been celebrating, buying a bar full of people a round, which is very un-Mike-like behavior. I think he’s a little excited that he and Fran at the diner have been flirting a little…
Yeah, absolutely. Mike is riding high for most of this episode. He’s feeling as good as, maybe as we’ve every seen him. I think all is right with him. He feels like he’s set the karmic balance back. He really feels that Tio has gotten the better of him, and now he’s gotten even. Now he can live with the situation, and he feels pretty good. Boy, he’s making a human connection with Fran. He doesn’t have an awful lot of those in his life. And I love the way Jonathan Banks plays that scene. They have that little slightly flirtatious conversation, and he looks out the window as if to say, “Maybe there’s still some life ahead for me. Maybe it’s not all over.” Then of course when he finds out the blowback, the implications of what he’s done, that all goes away. It’s all wiped away. For me, one of the things that’s fascinating is how much Jonathan can do with so little dialogue. I love the fact that you picked out that moment when he finds out about the good Samaritan, because Jonathan, he breaks the gaze. He’s been locking eyes with Nacho, and Mike never backs down. Yet, here’s a moment where he does turn away. He looks down. It’s a new element for Mike. I’m very curious to see what it’s going to lead him to.
There’s a moment with Tio, when Mike is watching him at the ice cream shop as Tio is probably learning about the truck robbery. He seems to maybe have a bit of a spell. He holds onto something to stay upright. It looks like he might grab his arm for a moment.
This news has enraged him so much, it seems to maybe have some physical effect. If you look really closely, you might even see that he’s taking a pill. It’s not something that’s featured that strongly, but if you watch very carefully you might see that he seems to be shaking out a pill. Then Arturo brings him some water to take it with. We’ll have to see where that goes. Like Chuck, Tio’s emotions can run away with him, and they have a bigger effect.
What inspired Mike’s DIY investigation tools this season? We were all dying to see how he was going to use the spiky garden hose, and there was that cool carbon paper footprint detector. You perk up when you see Mike carrying shopping bags from a Staples or Office Depot, because you know those are not places that Mike Ehrmantraut probably shops very often. We know he has this military background — is that inspiration for his one-man A-Team behaviors this season?
I love this idea of Mike as a one-man A-Team. A lot of us in the writers room have very fond memories, especially of the A-Team, and those other great Stephen J. Cannell shows from the ‘70s and ‘80s. One of the things that we love about Mike is that he’s low tech. So many times in movies and television you see action heroes who have access to all these little boxes with blinking lights, or people are typing on a computer screen, and Mike will have none of that. He is going to find some physical method to get his job done. I think, I could be wrong, but I think this really goes back to Breaking Bad. When I learned this about Mike, it was really on Breaking Bad when he used those metallic balloons in one of Vince [Gilligan’s] episodes, to knock out the power. There’s just something so much fun about seeing someone use ordinary tools and objects and rearrange them in creative ways. Mike is one of the original makers.
We have to address Kim, of course, because she is fully involved in this now, she indirectly signs off on what Jimmy did when she defends him to Chuck. Then she sparks Jimmy to go off and make sure he’s covered up all of the evidence. What does this mean for Kim?
That’s a good question. Jimmy has put Kim into a really, really difficult position. Earlier in the season she said, “You don’t save me. I save me.” I loved her for that. I loved Kim, and I love the way Rhea [Seehorn] plays Kim. I’m so proud of the character, and I just admire what Rhea has done with this character so much. She’s been pure. She’s been a crusader. Yes, she scammed with Jimmy on the side for fun, but that was separate from her legal career.
Now, Jimmy has in some ways, by going behind her back and tricking her way back into this big client, Mesa Verde, Jimmy’s taken something away from her. Not only that, if she were completely morally upstanding, if she were to follow the best angel of her nature, she probably would resign from Mesa Verde. But the truth is she really wants this client. She wants this case. She’s earned it, and she’s not quite able to force herself to do what, if she were absolutely pure, what she would do. In some ways, Jimmy brought her a little bit down to his level. He’s taken away a little bit of her agency. There are a lot of ways you can read what Kim does in this episode. For one thing, she’s going to make sure that if Jimmy is going to do some underhanded stuff, he better do it right. I think that’s what she’s saying to him, but where this goes and whether their relationship can survive this is an open question.
What can you share about next week’s season finale?
Sometimes we have an episode where it’s all starting from scratch, but we have this next episode where there’s a lot going on right from the beginning. I think you’re going to see some sides of Jimmy and the other characters that you haven’t seen before. I think the episode is absolutely spectacular. Vince directed it and co-wrote it, with Heather Marion, who was our writer’s assistant last season. He just directed the hell out of it. I think you’re going to see some pure Vince Gilligan goodness in the next episode.
The Better Call Saul Season 2 finale airs April 18 at 10 p.m. on AMC.