It’s funny, when you’re presented with a show like Better Call Saul that is prequel like in nature, we as the viewer should know where the story is heading. We’ve met Saul Goodman before, we’ve spent quite a bit of time with him in fact, so the end result is clear which would make it seem that this particular show wouldn’t have a ton of surprises. And that right there is what I think is wrong with most prequels, the lack of surprise. Just presenting a story to get from point A to point B. A large number of prequels can be considered cash grabs but there are a select few that add depth to the pre-existing universe, Better Call Saul should be the blueprint for how to create not only a successful prequel but a successful spin-off.
Going into last night’s episode, “Wiedersehen”, I had no reason to believe that Jimmy McGill would not be approved by the board to practice law again. It just seemed like a foregone conclusion. Jimmy becomes a lawyer again and eventually becomes Saul Goodman the lawyer. Point A to Point B. Saul isn’t interested in that type of storytelling though. As an audience where is the fun in knowing everything that’s going to happen. Watching Jimmy get rejected by the board was a genuine surprise, so much in fact, that when Jimmy bugs out throwing his suitcase at the wall I felt for him. I forgot in that instant that Jimmy will become Saul. I forgot that I already know that he’ll practice law again. At that moment, I was sort of heartbroken for Jimmy. I was caught off guard and that’s what makes Saul so compelling. This effortless ability to craft a story that stands on its own. A story that would be incredible even if Breaking Bad didn’t exist.
One of the biggest themes of this season of Better Call Saul has been the misdirect. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve watched as Jimmy and Kim’s relationship seemingly hung by a thread, and while that couldn’t be more evident now, it wasn’t the case over the last couple of weeks. Those moments where we thought Kim was turning on Jimmy were her actually feeling left out and jealous at Jimmy’s ability to run cons. The rush and the high they bring were a passion that was missing from Kim’s life. Granted, the show kind of pulled back on Kim’s need to run another scam by having her want to use these powers for good. Something that seems like such an oxymoron. “Yes, I want to scam people but only to help people.” That’s not how it works. Not to quote Spider-Man but with great… you know.
Despite Kim’s desire to run more scams, there was something deeper lying underneath that came rushing to the surface in what might be this season’s most emotionally volatile scene. Rhea Seehorn, who has been phenomenal this season, and Bob Odenkirk, who is also performing on another level, take the four years of Kim and Jimmy’s history and deliver a verbal altercation that reminded me of Tony and Carmela Soprano. That underlining exhaustion that never gets spoken of. The resentment or jealousy that has been bubbling under the surface but comes pouring out at the absolute wrong time. Using another life event as an excuse to lash out about alllll the things that have been building up. A scene that is just on a different level from the content of other shows that is handled so effortlessly by the direction of Vince Gilligan and is so emotional and painful through the words of Gennifer Hutchinson. Two people who lived and breathed in this universe for so long. Two people who understand these characters almost as well as they understand themselves. The fight between Jimmy and Kim will probably be the first crack in the wall that will eventually lead to their destruction, but it’s also more than that. It’s a fight that humanizes them both to an extent. All this time we’ve been thinking how it’s possible for Kim to ignore Jimmy’s actions, and all this time she hasn’t. She’s just looked past them at the man she loves. She knows who he is but still chooses to be there for him while Jimmy can’t see any of that. All he’s focused on is the juvenile disdain that she won’t get an office with him. When Kim tells Jimmy that he’s always down it’s not her just taking Jimmy to task but it’s Kim opening up to us, the audience. Telling us that she’s always known who Jimmy has been. She just chooses to believe he can be something more.
It’s such a raw, naked, emotional bearing from both characters that gets mirrored (literally) later on in the episode when Jimmy tries to pack up his stuff. Gilligan films the scene, with the use of the mirror, to keep both Jimmy and Kim in frame highlighting the fact that they’re together but in different rooms. A metaphor that is so obvious but doesn’t negate the emotional gut punch that it contains. Even when Kim stands in the doorway the two of them still seem to be in different locations as we only see Jimmy through the mirror. Yes, Kim and Jimmy are together but they couldn’t be any more isolated than they are now.
What does that mean for the future? Jimmy still has a hearing where he can plead his case for reinstatement, but even that seems like a long shot. Being pegged as insincere seems like a nail in the coffin, and this is coming from a character who excels at being insincere. As I was watching Jimmy with the board, I grew frustrated with how he openly refused to mention Chuck. For a person whose ability to read people is so good, how could he possibly have missed this?! When Jimmy responds “go Land Crabs” to who his biggest inspiration is it comes across as such a deliberate slap in the face to Chuck. Jimmy’s willingness to purposefully negate his brother’s existence backfires on him. The board was waiting to hear about his relationship with Chuck, and it’s Jimmy’s ego and disdain for his older brother that cost him his reinstatement. Jimmy allows his bravado and anger towards Chuck to cost him the one thing he’s been striving for over the last year. When things slow down I wonder if he really believes that his thoughts on Chuck should have nothing to do with his hearing. Jimmy has tried so hard to escape Chuck’s shadow but fails to see that he’s still tied to his brother. That Jimmy McGill will always be Chuck McGill’s little brother and maybe that’s what forces the Saul Goodman transformation. A final middle finger to the legacy of Chuck McGill.
Some other quick thoughts-
- Lalo is terrifying. This is a different type of Salamanca. One that is both charismatic and calculating. I’m not entirely sure that Lalo is here for Nacho, but I do get the impression that he’s going to cause Gus a lot of trouble. The idea of peace is interesting but neither Gus and Lalo believe in it. They’re too proud. I’ll be curious to see how Gus handles such a capable foe.
- In a season full of misdirects, it looks like Kai won’t be the problem in the construction of the superlab that we thought he would be. Werner making a run for it was surprising even with how obvious it seems in retrospect. The question now becomes can he be caught and what happens to him once he is. If you remember way back in Breaking Bad, Mike believed in no half-measures. Did that stem from something specific? Could that something be how he handles Werner?
- Did I need to know that there was some deep dark secret to Hector Salamanca’s bell? No. Am I happy to know that it actually has some sort of character significance? Yes. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the bell is now such a terrifying tool. A symbol of Hector’s brutality opposed to a device that shows his vulnerability.
- That look between Nacho and Gus was fantastic. It showcases the working relationship between the two, something we know that’s been happening but haven’t seen a lot of. I wouldn’t say that Nacho is one of Gus’s trusted employees but there is an understanding there. I’ll be curious to see how that affects Nacho’s interactions with Lalo.
- Did anyone else feel like throwing up when Werner went down to check the dynamite? Vince Gilligan is divine in his ability to create tension in any type of scene, and I was more than relieved when Werner didn’t blow up.
There you have it Geeklings, only one episode of Better Call Saul left for the season and things are looking pretty tense. Will Jimmy be able to convince the board to reinstate him? Will Kim and Jimmy survive this? What’s Mike going to do when he finds Werner? What kind of trouble will Lalo bring to Gus? Sound off in the comments or if you’d like to talk more Saul with yours truly you can find me on the Twitter @iamgeek32. I’ll be back this weekend with our last preview of the season which will be followed by our last review. I’m not ready to say goodbye to this show just yet. A binge session might be in order. Until then, remember, it’s all good man!
Images from AMC