TV

The ‘Better Call Saul’ Lie Detector Test: A Smorgasbord Of Bad Decisions

The Better Call Saul Lie Detector Test is a weekly recap of the major events of the final season, separated out by their apparent truthfulness at the time. This is not one of those recaps that gets into granular detail about things. It will miss the occasional callback or foreshadowing. But it will be fun. Sometimes, that’s what’s important.

Season 6, Episode 6: “Axe and Grind”

LIE FALSE SAUL
UPROXX

Kim is making good decisions

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AMC

Were you shouting at your television a little bit, too? Were you sitting there watching Kim behind the wheel of her car — on her way to her big meeting for the big legal defense project, the one Cliff specifically recruited her for and she would be extremely good at, the one that could change her life for the better and get her on a track to a fulfilling career in the law — and just screaming “NO. DON’T DO IT. DO NOT TURN AROUND. KIM. LISTEN. NO”? Maybe even just inside your own head?

Lord knows I was. I knew it was a long shot, though. This is not a show about people making good decisions. It can’t be. That’s the thing about a prequel. Everyone we see on this sucker ends up murdered or on the run or has a mysterious future that is being dragged to hell by the people who end up getting murdered or going on the run. Kim was doomed the day she met Jimmy. I know that. We all do. But this one still stings.

It’s even more heartbreaking when you take that cold open into account, the one where she got caught stealing jewelry as a Nebraska teen and her mom threw a ruse on the store manager to get her out of trouble. And then stole the jewelry herself. Kim Wexler has not had a lot of ethical clarity in her life. It kind of all makes sense, though, this thing where she wants to do good and be helpful but can’t help herself. It’s all very literal, in a way. She was driving down a path of righteousness and morality and then slammed on the brakes and whipped through the median to head back toward the dark side.

It’s a little depressing if you think about it too much. Kim was probably doomed before she met Jimmy. There was a fire burning there already and he was just the gasoline. It’s sad, really. But it makes for tremendous television.

You should tell Mike where to put his guys

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AMC

Hey, speaking of heartbreaking moments involving characters I like a lot who do not make great decisions all the time, let’s check in with Mike. Mike is:

  • Pulling security off of his own house to make sure Kaylee’s house is extra protected
  • Guiding her through a star-gazing lesson while watching her from across the street
  • Lying to them and saying he’s in Chattanooga because seeing them in person could put them at risk if Lalo is tailing him
  • Kind of sighing a lot

I still want one episode — just one — where Mike flies to Philadelphia and goes to an Eagles game. Picture a crowd going absolutely insane after a touchdown, jumping and hollering and high-fiving, and Mike just sitting there in silence with half a smile flashing on his face for one single second. It would make me so happy. Freakin Go Birds, baby.

A bedazzled jean jacket is a timeless look

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AMC

I legitimately laughed out loud when Kim’s mom walked in during that flashback looking like she just came from a George Michael concert. Look at her. The attention to detail here is remarkable. I hope she is still alive in the present day and still dressing exactly like this and she shows up at the Cinnabon in the Nebraska mall where Jimmy/Saul/Gene and his mustache are rolling out dough. I do not ask for much.

Actually, I kind of ask for a lot.

But still.

Give me this.

And give me a while behind-the-scenes segment about the process of making or acquiring this jean jacket. Those two things. And all the other things I’ve asked for. That’s all.

LIE UNCLEAR SAUL
UPROXX

Things are about to get really bad for Howard

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AMC

D-Day is here and I could not be more excited. We have conspiracy walls with Post-It notes and method actors getting way too intense about their fake facial hair and about six layers of subterfuge to tie it all together. We also have, of course, chaos. A little jaunt to the liquor store for a pricey bottle of celebratory tequila resulted in a quick glance at the real person that Community Theater Daniel Day-Lewis was pretending to be in their incriminating photos, and yup, he has a broken arm now. And a cast. Which makes things awkward. The whole plan is going to hell. It’s a thing.

Which is… I don’t know… good news? It’s easy to forget in all of this that Jimmy and Kim are being the jerks here. Howard appears to be a decent guy, to whatever degree characters on this show and/or lawyers in general can be decent guys. He’s just trying to do his job and make his wife a nice fancy latte and no one is giving him a break anywhere. His biggest crime this season is being kind of a pretentious doof, with his buffed shoes and stupid license plate and all of it. Flip the perspective on this whole endeavor and Jimmy and Kim look like full-on villains.

And yet… still… again… I’m really excited to see if this plan works. I’m even rooting for it to work. Even knowing it’s terrible for Kim and Howard doesn’t really deserve it and it’s sending Jimmy down a path that ends in an aforementioned Cinnabon. I should be more conflicted about this. I really should. But I’m not. If I’m being fully honest here, I think it’s the license plate. Imagine if you were stuck in traffic for an hour behind a Jaguar with a “NAMAST3” license plate. You’d pray for his personal and professional demise, too. It was nice of the show to give us all this little push.

Francesca is having fun

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AMC

Good news and bad news for sweet Francesca.

Good: Jimmy — er, Saul, this is weird for her and us, too — is letting her decorate the entire office, which is coming together nicely when the unshaven masses aren’t peeing in the corner. She has an eye. It’s very serene. Except for the urine.

Bad: She is now an accomplice in the Sandpiper ruse, thanks to the phone call she placed on one of the many burner phones her boss keeps in a drawer in his office, which, as far as red flags go, is… pretty red. It’s rarely a great thing when you’re standing in an alley next to a dumpster — the law library, if you will — using a fake name in a conversation you’re having on a flip phone. Francesca knows this. She doesn’t love it. This might be why she shoots for all that serenity in the decor. To keep from smashing things. She fascinates me a little bit.

LIE TRUE SAUL
UPROXX

It is wild how easily this show shifts from Ocean’s Eleven to a horror movie sometimes

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AMC

Meanwhile, in Germany…

Lalo is still on the hunt for information about what Gus is building, and he used to gift from the Ziegler house to track down the lumberjack, and then he stalked the lumberjack through the woods, and then he played possum after getting walloped in the ribs so he could turn around and slice the guy with a razor blade hidden behind a business card, and now he has the axe and some questions that he would like answered.

Two things about all of this are true:

  • Lalo Salamanca remains the most fascinating character on television, for reasons I wrote about here but can be summarized as “he’s like if Danny Ocean was crossed with John Wick,” and I get a little excited whenever he pops up on the screen
  • This episode was directed by Giancarlo Esposito, Gus Fring himself, and it is both a testament to the show as a whole and his work behind the camera that the entire tone shifted about 180 degrees for a minute there — New Mexico lawyer shenanigans to cabin-based terror — without losing an ounce of quality

Also, big shoutout to the people doing the captions for AMC for “[Branch snaps].” That’s when I knew for sure this was going sideways for someone. The takeaway from all of this is twofold, and we will return to the bullet points to lay them out:

  • Everyone on this show is good at their job
  • Never go into the woods

Both good things to remember.

Foreshadowing does not always need to be subtle

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AMC

I do not know exactly why Jimmy was getting dosed-up with animal medicine that made his pupils dilate like he was an anime character that just fell in love, or how it ties into the plan to hose Howard, or whether any of it is safe/good. What I do know is that I did the full-on “DiCaprio pointing at the television” meme in real life two separate times during the scene: Once when I saw our buddy the shady veterinarian and again when the card for the vacuum guy straight-up fell out of his deeply encoded black book of crimes.

This could not possibly have been less subtle without like neon flashing text on the screen. The vacuum guy is how Gene the Cinnabon Man happens eventually. It’s where this is all headed. Better Call Saul is occasionally more delicate with its callbacks and foreshadowing. I don’t even catch them all until days later when someone sends me a link to Reddit and implies I’m an idiot for missing it. There was no missing this one. I kind of appreciate that. It’s nice to get a wide-open layup sometimes.

I love Fernando

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AMC

LOOK AT HIS LITTLE FACE

LOOK AT HIM

I AM VERY WORRIED ABOUT HIM

I NEED WEEKLY CHECK-INS ON HIM AND HIS TUMMYACHE

I NEED TO SEE LALO HOLD HIM IN ONE HAND WHILE HOLDING A PISTOL WITH THE OTHER

JUST ONCE

I AM KIND OF SERIOUS

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