TV

The ‘Better Call Saul’ Lie Detector Test: ‘… But So What?’

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 9: “Fun and Games”

LIE FALSE SAUL
UPROXX

Everything is fine

SAUL
AMC

The important thing here is that Kim was right. About all of it. About her and Jimmy being poison together, about their happiness being less important than the destruction they cause by being together, and about her leaving being the only solution. Jimmy sure as hell wasn’t going to fix anything. Look at him. Look at everything he touches. Look at how he starts fires — sometimes intentionally, sometimes through negligence — and then roller skates away and never really looks back. This had to be Kim all the way. And, in the end, it was.

I wonder when she knew. I wonder at what point she realized she needed to rip the band-aid off and end it all for good before they took the rest of the world down with them. You could see it on her face at the beginning when she was looking at the spot Howard died. Wheels were turning then, even if they were spinning, stuck in mud or snow or whatever slop her poor brain has turned into over the last few weeks. I think the thing that finally broke her was lying to Howard’s widow about the late-night cocaine of it all. It’s one thing to lie as part of a fun little ruse. It’s another thing to tell a grieving woman that her beloved husband was a secret cokehead because you need to cover up the fact that you saw a charming drug lord shoot him in your apartment for the crime of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s some heavy business.

As was the scene in the apartment. That was… not fun. Riveting and powerful in ways that will stick with me a long, long time, sure, more so than some of the scenes where actual characters died. But not fun. There is a real chance — not a probability, no but a chance — that this is the last time we see Kim Wexler on the show, especially considering what we saw in that closing scene. Are you ready for that? Are you ready to deal with any of that? Because I sure as hell am not. It’s a good problem to have (“show is too good and I’m sad about it”), but it’s still a problem.

How good was that scene, though, even while it was gutting you? Yes, this was never going to end well. Yes, it’s a prequel of another series where Jimmy exists and she just kind of doesn’t. Yes, I was aware that all of this was going to be settled in these last few episodes. But none of that means I wanted it to happen or was ready for it or have the emotional tools at my disposal to process something like “I love you, too… but so what?” in anything resembling a timely manner. I’m writing it up now because that’s the job but I’ll be thinking about it for weeks. Again, heavy.

I think the thing I’m going to keep coming back to is that kiss in the parking garage after they both lied to Cheryl at Howard’s memorial. I think Jimmy hoped that kiss meant progress, that they had done the hardest part and could start the slow but steady work of moving past it together, as a team, the same way they had gotten into it. It wasn’t that, though. It was the other thing completely. It was Kim saying she was just done and the real slow and steady work was going to be rebuilding her life somewhere else, alone, for her sake and for his sake and for the sake of who knows how many other innocent people they’d end up ruining just by existing as a unit. No wonder she was sucking down that cigarette in about three drags.

All of which was kind of the problem. Jimmy just wanted to get past it all, to get things “back to normal,” whatever exactly that means. To roller skate away from another inferno he had a hand in starting. Kim saw there was no way she could do that. She saw there was no future for them or for her if she didn’t cut bait. So, the bags were packed and the tears were shed and everyone left everything a little more broken than where they found it.

Exit Kim Wexler. I hate it. It was wonderful television. But I hate it.

I am less worried about Kim Wexler now

SAUL
AMC

Nope. I sure am not. I’m a little less worried that she’s going to be murdered by an assassin who was hired by one of the many criminals they have crossed. I’m a little more worried that Howard’s widow will hire an assassin to kill her, just because we all saw Cheryl’s eyes and face at that memorial. But that’s still a long shot. Probably. It would be wild if that’s what happens, though. Remember that I get credit for calling it if it does.

But… yeah. I’m still very worried about her. This has all been traumatizing in deep ways. Ways she can’t exactly talk about with a therapist or ever unsee and sure appeared to be haunting her when we watched her bang around for the first half of this episode. Things are not going to be easy or fun for her for the rest of her life, even if she remains physically safe from everything in her rear view.

It is still my position and hope (mostly hope) that she heads back to Nebraska and stumbles across Jimmy/Saul/Gene in that mall and they lock eyes and find happiness forever or even in that one single moment, but… yeah. I worry.

I would not watch a whole episode about Gus on vacation in Italy or France with his sommelier buddy

SAUL
AMC

Three things are worth noting here and I think I can knock them out pretty quickly:

  • Please imagine for one second having the confidence to roll out a five-minute scene — with only a few episodes of your show left — where one of your main characters just sits there and drinks a little wine and talks to the staff, and knowing you could use it to show your passionate audience a bunch of cool new insights into a character they’ve known for like a decade
  • One of the things I took away from this is how sad Gus Fring must be, all the time, living this life where he only allows himself these fleeting moments of pleasure and then swallows them down and stuffs them away and returns to the discipline and order and top-shirt-button-buttoned existence he’s created for himself, just pushing away anything that doesn’t fit, even if it’s a sweet man he looks at with joy in his eyes while they discuss bottles of wine
  • We all know how this works out for Gus because we’ve seen Breaking Bad, and he doesn’t, like, deserve a happy ending given the whole “murderous drug kingpin who just buried two people in a dirt hole inside his secret methamphetamine superlab,” but also, as I was watching this scene, I kind of wanted him to say eff it all and scoop up his sweet wine boy and head off to Europe to live on a vineyard under a fake name, like, for example, Lester Chardonnay

Also, and I suspect I’m the only person recapping Better Call Saul who is making the note, the actor who played the sommelier, Reed Diamond, played a lawyer named Damien Karp on the short-lived lawbros cable show Franklin & Bash. That show also featured a character named Ellen Swatello, who was played by… Rhea Seehorn. That’s right. Better Call Saul, one of the finest shows on television, in one of its most important final season episodes, staged a tiny Franklin & Bash reunion. This means nothing to anyone but me. I shouted a little.

LIE UNCLEAR SAUL
UPROXX

We are in the future now

SAUL
AMC

So… what do we think here? About that scene at the end? The one where Jimmy is full-on Saul Goodman, finally, complete with a dish of breakfast bars for the sex workers he wakes up next to and a commercial he’s not happy with and a fraudulent handicapped parking pass? Do we think this is it, that we’ve leaped a few months or years into the future, into a post-Kim world where the dude who once was sweet-but-troubled Jimmy is now just a shark, always swimming, always hunting, never pausing to feel things? Or was this just another quick glimpse into the future from a show that does it a lot, most notably with Cinnabon Gene, who I appear to be thinking about a lot today?

Because… I’ll tell you what, man. It sure felt a lot like a real thing, at least more than those other little vignettes. And if we did just jump into the future a bit, if Kim was the only thing stopping him from becoming this goon and her absence means we can just skip through the last stages of his transformation, then what does this mean for the other characters? We can’t have Gus and Mike on a separate timeline. That would be weird. So… what’s going on there? They both had a lot going on, too, Gus with the Salamancas and Mike with… well, Mike stuff.

Let’s talk about that for a second.

Mike is a good dude

SAUL
AMC

ON ONE HAND: Mike is a guy who has a code and wants to do things — even the wrong things — the right way, which sometimes involves calling up the father of a person you watched die and going to meet with him and trying to give him a speech about how his son was a good man and there would be justice and then going home to another can of PBR on a recliner while a baseball game plays in the background like everyone’s dad and/or grandpa.

ON THE OTHER HAND: He works for a cartel. And he does kind of know a lot about how to get rid of a body. And Nacho’s dad did call him out straight to his face about how he’s full of crap and no better than the people he works for/with. Boy, was that a tough moment to watch. For me. Because I love both of them a lot and want them to be happy. And take me fishing. I don’t even fish. At best, I drink beer in a boat. But still. I think my point holds.

Lots to think about here.

The cover of “Perfect Day” that opened the episode will push the Los Pollos jingle out of my head

SAUL
AMC

Hmm.

Hmmmmmmm.

Nope, it did not.

It was very good/cool, and the whole lead-up with their contrasting styles of law as they tried to push through while Mike and his guys scrubbed their living room clean, followed by their faces when they got home and got smacked by reality again… that was a nice touch. It was yet another example of the show using music and montages to drive home points and themes. It all reminded me a lot of this song from a few seasons ago.

But no.

Los Pollos jingle is still in there.

Might be for weeks.

I will keep you updated on this front.

LIE TRUE SAUL
UPROXX

This show knows how to craft a visual

SAUL
AMC

We all spend a lot of time talking about the storytelling bona fides of this show — justifiably, for reasons littered throughout this recap and many others — that I worry sometimes we forget how good it looks, too. Here’s an example. That screencap up there is from when Hector’s letter was being read to Don Eladio, just before the phrase “the Chicken Man hates you,” which is an outrageous sentence to read without any context. But I digress. This was said, out loud, the thing about looking into his eyes, and then moments later we saw this….

SAUL
AMC

Is it the most subtle thing, having the flames of a fire reflect in the lenses of the glasses worn by the quiet businessman who has evil inside him, kind of like he’s a demon or even Satan personified? Hmm. Maybe not. But was it really freaking cool? Buddy, it sure was. Sometimes that’s the more important thing anyway. Good for them.

I love Don Eladio

SAAUL
AMC

Maybe this is me. I don’t know. But… doesn’t it feel like every time we see Don Eladio he’s just chilling by the pool, wearing a loud floral shirt, cigar in one hand and liquor in the other, smiling and slapping people on the back and just seeming like he’s unlocked the secret to life? It feels that way to me. I get excited every time he shows up. They could do a whole episode about him. They could do a whole second prequel. I am not joking about this. Show me Don Eladio’s rise to power.

The tricky thing here is that a substantial chunk of Don Eladio’s appeal is that he’s played by Steven Bauer and Steven Bauer rules. Maybe they can use de-aging technology. Either through CGI or in real-life. That would be cool, if we just invented the fountain of youth so Steven Bauer could keep playing cool drug dealers for eternity. There have been far less important things created for far worse reasons. All I’m saying.

These last few episodes are going to tear me apart

SAUL
AMC

The two most recent episodes, the first two to open up the back half of the final season, have both been really good. They have also:

  • Killed off Lalo Salamanca, my favorite character on the show and one of my favorite characters on television and one of my favorite television characters ever
  • Broken up Jimmy and Kim in a heartbreaking scene that featured harsh truths and sad eyes and maybe sent Kim off the show and into the Midwest while Jimmy launches himself into a tailspin that ends with him rolling out dough in a mall in Omaha

I mean…

Like…

[starting to cry a little but trying to bury it with rage]

WHAT ELSE DO YOU WANT TO TAKE FROM ME?

DO YOU WANT ME TO BLEED?

DO YOU WANT TO COME TO MY HOUSE AND TAKE MY LUNCH AND EAT IT IN FRONT OF ME?

WHILE I BLEED?

IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT?

Wait.

No.

Don’t answer that.

I’m a little worried the answer is yes.

What a wonderful television program.

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