Better Call Saul is a show with range. Some characters like Jimmy/Saul lie constantly, others like Mike tell the truth to a fault. With that in mind, our coverage this season will be structured as a collection of truth and false statements about each episode. Welcome to Better Call Saul Truth And Lies.
TRUTH: It is officially Saul time
It is really pretty funny in hindsight that the creators of Breaking Bad decided to make a spinoff about Saul Goodman that they titled Better Call Saul and then they made four full seasons of television in which the character was only ever known as Jimmy or Gene. Four seasons! That’s kind of incredible, and yet another reason why this show, on paper, as you might describe it to someone who has seen Breaking Bad but has not seen this show at all yet, should not have worked at all. And yet.
In any event, here we are. It’s official. Jimmy filed his name change and signed the papers and everything. He’s wearing brightly colored dress shirts exclusively. He’s ambushing prosecutors in the hallway with fake camera crews shooting fake news segments about — presumably — fake clients named Carl Gravenhorse. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is now Saul Goodman time, for better and worse.
It says a lot about this show that I’m as conflicted about that as I am. It’s just that, well, we know how this works out. We know Saul meets Walter White and then things go screwy and he ends up in Nebraska. As long as he was Jimmy, as long as he made periodic and short-lived attempts to do the right thing, we could all pretend. We could delude ourselves and live in the fiction where he figures it out and has a couple of kids with Kim and they become New Mexico’s most fun legal power couple. That hallucination is gone now. This is the beginning of the end.
Four seasons. That’s how long we waited for Jimmy to become Saul. Now it’s here. Be careful what you wish for.
LIE: Kim Wexler is having a blast
I suspect you could have watched this entire episode on mute and realized this statement is a lie. Rhea Seehorn is a tremendous actress who was given a lot of “Kim looks concerned” direction and she really nailed it every time. Here, look, let’s pull some more examples from this episode.
The problem Kim is having is that she too deluded herself into thinking Jimmy would figure it out, that his suspension would end and he would learn his lesson and things would quiet down and get back normal and his shady phone hustle would be in their rearview mirror. It’s even crueler because Kim has not seen Breaking Bad, like we have. She’s learning all of this in real-time. Cruel for her, yes, but also cruel for us. Sometimes I want to leap into my television and grab her by the lapels of her suit jacket and shout “RUN, YOU FOOL. RUN AWAY AND NEVER LOOK BACK.” It’s fine. I’m doing fine.
The thing at the end was especially tough. She just wanted to do the right thing the right way, but then Jimm… er, Saul came in Saul’d it all up with an idea about a fake hardass prosecutor and fake new evidence and she chased him away. But then she used his plan anyway. And it worked, which might have been the deepest cut. No, Kim is not doing great. She probably won’t be for a while.
TRUTH: I would watch an entire second spin-off about Cinnabon Gene
Is it weird that I was so into the opening segment about Cinnamon Gene and Jeff the Shady Cabbie — the same one who drove him home from the hospital and is now pressing him to reveal his true identity — that I was a little bummed out when the show’s real action got underway? It’s not that weird, right? Between that tense encounter in the mall and Gene listening to the police scanner in a dark horse and freaking Robert Forster showing up again for a phone call about a potential second extraction that Gene ended up nixing, I was just getting into it all before they took it away.
(Forster, who passed away a few months ago, actually filmed this scene at the same time he filmed his scene in El Camino. It was very cool and very sad to see him one last time. Robert Forster was awesome. Go watch Jackie Brown again.)
The show has told Gene’s story in little black-and-white bits for years now, spreading out what appears to be a small chunk of his life over the course of the show. It’s killing me to know that I won’t get a resolution on this thing with a Jeff and his menacing associate for weeks, if not months or years. Tell me what happens to Gene! Does he kill Jeff! Tell me!
LIE: Lalo is going to listen to Don Eladio’s guy and make peace with Gus
Lord in heaven help me, I love Lalo. He’s a monster, I’ll give you that. And a maniac. He really likes action and charging into situations and sniffing out mysteries. He wants to know what Gus is up to. He wants to know about this stepped-on product. He wants to meet Michael. Don Eladio’s guy wants him to chill out a little and let Gus do his thing, be a good earner, be all business. There is exactly a zero percent chance that Lalo does that. He’s on the hunt now. He smells something he doesn’t like. Don’t let the smile under that mustache fool you. He’s a charmer but the charm is a tool. Lalo knows.
And he’s right, too. History will prove that Gus uses the lab to start his own fully-independent drug empire, with no need for Don Eladio or the Salamancas. The lab is on hold while Lalo is sniffing around, but we know that Gus wants him “dealt with” and we know the lab does get completed eventually, so the smart money is on Lalo not being long for this world. I can’t lie… I’ll be a little sad to see him go. It’s some kind of trick this show pulls, introducing brand new characters four seasons into its run — and after a full run of a previous show in the same universe — and they’re just as compelling and rich as the ones we started with.
TRUTH: Better Call Saul remains the gold standard of montages
There was no funky song backing the action so I don’t know if “montage” is entirely accurate, but the scene with Jimmy-as-Saul giving away phones in a tent in the middle of some sort of bikercrime carnival was just wonderful. The dinging bell, the ever-expanding sentence Huell was allegedly facing (if Jimmy had about 40-50 more phones, Huell would have been on death row), the “magic man” fiction, all of it. Better Call Saul has been committed to doing cool montages from the start and I’m glad to see it continuing.
Love a montage.
LIE: Mike loves to chat
The funniest thing in this entire episode was when Gus and Mike were having their little post-Werner standoff about the state of the lab and Mike was being all Cranky Mike about it and Gus said, “Choose your next words carefully.” To Mike! Mike! The man who says maybe 50 words an episode, total. The man whose 50 words an episode have to be violently ripped out of his body by another person. The man who considers a long stare and a grunt to be a Shakespearean monologue. I laughed out loud when he said it.
Other highlights in Mike refusing to say a single word more than the bare minimum:
- Meeting Lalo, reluctantly shaking hands, then saying “I’m gonna get back to it” and walking away
- Wordlessly punching Kai after that weasel called Werner “soft” as he was sending the crew their separate ways
- Wordlessly accepting Casper’s “He was worth 50 of you”
It’s the best. The show’s two main characters are: One, a guy who can’t stop running his bullshit faucet of a mouth for a single second even when his girlfriend is begging him with her entire face to give it a rest, and; two, a guy who looks like he is in physical pain every time he is forced to emit a sound that could reasonably be considered actual language. Imagine the two of them sitting next to each other on a 12- hour flight across the Pacific.
TRUTH: Gus Fring’s chicken is probably delicious
I base this statement on three things:
- The thing from this episode where Gus got all upset when someone implied his restaurant’s chicken was even frozen
- The general Gus Fring vibe of perfectionism and quality and not cutting corners
- All the drug money in the world can’t make customers show up, and Los Pollos Hermanos often appears to be doing a brisk business
If you think about it, Gus Fring is actually running two successful businesses, both of which are time-consuming enough to take up a regular man’s entire week. I’m getting tired just thinking about it. The man may be a killer and drug peddler and ruthless Chilean military figure — the reference to Santiago this week just makes me hopelessly curious about his pre-Albuquerque past all over again — but you can’t question his work ethic.
Has to count for something.