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 true and false statements about each episode. Welcome to Better Call Saul Truth And Lies.
TRUTH: Good grief, this show is good at storytelling
It’s not a new trick, this whole “introduce some vague idea in the cold open and pay it off later in an unexpected way” business. Better Call Saul has been doing it since the beginning, and Breaking Bad did it before that. It’s a Gilligan/Gould classic. That doesn’t make it any less good or cool or fun, though. You knew as soon as you saw Jimmy testing out junk with mock heaves that something was getting heaved into/through something else by the of the night’s proceedings, and you knew once he settled on the bowling balls that it was probably going to result in broken glass for the second week in a row. That information was deposited into your brain for safekeeping as the other, more pressing events of the episode took place. The stuff with Gus, the stuff with Kim and Mesa Verde, the stuff with Mike, bless his poor broken soul. And so on.
I did not expect one of those three bowling balls to crash through the rear window of Howard Hamlin’s luxury car, though. I expected it to be part of a legal ruse, or maybe even have something to do with Lalo and Nacho and everything the show told us was very important just last week. But no, it was just to settle an old score, one that stretches back to the first season, and long before that if we’re being honest. I’m not sure what Howard expected to happen with all that business about offering Jimmy a job in a way that somehow apologized for his past behavior while also making it seem like Jimmy should be grateful for the apology. He probably didn’t expect a bowling ball through the rear window of his luxury car, I guess. But that’s his fault for not seeing the angles.
What I liked most about it is that it was cool storytelling in two different ways. The first was the way we already discussed, setting something up and hitting us with a left turn at the payoff. The other way was the bigger one. It was a funny little plot, a self-contained piece of action that had nothing to do with anything else (unless it will, like how Jimmy’s 50 percent off offer eventually led to him falling in with Lalo), and yet it also explained everything that happens in the whole show. Jimmy is an angry guy under all his charm. He feels hurt and inadequate and like everyone else thinks they’re better than he is. That’s how all of this started, first with Chuck and then with the people who knew and respected Chuck. His whole life is a self-fulfilling prophecy like that. It’s why he became Saul Goodman. It’s why he started doing the cell phone ruse. It’s why he ends up in that Cinnabon eventually.
It was also, I imagine, very cathartic in the moment. Who among us hasn’t wanted to heave a bowling ball through the rear window of a luxury car that belongs to a crappy boss who underestimated us? I’m thinking about it right now. But there’s a difference between thinking and doing. That’s Jimmy’s problem. And Saul’s problem now, too, I suppose.
LIE: Mike is doing better now
Let’s check in with Mike, briefly, via bulletin point again, if only because he had such a small part in the action this week:
- He was fired as babysitter because he can’t keep his cool and anyone with two eyes can see he’s losing it
- He strolled back past the same guys from last week, one of whom had their cartilage shredded by him
- He smiled when he realized they were coming for him
- He threw the first punch and egged them on
- He got the hell whooped out of him
- He got stabbed
- He woke up with a mangled head in some as-yet-identified compound that appears to be located on the other side of the border and does not have many comforts of the modern world
Other than that, things seem pretty good
TRUTH: This judge is so fed up
Really just a strong week for Saul Goodman shenanigans all around, starting with, of course, the old defendant switcheroo he pulled in court, having a similar-looking bearded dude sit next to him during the witness identification while his actual client sat back in the gallery. That was great. My favorite part was the judge’s face when he dropped the reveal. That poor woman. She didn’t ask for all of that, she probably never did anything to deserve it, and yet, there she was, hauling both attorneys back into her chambers and, one imagines, sighing with such exasperated force that she could have blown out a few dozen birthday candles. I love her.
He also got in a little mini-shenanigan with the “50 PERCENT OFF” dimwits from last week, using his $8k undersell from Lalo as the basis for his $4k oversell to them. This is where I would normally point out how disquieting it was to see Jimmy’s too-casual hard-sell about mortgaging a grandmother’s house to get himself paid, but one of the two dumdums suggested his defense to charge of public urination was that holding it in too long could get you “kidney-stoned,” and I don’t see how I can be expected to focus on anything else when the best kidney-related joke on television since Dewey Crowe from Justified thought he had four of them is just sitting out here like that. I’m only so strong.
And there was the horse thing, too. We should talk about the horse thing. Let’s do it in the next section.
LIE: It is a good idea for Kim to work with Jimmy on the Mesa Verde problem
Kim Wexler, bless her optimistic heart, always means well. She wants to do the right thing to whatever degree she can. Yes, she can sometimes play a little fast and loose with the means she uses to reach those ends, but she uses those powers for good, unlike most of the other rascals and weasels on this show. You saw it with the lot thing, how she tried to let the old rattlesnake keep his house by pushing Mesa Verde for a new location. And it was behind her decision to send Jimmy to enlist him as a client. It’s just…
I don’t think Kim has grasped just how far gone Jimmy is at this point. I don’t think she realizes he’s mostly Saul already. Maybe she just doesn’t want to see it, choosing to believe this is all mostly harmless sleight of hand. I think this is going to go sideways on her, though. Having her serious boyfriend solicit someone her client is trying to evict could look bad, especially if Jimmy goes full Saul with it all, as one might expect him to after he used a picture of a man and a horse engaged in intercourse as part of his sales pitch.
Gutsy move, though. Have to respect the chutzpah, if nothing else.
TRUTH: It must be fun to write for Hank
I love how fully-formed Hank is as a character, even today, years after his death on Breaking Bad and just two episodes into his return. I also love how the show has highlighted the small-talk between him and Gomey to remind us of that. Last week, it was expiration dates; this week, it was the word culvert, which Hank declared “sounds like a Dutch word for crotch rot.” What a perfect Hank sentence. Hank would use the phrase “crotch rot,” you know? It’s a real treat watching these people put words into that guy’s mouth again, like watching a concert pianist tinkle away on the keys. Please do not take this for granted.
LIE: Gus Fring is a chill boss
Poor Lyle, man. Imagine Gus Fring being your boss. Imagine him standing over you while you clean a fryer to his exacting standards. Even if you didn’t know what we know as an audience, even if you’ve never seen him order a murder or put a devious plan in place or stare at a dangerous criminal with icy eyes and a blank facial expression that reveals nothing, least of all fear. Just the general intensity he brings to a situation. He’s almost scarier when he’s not trying to be scary. Lyle ain’t getting paid enough to deal with that, man. He’s getting drug dealer intensity for fast-food wages. Not worth it.
But how cool was that scene, though? The way it cut back and forth from Hank and Gomey at the dead drop to Gus micromanaging in the kitchen? We know Gus operates in two worlds and we’ve seen them get slammed together in the past (in far more violent ways), but this is one of the first times we’ve seen him struggle to keep them separated in his own mind. His treatment of Lyle was the byproduct of nerves and anxiety about a high-risk plan he set in motion with his other full-time job. Gus rarely lets that spill out in view of other people. He’s too disciplined for that. Seeing it here was a nice reminder that he’s a human, not a computer with glasses.
It was also a nice reminder that I am dying to know what Gus did in Chile before we met him in this show. I would watch an entire episode about his backstory. I would watch an entire second prequel. I have said this exact thing more than once and I will keep saying it until it becomes less true, which it never will, even if the mystery is probably more than half of the fun. I’m a child. I can’t handle this. Just tell me.
Snapping a burner flip phone in half looks cool and everyone should do it a lot
This has nothing to do with the show. No purpose or tie-in or anything like that. I just think it looks cool and I’ve always wanted to do it. Maybe I’ll do it this weekend. You should, too. Just go buy a cheapy flip phone, find a busy sidewalk in your area, pretend to be on a call (I recommend ending on something really shady-sounding, like “The meet is set for midnight at the planetarium”), then casually snap the phone in half and drop it in the trash can as you continue on your way.
You’ve earned a little fun.