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 — We’ve been emphasizing the wrong word
A few seasons back, once it became clear that Kim Wexler was going to be both an important ongoing character in this universe and an important ongoing part of Jimmy McGill’s life, a lot of us started doing some uncomfortable math. “If Kim is such a big deal here,” we’d think, “and she’s not present or even mentioned in Breaking Bad, then what exactly happens between now and then to cause that change?” Or, to put it in a more panicky, accurate way: What happened to Kim?
It turns out we might have been emphasizing the wrong word in that last sentence. It might not be so much “What happened to Kim?” — with the implication being that some outside force caused her to disappear from Jimmy’s life — as it is “What happened to Kim?” Maybe this was never a situation where Kim Wexler ends up being a victim of circumstance, a person who things happened to, a person whose options are limited to “die or flee New Mexico in heartbreak.” Maybe all of this actually unlocked something in Kim that was there all along. Maybe, despite her protests and scowling in the early stages of Jimmy’s transformation into Saul Goodman, deep down, she… likes it.
Maybe Kim Wexler breaks bad, too?
I fully cop to the fact that I did not see this coming, at least not in this way. Last week should have been a tip-off, though, the way she shredded Lalo and sent him packing when Jimmy couldn’t get a convincing word out of his mouth. Kim really leaped into action there in a way that seemed natural. She’s always been good at it, dating back to her tequila-gridding days as Gisele St. Clair. She’s been better than Jimmy at times, too. The difference might have been as simple as Kim having a governor on her motor put in place by the expectations of polite society.
Well, it looks like something knocked that governor loose. Watch her face when she was talking to Jimmy about ruining Howard’s life with falsified claims of mismanaging client funds, a substantial step up from Jimmy’s “bowling ball through the windshield” revenge. Watch her eyes light up as she talks about that Sandpiper money. Watch her do the same finger guns Jimmy did at the end of last season when he crossed over to the dark side.
Her path was even similar. They both left HHM, they both got folded into a big firm and focused on one big client (Mesa Verde, Sandpiper), and they both had the realization that they’d rather be in it for themselves as criminal defense lawyers. Kim might even end up being more diabolical in her journey because she has the innocent cover of pro bono work, whereas everyone knows Jimmy is all flash and sleaze. I could be taking this too far. I think I just made her a supervillain.
The truth is that there still is an anvil hovering over her head. This doesn’t change any of that. Kim Wexler does not show up in Breaking Bad. She exits Jimmy’s life in some way, probably sooner than later. What this episode teeters toward is a version of that story where that exit is not a result of something Jimmy did, but instead of her own future shady behavior. It’s a lot to consider. We should have considered it already. Kim Wexler was never a damsel in distress. She might very well be her own danger.
LIE — Jimmy has it all under control
He sure does not!
A big part of this is still him dealing with the PTSD of that gunfight. A similarly large part has to do with Lalo showing up at his door and his — apparently mistaken! — belief that he needs to protect Kim from harm. However the math of it all works out, my dude is spiraling right now, showing up at Mike’s house in a breathless panic and trying to plan an entire day of pampering to convince Kim to stay in the hotel. He’s scared, a lot, in a very real way, and the discovery that Lalo Salamanca did not in fact die in Mexico will not help that feeling at all.
We know it won’t last. We’ll see him later on in that strip mall full of bluster and bravado, hair combed to perfection and neon dress shirt pressed perfectly wrinkle-free. This might all be one of the foundational experiences that gets him from here to there. But it’s still strange to see, especially with the roles flipped, where Jimmy was preaching skittish caution and Kim was charging ahead recklessly. It makes me kind of sad this show is a prequel, really, because now I’d like to see Jimmy and Kim as a shenanigans-performing husband-wife defense team for a period of decades. I feel like Kim could have handled Walter White.
Screw it. Let’s alter history and do it. It would be fun.
TRUTH — Lalo went full-on Kevin McCallister
Two of my favorite things:
- Movies and television shows where a character is forced to defend his home from invaders using a series of booby traps and gizmos, kind of like an adult Home Alone, with examples including Skyfall and Hobbs & Shaw and The Martian, if we want to make the leap to a situation where the role of the Wet Bandits is played by the harsh and unforgiving cosmos
- Lalo Salamanca
And so, yes, of course, I loved watching him thwart Gus Fring’s assassins with hot oil and secret tunnels. It was just classic Lalo, improvisation crossed with startling athleticism. Lalo has the same problem Kim and Nacho have — I’m sorry to keep harping on it, it’s unavoidable — where we know they’re not around a few years down the line. We know Gus is around, too. Lalo does not win this war. I am very glad this was not his time, though. I need as much Lalo as I can get.
It is almost unreasonable how good a character Lalo is. To pull this off after five seasons of this show and the full run of Breaking Bad, to just up and introduce someone this charming and evil and perfect, is basically showing off. Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould are doing a Globetrotter routine right in front of our faces, fancy dribbling and confetti buckets and all of it. I have no choice but to respect it.
LIE — Nacho is doing a great job of getting out of the game
All Nacho wants to do is run from New Mexico with his father and keep them both safe. He only has a few small problems: his dad won’t leave; Gus won’t let him out and is threatening his father just to drive that home; Lalo brought him to Don Eladio with the intent of having him step up in the cartel; and now Lalo seems to (correctly!)suspect him of working with Gus to stage an assassination that resulted in the deaths of people close to him.
Nacho is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The rock and the hard place both have guns. One of them has a terrific mustache. This analogy is falling apart. I think the point stands.
TRUTH — I love Don Eladio
As far as I can tell, Don Eladio spends all day having pool parties and drinking tequila and accepting exotic sports cars with piles of cash in the trunk, which is located in the front of the car and is therefore called a “frunk,” by him, to his great delight. I realized as I watched this episode that I have never not been very excited to see him. It angers me in a surprising way that Gus takes him and (presumably) Lalo off the board eventually.
Eh, screw it. If we’re already letting Kim live as Jimmy’s rascal law partner, let’s let Lalo and Don Eladio defeat Gus, too. Let’s pretend. Or at least pitch a Don Eladio prequel. We can age Steven Bauer down with that Irishman CGI. The budget will be like $25 million per episode. I’ll start passing the hat now.
LIE — It is a terrific time to be Howard Hamlin
Every character on this show has grown and/or changed since season one. That’s not exactly shocking because, like, that’s how storytelling is supposed to work. Jimmy is becoming Saul, Mike is working with Gus, Kim… well, we discussed that earlier. But let’s not overlook the borderline hilarious arc that Howard Hamlin has been riding.
The man was the closest thing the show had to a Big Bad in the beginning. He was the antagonist that pushed and drove Jimmy. He was formidable and powerful and not some buster to be clowned on. Cut to four-plus seasons later and he is getting clowned on all day. There was the bowling ball and the hookers, of course, and then when he told Kim about it all, when he tried to “warn” her, she laughed right in his very tan face. He must be so confused all the time about what happened to his life. It’s delightful.
And it might be getting worse, now that Kim is pitching an even more malicious fate for him. This whole series could end with him broken into a million pieces and sleeping on a park bench. I’d love to sit in on one of his therapy sessions to see how he feels about it all.
TRUTH — There is no greater decadence than a midnight cheeseburger
This was the coup de grace of Jimmy’s plan to stay in and pamper themselves while hiding from Lalo in the hotel and, I must say, it would have swayed me. There are some situations where a midnight cheeseburger is sad and troubling, I’ll grant you that. But in the right circumstances, if you’re treating yourself after a hard day or capping off a great night, a midnight cheeseburger is as decadent as it gets. The grease and indulgence of it all, my god.
You might not feel great about it in the morning, both because of the lack of sleep and the congealing mess ravaging your insides, but that’s a problem for later. You do not concern yourself with the future while eating a midnight cheeseburger. A midnight cheeseburger is about the moment, this moment, right now. There are no regrets allowed while eating a midnight cheeseburger, unless you forget to order fries with it. You wouldn’t do that, though. You know this is a decadent treat. This is not your first rodeo.
LIE — This show stinks!
This is not the time for the debate about whether Better Call Saul will end up being better than Breaking Bad. There is a time for that, maybe later this summer when we’re all sweaty and irritable and bored. We can yell and call each other names and really get after it. It’ll be fun. But right now, today, this is about celebrating an incredible season of television. How good was this? All of it, too, from beginning to end. The way this world has grown and expanded and gotten more dangerous step-by-meticulous-step, never rushing, making the journey from mailroom failbro to cartel-adjacent lawyer seem perfectly logical. It’s basically a magic trick. And it keeps getting better.
I joke about all the other spinoffs and prequels I want after this show ends (Gus in Chile, Don Eladio’s rise, Mike in high school), but I’m only barely joking. It’s been such a treat to watch this universe open up. If they can do this — again, all of this — with the comic relief character from a heartbreaking show about drug dealing and personal loss, I mean, why stop there? Keep expanding it. Go full Marvel. Tell me a series of interconnected stories about this fictional world until the sun grows and grows and swallows our real-world whole, incinerating plants and animals and buildings alike and bringing an end to the experiment we call Earth.
Or, uh, maybe just one more. For now. Better Call Saul is a good show. That’s what I’m trying to say.