TV

The ‘Better Call Saul’ Lie Detector Test: The Gang Is All Here

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 11: “Breaking Bad”

LIE FALSE SAUL
UPROXX

Gene is doing great

SAUL
AMC

Let’s check in with Ol’ Gene. He is:

— Freaking out and smashing pay phones and maybe in a financial bind because all of his New Mexico money laundering/stashing operations — various nail salons and laser tag centers and organizations with very legitimate-sounding names like Tigerfish — have been seized by and/or surrendered to the authorities, leaving him in the kind of crunch that a Cinnabon salary does not offset

— Attempting to alleviate the aforementioned money crunch (and fill the bottomless pit in his soul) by operating a semi-sophisticated identity theft ring that involves liquor-siphoning bladders hidden under his clothes and barbiturate-laced bottles of water and collaboration with a pair of doofuses he vowed to be done with as recently as the end of last week’s episode

— Apparently so greedy or so far gone morally or still carrying so much rage at Walter White (“a guy with cancer can’t be an asshole?”) or all of it that he’s insisting on following through with the grift on the cancer patient even though one of his accomplices bailed and stripped the tape off the door and the only way in involves smashing a window and throwing out all the disciplined caution of the whole plan in favor of reckless desperation, which rarely works out for anyone

— Almost literally making the same mistake he made when Mike told him not to get into business with Walt and Jesse and he decided “no, I’ll press ahead with the risky plan even though someone who works for me advised me correctly to leave the cancer patient alone”

— Getting a little misty-eyed and sad at even just the mention of Kim’s name when Francesca revealed that his former flame called to check in after he and Walter and Jesse kind of made national news in a bad way, and then mangling a phone booth when his attempt to reach out went sideways

— Kind of staring a lot at the dough as it clunks around the Cinnabon machine, with the empty facial expression of a man who has a number of regrets, some of which may or may not involve lost loves and violent meth kingpins and unfortunate new mustaches, to name a few things completely at random

Other than that, things are going pretty well.

Seeing Walter and Jesse meant nothing to me

SAUL
AMC

There’s a fine line between “bringing back important characters to tell an important part of an ongoing story” and “shameless fan service” and the thing about all of this is that I do not care at all where you or anyone thinks this one falls. I don’t know. I just liked it. I liked hearing Bryan Cranston do the Walter White cough, I liked hearing Aaron Paul add an unnecessary “yo” to the end of a sentence and I liked seeing both of them interact with Bob Odenkirk again, even if the whole thing had to be shot at midnight in the shadows because Aaron Paul is 42 years old and his days of portraying a recent high school graduate are in the past. Let me have this one. It was cool.

It also places us back into an identifiable timeline again, kind of, seeing as this scene and the “Did Lalo send you?” of it all originally took place in season two of Breaking Bad. So there’s that. But we’ve been jumping around so much lately that you can be forgiven for putting away your yarn and pushpins and other conspiracy wall paraphernalia to just sit back and enjoy. That’s your call. It is a little funny that the stuff that takes place the farthest into the future is all shot in black and white. I think we should all at least try to agree on that.

Anyway, the point here, the one I’m trying to make, goes something like this:

  • What was once two semi-separate worlds of Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad is now just one big universe all mushed together, for better and worse, by which I mean better for us and worse for every single character on the show
  • Whether he’s Jimmy or Saul or Gene, he is still the same self-destructive sucker who can’t get out of his own way long enough to skate by on the oodles of charm he possesses, which is all very heartbreaking
  • Sometimes it’s okay to just look at something and say “that felt cool” and then move right along without overthinking it too much, just to prevent your brain from ruining it all for yourself

It was nice to see old friends. Friends might be the wrong word here. I don’t know how else one categorizes “television characters we spent a lot of time with who were drug dealers and murderers and sociopaths but we were excited to see again anyway.” It’s weird. Let’s not think about it anymore. Moving on!

The people who make this show lack confidence

saul
AMC

Think about what’s going on here. Think about what has been going on for six full seasons of this show now. They took the comic relief from one of the more intense and stressful shows of all time and they took us back in time to show us him having hope and then they would sometimes flash way forward to remind us that all that hope gets smashed into dust and then they would go back to telling us how we got from one point to the other. And then, with only a few episodes left in the whole thing, they gave us hour-long stories about mall heists that were almost foiled by outrageous physical comedy. Now, they’re bringing back the main characters from the other thing to more or less tell us that this guy has always made the stupid move and is going to keep doing it over and over again until it catches up with him.

Imagine having the confidence to just, like… do that. It’s fascinating to me. Almost infuriating. Like, on one hand, thank you, Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould for doing all of this. But on the other hand… how dare you?

I don’t know. It’s fine. I’m fine.

LIE UNCLEAR SAUL
UPROXX

Kim is working for a sprinkler company in Florida

SAUL
AMC

I mean… it kind of looks like that, right? Gene called the operator from that pay phone and asked for a Palm Coast Sprinklers on Tarpon Road, and then asked to speak to Kim Wexler, who he believes works there. This would be… weird. What do we think Kim does at the sprinkler company? Sales? Installations? Customer service? Does she manage and/or operate it? Has Kim always known a lot about sprinklers? What else don’t we know about her? Etc etc etc.

On the other hand, well, two things. The first is that these shows have a long history of false front businesses and misdirections, so there’s a reasonable chance that the number for Palm Coast Sprinklers is routed through somewhere else and goes to a phone in… oh, let’s say Norway, just to have fun. I doubt it, I think, but I don’t know for sure. Which is fun.

The second thing is that the phone call in question did not go as well as he hoped it would, which we can assume — even though it was all muffled out by trucks and other ambient noise — based on the thing where he smashed the phone a lot and kicked out the glass. Does that mean he got Kim on the phone and she told him to get bent? Does that mean she works there but she wouldn’t take the call? Does that mean she no longer works there and the person on the phone wouldn’t give him any information on where she went afterward? Possibly to a rival sprinkler company?

Could go a lot of ways here. I hope Kim is enjoying Florida, though. If that’s where she is. Which might not be the case.

If Saul had just listened to Mike he never would have gotten himself into this Cinnabon mess

SAUL
AMC

Hmm.

Hmmmmm.

Here’s the thing with all of this, and it’s a point I made earlier that I’m going to make again: Whether he’s Jimmy or Saul or Gene, he’s still the same guy, and he’s still going to do something stupid and risky at some point because that’s who he is. Let’s say he listens to Mike and never gets looped in with Walt and Jesse. Let’s say none of that ever happens. Knowing everything we know about him and the choices he makes, what are the odds he still ends up calling that fixer he knows and fleeing to that mall food court? One in fifty? One in ten? One in three? I’m joking a little but I’m also being serious. If it wasn’t Heisenberg it would have been something else, and that would have ended badly too because Jimmy ruins everything. Maybe it ends a little less bad, maybe it ends a little worse (lol), but there’s no realistic sliding door scenario where this bozo doesn’t end up neck-deep in chaos, just on account of the life he lives and the way his damaged brain operates.

It’s sad, mostly. Terrific television, sure, riveting and thrilling and sometimes funny, but mostly just sad.

We are wasting Carol Burnett here

SAUL
AMC

So far, all we’ve seen television legend Carol Burnett do on this show is buzz a scooter around a grocery store and discover cat videos on YouTube, which, admittedly, is somewhat better than having a television show and not letting Carol Burnett buzz around a grocery store and discover cat videos on YouTube, but still. Two episodes into her run on the show and two episodes from the conclusion of the whole shebang and, so far, this has all really been not much more than delightful stunt casting.

But.

We need to consider the thing at the end of this episode. The thing where she heard a doggy ruckus outside and looked through her window while Gene was melting down on his accomplices in that shed. And the thing where she now has an internet-connected computer and an increasing knowledge of how to navigate YouTube. And the possibility that there are a number of YouTube videos — news reports, weirdo fan tributes, etc. — about the mysterious disappearance of crooked New Mexico attorney Saul Goodman. And the possibility that she will stumble across one and think about how much that guy looks like sweet Gene and how her beloved Jeffy spent time in New Mexico and how it’s weird that the two of them are spending so much time in that shed.

What I’m saying here is that there’s a non-zero chance that the diabolical Saul Goodman ends up finally getting arrested after years on the run because a Nebraska senior citizen played by Carol Freaking Burnett got bored watching cat videos one day. That would be pretty awesome.

Remember this in case I’m right. Disregard it if I’m not. But definitely remember it in case I’m right.

LIE TRUE SAUL
UPROXX

I would watch an entire show about Francesca dealing with a collection of goofus tenants

SAUL
AMC

Yes. Yes, I would. Especially these two idiots. It makes me so happy that this show has such limited real estate left to work with and they are still finding space for two ding dongs with a sink clogged with “regular sink stuff” and an affinity for conjugation. There’s a chance I’m in the minority here. I loved the episode before this one, “Nippy,” and that proved to be divisive as all hell. I guess I have a soft spot for shows that take weird little diversions to show the audience something instead of beating us all over the head with it by straight-out telling us. This is where I would talk about Mad Men and Lodge 49 a lot again if we were doing this in person and there was no editor to stop me. Consider yourselves lucky.

But yes, let’s go ahead and add this to the list of potential second spin-offs I would watch in the universe, somewhere just behind “The Rise of Don Eladio” and “Kim Wexler: Sprinkler Tycoon.” Francesca is the best. I hope she has a bunch of tenants and they’re all eccentric as hell and we can just watch her attempt to wrangle them for maybe 45-60 episodes somewhere down the road.

Something to consider.

This is a good boy

SAUL
AMC

A few notes here:

  • This dog sat quietly by the door of a number of homes while its owner ran around taking pictures of personal and financial documents belonging to barbiturate-addled suckers, keeping guard and behaving and proving to be the most useful accomplice anyone has ever had on any of these shows, with the possible exception of Huell, who I am very glad to hear is doing well in New Orleans, and yes, let’s add “Huell in the Big Easy” to that spinoff list from the section about Francesca
  • He only barked when Saul was spinning out, correctly identifying a situation that could prove dangerous and unhealthy for his owner
  • I love him very much

If anything bad happens to this dog, I will become John Wick.

The shot of Saul’s empty grave turning into Gene’s bed was some really cool business

SAUL
AMC

The title of this episode is “Breaking Bad,” which you can assume refers to the appearance of two characters from that show in the early stages of the proceedings, if you want. You can also — again, if you want — assume it refers to Gene getting bored like a certain former chemistry teacher and facing a personal crisis and deciding to “break bad” once again, in an unhealthy way, blowing past reason to feel something, anything, one more time, to live out his glory days a little, consequences be damned.

And so, this shot. Sitting in that stupid bed in Nebraska feels, to him, about the same as being dead and buried in that hole. I could be reading too much into this. I could just be wrong. But it’s fun to think about a show on this kind of semi-obsessive level and it’s cool that this show lets us do that and it’s both exciting and sad that it’s all coming to an end in a couple weeks. Let’s not take it for granted.

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