Better Call Saul
Those poor souls at Hector’s nursing home, doomed to hear him ring that stupid concierge bell for potentially the rest of their days. It would come as cold comfort to know that Lalo’s gift — a souvenir he retrieved from a smoldering hotel Hector vengefully lit ablaze — would one day trigger an explosion that would obliterate New Mexico’s regional meth kingpin (Gus). Though, truth be told, it’s doubtful Lalo would relish the irony that his uncle blew himself to bits via a contraption rigged by Walter White, who’s just the kind of egghead academic the Salamancas despise. Odds are Lalo won’t survive long enough to ever hear mention of the name Heisenberg, but if this franchise’s track record (not to mention Lalo’s own onscreen family) is any indication, the man some call Eduardo will meet his maker in spectacular fashion.
An optimist might reason that Werner’s on a different journey, one where he cheats an untimely death despite taking the extraordinary measure of putting romance ahead of duty. But that’s not how Better Call Saul operates, and if anything, the show is hardening the hearts of its central characters as they evolve into the pragmatic self-preservationists taking care of business in Breaking Bad.
This will not end well for Werner, even if Mike has to travel to Germany. Kai, as it turns out, was a kind of red herring. After blasting their way through a final barrier of rock, the crew’s lead demolition bad boy is all smiles and team spirit. Werner, his mood ever darkening and composure rattled on and off the job, was the one who merited extra monitoring. No money could make up for a year of his life with his wife lost. He was broken, and he fled, and as for what Mike needs to do next … well, we know what kind of measures the man does and doesn’t take.
As has been regularly noted in this space, Jimmy has traveled a similar, morally suspect track to Mike’s since they met, even if their routes have formally diverged (for now). Jimmy can’t necessarily relate to letting sentiment cloud his judgment, thus jeopardizing a massive drug-manufacturing engineering project, but the bar’s rejection for reinstatement hits him hard. On the roof of Schweikart & Cokley (a nice callback there to a landmark site of Kim’s earliest personal crossroads in season two), he and Kim have it out, a confrontation that was briefly averted amid the rush of their Huell scam and subsequent coitus. Jimmy accuses her of staring through him with judgmental eyes, lashing out about her reticence to reopen a law office together. She knows he’s projecting, but it’s no less of an opportunity to vent about her selfless devotion to his happiness, no matter his lack of perspective and gratitude. They’re both being a bit disingenuous — no one forced Kim to dupe the Lubbock Building Department to further Mesa Verde’s ends, as he points out during their post-con celebratory dinner — and in the end have a nominal wiedersehen (“reunion”) at Kim’s condo, resolved to start from the beginning and get Jimmy back on his feet.
The aforementioned Lubbock scheme, it should be said, rivaled the duo’s unraveling of ADA Ericsen for creativity and somewhat mundane convolutedness. Their shared affinity for escapism and relatively victimless mischief, whether as Viktor and Giselle or Bill and Lizzie, is as solid an explanation as we get for Kim’s background in bamboozling. Maybe she was a drama student in high school or does, as Jimmy suggests, carry around a latent anti-authoritarian streak that widens when they’re together. There’s so much more of Kim to get to know, and she’s all that’s left standing between Jimmy and a career helping irredeemable misfits jump bail as Saul Goodman. She’s also the only hope of us ever gleaning insight into how Jimmy really feels about Chuck’s death, and why he had so much trouble being sincere about it when at that reinstatement hearing gone awry. So fear not, that iconic ponytail won’t (we hope) be bobbing out of frame anytime soon.
If Gus had his druthers, Lalo and his mustache would make exactly zero more appearances inside his flagship Los Pollos Hermanos location, particularly when it alarms poor Lyle, still traumatized from Hector’s appearance the previous year. After hyperbolizing about Gus’s chicken (does anyone savor food like this guy?), Lalo gives his Chilean counterpart a spiel about how their tandem operation could or should be running, and how they should or shouldn’t abide by Don Eladio’s dictatorial rule. His motives aren’t totally transparent, but given his itch to see where Gus stores the product and the general M.O. of men like Lalo, a self-interested coup can’t be far from his mind. Too bad he underestimates his adversary, a true silent psychopath capable of out-willing wily coatis and gorging on gregarious hedonists like Lalo for breakfast.
All Nacho can do is throw up his hands, keep his mouth shut, and hope enough money funnels in for him to pull his own Werner-worthy great escape. Maybe he’ll be different than all the others. Maybe he’ll make it. Everyone’s gotta take a shot at freedom and control when it presents itself, so long as they know it when they see it.
Apart From All That
• Kudos to director Vince Gilligan and writer Gennifer Hutchison. This episode has taut suspense and unexpected, intelligent release for days.
• If only Jimmy had marched back into that boardroom sooner, like he did with Mr. Neff.
• There are a lot of Hotel Tulipans.
• Marceline Hugot (aka Shirley) is really making the rounds, fresh off The Sinner and, before that, a notable role in The Leftovers.
• I never got enough of this show’s affinity for numbers. Werner married 26 years, Mike for 22, 8783 Baylor Street, six keys a week, etc.
• Lot of references occur for that wide shot of Mike outside the warehouse, though it struck me as a reverse Conversation.
• I’m more of a Potter Stewart guy than a Scalia man myself.
• Oh, and go Land Crabs!