Better Call Saul
All that was missing from the image of preteen Kim waiting pensively for a lift home from band recital was a cigarette. Since she was first introduced in season one — as she and Jimmy shared a shadowy smoke in HHM’s garage — Kim has been waiting, whether to be not quite so alone in her personal life or peerless in her professional one. She assumes control where and when she can, be it defiantly walking back from Red Cloud Middle School rather than riding along with her wasted mother or, decades later, sabotaging her law firm’s efforts to muscle a persnickety senior out of his family home. The only problem is she’s never fully been behind the wheel.
That goes double for her dynamic with Jimmy, which has always hinged on his many whims. She’s entered into both their domestic partnership and their efforts at working side by side with eyes wide open, but Jimmy moves through the world attuned to his own particular rhythm, no less idiosyncratic than his cadence when he talks. And by the conclusion of “Wexler v. Goodman,” it’s evident that Kim’s tired of keeping pace rather than setting it.
So, heading into next week’s episode, Jimmy and Kim might be getting married. Or planning to. Or is it Saul that she’s settling down with? She’d like to know as much as anyone, so at least then they can stop standing still in the shadows and pretending like their path is clear.
Her proposal, as it were, works to the extent that it instantly puts Jimmy on his heels and at a loss for words. Up until that moment, he’s barely stopped long enough to hear himself think, let alone for Kim to say what’s on her mind. He wants to blow right past the awkwardness of having blindsided her at the settlement meeting with Mesa Verde and get to the part where they both agree that his spectacular stunt — outing Kevin and his dad’s unauthorized appropriation of elderly tribeswoman Olivia Bitsui’s black-and-white rancher pic by threatening to air low-budget ads making bogus claims of everyday bank malfeasance — was a win-win-win.
“Fuck you,” she finally exhales, calling his selfishness out for what it is before turning the tables with her own ultimatum: Commit to us as a pair — and all the real accountability that comes with it — before putting yourself first, or see what the future holds for Saul and Jimmy without me there as some kind of moral ballast.
The funny thing is, Kim might have been far more approving of Jimmy’s continued voodoo-doll dismantling of Zen master Howard. As if bashing in the guy’s Jaguar with bowling balls or blithely disregarding his overtures about working at HHM weren’t enough, an encounter with two prostitutes at the public defender’s office leaves Jimmy feeling inspired. In front of Cliff Main, Judge Green, and the whole of semi-upstanding white-collar Albuquerque, Jimmy deploys those same ladies of the night to shake Howard down in the middle of a power lunch, as if he were a regular customer deeply indebted to their pimp.
Why Jimmy opts to keep his petty pranks on his and Kim’s old boss private while making her unwittingly complicit in theatrics that could undermine her credibility is anyone’s guess. Though as the cartel closes in on claiming him full-time, it stands to reason he’d be slowly setting fire to whatever might cause him to reflect on who he was in a previous life.
Down at some characteristically undisclosed, gritty location where bad guys meet to discuss criminal deeds, Nacho is at minimum experiencing déjà vu. Turns out the gringo that “Lalo had a bug up his ass about” is none other than Mike, the same gringo who helped him land Tuco in jail and proved to be more of a complicated ally than he bargained for. Now, per Gus, Nacho will be answering to Mike, and the pressing business in front of them is how to stop Lalo from decimating Fring’s entire operation. Mike, fortunately, has a plan for that. As with Tuco, the objective is to get Lalo behind steel bars, though in his case for time immemorial, for the as-yet-unsolved murder of TravelWire employee Fred.
Out comes Mike’s go-to alias, private eye Dave Clark (he was presumably thrilled with this 2008 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction). This time, he’s set his sights on a bumbling police-precinct mailroom assistant and, more crucially, Lilian Simmons, who kinda-sorta got a glimpse of Lalo inside TravelWire and just needed some cajoling to update detectives with new recollections about the custom 1970 Monte Carlo he was cruising around in. Voilà, Lalo is ensnared by a dragnet of street-beat APD and apparently destined to be joining his cousin Tuco in state custody. (One could easily conclude that Saul’s subsequent, fearful invoking of Lalo in Breaking Bad stemmed from what he feared were the drug runner’s assumptions about who engineered his arrest.)
There’s still business left for Mike and Nacho to discuss, namely the latter’s anxieties over Gus having a gun to his father’s head, and how the hell either of the Varga men survives his entwinement with New Mexican meth. Perhaps this is the moment when we learn the true origin story of a certain infamous Disappearer.
We are, without a doubt, getting close enough to the sewing up of Saul’s saga — and its lining up with the schemes of one Walter White — where some light will have to be shed on the series’ darkened corners. And if it concerns Kim, the greatest tragedy would be if she lost it all by virtue of finally gaining control.
Apart From All That:
• Olivia Bitsui had to have been some kind of nod to Jeremiah Bitsui, who plays Victor (not unlike how the character of Max, Gus’s fallen partner, shares a full name with Max Arciniega, who plays Krazy-8).
• Let’s hear it for Rex Linn, who’s been lovably imperfect as Kevin.
• And twofold for Bob Odenkirk’s longtime Mr. Show mate, Jay Johnston, as Kevin’s dad.
• How is Jimmy’s film crew still in school? How slow does time move on this show again?