The Dead and the Comatose Hang Over Better Call Saul

first_img Last week’s season premiere of Better Call Saul was a re-introduction to the show’s unique style. It was slow, methodical and tense. It let us immerse ourselves in this world while reminding us where things stand after the end of Season Three. Hector Salamanca is in a coma, Chuck McGill is dead, Mike is working for Gus and Jimmy is losing his compassion. Not, as Kim points out this week, that Howard Hamlin deserved any. Even so, I’m still reeling from that “cross to bear” line that ended the premiere. Now that we’re back on board with what Better Call Saul has to offer, the show can start telling the story it wants to tell with this season.Man, does it ever give itself a running start, too. Last week, I praised the show for its ability to take things slow. For its confidence in its audience that we won’t get board by a prolonged scene where no one speaks. To be sure, this episode still has plenty of that, but it’s a reminder that Better Call Saul can step on the gas when it wants to. Particularly in the cartel story, which is where most of the episode’s action takes place. If all you’ve wanted since he returned last season was more Gus Fring, this was the episode for you. With Don Hector in a coma, Gus is oddly dismayed to hear that his enemy’s prognosis isn’t good. Victor tells him that it could go either way. He may die in a coma, or he may wake up. A doctor from a more prestigious hospital like Johns Hopkins could bring him out of it, or it could do nothing. Gus decides to take a chance and shell out the money for a Johns Hopkins specialist to fly in. One that speaks Spanish to put the Salamanca cousins at ease.Marco Salamanca (Luis Moncada), Leonel Salamanca (Daniel Moncada), Hector “Tio” Salamanca (Mark Margolis) and Dr. Maureen Bruckner (Poorna Jagannathan) Photo by Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures TelevisionThis really was Gus Fring’s episode. Giancarlo Esposito brings all the impenetrable stoicism that makes Gus so scary. Every move is calculated and considered. The camera lingers on his face so we can watch him turn new information over in his head, but he never gives us too much. Gus never lets you know what he’s thinking, which is why it’s still such a shock when his brutality comes out. There’s a fun irony here brought about by this being a prequel series. We know what ultimately happens to these characters. As cold and calculating as Gus is, as devoid of emotion as he pretends his decisions are, we know he’s making a mistake. He wants Hector to come out of this alive because he wants to be the one to decide his fate. He wants Hector to suffer. And suffer he will, but we know Gus will pay dearly for it. It’s like watching the early scenes of a horror movie when you’ve already seen the ending.Nacho’s side of the story is where it gets heartbreaking. Sure, he’s made some dumb mistakes over the course of the series, but you can’t help but root for him. All he wants to do is protect his father, even if his father doesn’t even want to take to him. Begrudgingly collecting his dad’s money Nacho says he’s working on getting out. How exactly, he never gets the chance to show us. You believe he really does want to escape the cartel, but it’s nearly impossible to leave. With Hector out of the picture, Arturo tries to take his place. With Nacho’s help, he strong-arms a sixth brick from his suppliers. Nacho’s got a bad feeling about all this, even though he’s the one holding the guns. He’s right to.Giancarlo Esposito (Photo via AMC)Arturo’s ambition is rewarded with what’s probably the most brutal murder we’ve seen on Better Call Saul. (Though not the most brutal killing Gus will ever commit. For my money, that still belongs to the box cutter scene in Breaking Bad.) Gus and his men sneak up behind Arturo and Nacho, and zip-tie a plastic bag around Arturo’s head. Gus informs Nacho that he knows he tried to kill Hector and, more importantly, the Salamancas don’t. Poor Nacho. He told his dad he was working on getting out of the Cartel. Now, he’s only working for Gus. Earlier, in a mostly pointless scene between Mike Ehermentraut and Lydia, she warns that Mike should be careful not to lose Gus Fring’s respect. Nacho ends the episode in a similar, much more precarious position. And he’s made to watch exactly what happens to people who lose Gus’ respect.Jimmy and Kim’s story isn’t quite the torrent of plot the cartel’s was, but it didn’t need to be. Better Call Saul is a character study, and this half of the show gave us two prime examples. For them, the episode begins and ends with an image of domestic piece. Over the course of the episode, we see that’s really all it is. It’s an image, a facade, and not a very stable one. Jimmy, though he starts his morning making Kim breakfast and preparing for job interviews starts out lying to Kim. He tells her he’s going out for office manager jobs, when really he’s interviewing for low-level sales positions. At the end of the day, he lies about how it went too.Seymour (Michael Naughton), Mr. Neff (Andrew Friedman) and Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) Photo by Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures TelevisionThere are two moments in this episode where the characters let the facade drop. The first one is after Jimmy’s interview at a copier company. He gives it his best shot in the interview, but gets the “we’ll have our decision in a week” response that basically means no. The camera lingers on his face as he walks out, and you can watch his decision come together on his face. It’s one of those moments that makes you appreciate how good an actor Bob Odenkirk is. It’s also the next step in his transformation into Saul. You watch him decide to let Saul out. He’s not going to let these copy guys give him the runaround. If not going to get this job, it’s gonna happen on his own terms. He walks back into the interview room and turns on his charm. He dizzies them with quick, seductive words, telling them everything they want to hear. It works. They hire him on the spot, and he lets them have it. For them to not even conduct a background check or make sure he’s not some kind of conman (which, as he just proved to himself, he is), that’s all the proof Jimmy needs. These guys are suckers. Jimmy doesn’t work for suckers, he takes them for all he can get.All he can get includes a shelf full of Hummel figurines he sees during a tour of the office. He remembers those, and how much money their worth, from his time in elder law. He calls up Mike and offers him a job. They’re going to steal these figurines. Who knows if Mike will actually want to help anymore though? Now that he’s got that sweet security consulting gig.The other moment where a character lets who they really are come out belongs to Kim. She goes to the meeting about Chuck’s will on Jimmy’s behalf. The entire scene, you can see her patience wear thin. First, there’s the sum of $5,000 Chuck left Jimmy. Essentially cutting him out of the will, as she explains, but leaving just enough that he can’t contest. Then, Hamlin offers Jimmy a seat on the board of a scholarship program for “deserving students” that Chuck requested be set up. Kim sees that for the pointed slap in the face it is. Hamlin also offers Jimmy the chance to dig through the burned house for keepsakes, and delivers one final letter from Chuck to Jimmy. By the end of this, Kim is visibly shaking. Jimmy’s Fall Is All About Chuck on Better Call SaulWe Knew Things Would Come to This on Better Call Saul Stay on targetcenter_img Seriously Howard… Jeez. #BetterCallSaul— Better Call Saul (@BetterCallSaul) August 14, 2018She unloads on Hamlin. It’s the kind of monologue that pushes even the viewer into the recesses of their couch. She eviscerates him point by point, even calling him out for trying to dump his guilt on Jimmy after the funeral. After three seasons of being the buttoned-up professional one in the relationship, she lets everything she was holding back come out. And then, for both Jimmy and Kim, it’s back to the facade once they get back home. Jimmy omits the key details about his day, and Kim hides the letter from Chuck. They have a nice evening of commercial-free classic movies and sex… and then Jimmy sneaks off to plan his heist.The scenes of domestic happiness might actually be among the episode’s most uneasy. We know Kim’s not around for Breaking Bad. We know who Jimmy turns into. Despite the apparent tranquility, their situation has never felt more volatile. They’re both lying to each other, and we know there’s no way this cute little scene can last. She’s going to find out who he really is, and he’s going to find that letter. Even though she’s trying to protect him, hiding something like that is a big deal. It’s going to be just the excuse Jimmy needs to fall into Saul for good. This season really is going to break our hearts.Get caught up on all your Saul news here.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.last_img read more