Better Call Saul Reviews: “The Guy for This” (season 5, episode 3)

One thing Better Call Saul has always been good at is keeping things interesting even when very little is happening. That’s a hell of a skill, and it’s especially important in a prequel series such as this one, when we know that certain big moments simply cannot happen until later. “The Guy for This” is a great example of how this show manages to make even its connective tissue so compelling.

I have zero insight into the writing process, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that this episode was intentionally packed so full of small things to make up for its lack of big things. “The Guy for This,” structurally, needs to set up a few elements that the rest of the season can play with, and that’s fine. Not every episode of a serialized show can (or should) be explosive. Delaying the big moments is part of the fun.

But what do you do in the spaces between those big moments? In the case of “The Guy for This,” you string together a lot of wonderful tiny moments. You make an episode worth watching not because anything crucial happens, but because so many things of smaller significance happen.

Which, I admit, is partially my way of admitting I’m not sure how to talk about this episode. That happens. (It doesn’t shut me up, but it happens!) I don’t always know where things are headed, especially in the cases of characters unique to this show. Our understanding of what eventually happened to Hector, to Mike, to Tuco, to Gale, and of course to Saul, informs the way we interpret their actions and decisions here.

To put it another way, knowing Saul’s terminal point lends a very specific, knowable weight to every step Jimmy takes toward it. That isn’t to say the steps taken by Kim or Nacho or now Eduardo have no weight…it’s just that we don’t know specifically what they are walking toward. Theirs are journeys we will only truly be able to understand in hindsight.

One character whose terminal point we know all too well — being the victim of the first deliberate murder by Walter White — is Krazy-8, and yet it somehow escaped me that by the time of Breaking Bad, he was a DEA informant. I remembered it, but for whatever reason I didn’t connect it. I never looked at him and wondered how close we were to him taking that particular step toward being held captive in a basement and, ultimately, strangled by a chemistry teacher.

The sequence in which he does turn informant — sort of, in a way — is so misleadingly simple that the wider complexity only really hit me later. Krazy-8 is stuck in a way that reflects most of the characters at this point in Better Call Saul. He has no choice but to play along, by rules that are made for him, often by conflicting parties.

And so he agrees to provide the DEA with information in exchange for his freedom. Something Saul wants him to do, though the attorney makes a big show about not wanting him to do it. A show so artificial that Hank and Gomez see through it immediately and call bullshit. Which in turn is a bluff of their own, so that they can press harder on Krazy-8 and Saul, demanding that the information had better lead to arrests, or Krazy-8 is staying behind bars.

Which is a big problem, because Eduardo and Nacho hired Saul to feed Krazy-8 a load of hooey that he was then to feed to the feds; if there need to be arrests, that’s not going to make Saul’s ultimate employers very happy.

Except that that’s exactly what Saul and Krazy-8 wanted…arrests…and their further bluff was making Hank and Gomez think it was their idea. Eduardo and Nacho didn’t have Saul feed Krazy-8 hooey after all; Krazy-8 was providing actual, demonstrably true information about very real drug deals and how they are being pulled off. Hank and Gomez will verify this. Krazy-8 gave them what they wanted.

…except that the information wasn’t about Krazy-8’s crew at all and was instead about Gus’ crew, and what he actually did was sic the DEA on Gus’ operation instead. Something the DEA likely won’t realize, and they’ll keep Krazy-8 on as an informant, ultimately providing Eduardo and Nacho with a direct line to the feds any time they want to bring the hammer down on Gus.

Which is further complicated by the fact that Nacho is also serving two masters here, ingratiating himself with Eduardo to keep himself and his family safe while keeping Gus abreast of everything that’s happening and following his instructions as well.

It’s an incredible juggling act told with almost miraculous narrative simplicity. Nobody ever sits down and says, “Now let me get this straight…” We just get a few long scenes and are allowed to let them settle into place. A few quiet conversations — nobody even raises their voice — is all it takes to set true chaos into motion.

And that’s not the end of the juggling. Nacho further juggles an attempt to get someone to buy his father out of the family business so that the man will retire; a buy-out financed by Nacho himself. Nacho’s father sees through this, and says that he always felt he were saving the business for Nacho…which is interesting as it is actually Nacho attempting to secretly purchase it through a third party. Better Call Saul might be spinning its wheels, but there are wheels within those wheels.

Similarly, Jimmy is juggling his life and Saul’s, being at least somewhat successful at switching between the two when necessary but also letting them draw more closely together. He’s juggling his relationship with Kim and how much to tell her about what’s really happening. He used to be open with her about his quasi-legal dealings, and she’d (usually) call him out on them. Now he just says Saul Goodman had, financially speaking, his best day yet. “Good for Saul,” she replies.

Then there’s Mike, who seems to be tired of juggling his double life, and is instead leaning into the darkness. He gets aggressive with a bartender and then escalates a conflict with some street thugs, seemingly just because he can. It probably feels freeing to no longer have to be a nice guy to anyone. Not good, no…but freeing.

All of these lives, all of these imperfect reflections in fragile mirrors.

We even learn more about who Kim is — who she really is — when it’s revealed that she’s desperate to want to be seen as a good person. The funny thing (not funny ha-ha) is that she is a good person, at least at heart. She’s flawed. She allows herself to drift closer to Jimmy’s dark side than she should. But she’s capable, competent, and compassionate. Period.

God forbid, though, somebody doesn’t share that view. Kim might be the only character that I’d honestly believe could literally kill someone with kindness.

Her positive qualities aren’t fake. They represent who she really is. But they are what she wants people to recognize and appreciate. She has negative qualities as well, because she’s a human being and has a job to do, but those are not what she wants to be known for. She’s both things. Not equally, but equally validly. Her desperate juggle is one of prominence. She wants the good stuff up front, always and exclusively. Acknowledging anything she keeps in the back (ponytail included) needles her more than she can stand.

At the end of the episode, Jimmy plays a little game with a beer bottle. He holds it by its lip, drops it, catches it before it falls to the parking lot below. A small, recreational juggle to keep his mind off of his larger, professional ones.

He gets bored of it quickly. Kim doesn’t even pretend to play along. She throws her bottle into the parking lot. Jimmy throws another. Kim throws another. Together they throw the rest of them into the parking lot below, shattering the silence but still not talking. That must be pretty freeing, too.

After all, the more things you juggle, the more that will come crashing down when gravity reasserts itself. It’s inevitable. What goes up must come down.

Might as well smash some of it up yourself. Destruction is a kind of control.