Better Call Saul Reviews: “Namaste” (season 5, episode 4)

I’ve been wondering to myself for a while when I’d reach an inevitable point. Specifically, the point at which I stop referring to our protagonist as Jimmy and start referring to him as Saul.

We’ve mentioned Saul, of course, and we’ve discussed things Jimmy has done as Saul, but until we hit that point, they would be distinct characters. One exists in this show, and the other existed in Breaking Bad. At some point, tragically, they would overlap, and I think it’s safe to say they’d never detach again. (Gene seems to have much more in common with Saul than he does with Jimmy, as least from what little we’ve seen.)

I hit that point last week. I didn’t bring it up then because I had other things to say, but that’s the first time I saw our protagonist in this show and thought, “That’s Saul Goodman.”

The sequence that did it for me was the one in which he agrees that his client will provide information to the feds…information that he knows isn’t what they’re looking for, but which will satisfy them anyway. It was something Jimmy McGill probably had the wiles to pull off, but Saul Goodman did it for him instead.

This is spelled out in this episode, as well, when Howard takes Jimmy to lunch. He asks about what this “Saul Goodman” persona is doing. Couldn’t Jimmy McGill do it instead?

Jimmy thinks for a moment, and replies, “Maybe he could, but Saul Goodman is.”

There’s a reason Jimmy doesn’t say what Saul Goodman is doing; it’s more than enough to end the sentence on the fact that “Saul Goodman is.

That doesn’t mean we no longer have Jimmy — read on — but it does mean we’ve hit the point at which Saul Goodman, as we knew him so long ago, exists. It’s fitting that that happened to occur in an episode that also included Nacho telling him that there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. “Once you’re in,” he tells the lawyer, “you’re in.”

The conversation with Howard is a crucial one, so we’ll return to it in a bit. For now, though, I’d like to discuss something I’m finally able to articulate about Kim.

Throughout the entire run of the show, we’ve seen her drift into and then pull away from Jimmy’s negative influence, and I’ve never been quite sure how to understand that.

It never registered as false — I want to make that very clear — but just because I understood her behavior didn’t mean I understood what was happening in her mind. I think “Namaste” reveals it; we ended the previous episode with she and Jimmy pitching bottles off of their balcony. Early in this episode, she sees the glass and realizes what she’s done. Jimmy tells her somebody else will take care of it.

In that moment, I understand more fully their dynamic. Kim slips into Jimmy’s bad behavior because she enjoys it. It’s fun. It brings some excitement and danger into her life. They have a lot in common in that regard. The difference between them, however, is that she wakes up with a clearer head. Jimmy does not.

In the moment, Kim is suggestible. Willingly so. But the moment ends, and Jimmy keeps going. Kim doesn’t. She sees the broken glass and feels bad. She sweeps it up herself. The revelry she shares with Jimmy is part of who she is, but it isn’t a part of who she wants to be. It’s fascinating, and I don’t think I ever truly understood it until this episode.

We see Saul — not Jimmy — at work several times during “Namaste.” At the beginning he works his magic on the two hoodlums from “50% Off,” and there’s no Jimmy McGill to be seen. Ditto his later theatrics in the courtroom, during which he replaces his client with a lookalike to make a point.

Unquestionably his gambit will be stricken from the record, but film buff Jimmy must have seen Anatomy of a Murder many times. In it, another Jimmy — Stewart, there — plays a lawyer who knowingly initiates a line of questioning the judge will halt. Sure enough, that happens, and the jury is told to disregard what Jimmy Stewart has said.

“How can a jury disregard what it has already heard?” he’s asked in private.

His answer is simple: “They can’t.”

Saul knows his shenanigans will not be admissible as evidence. That doesn’t matter, because he already got the jury to believe what he needed them to believe.

Kim witnesses the spectacle, and while it’s clear she isn’t a fan of the underhandedness, it’s equally clear that she understands its usefulness. She drafts him to represent the man she failed to win over to Mesa Verde last week, pulling herself into yet another unethical situation. But, hey, at least she might regret it in the morning.

Elsewhere Gus and Mike have their own adventures that won’t pay off until next week at the soonest, so we’ll hold off on discussing those for now, and circle back around to good old Howard.

When Howard asks Jimmy to describe the work that Saul does, we still hear a bit of Jimmy’s hesitancy in the response. When Saul speaks, he speaks with confidence. Jimmy, however, has a little more humanity, and it shines through even when he’s given a platform to let Saul shine. That’s our proof that Saul isn’t going to take over in one big rush; it’s just that Jimmy eventually drowns.

We saw Saul without Jimmy a third time, which I haven’t mentioned yet.

In “50% Off,” Howard requested some time with Jimmy, obviously interested in (at least potentially) taking him on at HHM. Jimmy brushed him off, something I saw at the time as a way to gain leverage. Surely Jimmy would listen to an opportunity like that; he just needs to play the game.

Howard probably would have agreed with me, and he probably expected — as I did — that he would make easier inroads with Jimmy over lunch. He doesn’t, but that’s okay; he tells Jimmy to think about it and get back to him.

But it isn’t Jimmy who pays him a visit as the episode ends. It’s Saul, pitching bowling balls onto Howard’s car.

There’s no reason for it. Jimmy can turn Howard down. Jimmy can say anything he wants to say to Howard as he does so. Jimmy can twist the knife as much as he pleases. Instead, though, he has Saul smash up his car just to be a dick.

It’s a kind of conscious sourness I don’t think we’ve ever seen from Jimmy before, and it’s evidence of how much he’s changed from season one. For an impressively long time, we were able to see Jimmy McGill as an inherently good person who dabbled where he shouldn’t have.

But an inherently good person doesn’t wreck somebody’s car with bowling balls, peeking over the wall just to appreciate the damage he’s done, pitching another one just for the hell of it.

It’s about the cruelty of the gesture. Howard will be fine; insurance will cover the damage and the worst that will happen is that he’ll get stuck with a loaner car for a few days. But it’s what Saul chose to do that matters, not the tangible consequence we face today.

Chuck described his brother as a chimp with a machine gun, referencing of course the damage he’d be capable of without knowing what he’s doing.

Saul Goodman is aware of what he’s doing. Saul Goodman is causing damage.

Saul Goodman is.

One thought on “Better Call Saul Reviews: “Namaste” (season 5, episode 4)”

  1. Fantastic essay as always. After reflecting on this episode, it struck me, it might share a similarity to episode 4 of the first season. When Jimmy commits a phony rescue on his illegal billboard, it’s obvious to some what he’s doing, but the general public can’t unsee it, and he plays that to his advantage. Might be coincidental, it’s hard to say with the Breaking Bad universe. Thanks for your hard work!

Comments are closed.