Well, that was a rollercoaster ride, for sure. It’s just that I don’t know if it crashed us directly into a brick wall or launched us into space. I guess we’ll find out where we land next week.
Shortly before this season began, the episode titles were revealed. This one, of course, was immediately intriguing. We know that by the time of Breaking Bad, Kim is out of the picture. Better Call Saul would, at some point, have to drive that wedge. “Wexler v. Goodman” was obviously a title suggesting direct conflict. (Likely, thanks to the v. instead of a vs., in a legal setting.)
But then we had “Dedicado a Max” last week, which reassured us. We had no reason to worry; that Wexler v. Goodman case would all be for show. Kim and Jimmy would be working together toward the same end, and they’d only seem to be in opposition. Whew! A complete release of tension and we could breathe for another week.
And yet here we are, and I can’t be the only one who emphatically was not breathing through much of this episode.
Almost as soon as Jimmy sets his plan to strongarm Mesa Verde into settling on behalf of his client, Kim gets cold feet. She’s woken up — just a bit later than usual — with clarity of mind.
She asks him calmly to back off. Jimmy confirms that this is what she wants, and then agrees. There will be no strongarming. They will settle this as quickly and as cleanly as possible.
We’ve discussed Kim’s morning-after clarity and the fact that Jimmy doesn’t share it a few times this season. Now it ties directly into something else we’ve discussed, and which Nacho made clear to Jimmy in “The Guy for This”: There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle.
Kim, after all, got Jimmy to agree that the plan was off. She got no such agreement from Saul Goodman. The wheels were already in motion.
The centerpiece of the episode is sheer emotional brutality. It reminded me of Jimmy steamrolling Chuck in season three’s “Chicanery,” but in that episode we saw little flashes of Jimmy feeling bad about what he was doing. He knew it was wrong and he did it anyway, but he had enough humanity that it hurt him to do it.
Here, there are no such flashes of humanity. There is no Jimmy in that scene. It’s Saul getting what he wants, and not caring about who he hurts. He’s dimly aware of what he’s putting Kim through, but only because her suffering is part of his scheme. He does not regret his actions. Far from it. He suggests they celebrate them.
And it ends with an even more difficult scene when Kim returns home to him that night and says “fuck you” and breaks down and nearly ends their relationship as she chokes back tears…
…before suggesting that maybe they get married instead.
And that’s the brick wall. Or the derailment of the roller coaster. I don’t know. I suspect I won’t know for a while.
I’m not entirely convinced by this. I have enough faith in Better Call Saul that we’ll retroactively justify her leap here, but as of right now it feels like someone decided the episode needed to end with that line before “Wexler v. Goodman” was written. And so it’s just sort of there, stranded at the end of a story that — to be blunt — does not build to it.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s a more fitting punctuation to the episode than I realize. I’m very much open to disagreement here, because I’d love to know what I’m missing.
It seems like some attempt was made to tie her suggestion into what’s happening, if only because we open the episode with a flashback to Kim as a little girl. The young actor perfectly nailed Kim’s cadence and the actor playing her mother sounded almost exactly like Rhea Seehorn, so even if it tied to nothing that would have been a really great diversion…but, narratively, I don’t know what I’m supposed to take from it. Is it just that Kim has bad decisions in her blood? Maybe it’s that her father was a deadbeat and she’s repeating the mistakes her mother made?
I don’t know. Maybe it’s nothing at all.
One of the most difficult things for Better Call Saul to rectify with its slow pace is the fact that Saul Goodman by the time of Breaking Bad had been married and divorced several times. Yes, it’s certainly possible he lied to Walter about that detail, but firstly, that’s not something he had any reason to lie about, and secondly, many other things that this show could have waved away as “Saul was lying” have been revealed by Better Call Saul to be true.
And so here we are, past the halfway point of the penultimate season, and Saul hasn’t been married. The show has flirted a number of times with Kim being one of his ex-wives, but that’s all it was…flirtation.
Now we’re here, it’s been brought up, and the scene that could potentially have explained why Kim is no longer around is instead explaining Jimmy’s first marriage.
At least, potentially.
Maybe it’s a brick wall. Maybe we’re soaring through the sky.
Elsewhere, Nacho and Mike reconnect just briefly enough to suggest why Nacho is no longer around by the time of Breaking Bad; Mike may well help the boy get out of the business. Being as we’re this close to the end of the show, it’s good that this possibility is being raised.
Of course, that can’t happen until Eduardo is out of the picture. (Mike even explicitly says this to Nacho.) We end with Gus’ crew using the police against Eduardo’s, just as Eduardo was doing against Gus. It’s an interesting complication but we don’t get much of a sense of what it will come to.
Still, bringing the police into this gangland power struggle is a good reminder of the overlapping doublecrossing of “The Guy for This.” It’s a strategy Saul employs in his meeting with Mesa Verde, with different parties believing they are getting different things for different reasons.
Ultimately, though, as Kim says, Jimmy is the only one who really got what he wanted.
That would have been a great sentiment to leave ringing in our ears until the next episode.
Instead, the script said that Kim should suggest marriage. So that’s what she did. And the rollercoaster either crashed or sent us soaring.
I think it’s one, but I’m hoping it’s the other.