Better Call Saul: Season 4, Episode 3 Review

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Spoilers ahead…

This week’s episode opens with a scene that could easily have been in Breaking Bad. Watching people doing things is never more engaging than when this team of writers and filmmakers pulls it off. Tyrus and Victor sure as hell know how to set up a crime scene. That second shot to Nacho’s stomach was brutal as ever. And I imagine Gus is aware there is a possibility of Nacho dying as a result of such a wound. It’s a flip of the coin here if he’ll be able to use Nacho any further, but Gus is at his coldest when it comes to vengeance, and it’s a risk he’s happy to take. Not to mention, all is riding on that desert shootout looking as real as possible.

Nacho is out of the frying pan and in the fire now. It’s hard not to feel for him. Much like Jesse Pinkman, we’re watching a young man live out the brutal consequences in a business he never should have got himself involved in. Nacho is also the only character whose fate is completely up in the air. I’m eager as ever to see if, among a cast of characters sealed to a dark fate, Nacho can make it out of this show unscathed.

The effects crew pulled a remarkable job of making Nacho look as though he’s on the brink of death. And the camera work as the Salamanca cousins and Caldera (the veterinarian) try to fix Nacho up felt like a scene straight out of Requiem for a Dream. Nacho is helpless and probably wouldn’t mind the warm embrace of death at this point. Then we get the hilarious irony of Caldera telling Nacho, “this cartel shit is too hot for me.” Michael Mando’s ‘if you only knew’ reaction is priceless.

Gus, ever the master planner, knows Don Bolsa will fall right into his hand by instructing the use of a local supplier. It’s always a pleasure to watch Gus manipulate events. “But that’s forbidden.” Gus is playing the cartel like a fiddle. And this show is clever in reminding us that this particular chess move will lead directly to Walter White. As we found out in season four of Breaking Bad, Gale Boetticher convinces Gus to bring Walt into their business, inevitably signing both their death warrants. So, as Gus makes his way to meet with Gale, the camera shoots Giancarlo Esposito in a subtly similar way to his fateful walk to meet with Hector in Breaking Bad, just before Gus’ explosive death. I love how this show communicates a shift of fate like this purely through its memory striking visuals.

And if you thought I was going to just glide over Gale’s suitably geeky entrance into this show, don’t fret. David Costabile never ceases to amaze us with his impeccable memory skills, this time lent to singing ‘the elements’ with insane accuracy. When Gus enters the room, he smiles at Gale’s quirky number before making his presence known. Gus seems to genuinely like Gale. And he doesn’t have to persuade Gale into cooking meth for him. I couldn’t help but notice Gale’s similarities with Walter White here. Albeit, a much more eccentric version. Gale’s got an ego, putting down the poor quality of the inferior meth samples, he’s got a taste for the criminal underworld and wants to edge his way in to make his mark. He’s Walt, minus the Heisenberg.

This episode sees Jimmy meeting up with Mike for the first time this season. I’ve heard plenty complaints regarding Jimmy and Mike not interacting enough in this series, but the distance between the two characters makes sense in the grander scheme. You never get a sense in Breaking Bad that these two players have a particularly strong history with one another. Mike’s loyalties lie fully with Gus in in that show. He’s even willing to torture Saul for information on Jesse Pinkman in that not too distant future. It certainly wouldn’t make sense for the two to be overly buddy, buddy in Saul’s show. They’re on two separate paths. Anyway, it’s always nice seeing Mike in his favorite diner, getting served by his favorite waitress, Fran. Jimmy tries to convince Mike to hop on board the hummel heist, but Mike sees no rhyme or reason. And this older, wiser man can see that Jimmy must be covering his pain and loss through some unnecessary scam antics.

Jimmy ends up taking the alternate route to Ira, the future boss-man of Vamonos Pest. Saul mentions having done some past heist work with Ira in Breaking Bad, so this was a fitting and fun connection. It’s great that, despite the dark turn this show is taking, it still keeps one foot in the silly waters it was birthed from. It’s a delight to watch Jimmy bail Ira out of a botched heist plan. I just hope Mr. Neff’s wife can find a way to forgive his vacuum gift.

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The title of this episode, “Something Beautiful,” really applies to Jimmy and Kim this week. These two characters have been through the emotional ringer together and their relationship is taking a damaging toll. Jimmy is burying his anguish by focusing all his energy into ‘Slipping Jimmy,’ while Kim can no longer ignore hers. As she learns about the boundless road of work ahead of her with Mesa Verde’s expansion, she has a moment of internal panic. Is she really supposed to bury herself in work until she’s completely numb to her emotions? She can no longer ignore the pain and guilt harbored from Chuck’s demise.

The final scene between Jimmy and Kim is a prime example of what this show so expertly conveys – human nature in its most raw and truthful form. Rhea Seehorn and Bob Odenkirk are engaging as ever in this crushing moment. The stage is set when Jimmy learns of the five-grand kick to the nuts his brother left him with. You can see and hear his pained reaction. So, when Jimmy dives into the letter, he’s ready to interpret it as an even further sarcastic dig at his character, no matter what it actually says.

But to Kim and the audience’s surprise, the letter is actually a heartfelt confession from Chuck, laying out his most encouraging feelings towards his little brother. Jimmy gives the letter a meaningless, mundane read while Kim breaks down in tears. She can no longer hide her emotions, and it breaks her heart that Jimmy has turned so cold. An intensely emotional scene between two people who just can’t find a connection in their grief. That last shot of Jimmy with half his face divided in white representing the vacant, detached individual Chuck’s death is turning him to. Once Kim is out of his life, there will be no more Jimmy left, just a bare void of his former self. Kim senses this deterioration in Jimmy, clear as day, and it kills her.

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