Better Call Saul Season 5, Episode 3 Recap/Analysis

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Both Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad have delivered some inventive opening teasers in their time, but this week’s episode of Saul brought us an opening visual metaphor that deserves a spot amongst the greats. Returning to Jimmy’s discarded ice cream from last episode, we see a curious ant come upon it. First just the one, then a few more until an entire colony covers it completely. Swedish yodeling plays as the ants find sweet satisfaction in the pile of melting sugar. “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” Much like Walter White’s decision to enter the meth business that results in a swarm of tragedy – including two loads of commercial airplane passengers dying in the sky – Jimmy’s seemingly harmless choice to embrace his Saul Goodman alter ego leads to misfortune in ways that only we the audience know the dire future outcome of. And just as Kim warned, his 50% off deal will attract some genuine problems.

Cue Jimmy in the back of Nacho’s car, unable to escape and unsure of his coming fate. Luckily it turns out Lalo needs Jimmy for Krazy-8’s legal troubles. Jimmy attempts to wordsmith his way out, suggesting Lalo save himself the trouble and use a burner phone instead, but Lalo’s a Salamanca, and Salamancas don’t take no for an answer. Jimmy’s still trying to keep his ethics in check, but the surrounding ants have already had a taste of his delicious offerings. As Nacho so adequately proclaims later on, “when you’re in, you’re in.”

Meanwhile, a brief check in on Mike sees the old-timer drowning his guilt in the bottle. He insists the bartender remove a Sydney Opera House postcard from the wall, a venue that Werner’s father engineered, as if dismantling it can somehow dismantle his guilt over offing his former colleague. Mike’s not one to confront his own feelings, so out of sight, out of mind. Of course, all that pent up emotion needs to be taken out somewhere, so why not on a group of neighborhood thugs looking to mug a seemingly defenseless old man. Hey, it beats taking it out on his granddaughter.

Nacho’s pops pays him a visit at his swanky but dreary home that reflects the wealthy but soulless life Nacho’s stuck with. Nacho’s latest attempt to remove his father from the chessboard only backfires with his dad solidifying his firm stance to never run away. In a series full of characters we know the ultimate fate of, Nacho and Lalo’s are the only two that remain uncharted. We know Lalo’s absence from the Breaking Bad timeline means his removal from the game is imminent, it’s a matter of finding out just how Gus will eliminate the obstacle that is Lalo. But Nacho on the other hand, while we know he’s missing from the BB timeline, his story has a fifty-fifty chance of a hopeful outcome. Either he ends up dead as a result of the twisted game he’s become a pawn in, or he makes a clean getaway (perhaps by way of a certain vacuum salesman?). Whatever Nacho’s destiny, its difficult to imagine his morally honorable father – a man who would rather die than cower or submit to the Salamancas – getting his happily ever after. The foreboding tragedy weighs heavy.

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Now to the heart of this episode, Kim, framed by two evening balcony encounters she shares with Jimmy within 24 hours. Jimmy continues to keep coy about the Saul Goodman shenanigans that have him way in over his head, knowing letting Kim in on his self-created troubles would only push the last moral vestige in his life away. But Kim, as always, can smell the Saul grease all over Jimmy. But what really scares her is how enticing the amoral whirlwind of Jimmy really is. She stares hungrily at that empty beer bottle on the edge of the balcony, fighting hard not to surrender to her dark side and toss it down.

The next morning sees Kim in zone with her good nature, using her power to help the common folk in the community. Then Mesa Verde comes calling. And like a dog on a leash, she’s pulled into defending a corporate giant, to drive off the old and stubborn Acker out of his life-long home. But as tenacious as Acker may be, he’s made a distinct choice to plant his feet in what he believes in. A trait Kim can’t herself possess when being ordered to handle the dirty work of an association that has no time for principles.

To the praise of her colleagues, Kim embraces her roll as the aggressor on Acker and goes into full threat mode. Afterwards, Kim’s drive home conjures memories of her brutal season three car crash, one that was a direct result of heartless overworking. This time, she slows her car to a stop to consider an empathetic approach. She returns to Acker’s home, in the dead of night no less, as a peace offering, extending him a variety of new housing options and her personal out-of-pocket assistance in his transition. She also reveals a hardship from her childhood, it seems Kim’s mother had a slippin’ side of her own as she would wake Kim in the middle of the night to skip out on rent payments. A part of Kim’s past that adds a new layer to her determination against her own unethical allure. One that owes its origins to her mother’s influence. Acker, however, rejects Kim’s vulnerable showmanship. “You’ll say anything to get what you want, won’t ya?”

Back to the balcony with Jimmy, Acker’s words have surly stuck with Kim. Is her empathetic heart anything more than a cover up for her infatuation with stepping out of line? With no words at all, we’re treated to a delightful scene that speaks to both Kim and Jimmy. Playfully letting his beer bottle slip in and out of his hands, Jimmy takes great delight in playing on the edge. But Kim is fed up with the half in, half out of her dark side. She aggressively tosses her bottle and a few more to boot, reveling in the satisfaction. They then run inside to avoid the upset neighbors and (probably) go wild on each other.

Of course, it would be a travesty not to mention the return of Breaking Bad‘s Hank Schrader and Steve Gomez. As Jimmy works on keeping his own ethical values in check by assuring the best possible outcome for Krazy-8, he’s forced to go toe to toe with the two DEA partners. Hank and Gomey’s entrance into the show is masterfully built up for anyone who’s watched Breaking Bad. As they walk into the building, they’re shrouded just enough to make us lean in for conformation. once inside, a sign reading, “no weapons, no smoking, no spitting or cursing,” enters the side of the frame. An apt way to signal Hank’s unmoving moral righteousness. The two friends hilariously babble over expired foods (fitting for the episode’s theme of rotting morality) as they de-arm themselves, placing their weapons in lockers. And as this show loves to remind viewers of the tragic outcome of its characters, we get a camera shot from the inside of both Gomey and Hank’s lockers, framing them in their own square coffin-like boxes, reminding us of the grim fate they’ll both meet in the New Mexico Desert.

 

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