Big6 Blog: Better Call Saul: Season 4 Finale Review

By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – October 8, 2018)


“Oh and sweetheart I’m going to need one more form…DBA, because I am not going to be practicing under the name McGill, so…”

State and local governments usually require companies to register any alternate names under which they do business. Called a Doing Business As (DBA) filing, this action allows your company to legally operate under a trade name, also known as an “assumed” or “fictitious” name. (www.incorporate.com)

And like that, Kim Wexler saw Jimmy McGill the way we do, because we know where he’s headed. It’s been a Slippin’ Jimmy tilt-a-whirl for four seasons of Better Call Saul, but we’re finally to the breaking point (no pun intended). When exactly it happened, we can’t pinpoint, but we can see the moment where his emotions finally collapsed. It was when he climbed into his car after the scholarship interviews and it wouldn’t start. He began to weep, whimpering “No no no…noooooo” as if he had snapped and fallen into a pit of despair.

While his girlfriend – who told him regardless of how his last ditch attempt to be a lawyer again in that calendar year came out, “I’m with you,” – was fully in his corner, Jimmy did what he does. He did the exact thing he told the shoplifter that didn’t get one of the Charles McGill scholarships to do. Notice he used the phrase “cut corners” with her and then in a description of himself during the improv act at the lectern.

Kim listened to Jimmy talk about living up to his brother’s expectations or making him proud, including the descriptions of trying to “climb Everest without supplies.” She teared up, as did “that one a–hole” that was crying actual tears. When she recognized it was an act, it was almost like the scales fell from her eyes and she witnessed immorality she hadn’t counted on before and didn’t want to believe existed in her friend, lover, and maybe future husband. His decision was made. He would do whatever it took, no shame permitted, and he would “rub their noses in it,” as he told the student to do in the parking lot.

Gale is excited and ready to cook meth, because he’s a lunatic, but Gus won’t allow it until the superlab is fully done, which became more difficult due to Werner Ziegler’s attempted escape, which did work in getting him out of the job, not to mention his marriage and his freedom to breathe. It was a somber moment played so wonderfully by Jonathan Banks, as Mike Ehrmantraut didn’t want to kill Werner, but knew there was no choice. He knew that at least if he did it, it would be quick and it would be as dignified as an execution could be.

For Werner, it was just about missing his wife and vice versa. He wasn’t trying to run for good, just for a few days to a nice resort she was flying into so they could spend a few days together. Mike knew the excuse wasn’t an excuse, because he had talked to Ziegler and listened to him mention his 26 years with Margarethe and how much he loved her. He took a job that would enable him to retire afterward, but all the complications and unforeseen difficulties took their toll on him psychologically. It ultimately cost him his life.

That superlab would cost many their lives if we extrapolate and look ahead to Breaking Bad and what’s yet to come, including the man who originally commissioned it. What was most heartbreaking about that sequence was him basically having to scream to his wife that he didn’t want to see her and she needed to fly home. The next thing she’s going to hear is from German attorneys who arrive at her door with a story about a construction accident that took Werner from her, leaving her a widow. He had to do it to give her a chance to survive, but it was painful to watch, both for the viewer and for “Michael.”

Lalo thwarted as Mike used chewing gum to jam the card slot in the parking lot was pretty great. It’s a totally unlikable character and one I look forward to seeing die. That’s harsh, but I’m just being truthful about it. Every great drama of this type has to have the one or two you just can’t stand, and that’s who he is. Right now I’m much more Team Gus, especially knowing how his story ends. Credit to Tony Dalton for playing Eduardo “Lalo” Salamanca in a way that makes me want to see him get shot in the face. That’s his job. He’s written well and he performs it well. Fred didn’t deserve that bro. He just didn’t.

Werner at one point just before he was shot in a beautiful but gut punch of a scene asked his friend, Mike Ehrmantraut, who would murder him two minutes later, “Is there no other way? Truly?” Mike couldn’t say a word, because he was so upset with what he had to do. But let’s take that question and splice it into Jimmy McGill’s life. Kim gave him another way, a few of them as a matter of fact, yet he cut corners and revealed himself to be a pretty gross human being.

Perhaps she also began to look back on some of what the two had done together, most recently the acting job at the cemetery, the $23,000 he spent on the Charles L. McGill Reading Room at the university (which if you paid attention, Rick Schweikart let it slip that it had been basically a year since Chuck’s death, giving you a further non-superlab construction version of where we are time wise), and the three scholarships in his brother’s name, and finally saw them as the sham put-ons that they were. She might even have felt the Mesa Verde scam, the Huell Babineaux caper, and even the quick and easy jobs in the hotel restaurant in her head.

“Who am I?”

Maybe she asked herself that.

Now I’m just hoping she escapes and doesn’t get killed. I’d still love to think there’s a redemption story in black and white to see in Omaha at the end of this series, but it doesn’t seem to be possible. Season 5 will be about the lab’s completion and Lalo/Don Hector vs. Gustavo Fring (with Mike now in much deeper and Nacho trapped), and it will be about the real nasty split that’s coming between Kim Wexler and a man she had never met until she heard him in that justice center lobby.

His name is Saul Goodman.

And he’s a real piece of work. Chuck would NOT be proud.

Jimmy tells the student that didn’t get the scholarship something very telling in that important soliloquy to her in the parking lot. “You made a mistake and they are never forgetting it. As far as they’re concerned, it’s who you are and it’s all you are.” What’s interesting here is that the one not forgetting his mistakes is JIMMY. They called him insincere. It was because he WAS insincere. He put on a show. He didn’t think to mention Chuck. He uses his past failures and any sleight as a rationalization for his less than upstanding activities. He’s a victim in his own mind, whether it’s with the Bar Association or when his beat-up sedan won’t crank.

As James McGill walked away, for the final time as himself, it was as if all the cloudiness came into sharp focus. Kim Wexler was left standing on spaghetti legs in a state of stunned shock when he said he wouldn’t be using McGill as his name. What on earth would be the reason for that? Why would he do that? He got what he wanted? But go back to the scholarship interview room and the look on his face as he gazed at the framed portrait of his brother. It wasn’t love. It was disdain. It was as if Chuck had ruined his life. Again, he was a victim.

Remember, he was more emotionally shaken after the passing of one of his elderly clients from seasons past than after Chuck burned alive.

When he set off down that hallway to sign paperwork and become a lawyer again, in so many ways he truly became a new person, and that stranger turned around with the slimiest of expressions, looked to the one invaluable and real thing in his life, gave her a double gun gesture with his hands, and said the words we knew were set to come out of his mouth…

…”S’all Good Mannnnn.”

End of season.

Perfect.

A perfect disaster, which is what this show should always strive to be. Season 4 was a masterpiece of dramatic television, featuring some of the best performances we’ve seen to date, in particular from Rhea Seehorn, who should be a shoo-in for an Emmy nom, alongside Odenkirk and Banks. Michael Mando was strong as well, and Giancarlo Esposito reprised Gus Fring flawlessly. This was just special across the board, so well done, so well written, such a joy. It was art. It adds to the dilemma as to which series, Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul, will be the better of the two when Saul finally takes its final bow in a few years.

Whichever way you go on that debate, be glad we got to watch them both. Never in my wildest dreams did I think Saul would end up being this good when it was first revealed as a series. It’s one of the great television triumphs of the decade, if not the century so far. Just stellar. Season 5 can’t come soon enough.

I leave you with the lyrics to Abba’s “The Winner Takes It All,” which Chuck and Jimmy sang together after older brother vouched for younger brother to help him get his career started. These words are incredibly applicable to the episode and to the series as a whole. Prepare yourself:

I don’t wanna talk about things we’ve gone through,
Though it’s hurting me, now it’s history
I’ve played all my cards and that’s what you’ve done too,
Nothing more to say, no more ace to play
The winner takes it all, the loser standing small
Beside the victory, that’s her destiny

I was in your arms thinking I belonged there,
I figured it made sense, building me a fence,
Building me a home, thinking I’d be strong there,
But I was a fool, playing by the rules
The gods may throw a dice, their minds as cold as ice,
And someone way down here loses someone dear

The winner takes it all, the loser has to fall,
It’s simple and it’s plain, why should I complain

But tell me, does she kiss like I used to kiss you,
Does it feel the same when she calls your name
Somewhere deep inside you must know I miss you,
But what can I say, rules must be obeyed
The judges will decide the likes of me abide,
Spectators of the show always staying low

The game is on again, a lover or a friend,
A big thing or a small, the winner takes it all

I don’t wanna talk if it makes you feel sad,
And I understand you’ve come to shake my hand
I apologize if it makes you feel bad
Seeing me so tense, no self-confidence

The winner takes it all
The winner takes it all

I’m @JMartZone. There are so many stars visible in New Mexico. I will walk out there to get a better look.

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