By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – March 9, 2020)
EPISODE 4: NAMASTE
This was a very, very heavy Saul and Kim episode, which with just a little Hank and Steve hijinks and a pretty frightening few minutes of Gus waiting for that call…made it maybe my favorite of the new season. Written and directed by Gordon Smith, we advanced a lot of stories without doing anything that classifies as a bombshell. Those are yet to come.
Kim is still in the spot where she hates that she has to keep going to Saul (not Jimmy, but Saul) to get things accomplished. In this case, we have Mr. Acker continuing to put himself in a spot where she realizes he’s getting pushed out the hard way, without any compensation. She has no real love for Mesa Verde and would love to be financially stable without that money and that responsibility.
Wexler is very much an altruist at heart, but in order to make a living, she can’t go 100% pro bono. As with most who have similar mindsets, there’s a grin and bear it quality to the daily existence, except in the cases where a 501C3 is operating outside of its mission, engaging in fraud, or the bleeding heart is merely a mirage to line pockets. For Kim, it’s who she is and what she wants to do, which consistently puts her at odds internally with Jimmy McGill, who hasn’t ever met a rule he didn’t attempt to break.
Still, she loves him, even when she might not like him all that much, and she knows the same thing Howard Hamlin knows, namely that he’s good at what he does. Watching him operate in court, with the stand-in for his client that the store owner points out erroneously, she might think that’s an underhanded tactic (which it is), but it results in a mistrial and was certainly effective. As a defense attorney, he’s just taking the steps of his profession to a new level, in this instance descending the staircase further, rather than ascending. One thing that didn’t entirely ring true was why Jimmy McGill or Saul Goodman, whichever identity is currently running the show inside his brain, would be so vindictive to what was likely a good offer from Howard Hamlin.
Sure, there’s history, plenty of it, and it got ugly, but we never even got to a negotiating phase or a specific offer, yet we see Saul damage the “NAMAST3” car with the bowling balls. Howard may not know it’s him, so perhaps the deal isn’t off, but the indication is Saul Goodman wants to continue playing the scumbag attorney, rather than take the legitimate route. What that tells us is Jimmy McGill has really ceased to exist at this stage. Instead, Saul Goodman is who he is and who he wants to be, even if it means being what Saul Goodman is and doing what Saul Goodman has to do to win. He’s definitely blue collar, but it doesn’t make sense that he wants to keep selling discount burner phones and dealing with morons who “hate rehab” every day.
Still, Saul manages to get results, even if it takes a very unfortunate image to convince Acker of what Kim couldn’t last week. Again, she’s good hearted, but she watched this older gentleman basically call her a corporate sellout stooge, and she couldn’t take it. She tried in the Mesa Verde meeting to sell the questionable lot in order to leave Acker alone, but the chances that was going to work on this show weren’t good. Jimmy had to get involved. No, Saul Goodman had to get involved, because there is no low to which he will not stoop, even animal pornography, and that was merely to make a stronger argument for something good. His methods are…yikes, but it’s never going to be boring.
That whole deal with Gus and the fryer with Lyle was odd, except it felt more like a character reveal for Fring than anything else. While he was waiting for word that the authorities had seized the cash at the dead drop, he turned into a frightening restaurant boss. Why? We needed to see a concrete example of Gustavo Fring’s insatiable, almost dangerous desire and affinity for power. He loves to be in control and to have people under his thumb. Did he need Lyle cleaning while he sat in his sinister, darkened office staring at the flip phone on his desk? No, but he COULD. He could be that guy. Thus he did it.
Meanwhile, can we please get a Hank and Steve buddy comedy? Just have them solving various crimes as a side story, at least until both of them end up dead, but we can do some prequel stuff and just watch these two succeed, despite ridiculous conversations and stakeouts. Tell me you wouldn’t watch and I’ll call you a liar. And, we again see just how talented these two are at the business of investigation. Hank can also do the rah-rah coach speech, while we see his mind churning, knowing there’s so much more to accomplish, so much that they’ve failed to do. “Upstream,” he says, because he doesn’t want to go after smaller hoods, but the bigwigs at the heart of these cartels and organizations.
Mike is still blaming himself for Werner’s death, which now has him on the fringes of his relationship with his daughter-in-law and his granddaughter. He was a little more stable this week, but managed to walk into the gang ambush, which felt intentional. He takes no precautions on those strolls back to his home, and this time he paid for it. He then wakes up in this pueblo or farm of sorts, and that’s where we fade to black this week. Someone has bandaged his abdomen, where he was stabbed, and taken care of him. The question is who…and what it’s leading him to next.
Early in the episode, Kim tells Saul, “Yesterday was bad. Today, I’m going to fix it.” That may be so, but usually on this series, once it’s fixed, the next day after that one is worse than “yesterday.” I’m most interested at this stage in learning of her fate than anyone else’s, because I’ve seen five seasons worth of what’s next for a lot of these people. But, we never saw Rhea Seehorn on Breaking Bad. Now, I’m far more intrigued to learn why that is, because the character has been so well written and so well performed.
Season 5 just continues to add more depth and enhance the legacy this show and the larger universe has created and fostered. Better Call Saul is almost effortlessly good at this point, but because it always tries to be more, it is more. Just a tremendous series all around. We’re almost to the halfway point of the season and we can just tell the back half is going to be loaded with huge moments. So much of the first four has been stage setting, but with beautiful execution.