The Following are recaps and reviews of ‘Better Call Saul Season 4: Episodes 4, 5 and 6. Warning, there will be spoilers.
The middle of ‘Better Call Saul’ season four is focused on character building and boiling points. The story, filling in details as to how we get from the beginning of our series to our inevitable ending (the beginnings of ‘Breaking Bad’).
The mid-season sees the main cast of Jimmy, Kim, Mike and Nacho – settle into their various new roles. How they handle these changes, is very much the dramatic tension of the season.
Jimmy, now a non-practicing lawyer, tries to find ways to keep occupied, swallowing his silent guilt over his own brother’s death by trying his best in distracting himself and descending into more criminal activities. Mike Ehrmantraut, slowly slips into the role of Gus’ right-hand man. Nacho Vargas, a cunning criminal in his own respect, sees his freedom taken away as he is sucked into being Gus’ secret inside man against the Salamancas. While Kim, perhaps the only voice of righteousness now in the series, starts to forge her own path in helping others by slowly pursuing becoming a criminal defense attorney.
Where the earlier episodes did a great job in worldbuilding by establishing the downfall of the Salamancas and the rise of Gustavo Fring’s empire – the midseason sees some detailed layering of its characters. Showing us how morally decent people can slowly fall – particularly after trauma.
The story follows a similar trajectory as to Walter White in Breaking Bad. But what I think makes it a little more compelling, is that its less of a black and white story. Whereas Heisenberg very much becomes the villain of the story, Saul Goodman, is renown for being morally grey. He’s a bit more unpredictable at this moment in his timeline – and episodes 4-6 highlight this.
Episode 4: ‘Talk’
Jimmy is given a job offer as a cell phone store manager but rejects it. At least, until Kim presses him to attend therapy. Aversive to dealing with his feelings, he feigns having no free time and immediately takes the job offer as manager instead. He discovers that the store location is quite isolated. Bored, Jimmy tries to look for ways to pass the time. He later goes onto collect his share from the Hummell figurine heist, and inspired by his fellow cohort, Ira, approaches his cellphone store with a new angle: to market burner phones to fellow criminals under the false pretense of unadulterated “privacy”.
Meanwhile, Kim is bored with having Mesa Verde as a client. She spends a day in Judge Munsinger’s court to remember the excitement of what being a lawyer was all about. The judge calls her in during recess and in a playful conversation, threatens to put her to work as a pro bono defense counsel if he finds her there sulking again. Surely enough, she’s watching him in court minutes later.
Shortly after a drug deal, Nacho lies to The Salamanca Cousins by identifying that it was the Espinosas who ambushed him. He wants to return with some backup, but the Cousins have a different plan. In an elaborately filmed shootout scene, the cousins proceed to kill every single member of the Espinosas, all seen from Nacho’s perspective. He tries to help despite being very injured along the way.
In the aftermath, Nacho meets with Gus and acknowledges the frame job was to eliminate more of Gus’ competition, increasing more of his territory. Gus suggests there is more work for Nacho to do. Nacho goes home to his father, miserable about his predicament.
Mike has lunch with fellow support group member, Anita. He claims that Henry, another person in the support group, is lying, with a made-up story about a dead wife. Mike calls him out with some very solid evidence, leading to an awkward storm out by Henry.
Mike later meets with Gus, who is mad that Mike didn’t share his knowledge of Nacho’s intended murder attempt against Hector. Though Mike claims that wasn’t the promise he agreed with, as he only wouldn’t kill Hector himself. In an almost standoff, a gutsy Mike asks Gus to essentially cut the crap and tell him about the ‘job’ that need to be done.
‘Talk’: The Verdict
Overall, ‘Talk’ was a surprisingly introspective journey of the season. It involved many of the main characters needing to say things, yet going out of their way to distract themselves for their respective secrets. It was one of the slower episodes for Saul and Mike’s storylines – but Nacho’s and the Cousins’ thrilling showdown kept it exciting. It’s interesting how much this episode plays with the idea of things that needed to be said – the necessity of talking things over yet never actually going there.
Which is poetic, because the only persons that do cut through the bullshit by episodes climax – are Mike and Gus. And it’s only about their inevitable drug business partnership.
Episode 5: ‘Quite a Ride’
The episode opens on Saul, sometime near the end of ‘Breaking Bad’. He’s seemingly on the run and executing his escape plan, giving Francesca some final orders and quite the large severance pay before departing to establish his new identity – as seen in the flash forwards of this series.
In the ‘Better Call Saul’ timeline, Jimmy goes out of his way to sell some pay-as-you-go phones. Going deep into the underbelly of the streets, he successfully sells his phones to some devious clientele, including a biker gang. All seems well – until he is mugged by some wily teens that he’d tried to sell phones to, and failed, earlier in the scene.
While being nursed at home by Kim, Jimmy is upset he hadn’t noticed the teens that mugged him. He grows nostalgic for the old days when he was once a conman. When people respected him on the streets. Concerned, he relents to Kim’s suggestions in seeing a shrink. He then goes to his phone store and removes his “Privacy Sold Here” paint from the store windows.
Mike begins his journey in becoming Gus’ right hand. He oversees covertly escorting some engineers to the planned location of Gus’ planned industrial meth lab, as seen in ‘Breaking Bad’. After a round of rejection, Gus eventually approves of structural engineer Werner Ziegler, in overseeing the difficult task of constructing the lab in secret.
Kim takes on some pro bono criminal defense cases and seems to do a great job with it. She eventually is called in by Mesa Verde about some errors in paperwork, but hangs up them, as she is preoccupied with her criminal casework. When she later arrives at the Mesa Verde office, she discovers that the legal staff fixed her problem, though at heavy costs. She is reprimanded. The bank was supposed to be her only set of client work. Kim promises them that she won’t make the same mistake again.
At the DA’s office, Jimmy runs into Howard in the bathroom, who is looking worse for wear. It’s apparent that Howard’s guilt is eating away at him. He’s no longer sleeping and having difficulty in doing his job ever since admitting to his possible role in Chuck’s death.
Jimmy shares with him, a psychiatrist’s number that he had received from, Kim. Howard admits he’s already in therapy. Seeing how ineffective therapy was for Howard, a man also dealing with the guilt of the death of his brother, Chuck – Jimmy naturally discards the number of the psychiatrist. He then meets with his probation officer and declares his intent to become an even bigger and better lawyer once his suspension is done.
‘Quite a Ride’: The Verdict
This was a great midseason episode that introduced a lot of change. On the technical side, the opening scene was fantastic as it literally recycled some of the original ‘Breaking Bad’ set, was the first flashback set in that timeline, and was entirely shot on film, just as Breaking Bad was. Atop that, we got some great visual moments of characterization, such as Jimmy’s literal tossing of the psychiatrist’s number into the toilet and his slow scraping off the words in his store’s window. The show is known for its visualization cues and what you see in this episode are objects metaphorically representing internal conflicts. When Jimmy rejects therapy, he ergo the guilt of his brother’s suicide.
Strong messages to say the least. Atop that we see Kim take charge of her life. She’s finding meaning and letting go of her potential cushy banking lawyer job in the process. She’s focused on helping others. Which might have stronger implications, as we’ve noted in the previous episodes.
And of course, we see Mike do what he does best: know how to plan sketchy operations and deals. Though his motivations at this point seem questionable. Can everything simply be an excuse for family? If so, how is this characterization of Mike any different from Walter White?
Episode 6: ‘Pinata’
We open to a flashback of Jimmy and Kim’s days in the mailroom. Where Chuck nails an impossible case – too much applause from his peers. Jimmy seems upset being in Chuck’s shadow. He passes the library of HHM, where he and Kim work in the mailroom, and enters while no one is watching.
In the Better Call Saul present, Kim is distracted from her work with Mesa Verde. She’d rather be working her public defender cases from the courthouse. She tries to approach Jimmy but finds him asleep with his sketchpad. It contains drawings and notes, hinting that he dreams of building a firm with Kim. He explains to Kim the following morning that he didn’t see the psychiatrist. Later on, Kim meets with Rick and suggests establishing a banking division.
Meanwhile, Jimmy gets a call about his first elder law client, Mrs. Strauss. She has passed away. There are questions about the will and he redirects them to HHM, as his law license is suspended. At dinner, Kim reveals to Jimmy that she was offered a partner position at Rick’s firm to start a banking division. This would allow her to keep Mesa Verde while working as a public defender – the best of both worlds for Kim. Jimmy is heartbroken, as he still had plans to be partners with her, though still gives Kim his approval.
Gus and Mike work together in creating arrangements for Werner Ziegler and his team. Wanting to create the meth lab, they’ve already begun by building two homes in a large warehouse.
Mike recommends luxuries and entertainment to keep the team happy, as their days are long and isolated. He also recommends security precautions to keep the place safe. Later on, after meeting the workers, he fingers security to keep watch one of the more dissatisfied ones – being the ever-vigilant Mike we’ve known since the beginning of the series.
Gus is called away. Hector has gotten worse and so Gus leaves to check on him. He shares an ominous story with Hector. About a precious fruit tree and a wild animal he caught trying to steal from it. He kept the animal to watch it suffer for the rest of its life. He plans on doing the same to Hector.
At HHM, Jimmy visits Howard and notices the place is struggling. A very defeated, Howard admits it’s due to the loss of its reputation. Jimmy calls Howard a bad lawyer but a great businessman, mostly showing tough love to get him motivated. Howard swears at Jimmy, in a jarring yet surprising moment for cable TV. Jimmy then uses the money from his inheritance check to buy a bunch of pay-as-you-go phones.
That night, Jimmy meets with the teens that mugged him and tries to convince them to help him sell phones. They don’t buy it and try to mug him again, but Jimmy leads them into a trap. They are tied upside down in a room filled with pinatas, where he intimates the teens by having his enforcers smash the hanging decorations, eventually leading to them but they stop seconds before hitting the teens. Jimmy convinces the teens to tell everyone on the streets he is off-limits.
‘Pinata’: The Verdict
It was inevitable Jimmy would get his revenge, though it seems slightly petty at the same time. Though just as before when his brother made him feel small, Jimmy is slightly downsized in ego this episode. His entire hopeful future seemingly coming to an end. As a result, we see him embrace more Saul Goodman characteristics. The gritty intimidation tactics and in your face tough love, we’d expect more from Saul than kindhearted yet out of luck Jimmy.
At the same time, we really see Kim come into her own this episode. She is slowly showcasing her distancing from Jimmy. Her career independence and Jimmy’s lack of empathy over his brother’s death, the obvious wedge driving the two apart. While we began the season with the two very close, with Kim being quite protective of Jimmy, we now see them with different visions of their respective futures. Perhaps hinting at the beginning of the end for the pair.
Finally, at this point we really see Mike come into his own as Gus’ hand. His suggestions for the lab are immediately taken to heart and implemented. Gus gives Mike a lot of control, despite barely knowing him. It’s creepy how natural the two are working together with stellar performances to both actors.