As Jimmy McGill’s life was torn apart in front of my very eyes in “Wiedersehen“, the latest episode of Better Call Saul and the penultimate of the fourth season, oddly, I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. Not because I was enjoying what he was going through – it was tragic – but because it was yet another example of TV’s best show once again defying expectations and taking the story in a place that I don’t think anyone could have anticipated.
I think all of us were getting a little too complacent and comfortable with the show this season. Things were starting to seem too obvious! Mike and Gus were building their underground meth lab, and while much of that arc has been about teasing something bad happening with one of the workers (foreshadowing which came to fruition in this episode’s B-plot), we know that the lab winds up getting build, and that Gus’s empire will continue to grow whilst tensions between him and the Salamancas fester, all while the black hole of New Mexico’s drug trade winds up swallowing the seemingly innocent people around them, including one Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman. In fact, that’s exactly what all of that is building to; the show has literally been building the foundations of a world that will eventually rope Jimmy in.
So the path for this season seemed obvious. Jimmy spends his year suspended from practicing law peddling burner phones, all the while either alienating Kim or drawing her to the dark side (depending on which theory you believe), culminating in Jimmy going full Saul after flying too close to the sun with his schemes and falling in with all the wrong people in that other story we’ve been following. And while we’ll still ultimately get to that point, “Wiedersehen” winds up throwing a hell of a wrench into the works, rendering the immediate direction of this show unpredictable. In the episode, not only does Jimmy have his reinstatement denied, he winds up taking his anger out on Kim, who herself has spent the last few episodes straddling the Jimmy/Saul line, leading to a blow-up that may or may not finally spell the end for their relationship and that puts in question how Jimmy finally winds up going full Saul.
How did we get here, exactly? Kim and Jimmy were finally looking like they were back on track at the end of last week’s episode, following months and months of them growing apart. After successfully scheming to get Huell off the hook, Kim declares that she wants to do more of that kind of stuff with Jimmy, and this week’s episode starts with a successful grift that nets Mesa Verde a bigger conference room at one of their branches. Yet when Jimmy talks about how they could do this for all of his clients after he gets his license back, Kim confusingly suggests that they should only use their powers for good, as if a career goon and a fledgling bank obsessed with the size of their branch atrium are “good”.
In other words, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Kim is using Jimmy to gratify her dark side, and the show is subtly painting her with shades of grey as Jimmy slips further into his own, which is important, because that forces us to side with Jimmy when he fails his interview, even though, as Kim points out after the fact, they were probably justified in doing so. At first, Jimmy seems to nail it, projecting, in his own words, sincerity that occasionally slips into corniness. But a last minute question from one of the panelists trips him up, when asked what the law meant to him and who inspires him to practice it. It’s obviously a set up for him to frame his answer around his recently deceased brother. But Jimmy genuinely doesn’t think about Chuck anymore, so he puts together some bullshit answer that’s devoid of any modicum of remorse for how he got here and what happened to Chuck, and the lady sees right through his facade. Jimmy is incensed; angrier than we’ve ever seen him. He’s pissed that he spent most of the past year playing it safe only to be told it’s him, not his actions. That board, and later, his own girlfriend, basically paint him as a narcissistic, unethical slimeball, and it pisses him off. He feels hurt, and entitled, and he realizes his girlfriend isn’t there to back him up, but instead to feed off his negative energy.
The episode ends, seemingly, with Kim offering to help him appeal and get his license back, but it seems clear that at least one of them, if not both, are now passed the point of no return. And yet, it still remains unclear how we get from here, to Saul Goodman, Criminal Lawyer. Nevertheless, the performances from Rhea Seehorn and especially Bob Odenkirk are phenomenal in an episode that’s very important for where their characters wind up next, and for reminding us that this is a character-driven (not plot-driven) show.
And while those performances were great, and the result truly surprising, I couldn’t help but feel as if the 78-minute episode was somewhat unnecessarily bloated, and probably not the best outing of the season. The subplots are all still table-setting, and while it’s cool to see Lalo strut around town, antagonizing Gus (his reaction to Nacho bringing him to the restaurant is priceless) and giving us the origin of Hector’s bell are both great, as are the scenes with Werner missing his wife and plotting his unexpected escape. It’s just that with Jimmy suffering that setback, it feels as if these worlds are still way too far apart, seemingly more so than they have been in seasons past, and I’m curious to see whether or not the show does anything to bring them closer together in next week’s finale.
“Wiedersehen” is an episode propped up by an unexpected twist and two great performances, but it’s a little too self-indulgent in episode length and in stretching things out the way Better Call Saul is wont to do, therefore it gets 8 loose dynamite wires out of 10.
Notes & Quotes:
- This was Vince Gilligan’s one and only directed episode of the season. For the first time, he has no writing credits to his name this year. It’s interesting because there wasn’t much in this episode that distinguished the directing style from the previous eight. I suppose that speaks volumes to the consistency of the cinematography on the show, and the level of writing and directing no matter how involved Gilligan is.
- I love to talk about dichotomies in this show, and there’s a whole other review I could have written framing Jimmy against Lalo. We know their paths will eventually collide, and it’ll be interesting when they do, because Lalo seems like he’s much closer to what Jimmy/Saul’s final stage will be. He oozes bullshit that everyone can see through but doesn’t get called out for it because he’s so good at it (compared to Jimmy, who doesn’t get realize that he’s full of shit). Look at how Lalo tells Gus that he wants no bad blood between them. Gus hates every second of their conversation and certainly doesn’t exude trust for Lalo. That’s where we’ll eventually get to with Jimmy. But seeing it now through this new character is certainly a breath of fresh air for the show.
- Werner first breaks down when he goes back into the bunker to check on the wires. I’m unsure of this is just him showing his emotions in a rare moment of solitude, or something else, but it’s truly powerful. Later, of course, after an extended call with his wife, he decides to plot his escape by fooling the cameras. We’ll have to see what comes of this and how it will reflect on Mike, who would have normally seen this coming a mile away.