Thursday, April 18, 2024

Better Call Saul Steeps Its Character In Isolation

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I cannot believe four episodes have already passed here in Better Call Saul’s final season. “Hit and Run” was a bit of a breather compared to the three episodes preceding it. No devastating moments, no action scenes or violence, and there was even a bit of fun to distract from all the heavy stakes surrounding these characters right now.

Unfortunately, the good times do not last. Not even for a full fifty minutes or so. But hey, this was Rhea Seehorn’s directorial debut, so claps for her!

Kim confronts a stranger on Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul spends a great deal of time showing us just how isolated its characters are at this point. Saul finds everyone at the courthouse treating him like a pariah for helping Lalo Salamanca walk free. Kim carries the burden of knowing Lalo is alive and keeping it from Saul. Gus is isolated in his paranoia over Lalo’s survival. Mike finds himself isolated from Gus because of this paranoia. Hamlin is not only on the verge of losing reputation and status among the legal community because of Saul and Kim, he also tells his therapist about marital troubles.

It speaks to Lalo’s effectiveness as a character that everyone except Hamlin is directly suffering for his mere existence, and the possibilities of said existence. He does not make a single appearance in this episode, and yet he is the most dominant presence in every plot. When Kim notices she is being followed, you wonder if it is Lalo. When Gus walks into his house, you wonder if Lalo is waiting. Even when the unknown couple is riding their bikes through the neighborhood, you wonder if we will get a shot of him.

And Better Call Saul hovers his presence over an episode predominantly based in Saul and Kim’s latest step in the scam to make Cliff Main break from HHM and settle the Sandpiper case, which feels shockingly unimportant in comparison. It is child’s play, petty personal nonsense compared to the cartel killer lurking somewhere in the background.

Saul’s latest scam was fun to watch, as he brings back season 1’s Howard disguise from the billboard to have Cliff Main catch “Howard” tossing an unpaid sex worker out of a car (a clever followup to the restaurant scene with Saul’s two clients from season 5). I absolutely love the disguise, and the scene where he finds Howard’s parking space occupied, forcing him to struggle to rip a patient parking sign out of the ground and reposition it, was the funnest scene of the season so far.

Better Call Saul also brought back some fan-favorite minor characters from Breaking Bad, much to my delight. Wendy is a good addition to any episode, and I have to wonder if there was any minor motivation to have her share a scene with Kim specifically because of the old theory about Kim becoming Wendy. Spooge, the drug addict that robs Jesse and Walt in Breaking Bad before dying at his wife’s hands, also shows up in Saul’s office. Looking much cleaner, I might add.

(Kim also shares a scene with Mike for the first time. It’s hard to believe these two never acted on screen together before now.)

But you can already see Kim falling out of love with the fun of the scam. Besides Lalo’s confirmed presence, her distraction meeting with Cliff accidentally turns into something real. She now has something of a tentative agreement to use Davis & Main resources to help her pro bono aspirations.

The entire point of Kim helping settle the Sandpiper case was to get the funds necessary for her to open her own office for public defense work. I even began to wonder if Kim planned to somehow rob Saul of the money and take it for herself. Now it may not be necessary, and suddenly Kim lacks the same thrill she previously had for the Howard scheme. Her morality is taking back over. Will this last? I suppose that is the question. Kim has numerous moments where she questions her place at Saul’s side, but she sticks with him through it all.

The episode ends on a (literal) dark note, with Kim barely containing herself and visibly shaken as Saul shows her the strip mall office that eventually becomes so famous in Breaking Bad. I admit I was jumpy when Saul came running up to her car window in the middle of the night. Everything is becoming a bit more real than Kim wanted, and I have to think a breaking point is fast approaching, especially if she now has an ethical way to get what she wants.

A break between these two would be heartbreaking. At this point, Saul and Kim have little besides each other. Sure, they have clients and connections, but they have largely sabotaged their relationships outside of each other. Howard and Lalo now loom above them as ways to isolate Saul and Kim from each other as well.

I still do not have a strong sense of whether Kim will be in Saul’s life when Better Call Saul ends. Everything is so uncertain and so dangerous right now. And it is making everyone feel so alone.

Images Courtesy of AMC

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