Thursday, July 18, 2024

Better Call Saul Hosts Fight Nights and Date Nights

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That’s quite the headline for this week’s episode of Better Call Saul, right? Never underestimate this show’s ability to surprise you. “Black and Blue” still did not quite live up to the tension and excitement of the premiere episodes but it provided yet another steady episode moving things forward. Even better, it provided two updates that should once again kick the plot back into high gear.

As always, major spoilers ahead.

Lalo in Germany from Better Call Saul

The largest running plot threads in Better Call Saul’s final seasons have been the scam against Howard and the unknown whereabouts of Lalo Salamanca. This episode finally showed us where Lalo was, as he has traveled to Germany to find Werner Ziegler’s wife and evidence of the lab Werner was building for Gus. Howard also became aware of Jimmy’s efforts to discredit him after Cliff Main confronted him over the drug use Saul has framed Howard for.

This led to two drastically different scenes that displayed the unreal versatility of Better Call Saul. First off, Howard has Saul meet him at a boxing gym, where he makes his knowledge of Saul’s scam known and suggests they settle their differences in the ring. After some reluctance, Saul agrees. Why would he do that? Well, for one, as Kim says, “you know what comes next.”

(And this fight scene between the two was magnificent. It perfectly captured what two middle-aged men with no boxing experience would look like in a boxing ring.)

Howard’s awareness of the scam initially seemed like a sudden stop sign for whatever Saul and Kim had planned, but by the end of the episode it barely seemed like an inconvenience. In the end, what does Howard knowing anything really change? If he starts blaming Saul for everything in front of Cliff Main, he probably ends up looking like the kind of raving conspiracist that Chuck did once upon a time. It only supports Cliff’s view of Howard as a spiraling drug addict. Maybe his private investigator will find something, but that takes time.

I would not be surprised if Howard finding out was part of Saul and Kim’s plan. Let’s say Saul comes across Cliff “accidentally” with that new shiner on his left eye? Now Cliff assumes Howard went and assaulted the man after Howard claimed to have a “Jimmy” problem. Yes, Cliff is well aware of Jimmy McGill being an asshole, but he still has this biased view of Howard in his head.

Cliff will probably learn the truth. Will he know before or after he settles the Sandpiper case? I don’t think the former. That settlement money is probably central to Saul and Kim’s future together (or apart).

On the other side of Better Call Saul’s common two-show dynamic is the reveal of Lalo’s whereabouts, where he is exploring what he knows about Werner Ziegler. First off, I want to say how rewarding it was to see the charming side of Tony Dalton again. His efforts to seduce Mrs. Ziegler reminded me of his recent role in Hawkeye, and showed the uncommonly worldly side of his character that poses more of a threat to Gus than the crude cartel violence from the rest of the Salamancas.

So now Lalo presumably has information about Gus’s lab, or at least about Werner’s subordinates, and will eventually follow through on this information until he finds said lab. Gus certainly expects him to, as he took the time to plant his gun in the lab and pace out his steps to retrieve it. There was a noticeable shift in Gus’s behavior as he came to understand Lalo’s most likely move. He has been frazzled in a way Gus has never been on either Better Call Saul or Breaking Bad, not even when he knew Walt was trying to kill him. Which, again, speaks to the threat Lalo poses.

We know Lalo does not win. It is the one obvious drawback to this show being a prequel, and a unique problem to Lalo, specifically. Gus seemed calmer for figuring out Lalo and regaining some control over the situation. And we know he succeeds.

We do not know what happens with Kim and Howard. There is an uncertainty to everything. Maybe Kim dies, maybe she lives by Saul’s side, maybe something in-between happens. Howard could be utterly disgraced and ruined by the time Breaking Bad arrives, or HHM could be operating as strongly as ever. Fans may have some idea of where this goes, but Saul is such a blank slate throughout Breaking Bad that the possibilities are nearly endless.

Lalo is no such unknown. He is at least dead by the time Gus tells Hector that the Salamanca bloodline ends with him. Maybe you can argue that he is in prison or on the run, but even then we know he fails to take Gus down. Gus is still the money machine of the cartel and achieves basically ultimate power over his slice of the underworld. If Lalo was around, we would have seen something.

I suppose it is up to individual opinion regarding how much this does or does not hurt this storyline.

I also have to wonder what the play is to start weaving these plot threads together. Better Call Saul is already 2 episodes away from ending this first half of the final season. It’s hard to believe we’re here so soon. Most likely, the mid-season finale ends on something huge that perhaps makes a clear connection between the two worlds. Kim is blocking doors with chairs and staying up all night out of fear of Lalo. Saul seems unaware, though he has to suspect something when he sees Kim act this way. Howard’s private investigators are now joining Mike’s men in following the two around.

All of this is going to come to a head at some point soon. Better Call Saul may be a less explosive show than its predecessor, but that just makes it all the more destructive when the explosion occurs.

Images Courtesy of AMC

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