Saturday, February 24, 2024

Better Call Saul Sees Best Laid Plans Go To Waste

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Better Call Saul’s final season has so far been a meticulous one. Things have moved slowly, with all the players making small moves to setup what they believe will be a final larger victory. Saul and Kim are setting up some final ruinous moment for Howard, Howard is in turn trying to catch them and turn the tables. Lalo is trying to beat Gus while Gus tries to await him in the proper time and place.

The thing about plans in this universe, though, is that they rarely go according to plan. Things shift, vanish, and make you reassess your options and priorities. They make you make choices. Unfortunately, Kim has probably just made the wrong choice.

Kim making her choice on Better Call Saul

With everything she seemingly ever wanted in her professional life waiting for her in Santa Fe, at a meeting Cliff Main set up following their conversation last week, Kim instead decides to head back to Albuquerque to make sure her and Saul’s “D-Day” plot to ruin Howard goes through. Kim has made clear what she prioritizes now. She thrives on the con. The plan to get legal help to fund her pro bono practice has flown out the window.

At first glance, you cannot help but wonder why Kim would do this. She seemed somewhat reticent about the Howard plans after the initial thrill of it, and especially after her meeting with Cliff. This seemed like a natural breaking off point for her and Saul. Saul would screw Howard and fall further into being a criminal lawyer, while Kim would go legit and become the righteous fighter for justice she imagines herself as.

Why would Kim screw that up and choose the criminal side instead? Thankfully, per usual, Better Call Saul included a helpful flashback cold open to Kim’s childhood so we could understand.

This cold open showed a young Kim being taken to task by her mother for shoplifting, only to have her mother laugh and praise her once they are allowed to leave without consequences. It is a telling scene fitting into the other flashback we have of Kim and her mother, where Kim’s mother shows up late and drunk to pick her up from school, Kim refuses to get in the car, and Kim’s mom drives off. We know between this and other scenes that Kim did not have a particularly good childhood with her mother.

A picture has been painted of Kim growing up associating cons with love. Her mother showed her affection in a situation just like Saul would, when they are getting away with doing something unethical or illegal, when they are manipulating and conning people. That association has been made, and it makes Kim susceptible to people like Saul, even when she knows how wrong they are.

There was a time when Kim fought hard to avoid being exactly in this moment with Saul, where she is possibly tanking her dreams in order to help him do something terrible. She spent so long trying to keep her professional life separate from his because she saw something like this coming. Yet here she is, all the same. Taking the literal bad choice road Mike talked about.

It hurts to see Kim take this path when she was so close to something better. The more she falls into Saul Goodman’s influence, the more you have to think a terrible fate awaits her later. These shows have made clear that their characters suffer for making these bad choices, no matter the short-term gratification.

Turning that car around to help Saul’s plot may be the moment Kim regrets the rest of her life.

Now what exactly are Saul and Kim doing? Good question. Speculation is that Saul wanted Howard’s PI to catch him withdrawing a large sum of money, knowing Howard would think he has a smoking gun to attack Saul over. The plan may then be to use the fake judge to have the PI “catch” Saul bribing a judge, which Howard will then bring as “evidence” to Cliff and others. This could create a chicanery scene situation where Howard looks unhinged and incapable of doing his job.

Factor in the scene where Saul is planning to give Howard a dose of some kind of amphetamine as well, and it’s easy to see that they want Howard to have some kind of public breakdown during a meeting.

I admit I am a bit frustrated that the plan has still not taken its next step despite numerous episodes teasing it. Better Call Saul may often benefit for its pacing but it felt like this episode was building up to finally show us this next drastic step that Saul has been preparing for 3 episodes now. This final season has been quite slow, even by Better Call Saul standards. It feels like we have been watching things fall into place for 3-4 episodes now.

The Lalo subplot this week is a good example of that. We get one scene with Lalo finding a member of Werner’s work crew, and yet another episode of Mike and the rest of Gus’s crew looking at cameras and waiting for him. We’ve seen some variation of this all season and it has gotten a bit repetitive. Yes, it’s fun to think over and talk through all the moves being made, but the moves still need to be made.

Now, I have full faith that Better Call Saul will make all these moves next week in the mid-season finale, and basically nothing will go according to plan.

The drama in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul has almost never come from plans going as planned. It always comes from when those plans fall apart. All the pieces may be in place, but as we saw to end this episode, with the judge’s broken arm, it just takes one missing piece to throw everything into chaos. Saul, Kim, Lalo, Gus, and Mike are all going to have to deal with that chaos, and it will be terrific TV.

Images Courtesy of AMC

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  • Bo

    Bo relaxes after long days of staring at computers by staring at computers some more, and feels slightly guilty over his love for Villanelle.

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