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Better Call Saul Features Gus Fring and the Cartel

Ever since word spread that Better Call Saul would feature Mike Ehrmantraut alongside Saul/Jimmy McGill, fans began hoping for more Gus Fring. His inclusion seemed inevitable. Mike worked for Gus years before Breaking Bad began and you couldn’t possibly include Mike in a prequel without Gus featuring as well. It took until season 3 for the chicken and meth king to arrive, but he’s here, and this episode provided a tantalizing glimpse of exactly what fans hoped for during all their speculation.

Between Gus, Mike, Jimmy and Kim, and some character interactions we haven’t see often, or even before, “Sabrosito” was an excellent episode.

Spoilers for 3×04 “Sabrosito” below

Recap

The episode wastes no time giving fans the flashbacks they have craved. Remember Don Eladio and his pool? Hector pays him a visit some years before Better Call Saul to give him his cut of Hector’s earnings and tell him about recent news. Another old Breaking Bad cartel character, Bolsa, arrives to do the same. Only his tribute is a great deal larger, owing to Gus’s success.

Hector mopes by the pool, looking down at the spot where he killed Gus’s partner.

Back in the present, Hector’s ice cream shop is raided by DEA while Mike watches. He calls his daughter-in-law Stacey to check on her and his granddaughter, who seem to have just moved into their new house Mike helped buy. He goes over to their house for dinner. Stacey notices how withdrawn he acts but Mike doesn’t admit to anything.

After the raid on his shop, Hector and his goons pay a visit to Los Pollos Hermanos. He demands to see Gus and takes the restaurant over. Gus receives a phone call saying as such while speaking at a local fire department and finds his employees rounded up in the middle of the restaurant. He asks them to leave and meets Hector in the back office. Hector tells him he will use Los Pollos Hermanos to move his drugs since the shop was raided.

Gus appears surprisingly okay with this. Later, Victor arrives at Mike’s work to pay him for his work in the previous episode. Mike gives him the money back. The next day, Gus gathers his employees to apologize and make reparations for their ordeal. He makes up a fake story about the cartel extorting him years before and trying to do so again. Then he gives a rousing speech about refusing them.

In case you forgot this was not Breaking Bad, we catch up with Kim as she makes phone calls to various repair shops. She finds the shop scheduled to repair Chuck’s door and cancels on them. Turns out she’s going Slippin’ Kimmy and this was part of a scheme with Jimmy to send their own repairman. She also has him change his PPD statement to say “damaged property” instead of “destroyed.”

So who is Jimmy’s guy? I hoped for Huell or Kuby, but we get even better! He sent Mike! Mike uses his power drill to scare Chuck off and starts taking pictures of the house. He brings the pictures to Jimmy, and they appear to be meant to prove the risk of Chuck’s lifestyle. Mike did fix the door, at least, and enjoyed it.

Gus comes to see him at work later that night, wondering why he turned down the money they agreed on. He also does a bit of amateur psychology which is surprisingly spot on. Mike insists he does not want work in the drug business and is happy to have dealt a blow to Hector, but Gus extends an offer anyway. He then says he stopped Mike from killing Hector because “a bullet to the head would have been far too humane.”

Okay, Breaking Bad hour is over. Back to the legal drama. Jimmy, Kim, Hamlin, and Chuck meet up with the DA to finalize his PPD. Jimmy is forced to apologize to Chuck and the “damaged property” line Kim tried for earlier is changed to “destroyed an item of personal property” despite Chuck’s attempts to specify the cassette tape. Chuck also adds the cost of the destroyed tape to Jimmy’s agreed financial restitution.

Afterwards Kim tells Hamlin and Chuck she will try to suppress use of the original tape in Jimmy’s Bar hearing, as she is sure the one Jimmy destroyed was a copy. Chuck admits it was a copy and the tape will be heard. The episode ends with Kim telling Jimmy about the exchange and it seems Chuck is doing exactly what they want.

Review

While we saw enough of Gus’s backstory in Breaking Bad to piece together how he became the meth kingpin of ABQ after his partner’s death, as well as the reasoning for his vengeance towards Hector, many of us have craved more. What happened after the incident at Don Eladio’s mansion? How did Gus end up working for the cartel afterwards? How did he become so powerful? What did he do all these years before Walter White destroyed his business?

Better Call Saul has begun to answer these questions in “Sabrosito,” and the results were fantastic.

One aspect of the Hector/Gus rivalry we did not know was Hector’s feelings and motivations which caused so much hatred towards Gus. Now we’ve apparently seen the start of it. Hector has always been portrayed as toxic masculinity run amok, an old-school gangster who loves violence, despises weakness of any kind, abuses those around him, and reacts viciously to any affronts upon his pride. He’s a decidedly one-dimensional character used to serve the stories of those involved with him.

“Sabrosito” did nothing to change this portrayal, but it did add reasoning for Hector’s vicious hatred. Or at the very least, explained how this hatred started. Being such a pillar of toxic masculinity, Gus’s success outstripping Hector’s would obviously threaten Hector and make him bitter. I assume over the course of Better Call Saul we’ll continue to see his operation systematically taken apart by Gus and Mike. We’ll also probably see whatever caused Hector to end up in his wheelchair.

And if that means we’ll see more of Gus like he was in this episode, then sign me the hell up.

I loved his brief appearances so far, but this episode was the Gus Fring Breaking Bad fans wanted to see in Better Call Saul. The differing personalities with the cartel and his restaurant workers, the manipulation, the intelligence, the scheming…I was reminded just how excellent a foil he was to Walter White. He was Walter White, just without the years of feeling inadequate. Giancarlo Esposito was excellent as ever, and I can’t wait to see more of him.

Of course, Better Call Saul is not one of the best shows on television because of Breaking Bad fan service. Even within the constant nostalgia that was Gus and Hector, we Mike’s continued struggle to avoid the life he will eventually lead. For all the tragedy of Jimmy McGill’s fall to Saul Goodman, Mike’s proves just as tragic. Here we still see a man refusing his eventual fate. He went after Hector out of a sense of justice, then refuses money and continues to insist he doesn’t want to be a crime lord’s thug. He spends his nights working an honest job and feeling guilty around his family.

It’s hard to imagine Mike as a regretful person. He always comes across so sure of himself. The feeling is there, though, and he let it slip through while watching TV with his family. This was a terrific episode for him after three episodes focused more on how badass he is than his feelings on anything. And best yet, we got a Chuck interaction!

As if answering my previous complaints directly, it was great to see Better Call Saul involve Jimmy and Mike together in a meaningful way. The actual plot of their stories may not intersect too much, but Mike’s “nice to fix something for once” had to have inspired his later denial to Gus. We don’t get much of these two together, and by the time we do they will probably have dived neck deep into criminal waters. I’ll take as much of Jimmy McGill and a relatively innocent Mike as I can get.

For Jimmy’s half of “Sabrosito” to feel like the less important half says a great deal about the quality of the episode. And I guess it was a bit straightforward, with the big takeaway being the emergence of Slippin’ Kimmy. She’s always been loyal to Jimmy to a fault, and is again here. Yet there’s more to it than that. Kim comes across in this episode almost like a mix of Jimmy and Chuck.

It’s not just her loyalty to Jimmy (which is so reminiscent of Jimmy) driving her eager cooperation in Jimmy’s scheme with Mike. It’s her pride. Chuck treats her and everyone else so condescendingly. He does so again in the aftermath of the PPD finalization. Kim talked last season about coming from nothing and earning her way, and how she tries so hard to prove she belongs among the high-powered figures of the law world. Despite everything she’s done, jerks like Chuck still talk down to her like a nobody.

Between Chuck, the need to prove she deserved better from Hamlin, and her loyalty to Jimmy, she’s now complicit in Jimmy’s schemes. What exactly is the plan? It seems they’re taking the expected route of attacking Chuck’s credibility. Why were they happy about the existence of multiple tapes, however? And what did they accomplish with the finagling of the wording in Jimmy’s statement?

I desperately want them to win. They almost certainly will. I just hope Kim doesn’t get taken down right along with Jimmy when it’s all over.

Other Thoughts:

  • The PPD meeting had so much tension in the room. Between Chuck, Jimmy, Kim, and Hamlin, there are at least 4 or 5 separate sources of tension between them.
  • Fans are often skeptical of Stacey. They think she simply uses Mike and doesn’t love him so much. I hope episodes like this prove them otherwise.
  • Nacho made his first appearance! He hasn’t had anything to do through 4 episodes, but I assume this will change now.
  • My biggest issue with Hector’s visit to Pollos Hermanos is Gus’s reputation come Breaking Bad time. He didn’t just show up, he drove everyone away and basically held the employees hostage. This has to be a lone incident for Gus to be so squeaky clean to law enforcement years later.
  • By the way, a paid day off, 24 hours overtime, and free counseling for any employee who needs it? Gus is the fast food boss we all dream of.
  • Interesting for the DA lawyer to have an aunt with a condition like Chuck’s. I almost question the truth of the story and whether she made it up to make Chuck feel better.
  • I love how Jimmy’s apology was as much an accusation towards Chuck.

Images Courtesy of AMC

Bo
Written By

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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