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Elementary Reenacts History in Pushing Buttons

Veronica

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When you watch enough murder mysteries, you start to recognize the classic tropes. Of those, one of the more random ones might be “Historical Reenactment.” I’m sure that academics and professors have all sorts of interesting ideas on why reenacting history is a murder mystery trope. But I think it’s because you get to have that “Oh, we’re all playing dead for historical accuracy, hey wait, isn’t that dude really dead?” moment.

A group of Revolutionary War reenactors are playing out the iconic Battle of Harlem Heights. Among the “deceased” Redcoats, one man turns out to have taken a real gunshot wound to the chest during a salvo of blanks. He’s very dead.

Sherlock and Gregson interview the would-be soldiers, only to find varying accounts of what happened and what the potential killer may have looked like. The only helpful information is that one soldier was familiar enough with guns to have heard a distinctively modern gunshot among the musket fire.

Joan and Bell have more luck with other witnesses. It turns out the victim, a George Nix, had his own personal bodyguard. Nix had insisted the guard would be out of place in the reenactment and had left him on the sidelines. He was unable to protect his client, he has plenty of information. Nix had owned a gym company where individuals could buy franchises, but only at a steep cost. It was essentially a pyramid scheme, leaving many people broke. Some of his dissatisfied customers sent him death threats. That’s what the kids call a Clue.

After the battlefield, Sherlock heads to a doctor’s appointment. His headaches and sensory overstimulation are getting worse, not better, and he’s frustrated. He’s also anxious about becoming addicted to the meds prescribed to help with his symptoms. His doctor insists that recovery will take time and that he’s unlikely to form an addiction.

Sherlock is dramatic even when he’s suffering, and Joan walks in on him in the brownstone wearing an enormous welder’s mask. It helps block out the computer glare hurting his eyes. She proposes a better solution would be to not spend so long on the computer. But Sherlock has found something. Among the gym-related threats, which he dismisses, is an email chain from Nix’s daughter. The two were estranged, and she threatened to kill him if he came looking for her. Joan heads out to find her while Sherlock meets up with Michael.

You remember Michael, right? Sherlock’s new friend, you know, the one that was burying a dead woman out in the forest? Totally not suspicious. Sherlock meets Michael at his office, where he’s looking at social media photos of that same young woman. He shuts his computer off before Sherlock can see and the two go get coffee together. They discuss Sherlock’s PCS and his anxiety about his medication. Michael has good advice and encourages Sherlock to lean on Joan and NA, but…I don’t trust him.

Nix’s daughter is living on a commune in upstate New York. She blames capitalism for Nix’s death and denies any wrongdoing of her own. She has an alibi for his time of death, and there’s no way she could have ordered a hitman on her father. All technology is banned on the commune, so she couldn’t have even gotten in contact with such a person.

That’s a dead end. (Get it? Because it’s a murder investigation? Ah, I make myself laugh.) But as they leave the commune, Bell gets a call from the captain. Someone just burned Nix’s house down.

The investigation confirms it was arson. The accelerant used was a combo of dangerous chemicals that makes an incredibly hot fire. Unfortunately, the accelerant ingredients are common household items and recipes to make the accelerant are available online. There was no DNA or fingerprints at the crime scene, but there was something else. A footprint, tracking mud from the scene of the murder. The arsonist and killer are probably the same person.

Looking at the crime scene photos, Joan notices something. Nix had a collection of expensive silver once belonging to Paul Revere. But there’s no trace of the silver in the wreck of the house. That would be a big score. The fire may have been to cover up the theft. But if the theft was the goal all along, why kill Nix?

Sherlock’s new meds make him sleep more and more deeply and he sleeps through the conversation I just described. Joan gently reminds him that rest is key to his recovery.

The two head to the Property Crimes division and meet up with a Detective Mason. He and Sherlock worked together on a case back when Sherlock first came to NYC. Considering Sherlock’s current success, he resents that he was never able to work with Sherlock again. He’s the best detective for crimes involving stolen historical artifacts, but in exchange for his help, he has a test. He hands Sherlock a file for a bizarre crime and asks him to work on it. Sherlock promptly solves it. Mason reluctantly shares a list of places that the silver may have been fenced.

It’s a good lead. Joan, Sherlock, and Bell bring in a firefighter who was at the scene of the arson. He was trying to sell the silver to a pawn shop. But he insists that he’s not responsible for the murder or the fire. He stole the silver along with a safe simply because he had the opportunity to do so when fighting the fire. To prove his innocence, he shows them the stolen silver and the safe. They were destroyed. If his goal was to steal the silver, why set a fire that would ruin it?

The next morning, Joan wakes up to Sherlock making a racket in the kitchen. Our first “Sherlock annoys Joan into waking up” of the season! Sherlock realized that they had missed a clue regarding the fire. The particular accelerant used creates a fire that burns incredibly hot. Nix’s safe was built to be resistant to the heat of a normal fire, but the arson burned so hot that the documents the safe contained were destroyed. He now thinks that was really the point of the fire.

But luckily, Sherlock has some tricks up his sleeve, and he knows a way to restore documents exposed to heat damage. More clues! The documents were indeed something significant. A collection of signatures belonging to a man with the unusual name of Button Gwinnet. For once this is not a name we can blame on the unique tastes of the Elementary writers. Gwinnet was a real person from the Revolutionary era, a governor of Georgia and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

For that reason, his signature is highly sought after and expensive. There are collectors who wish to form complete collections of the signatures of everyone who signed the declaration. Gwinnet’s signature is the rarest and thus most valuable. They theorize that someone attempted to destroy Nix’s Gwinnets in order to drive up the price of the surviving signatures.

Working on that theory, the detectives interview a historian and art collector. He was another Gwinnet collector and he’d tried to buy Nix’s Gwinnets in the past. Even more suspicious, he was actually at the battle reenactment. But he insists that he views historical documents such as the Gwinnets as being sacred artifacts and he would never try to destroy them. Besides, he had no reason to do so. Nix had been struggling financially due to the scandal surrounding his gyms and had recently offered to sell his Gwinnets.

Sherlock makes another effort to communicate with his doctor. By breaking into his office, as one does. He’s frustrated with the way his meds are affecting his sleep patterns. But Sherlock’s doctor firmly insists that if Sherlock’s meds aren’t working, the best alternative is for Sherlock to take a break from his work all together. Go on vacation. Chill. But I’ve been watching this show long enough to know that Sherlock Holmes has no chill.

After re-examining the clues, Joan has a new theory of the case. The arsonist/killer didn’t want to destroy the signatures, they wanted to destroy the documents the signatures were on. Most of the papers are trivial, but one catches her interest. In Revolutionary times, the newly formed states would offer land in exchange for soldiers joining the army. There’s one such land offer among the documents for a specific soldier. But in an incident called the Yazoo Land Scandal, the land was sold to someone else. Now, that soldier’s modern day descendants are suing to get the land back. The document belonging to Nix would have made the case and cost the current owner of the land a lot of money.

The soldier’s descendants are suing an NYC-based land developer. One that Sherlock realizes he’s already encountered in the course of the case. They have their killer. The only problem now…is how to prove it. The gun from the murder has vanished, even though the police carefully checked the guns of all the reenactors. They also have no proof of the arson.

Since the twist in this episode turns out to be not so much who did it, but how to prove their guilt, I won’t say how Joan and Sherlock figure it out. But it involves a lot of poo.

The case successfully solved, Sherlock and Michael meet up again. Michael has been thinking about what Sherlock told him. So has Sherlock. He’s actually contemplating taking the doctor’s advice of going on vacation. But Michael has a counter offer. A new case. A woman he knows from the meetings has gone missing. Guess who the woman is? Yeah, that’s right, that woman we saw Michael burying in the season premiere.

Thoughts:

  • This was a stronger mystery than last week. Lots of fun trivia, based on real, historical events, and a good, solid murder! That’s what I like to see! (Note: don’t say that in real life.) However, I’m disappointed that Joan and Sherlock didn’t don any Revolutionary era costumes.
  • I’m not sure what was up with Detective Mason. Considering he was only in the episode for about five seconds, I’m not sure why they bothered to retcon him a history with Sherlock. Maybe he’s going to show up again later?
  • What is Michael playing at? Is he going to be one of those cliche fictional murderers who longs for a worthy adversary? But I’m also contemplating the fact that although we saw Michael bury that woman, we didn’t see him kill her. I had him pegged as a serial killer at first, but maybe something else is going on.
  • Speaking of Michael – I like to see Sherlock interact with other people in conversations that aren’t related to crimes or his NA meetings. He’s often pretty awkward, both in the things he says and in the way that Miller plays his body language. It reminds you that there’s a side of Sherlock that’s not a Super Genius Mystery Solving Machine, that he’s also an awkward nerd that doesn’t know how to make small talk. It’s so humanizing and endearing.
  • Only Sherlock would view vacation as a punishment. I, personally, would love to go on vacation. And I went on vacation literally last month.   
  • I’m so mad about the pun in the episode title. Pushing Buttons…Button Gwinnett…I won’t forgive you for this, Elementary writers.

Images courtesy of CBS

Veronica is an English graduate who likes to spend her time reading way too deeply into science fiction, murder mysteries, and children's cartoons.

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LuAnn

Dang, I missed the pun! I enjoyed this episode and the development with Sherlocks PCS. Good point about what we do and do not know about Michael. Every time they said, “Button Gwyneth,” I thought of this “one-song play, Button” Stephen Colbert did with Lin Manuel Miranda about Button Gwyneth (who didn’t make it into Hamilton): https://youtu.be/uhFeQSBZUSk

Television

It’s Cults and Courts on Riverdale

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Ah, Riverdale… You problematic fave, you! After the imperfect but still charming first season, the show hit a major bump in its second year. From ever-changing tones and convoluted plotlines to poor character development (or lack thereof), season two of Riverdale have mostly been a mixed bag of disappointments.

Will the show be able to overcome the infamous sophomore slump? Or will it keep digging itself into a deeper hole? Join me on this recap journey to find out, starting with Episode 3×01: “Labor Day.”

Recap

We start off in a courtroom, where Archie Andrews’ summer-long trial (for a murder he didn’t commit) finally comes to an end. In her closing argument, the DA recaps Archie’s impressive resume of dumb-things-he-probably-shouldn’t-have-done from the previous season: creating vigilante groups, beating up people, and as a cherry on top, allegedly killing a boy. It’s not looking good, folks. In her turn, his attorney (aka Mama Andrews) does her best to remind us of the Archie we know and love—a good-hearted person, always willing to help and protect those close to him. She also reminds the jury there isn’t any strong evidence, such as murder weapon or credible witnesses, to tie Archie to the crime.

As the jury is sequestered for the Labor Day weekend, Archie is determined to make the most of what could be his last days of freedom for a while, starting with good ol’ milkshakes at Pop’s with the gang. There we briefly see Dilton and Ben, playing a DnD type of game and being weirdly hostile towards Jughead. Betty, Jug, and Veronica want to discuss strategies of proving Archie’s innocence, but he’d rather just have some fun with his friends than waste his precious time on useless theories. Cheryl Blossom makes her usual dramatic entrance and brags about her summer travels with Tony before inviting everyone to the end-of-summer pool party.

Back at the Coopers’, we meet the new, transformed Alice Cooper, who spend all summer getting brainwashed enlightened at the Farm, with some help from Polly and a guru named Edgar Evernever. They’re very determined to get Betty on board, but she prefers to get her help from licensed professionals like Dr. Glass, who she’s been seeing.

Meanwhile, Veronica makes an unsuccessful plea to her father to stop his games and save Archie from prison, considering Hiram’s the one who’s framing him. Daddykins, however, is insisting on his lack of involvement and therefore can’t do anything about it.

At the Serpents’ camp, Jughead and FP give Archie an honorary Serpent tattoo, in case he does end up going to juvie and would need some protection. We also see Jughead slowly getting acclimated to his new role as the Serpent King, giving orders and talking strategies.

It’s Cheryl’s party time! It seems like Cupid was quite busy this summer, because love is definitely in the air. Josie and Sweet Pea are all cuddled up and enjoying, according to Josie, the last days of their summer fling. Kevin casually proposes a “friends pact” with Moose to lose their virginity asap, though it’s not quite clear if he means to each other (also I thought that ship has sailed for Moose?). Dilton is also there, giving Jughead weird looks.

The fun gets interrupted when Fangs informs Jug that their rival gang, the Ghoulies, stole Hot Dog, the Serpents’ talisman dog. Jughead and the rest of teen Serpents decide to go on a rescue mission that night. It goes not as smoothly as they’d like, with Ghoulies already waiting for them. Before the altercation turned violent, Cheryl was able to save Jughead and Hot Dog with…*cough*… her archery skills. Serpents are able to leave unharmed, but Ghoulies make it clear that they’re not planning of staying away from the Northside anymore.

They’re really sticking with the archery thing, huh?

The same night, Veronica attempts to sneak into the hotel where the jury is sequestered, in hopes she can maybe persuade at least one of them of Archie’s innocence. Unfortunately, she gets caught by Sheriff Minetta, who was sent there by her father in anticipation of such a stunt. Her mom comes to get Veronica from the police station, where they get into an argument about Hermione’s complicity in Hiram’s bullshit. Hermione tries to explain that Ronnie’s “beloved only daughter” insurance policy doesn’t exactly cover her as well, so her choices are limited.

The next day the Core Four are going on a little trip to the Sweetwater Swimming Hole, to spend the last day before Archie’s verdict together. Right before leaving, Betty is confronted by Alice and Polly, who found out Dr. Glass doesn’t exist and Betty just made him up so she can forge an Adderall prescription. Somehow, she’s able to shrug it off and still go hang with her friends.

At the Swimming Hole, Archie reflects on the events of the last year, and even though he didn’t actually kill that Cassidy kid, there’s still enough guilt inside of him to think that maybe he does deserve to go to jail. As the sun sets, the couples split up in their own little corners and have sweet private moments. Betty confides in Jug about her mental struggles, while Veronica assures Archie she will stay with him no matter what the trial’s outcome is, no matter how hard he tried to convince her not to.

It’s verdict day! Just as Jughead was about to leave for court, he gets a visit from a very distressed Dilton. He starts mumbling about the roleplaying game they played at Pop’s, how it’s so much more than just a game, and how’s “he’s real!”. The Gargoyle King is real. Jughead, understandably being a little preoccupied with his best friend’s trial, asks Dilton to wait ’till he comes back, and then they can talk.

At the court, the jury is unable to reach a verdict, so to avoid a mistrial the DA offers a deal: time served and two years in juvenile detention if Archie pleads guilty to manslaughter. Despite everyone’s objections, Archie agrees to take the deal so he can spare his friends and family another lengthy and painful trial (and obviously punish himself for being a dumbass last season).

After the trial, Fred Andrews and the rest of HRDTTR (Hot River Dads To The Rescue) promise Mama Andrews that they’re gonna prove Hiram Lodge framed Archie while she’s in Chicago working on the appeal. Back at home, Veronica declares a war on Hiram, stating he doesn’t have a daughter anymore after Hiram admits he’s done all of this to punish Ronnie for choosing Archie over her family.

Jughead comes home, but there’s no Dilton in sight. He left a scroll though, with a map on one side, and a drawing of a creepy goat-headed skeleton creature on the other. The map leads Jug to the Fox Forest, where he finds undressed Dilton and Ben, with some symbols carved on their backs, kneeling before the shrine of the creature from the drawing. Dilton is non-responsive but Ben wakes up, spitting out blue goo.

Does anyone else hear tongue clicking? Just me?

Back at her house, Betty finds her mom, Polly with the twins, and some other people, presumably from the Farm, hanging out around a bonfire. It appears they’re about to throw the twins in the fire but worry not because instead of falling, the babies levitate above it. After having enough excitement for one day, Betty collapses and starts having some kind of seizure, which prompts Alice to run to her help.

Thoughts

Maybe my judgment is still clouded with a mess that was Season Two but I gotta say, I really enjoyed this episode. It mainly kept focus at the Core Four’s bond, and that’s one of the best things going for this show. The trial itself does raise a lot of questions from the legal point of view, but we’re not here expecting Law and Order, so I’ll…allow it.

Archie continues being an absolute dumbass, even if his intentions are good. Really not looking forward to his prison storyline.

As for the cult stuff, on the one hand, I do like a dark supernatural twist, even if it’s probably not real. On the other hand, cult storylines can get really frustrating. It was hard enough seeing Alice turn into an absolute dimwit around Chic, so I’ve got a feeling it’s gonna be even harder watching her under the influence of this Edgar person. It’s still unclear whether the Farm and whatever Ben and Dilton got themselves into are in any way connected, and if any of it will tie into the upcoming Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Either way, I’m excited!

Camila Mendes really shined this episode! Without Veronica’s usual cringy dialogue—which usually sounds like that episode of Friends where Joey tried to write an adoption letter using Thesaurus—Camila really got the chance to display her talent. She still called Hiram “Daddy” an uncomfortable amount of times, but… Baby steps, people! Baby steps!

So what did you think of the premiere? What storyline peaked your interest?

The next week promises some spooky shenanigans and a possible comeback of a certain beloved Serpent! Are you excited?


Images courtesy of CW

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Here We Glow: Black Lightning 2×01 – The Book of Consequences: Chapter One: Rise of the Green Light Babies

Sarah

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Black Lightning, Anissa, and Jennifer with the phrase Get Lit

Welcome back, Black Lightning fans! Our beloved superheroes are back for a second season, and this premiere started off right where the last season’s finale left off, so let’s jump in.

Proving itself to always be paralleling real life, we open on a news report in which video of cops choking a ‘suspected Green Light Baby’ to death is being shown. It’s a stark opening, and it fits the show, which has never shied away from the realities of police brutality in a white supremacist society.

Immediately we cut to this episode’s true MVP, Lynn, who is being questioned by the ASA. Lynn stands her ground, as she does throughout this episode in multiple situations, including while arguing with Jefferson who can’t seem to see her as having just as many (or more) gifts as him. Lynn never reveals anything to her interrogator and insists that she needs and deserves access to the pods with the Green Light Babies because she’s the expert on Green Light. Needless to say, the questioner thinks only of how annoyed he is that she’s making his job difficult, but Lynn manages to pull some strings and continue studying with access to the pods.

Boss lady.

Meanwhile, the federal government has decided that it now owns the pod people, because of course they did. The community needs to raise at least $500,000 to be able to afford to bring a lawsuit against them for custody. Naturally, our shero Anissa Thunder-slaps a bunch of guys in a trap house and steals the money, delivering it to the church where some of the families have gathered for Bible study.

While Anissa does super-hero stuff on her own terms, Jen struggles. She doesn’t know how to control her powers, and is glowing and levitating in her sleep now. It doesn’t help that Kahlil keeps texting her, and her best friend calls Green Light Babies ‘freaks.’

The kid who was killed in the opening scene later wriggles out of his body bag and runs away; when Jen sees the video of this, she goes into uncontrollable glow mode and locks herself in the bathroom. When Jefferson comes home to find Anissa and Lynn worried outside the bathroom, he goes in and absorbs the extra energy into his own body. They have to figure out how to control Jen’s powers, and what those powers even are. This is a family that does things like this together, and I get the sense they’ll all rally to help her. Plus, Lynn in her queendom keeps insisting that Jen and Jefferson get therapy because their lives are not just about powers but about mental health! I love Lynn.

Glowing Jen.

Then we’ve got Jefferson himself, who has a pretty flimsy excuse for why he wasn’t at school when the attack happened last season (he was on vacation! Such funny timing!). The Garfield board is unhappy with him to say the least, and they vote to close the school entirely. Jefferson offers to resign as principle so long as it keeps the school open. We’ll see what happens with that in the coming episodes. Oh, and Henderson finally figured out that Jefferson is Black Lightning, and in their confrontation, it’s clear he feels betrayed. I suspect their alliance is imminent, because it has to be!

Lastly, let’s talk about Kara. Jefferson’s erstwhile secretary who turned out to be an ASA spotter wants out of the shady organization. She kills Cyanide in an epic and very violent battle involving an extremely sharp pair of heels. Then she goes to Gambi to ask for safe passage out of the ASA in exchange for Proctor’s mysterious suitcase that we still don’t know the contents of. He agrees (and also tells Jefferson). When Kara dons her night vision goggles to not-very-stealthily break into Tobias’s lair, presumably for the suitcase, he shoots her in the stomach with a harpoon gun. Somehow she still manages to jump out the window, so I’m sure we’ll see more of her. Tobias, for his part, seems as irate as ever, with the added bonus of an escaped victim and the loss of Cyanide.

This fam <3

That’s it for this week! Can’t wait to see where this season goes, especially with Anissa and Jen. Men get a lot of screen time on this show, but the women really make it worth watching. Here’s to season 2!


Images Courtesy of The CW

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Saul Emerges in the Season 4 Finale of Better Call Saul

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better call saul season 4 featured

How has Better Call Saul ended already? Didn’t the season just start? No? Well, back to the dregs for me, but not before one last sparkling review of yet another terrific episode. After 39 episodes, Saul Goodman has officially arrived. He arrived unrestrained at the head of one of his biggest con jobs yet. It was the perfect ending to season 4. Things will never be the same for anyone involved.

S’all Good, Man

Towards the end of this episode, I wondered if Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan were backing off the idea of revealing Saul this season. Yes, Jimmy spent most if it trying to use his brother’s death for sympathy and good word of mouth ahead of his appeal to the Bar regarding his license. It was gross to watch. By the end, though, Jimmy seemed to have gone through a long-delayed emotional breakdown.

The scholarship fund meeting seemed to have snapped something in him. Seeing the fund’s board deny some girl over past shoplifting seemed to have woken a lot of repressed emotions in Jimmy. His breakdown and ugly sobbing in his car afterwards struck me as the grief over Chuck finally coming home. Reading his brother’s farewell letter seemed like Jimmy accepting the complicated nature of his relationship with his brother.

Of course, I know Jimmy becomes Saul. I know his end fate in this struggle for his soul. When Jimmy stopped reading Chuck’s letter, though, I thought Chuck himself might at least be sacred. However terrible Jimmy becomes, he would stop using Chuck. Then he left the hearing and made clear the depths of his immorality.

It was the perfect ending to the season.

He wasn’t alone, either. Mike’s manhunt for Werner served much the same purpose as Jimmy’s exploitation of Chuck’s death. Jimmy and Mike are undoubtedly the main characters of Better Call Saul, and both completed their final plunge into the darker temptations around them. They certainly still have a ways to fall. The time will come when Jimmy is advocating murder and Mike is killing guys like Werner without hesitation. What this finale represented was the moment they stopped dipping their toes in the water and finally jumped in.

As usual, Better Call Saul did a terrific job with these moments for both characters. They still have these vestiges of something better in them. It speaks to the skill of this show’s storytelling that, even knowing where these two eventually end up, I still questioned what decision they would make. Maybe Mike would make one last stand and let Werner go. Maybe Jimmy would try one more time to go legit. I don’t know, maybe? Possibly?

And I think there’s still a possibility for both. I still see those lingering glimmers of something better in them. Jimmy using the name Saul Goodman at least protects his brother’s name from the stain of Jimmy’s future law career. Mike was not particularly happy about killing Werner. Some friction with Gus may occur because of the killing.

In the end, I guess I’m just like Kim. Kim still believed in Jimmy’s good side despite spending the entire episode helping him exploit Chuck’s death. She can’t help but see the guy we met in season 1; eager, loyal, dedicated to making Chuck proud. Actually, she can’t help but see the Jimmy McGill who worked in the HHM mail room with her. That’s the Jimmy she loves, and she can’t help but believe that Jimmy still lies deep inside Saul Goodman.

It doesn’t really matter in the end, though. We know who Saul and Gus eventually become. Here’s hoping Jimmy can escape this moral tar pit when in the Gene flash-forwards. And this episode made Jimmy’s reasons completely clear.

The scholarship fund, while obviously part of the overall con, was really THE moment where Jimmy makes his decision to be Saul. He saw himself in the girl the board turned down. He saw how they held her one mistake against her, despite all the good she had done since. And this was some teenager with just that one mistake. If even she doesn’t have a chance, what hope could Jimmy possibly have? He realized he could never make people like that believe in him. He could never make the Bar accept him as anything other than the shady, immoral little brother of Chuck McGill, someone unworthy of their trust or belief.

It hurts. It really hurts. I still want “Gene” to come out of this okay. Unfortunately, that day is a long ways away, if it happens at all.

Final Thoughts:

  • The karaoke opening was amazing. Ernest slayed “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and Michael McKean called back on David St. Hubbins for Chuck’s duet with Jimmy.
  • By the way, of course Chuck has to upstage Jimmy even during karaoke. No wonder Jimmy feels so inadequate.
  • Werner’s final conversation with Mike has a lot of similarities with the Walt/Mike scene during the season 3 finale of Breaking Bad.
  • Oh, that poor TravelWire employee. Having to deal with both Mike and Lalo? Yikes.
  • Mike’s gum trick on the ticket machine was one of my favorite things he has ever done. I swear he has a trick for everything.

Season Review

Season 4 of Better Call Saul had a tall task ahead of it from the beginning. Season 3 was so powerful and remarkable, with some of the best scenes in recent TV memory. With Chuck’s suicide, the show lost the dynamic at its heart. Better Call Saul had been the story of Jimmy and Chuck. How could they replace such a powerful dynamic? Where would they go without Chuck standing stalwart across from his brother? Who could fill the acting void left in Michael McKean’s wake?

Ultimately, I don’t think season 4 was quite as good as season 3. How could it be? It’s like holding it against a season of The Wire for not being as good as season 4.

Season 4 handled the questions I asked not only well, but easily. How do they replace Chuck’s role in the story? By giving his death a central role in the story and replacing the tension between him and Jimmy with tensions between Jimmy and Kim. As anyone who read my previous reviews has noticed, both characters dominate season 4. I honestly didn’t miss Chuck’s role in the story at all because Kim did such a great job filling the void left behind.

I felt every bit the emotional stakes between Kim and Jimmy as I did between Jimmy and Chuck. Possibly more, in fact. Even at their closest, Jimmy and Chuck always maintained a noticeable distance. Most of their relationship consisted of a rivalry where they openly despised each other. Jimmy and Kim had no such relationship. They’ve been close since the beginning and always supportive. Whatever conflict pops up between them is typically resolved quickly because they want to resolve it.

This made their gradual degradation throughout season 4 really effective, as effective anything Jimmy and Chuck ever went through.

A big reason for this comes down to another question; who will replace Michael McKean’s considerable acting prowess? Rhea Seehorn takes on the challenge with ease. Well, not without ease, because you can’t be that good at acting with ease. Seehorn has always been fantastic, but she takes on the added burden and not only matches the challenge, she exceeded it. I know by this point not to expect anything from award shows at this point, but Seehorn should be a frontrunner at the next Emmys.

Rhea Seehorn stepped up and the result was Kim’s best season yet, right when Better Call Saul really needed it. Seeing Kim try so hard to be a good girlfriend and friend to Jimmy while he inevitably spiraled towards Saul Goodman made for absolutely fantastic scenes. Their parking garage confrontation from last week was as hard-hitting as anything from previous seasons. Kim’s reaction to Jimmy’s speech to the Bar and subsequent confession about it being fake was just as strong.

It also means a lot when Bob Odenkirk is as good as he is. The transition from, sweet, loveable Jimmy to the selfish Saul we end season 4 with is a hard transition to make, but he did so without issue. Odenkirk absolutely owns this role at this point.

You’ve probably noticed I’ve spent a lot of time talking about Jimmy and Kim, but not so much about Mike, Gus, and the cartel stuff. That’s true not only for this review, but throughout the season. There’s a good reason; it was easily the weakest part of the season. The one real flaw in Better Call Saul’s design continued this season, which was its struggle to reconcile its two halves.

I found the origin of the meth super lab interesting, for sure. If nothing else the storyline gave Mike good content to dig into. Thing is, it was relatively uneventful. Compared to the consistently gripping stakes of the Jimmy/Kim scenes, watching Mike pal around with German architects and construction workers didn’t match up. The conflict wasn’t really there until the end, and too late by then.

I also felt like the cartel stuff didn’t really go anywhere besides with Mike. Nacho randomly fell into obscurity once Lalo was introduced. Lalo felt more like an introduction than a contained plot of any kind. The super lab wasn’t even finished. Tuco’s cousins left the season rather abruptly.

I also have a pretty decent problem with the Gus/Hector Salamanca stuff this year. I know this opinion will be unpopular, but I’m not a fan. Tying everything in Hector’s life back to some machination by Gus felt like the kind of prequel sin you’d see in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. The incessant need to make even the most inconsequential things important somehow often cheapens the effect. Hector’s bell doesn’t need to be important. It’s just a freaking bell.

My biggest problem is in how cartoonishly evil this has made Gus. Is he really not evil enough for simply mocking and torturing a disabled man? He has to be responsible for stopping Hector’s medical treatment to make sure Hector stays in the wheelchair, unable to speak? I’m not a fan. Plus, this also doesn’t really lead to anything. It likely will next season since Hector has likely communicated to him what he wants done to Gus. For now, though, it was somewhat unsatisfying compared to the amazing Jimmy/Kim storyline.

I stress the word “compared” here. It’s like saying, “Tuco wasn’t quite the villain Gus Fring was on Breaking Bad,” as a negative. It’s not really much a negative and Tuco was still great TV.

While failing to reach the memorable heights of season 3, Better Call Saul still had one hell of a 4th season. Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan continue to head one of the very best shows on TV, and almost certainly the best character-driven show. What Better Call Saul manages in the character-development department floors me more with every season. I honestly don’t believe anything else matches their work. They have their style down to a science, and so does everyone around them, from the other writers to the directors to the actors to the set and costume design.

Better Call Saul remains a show working on a level few can compare with. Why is this season over already?


Images courtesy of AMC

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