TV Recap: Better Call Saul – It’s All Good, Man …  

Better Call Saul
“Winner” (Episode 410)
October 8, 2018

Better Call Saul‘s OUTSTANDING fourth season comes to a close tonight and what a wild, transformative season it has been. But, before we get to all that happened tonight, make sure you check out our recap & review of last week’s action here!

All caught up? Great! Without further delay, the season finale of Better Call Saul begins … after the jump (BEWARE SPOILERS)!

Tonight’s season finale opens in the past. We’re at Jimmy’s Bar admittance hearing and we see Chuck (Michael McKean reprising his role) literally standing up for his brother —  a right of passage in some states where an established attorney vouches for a person about to be admitted to the Bar.  Kim is sitting in the audience, giving her best thumb’s up to her man.

Following Jimmy’s swearing in ceremony, him and the newest HHM attorneys blow off steam at a karaoke bar.  As Chuck is about to leave (early), Jimmy pulls him on stage for a rendition of the Abba classic, “Winner Takes It All.” After a moment’s hesitation, Chuck gets really into the performance, taking the mic from Jimmy and going full Karaoke Superstar.  Which … is a metaphor for Chuck and Jimmy’s life.  Later that night, Chuck is helping a drunk Jimmy walk and plops him in Chuck’s bed.  Chuck climbs in next to him but before they both pass out, they both lay in the bed facing the ceiling, giving an a cappella reprise of “Winner Takes It All.” This is maybe the closest we’ve ever seen these two.

The winner takes it all
The loser standing small
Beside the victory
That’s her destiny
I was in your arms
Thinking I belonged there
I figured it made sense
Building me a fence
Building me a home
Thinking I’d be strong there
But I was a fool
Playing by the rules

Prophetic Words.  Brothers.

Photo: AMC

Title Sequence.

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut – Better Call Saul _ Season 4, Episode 10 – Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

SuperLab Residence.  We pick up right after we left Mike last week. He is giving the best guess options on where Werner would have gone and sends his security men out to find him.  Thinking like Werner, Mike tracks down the branch where Werner’s wife wired money to her hubby. Mike gets in his car and takes off to find his rogue German.

** It’s amazing how lax security used to be back in the day in the dawn of cell phones – a few simple questions and you could really find out some useful information.**

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut – Better Call Saul _ Season 4, Episode 10 – Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Cemetery.  Hard as it is to imagine, we’re at the year anniversary of Chuck’s death. Jimmy is standing at his brother’s grave, a deep look of mourning upon his face. As the camera pulls into him, we hear that he his muttering nonsense words and counting to himself, as fellow mourners approach the gravesite.  Barely containing his weepiness, Jimmy introduces himself to the fellow mourners. They were friends with Chuck from back in his do gooder days. They happen to mention that a law library is being dedicated to Chuck.

“It still doesn’t make any sense.”

Jimmy is putting on a show here and it’s delicious and cynical and wonderful. Odenkirk at his best. After the couple leave, Jimmy heads to Kim’s car. He fuels up on coffee and a bear claw as they run through the first “customers” of the day.  Jimmy asks how it looked and Kim responds by asking how it felt? He doesn’t answer but we do learn that it was Howard that picked out the headstone. “The big one.” But, it’s tasteful, Jimmy says. Kim looks slightly uneasy about this macabre ruse they are putting on today.

Los Pollos Hermanos Distribution Center. Lalo is far away in the desert brush spying on the comings and going of Gustavo Fring’s chicken trucks and taking copious notes.  He’s also humming a song to himself that sounds a lot like the melody to “Winner Takes It All.” He’s not muttering the words in Spanish loud enough for me to translate them but it was a nice little Easter Egg that amused me. Moving on.  Lalo sees Fring (and his right hand man, Tyrus) getting in cars and leaving. This is when Lalo decides to pack up his surveillance for the day.

TravelWire. When the TravelWire workers initially refuses to give Mike info on Werner, Mike spins a yarn about Werner being diabetic and having dementia and now having money in his pocket, and well, the family is terribly worried about him …

Because he has a heart and soul, the worker gives Mike the details of Werner’s receipt of money (it was about an hour ago) and then how he left (a taxi picked him up).  Mike even gets a look at the security cam footage but you can’t see the name of the taxi company when it pulls up. Mike notices one of Fring’s men standing outside the money office and he leaves.

Inside Fring’s Escalade, Mike hands over Werner’s letter and tells Gus that for what it’s worth, he believes Werner’s explanation.  Also, he notes that he hasn’t gone to any cops yet.  Fring tells Mike that Werner’s wife is landing in Denver in 9 hours and Mike finishes the story that Fring’s men will follow her to Werner and then …

Mike offers an alternative plan of action – let Mike bring Werner in before the wife arrives. Have him finish the job he started because if Werner disappears, “you are left with the most expensive hole in the ground this side of the Mississippi.” Gus has Mike confirm he can get this done and then leaves him on the roadside. The clock is ticking, Mike.

He heads back into the TravelWire office and has the transcript of the end of the final phone call between Werner and his wife read back to him. There was talk about going on vacation. Mike happens to be staring at a display case of brochures for tourist spots. He hears the German for “natural springs” and grabs a bunch of possible hotel brochures matching that description.

Mike is on the hunt.

Outside, Mike begins to call the hotels looking for Werner and as he gets in his car, we pull back to across the street where Lalo is there. Watching.  Lalo is very good at the surveillance game. Fring leads to Mike leads to …

Commercials.

We come back to Law Library dedication ceremony. Howard is being video taped, talking about how its been a hard year for HHM (in more ways than one is the implication) but that the firm is back and better than ever. That HHM is Chuck’s lasting legacy and how the “Charles L. McGill Reading Room” is an appropriate honor to Charles’ memory – that Chuck was “always a lawyer first.” The school students filming him (hey, it’s Jimmy’s film crew kids) thank Howard for his generosity but Howard begs off, saying he’d like to take credit but he didn’t pay for any of this. They push back but Howard holds fast to his story. Howard looks uncomfortable – he kind of always does these days though, right? The mourners from earlier are also discussing who paid for the Reading Room, saying they had assumed “Anonymous” was code for “HHM.” A waitress passing hors d’oeuvre (hey’s it’s Jimmy’s young actress friend!) mentions, conspiratorially of course, that it was “James McGill” that paid for the whole place, “I saw him write the check.” The mourners are very impressed.

Rich comes up to Kim and remarks on how big an event this – attorney from everywhere are here. Kim nods that Chuck had that effect on people. She confirms to Rich’s question that Jimmy did in fact pay for the reading room but wishes to remain anonymous. Rich spots Jimmy outside, a pose of sadness etched on his body. Kim excuses herself to check on Jimmy’s well being. Outside, the scheming duo talk about how it’s almost time to head back inside. Jimmy is incensed that he cut a $23,000 check for THIS and no one from the bar association is even at the event. Kim assures him that there is a “week to go” and someone from the Bar will hear about this. Jimmy posits a scenario where he maybe  starts a fire and then becomes a hero but, even for Jimmy, too much.  They head back inside.

We come back to Mike who has finally found the property that Werner is staying at. As he hangs up, he notices the Lalo surveillance and thinking quickly pulls into a gated parking lot.  Lalo pulls in also and waits.  Mike bides his time and then positions himself at the exit with one car between him and Lalo. He gums up the gate mechanism which allows him to pull back on to the street and escape while Lalo has to sit and wait for the gate situation to resolve itself.  Lalo eventually uses his muscle car to physically push the slow car out of the way but it’s too late, Mike is gone.

Lalo. He’s good at the long lens surveillance, not so much at the car surveillance. Commercials.

HHM. We come back to Jimmy sitting through his duties as a board member on the Chuck McGill Scholarship Committee.  Tons of candidates come through and when its all said and done, Howard reads the results of the voting.  It looks like there are three obvious choices but Jimmy makes a face and Howard notices.  Jimmy makes a case for one girl, Christie Esposito, who has shoplifting on her record but has also learned from her experiences. Howard says Jimmy’s made a good case and opens up the voting again.

We cut to Jimmy chasing Christie outside. He stops her and wow, my heart is swelling here. He’s made a difference and convinced this stodgy board of Chuck’s peers to give this wayward girl a scholarship and a chance.

“You didn’t get it. You were never going to get it.”

Man, that didn’t go how I thought.  Jimmy drops some life lessons on this young woman who is staring at him stunned. He tells her that people will forever judge her by a mistake she made, the mistake will be who she is, according to these people.  But, she doesn’t need them. She can’t let this or these people keep her down. She has to play life by her own rules and fuck everyone else. Be smart. Cut corners. Win.

“The higher you rise, the more they are going to hate you. Good. GOOD! Rub their noses in it. You make them suffer.”

“Remember. The Winner Takes It All.” Christie has taken this all in and tells Jimmy she has to get her bus. She assures him she gets what he is saying. She looks back at this crazy man over her shoulder as she walks away and you can tell that Jimmy isn’t really sure if he’s done the right thing here.

That night, Jimmy’s car fails to start in the parking garage and he breaks down. As we head to commercials, we hear his sobs coming from inside the car. It’s almost indecent that we’re watching this moment.

Commercials.

TravelWire. Lalo turns to take a run at the TravelWire worker but he doesn’t get as far as Mike does -probably should just call the Police at this point  TravelWire guy (who we learn is Fred) answers a call and when he hangs up, Lalo is gone.  Fred looks around and notices a ceiling tile is missing from the reception area. Which is exactly when Lalo comes crashing through the ceiling onto Fred’s side of life. Gun in hand. Fred sees the error of his ways and decides to show Fred Lalo what he wants. We cut to Lalo watching the video tape of Mike’s visit and we see he has a print out of Werner’s money transfer.  Lalo focuses on the brochure rack with a grim smile on his face.

Oh, I should mention we also see Fred’s dead feet sticking out behind some furniture. RIP Fred, you were a loyal employee for TravelWire.

Herr Ziegler is taking in some desert sun at a resort when he gets a call. Werner picks up thinking its his wife but it’s actually Lalo. Using Gustavo Fring’s name and some reverse psychology, Lalo is able to get Werner to spill some details on the SuperLab construction instructions he left for “Michael.” He mentions clearing debris and to begin pouring concrete for the South wall. before he can give any more away, Mike shows up and grabs the phone from Werner. Lalo is all, “hello, hello?” before he realizes what’s happened.

“Michael. Is that you?”

Mike hangs up and tells Werner to shut up and get dressed. Mike’s face muscles are acting up a storm here as they clench and unclench. Commercials.

We come back to Jimmy coming home and Kim telling him she thinks they should rework the plan a bit – that they did “remorse” too soon.  Be more gradual. The “law plans” then “brother legacy” then “remorse.”  Jimmy, the scholarship committee still weighing on his mind, is feeling a bit hopeless right now but she tells him to stay the course. She reminds him that the hard part (e.g., the cemetery, the reading room, the scholarship) is over.

“We set up the dominoes and now you just knock them down.”

Jimmy’s got an idea – he pulls out a letter from his brother and wonders aloud if maybe Chuck does the talking for Jimmy?!?

Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler, Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill – Better Call Saul _ Season 4, Episode 10 – Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Mike pulls over to call Gus. Leaving Werner in the car, he tells Fring he’s got Werner. He also mentions that Werner spoke to a guy pretending to be part of Fring’s crew. Gus has an idea who this is.  He tells Mike to wait there – no more chances for Werner.  Mike tries one more time to convince Gustavo to let Werner live but nopers. Resigned to the situation, Mike tells Fring no need to send anybody, he’ll take care of “it” himself.

Mike has Werner come out and asks him what exactly his end game was with this vacation?!? Werner thinks this is a small blip … he doesn’t realize who he’s pissed off.

“Werner, nothing you can say or do will make anyone trust you again.”

When Werner realizes that “I’m sorry” is not going to cut it, he begins to plead and bargain for his life. Still, nothing doing. Mike tells Werner that he needs to call his wife, who landed an hour ago, and have her get back on a plane. She’s being followed but if she goes right home, nothing will happen to her. Werner is shocked that this is all happening. For such a smart guy, he never really understood what he got himself into.

Photo: AMC

Werner starts to really freak out and Mike yells at him to calm down and pull himself together. Margarethe cannot suspect anything is wrong, he warns. Werner calls her and walks her through the difficult task of convincing her to get back on a plane without seeing him while diffusing any of the normal 100 questions she has.  It doesn’t go great, the call ending with Werner shouting at his wife that he doesn’t want to see her and for her to go home, immediately.

Mike assures Werner that his wife and his men will all be safe.

“Is there no other way, truly?”

Mike’s silence is Werner’s answer and he tells Mike he’s going to walk over there to look at the stars …

As Werner walks off into the desert, Mike begins to follow. The camera pulls far back and we see the men in silhouette. We see the muzzle of Mike’s gun flash and hear the sound of the shot a fraction of a second later. We see Werner fall down. Dead.  Crickets. All through this long scene, the most persistent sound has been the crickets. We hear them now and nothing else.

Commercials.

SuperLab Construction Site. We come back to Fring down in the SuperLab site. He’s brought Gale Boetticher (David Costabile reprising his role – for the second time  this season) to take a look. Gale is like a kid in a candy store, marveling at the Herculean effort which is clearly at work here. He tells Gus he can do a rudimentary cook, at the very least, but Gus says, “not until it’s ready.”  Gale wilts under Fring’s glare and tells him he was just exploring the possibilities. He excuses himself as Mike is coming down into the site.

Alone, Mike glares down at Gus in the pit and Gus back at him.  This communicates everything that needs to be said and Mike leaves. These two are fucking heavyweights in voiceless acting.

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut – Better Call Saul _ Season 4, Episode 10 – Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Kim and Jimmy head to his appeal. He pats his pocket and tells Kim that this should do it, that Chuck wrote a good letter.

“Chuck wrote a great letter. It’s not just the words though, you know. It’s how you read them.”

Kim’s advice is unnecessary though, Jimmy understands how words work.  No matter what happens, Kim tells Jimmy, she’s with him.

Jimmy is called before the appeals committee who says they have read everything they need to read to make a decision – now, they just need to hear Jimmy’s words. Jimmy corrects them that he did not prepare a statement but rather, he’ll be reading the final letter from his brother, Charles.  A letter which was left to Jimmy in Charles’ will and that he received after Charles passed away.

Jimmy begins to read but before he really gets going, he stops. He tells the appeals board his plan, to woo them with Charles’ words but this letter – it was between brothers and it should stay that way, Jimmy says.

“Listen, my brother Chuck. You, you knew him.  He loved me in his own way. He loved me as a brother. He did not love me as a lawyer.”

Jimmy goes on to say that he became a lawyer because of Chuck and he only ever wanted to make his brother proud, no easy feat.  But, if you could make Chuck him proud – what an accomplishment. But if you didn’t, Chuck “didn’t suffer fools.” He could be difficult and he knew how to get under someone’s skin.

“He could be a real sonofabitch.”

This gets a knowing smile and nod from a member on the appeals board. Jimmy goes on to say that he can’t live up to the standard Chuck set, across the board. In summary:

“I’ll never be as good … as Chuck. But I can try. I can try.”

Jimmy makes his final case.  Reinstate him as a lawyer and he’ll do everything he can “to be worthy of the name, McGill.” And, Jimmy continues, if they don’t make him a lawyer again, well that’s okay too. because eh’ll still try to be the best man he can and in any case, he’s got “this letter.” He’s crying at this point. Kim is crying too.  Jimmy ends by saying that while he never got to write Chuck a letter with all he wanted to say, “somewhere, he knows.” The board is basically crying now too. Jimmy takes his seat.

Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler – Better Call Saul _ Season 4, Episode 10 – Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Cut to the hallway, Jimmy and Kim are celebrating at how well Jimmy did. “They have to reinstate you,” Kim says.  Jimmy agrees, he goes on how he put on the show of his life. He recounts every step he made, he likens himself to being in the Matrix.  Kim has pulled up and gone stone faced at his gleeful recounting of hoodwinking the board. Jimmy thanks her because she was right, it was all about Chuck the whole time.

An assistant comes out with the good news and Jimmy tells her to lead the way to the forms to be signed. Also, he’s going to need a DBA form because he won’t be practicing under the name, “McGill.” He starts to walk away as Kim pipes up, ‘Jimmy, what?”

He turns to her and gives her the finger guns …

“It’s all good, man!”

The season ends with Kim standing in the hallway, alone, looking at the man she may no longer know walking away.

And Scene.

Thoughts.

It’s all good, man … Saul Goodman.  This is the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul version of Game of Thrones‘ famous “Hold the door … Hodor” transformation. Jimmy’s entire journey since the show began, but especially over this entire season, has led to this final moment in tonight’s episode.

We have talked all 9 previous episodes about how we were speeding headlong into the time of Breaking Bad, or, more precisely, to the time right before the events of Breaking Bad take place.  With Jimmy gaining his law license back but announcing he was going to be practicing under a presumed name … the change from Jimmy to Saul is complete.  Note the look on Kim’s face as she watches him tells the amoral story of using Chuck’s memory to secure his reinstatement and the look on her face as he announces that after all this, he won’t be James McGill … in a professional sense. There have been many “last straws” for Kim but, was this real last one. Right before the hearing, Kim tells Jimmy that no matter what, she’s with him but …

Does “I’m with you” extend to being with Saul? Something tells me this may be a bridge too far.

The story arc of Jimmy and Kim was frantic and chaotic with this season hitting highs and lows but new starts professionally may necessitate new starts in their private lives as well.

I’d like a minute to congratulate Rhea Seehorn on her season long kick assery as Kim. Always my least favorite character on Better Call Saul, Seehorn’s portrayal of Kim was ascendant in this season 4.  Kim came into her own in a way that demanded you to take notice and think, “huh, Kim gets shit done and is on point … always.” With no Howard, no Chuck, and really, no Jimmy to hold her back, Kim soared – discovering a new love of the law she didn’t realize she had while parlaying her corporate success into a major law firm expansion. And these moves allowed her to serve both her clients’ interests and her own, equally. And, when she needed it, Kim had Jimmy to roll around in the morally questionable gutter with. Seehorn navigated all of these different emotions and directions with nimble proficiency and made Kim a delight to watch all season long.  This was truly the season of Kim having her cake and eating it too.

For his part, Bob Odenkirk should be in the running for Emmys consideration for his work this season.  Tonight’s moments before the appeals board were as emotionally manipulative and convincing on us, the audience, as they were on the appeals board.  The result being that by the end of tonight’s episode, you really feel for the first time in Better Call Saul‘s history, “man, Jimmy is not a great guy. He’s actually really terrible.”  And that’s all on Odenkirk. Taking this character that we love and root for, even when he is doing bad things and then, to make us see, “no, too far” when really he’s doing the same kin of thing he’s always done? That’s a fine balancing act to be able to convince the audience you’ve seen a massive change in character while the character was standing in front of you the entire time.  Evolution is real. Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman is its proof.

On the other side of town, Jonathan Banks really earned his paycheck as the end of the German storyline played out. At the beginning, I think we all knew someone was going to die but I think its fair to say we all thought it would be Kai, amiright? But no, after vouching for Werner again and again, and even through most of tonight, Mike realized that he needed to end Werner’s life.  That he needed to be the one to do it.  Werner was a dead man either way but if Mike let Fring do it with one of his other men, it would have permanently put Mike on the outs with Fring. Maybe even lead to his own death.  And this would have endanger Stacey and Kaylee as well, Mike’s presumable reasons for living. Mike always knows the score and even though he let his feelings for Werner get the best of him for too long (he should have ended him after Werner got yappy in the bar), Mike Ehrmantraut does what has to be done when it needs to be done.

And its this trait that keeps him employed with Gus Fring, when Fring would have cut dies (and killed) any other person in Mike’s position. All of this being said, that glare between Gus and Mike at the end, it remains to be seen how their relationship will be different with this Werner kill hanging over their head when we enter Season 5. It’s as if your boss made you kill your puppy and you did but then have to go back to work like everything was fine.  You’re going to be holding on to some resentment of your boss … things are different now, is my point.

And Gale.  Fring, after telling Gale it wasn’t time yet for him to be involved in the cook business, needs to bring Gale into finish the SuperLab.  Fans of Breaking Bad will know that Gale has always been credited with creating the SuperLab so it was always a matter of time before we saw him become involved. Tonight we saw why Gale gets the credit as creator of the lab as well as his literal first moments in this new position in the Fring drug family.

If Jimmy taking on the name of Saul Goodman was the best proof of us quickly entering Breaking Bad territory, the reintroduction of  Gale Boetticher tonight was the icing on that cake.  After meeting him earlier this season, we now know that whatever happens, we are in the endgame on the creation of this meth lab that features so prominently in the history of Breaking Bad.

The Venn Diagram of shared universes between Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad has never been larger or more fully drawn than it is at the end of Season 4.

Questions for Season 5.  

  1. Clearly, Lalo has it out for Fring, at least to know what he’s up to and now, thanks to Mike and Werner’s missteps, what Fring is building. Where does Lalo go from here – not a character in Breaking Bad, Lalo has a definite endgame coming before we reach the time of Breaking Bad events. Same for Nacho, a man who we already knew had numbered days.  With Hector Salamanca bringing Lalo on to oversee the family business, Nacho faced a natural demotion in power but how low will he sink — six feet under ground would be my guess.  The “how does it happen though” is the thing that we want to see in Season 5!
  2. Fring is on the precipice of breaking out big time in the drug world. Is it only a matter of time before we see the DEA become involved in the affairs of Albuquerque’s burgeoning meth business. And if so, could we expect to see Hank Schrader next season? I hope so.
  3. With the introduction of Huell this season, Saul Goodman beginning his legal practice next season and Fring’s meth hitting the streets, can we expect to see Jesse Pinkman and his druggie friends, Skinny Pete and Badger, next season? I hope so!
  4. Kim’s time with Jimmy, Saul, whomever, has to be limited now, I think. Where do they go from tonight’s episode?  How does this love story of Jim and Kim end?

What  a season. Thank you for following this great story with me and I’ll see you back here for Season 5 of Better Call Saul!

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