The Era of Saul arrives!
Warning: Full spoilers follow for the Season 4 finale of Better Call Saul…
“Did you see those suckers?”
Well, that was downright heartbreaking, huh?
In what some might consider to be Saul’s most subdued season, though it’s not exactly a raucous series to being with, Jimmy pulled off – perhaps – his ugliest con. He made the review board believe he mourned his brother. Even worse, he made Kim believe he mourned Chuck’s death. On top of that? He made us believe.
It was a devastating triple con, that extended beyond the fourth wall, and it perfectly bookended a season all about Jimmy’s self-ruining inability to feel anything for Chuck’s demise, coupled with his ever-increasing ability to con people on larger levels using nothing more than his persuasive nature and the right “fancy” words. Any other show would have had him learn a lesson and make that all important turn right at the end. He would have entered that room with the intent to bamboozle but then, in the midst of his duplicity, he’d have a change of heart and his words would unexpectedly start to move him in unexpected ways. But this is Saul and the twist was that there wasn’t one.
It’s possible that the consensus on Saul Season 4 being quasi-uneventful stems from the fact that there was no mid-point masterpiece on the level of Season 3’s “Chicanery,” but I personally loved the focus on Jimmy and Kim’s relationship and show’s increased honing in on Kim’s complexities. Last week, she and Jimmy tried to lay down a few ground rules about how they’d move forward with their new partnership in con, with Kim insisting that they’d only use it for good.
Jimmy tried to bicker his way out of it, arguing that she’d just used it to help her corporate client change a bit office space, and while he had a fair point, “Winner” made the blurry line Kim was talking about a stark and clear one. Fundamentally, the two of them feel things differently. After the performance he gave to get his law license back, and then his refusal to even practice under the McGill name, Kim was left wondering if Jimmy was capable of feeling bad about anything.
For our benefit, since it wasn’t a moment discussed on the show, we caught a flashback – to Chuck vouching for Jimmy when he first became a lawyer and the subsequent after party karaoke session that saw both brothers seemingly express genuine care for one another. Chuck got to loosen up (and flex his David St. Hubbins pipes while singing ABBA!) while helping Jimmy ring in the midnight hour with some revelry. It wasn’t “his scene,” and he had early meetings, but Chuck was there for Jimmy. Was he always the type of person to hold things over Jimmy and feel contempt for him in certain ways? Of course. But that didn’t mean he didn’t also love him.
And Jimmy even said as much during his speech. It was a huge reason why it all worked. He admitted to their failings as brothers. But in Jimmy’s mind, the failings, truly, were all there were. And so his plea to the board at the end was nothing more than a well-orchestrated trick of the light, much like his graveyard grandstanding and whisper campaign regarding the library he paid for in Chuck’s memory.
Mike made a grim sharp turn this week too, though one of lethal action not cunning words. Having immersed himself fully into Gus’ world, after taking a modest torch to his old circle of support, Mike was now so far removed from his old tetherings that he took it upon himself to kill Werner at the end. Of course, he volunteered to do it out of a semi-sense of honor and the fact that Gus might have worse things in mind for Werner than a quick bullet to the brain. Mike had done all he could to protect Werner, from his initial warnings to brokering a deal to get him back before Werner’s wife landed, but he was ultimately undone.
Lalo Salamanca became the wild card in the already delicate mix, possibly sealing Werner’s fate for good with that phone call. If he hadn’t made contact with Werner, even though he didn’t give up crucial details, there’s a possibility that Gus might have given him a pass. But now the Salamancas know Gus is building something somewhere. Also, if you were looking for the unintended ruin caused by Werner’s escape, Lalo killed that young man working at the credit union place. Neither Mike nor Werner knew that when Mike pulled the trigger, but it still stands as collateral damage.
Was anyone else reminded of Walter White when Werner was on the phone with his wife, feigning anger and frustration with the ulterior motive of protecting her? It wasn’t the same as the “Ozymandias” call, no, but it was definitely reminiscent. It was also sadder because Werner, at this point, was no Walter White. Sure, he accepted an obviously shady gig but he still wound up woefully underestimating both the job and his employer. And in the show’s tradition of tragically changing trajectories, Werner wound up being the problem. Not Kai. Though Kai is the reason everyone had to work longer and harder.
“Winner” had a handful of other scenes that warrant praise. Mike’s “chewing gum” parking ticket escape from Lalo was a choice cut of craftiness and Jimmy’s broken down car breakdown, along with his scary speech to the scholarship girl who got rejected, were superb. In fact, for Jimmy, it was that “You make them suffer!” scene where he ultimately adopted a new harsh mission statement. One that allowed him to use and abuse Chuck’s memory for his own gain. As for the teen who Jimmy downloaded all that bitterness to? Well, she might get inspired or she might take the sight of a manic man with a chip on his shoulder, imploring her to cheat to win, as a sign to get the hell out of the game.