Spoiler alert: this recap is for people watching Better Call Saul season six, which airs on Netflix in the UK. Do not read on unless you have watched episodes one to 12.
Death by Ask Jeeves
In the movies, when the police are chasing a criminal, it is a game of diminishing returns. The perp starts off in a helicopter, say, then has to abandon that for a car, then someone else’s car and perhaps a bus until, finally, they are running away on foot. That appears to be where we are now with Jimmy McGill, Gene Takavic, or as the FBI know him, Saul Goodman.
Dashing from Marion’s house after she alerted her care workers to the presence of a criminal in her home, Saul has very few options left. His cover in Nebraska has been blown, and he has no means of arranging another. He is already the subject of a federal manhunt because of his involvement in the Heisenberg plot. He has a car, but nowhere to run to. His denouement is imminent.
Which is just as well, because there’s only an hour left of Better Call Saul. But after this penultimate episode I feel satisfied. It is clear that the plot will have been tied up, the characters given their endings and that the creators know the moral of this fable and are about to lay it out. Sopranos-style ambiguity seems unlikely.
For Saul, Jimmy and Gene, the prospect of a happy ending is over (I think). After he is confronted by the results on Chekhov’s Laptop (TM), however, those of us who used to be won over by Jimmy’s playful charm still get a flicker of solace.
He knows he has been busted and that Marion is a problem. He tries to continue charming her, to get her to come to prison and bail out Jeff who selflessly threw himself in front of the cops to allow Gene to escape from his robbery. The charm doesn’t work. So he yanks the phone wire out of the computer and starts twisting it like a garotte. Now there’s an option that might take care of this tricky situation. But he drops the wire. He grabs Marion’s alarm to stop her from pressing it. He is pulling that against her neck, too. “I trusted you”, she says, as he teeters on the edge of violence. The words trigger something within him, and he steps back.
Saul and Gene are nasty, spiteful people. We have seen too much bile fall from their mouths and too much duplicity for either to have our sympathy. But whatever they are, it turns out they are still not a killer. Something of Jimmy still remains alive inside. And that may be the best we can expect for him.
The long journey home
For Kim there is more hope. Even if we are talking levels only visible under a microscope. The heroine returns this week, as a brunette on a trip of self-harm from Florida to Albuquerque. At its end we see her break down on a bus and finally shed the tears we never saw in the aftermath of Howard’s death. It is bleak and frightening, but ultimately, Kim has done the right thing. In choosing to submit an affidavit to the district attorney’s office and to share her confession with Cheryl Hamlin, she has faced up to what she has done and accepted responsibility. Only after that could she heal.
It was Jimmy (or Gene posing as Victor) who prompted her to take action. He goaded her, suggesting she should turn herself in because she had nothing worth losing. “Said the pot to the kettle!” he shot back, after Kim tried suggesting he can’t have been living much of a life all these years. This, you suspect, is kind of true. The scenes of her life in Florida are quintessential American ennui, with a kind boyfriend who is as dull as a stone and a pack of friends and colleagues who like to talk about the difference between mayonnaise and Miracle Whip.
It is as far away from her Albuquerque life as you can imagine, and we know that being all over the details of sprinkler flanges is unlikely to be enough to satisfy Kim. More importantly, we see in her new dull existence a determination to live well, to choose a good life as everyone else sees it. Does she snap at that lunk of a boyfriend? No, she does not. Does she make an effort with her barbecue dishes? Yes, she does. As much as Kim will always have an appetite for fun, she has a desire to do good.
So that leads her back to New Mexico and an encounter with Cheryl. Her confession is detailed and thorough, and you can detect the application of professional pride in the work. It bowls Cheryl over, understandably, but also in a way that makes you wonder – had Howard’s wife not considered this before? Kim admits it is unlikely that she could be prosecuted, given a lack of evidence. Cheryl moves on to making legal threats. Kim acknowledges the possibility and, with that, their encounter is done. Kim gets on the bus and lets everything out.
The greatest BCS episode of all time? Might have to watch it again first but that was emotionally wrenching, suspenseful and consistently beautiful to look at.
In other complimentary notes, I would like to commend everyone on the quality of the BTL discussion last week. Hot stuff. Though I would like to clarify: I was never suggesting that we were supposed to sympathise with Gene. Uh-uh. No way.
The Jesse and Kim cameo was as well observed as the rest of this episode (written and directed by Vince Gilligan). We get to see Kim at her sternest, indulging a tweaking Pinkman as he goes off at the rain and tries to remember what you call a nativity scene. We also, I think, witness the moment that ultimately sends Saul into the heart of planet Heisenberg. Jesse asks Kim if Saul might prove a useful lawyer for those in complicated situations. Is he any good? Kim, thinking about the appalling contrast she has just experienced between the sneering, blase Goodman and the Jimmy she loved, says: “When I knew him, he was”. Jesse listens and hears a recommendation.
Lots of nice little touches, too – finding the passwords on the bottom of the lamp, the knack for restoring a fallen office pillar, the new automated courthouse tollbooth, “whatever happened to crack?” and so on. One episode left. Let the grieving process begin!