Better Call Saul is a show about details. We know where all these characters end up, so beyond the fun of watching them get there, the show’s greatest trick is showing us every single detail that pushes them in those directions. Sometimes the characters notice them. Sometimes, especially in Jimmy’s case, they don’t. After the previous night’s cathartic bottle-throwing, things seem better between Jimmy and Kim. From the way they sleep to brushing their teeth together, they appear to be back on the same page. It’s only when they get outside that we realize they aren’t quite. They see the broken glass from the night before, and Jimmy says the landlord will take care of it. Kim stays behind to clean it up. They both enjoy getting a little dirty together, but Kim’s always the one who has to clean it up.
Jimmy, or rather Saul, has a different approach. Rather than cleaning up his messes, he turns them into profit. Remember those guys who took his 50 percent off deal as an invitation to commit as many felonies as they could? Well, it caught up to them. Saul lays out the best deal he can get them. It involves rehab and some jail time. When he tells them it will cost $4,000 even after the discount, they say they’ll get a public defender. Now, Saul plays his own clients. He tells them a public defender will mean a much longer sentence, and that he’s worth the money. He acts like he’s going to walk out on them, so they’ll beg him to come back. Then, he asks them to hit up relatives to cover his fee. One of the guys mentions his grandma, and Saul doesn’t bat an eye. That’s how you can tell there’s been a real change. Remember, Jimmy started out advocating for seniors whose nursing home took advantage of them. Now, Saul gladly has a client shake down his grandma.
As much as Kim is the one left holding the broom after her and Jimmy’s antics, she needs those antics. She concedes that the previous day was a bad day at the beginning of the episode, and says she’s going to make it right. And she tries to do it the right way. She proposes an alternate site for Mesa Verde’s call center that she argues would make more money in the long run and the bank wouldn’t have to take anyone’s home away. Her client, hearing that it would put them three weeks behind, refuses. They’ll go ahead with the original plan and kick the old man out. She tried to do it the right way, now she needs Jimmy’s mess.
The only question is, is she prepared for how much of a mess Jimmy’s capable of making now that he’s Saul? She attends his afternoon trial, where she sees him trick the victim into identifying the wrong person as his client. The judge declares a mistrial, which means Jimmy got his way again through questionable means. Kim doesn’t look too comfortable with that, but she needs that mess now. She sends him out to persuade the old man to hire him as his lawyer against Mesa Verde. It takes an… unorthodox picture of a man and a horse to do it, but it works. Kim’s using Saul’s chaos to her advantage, but can she deal with whatever fallout comes of it?
Jimmy’s final story this week involves one of the coolest bookends of the entire series. The first scene of the episode is a flash forward of sorts to Jimmy walking around a pawn shop. He tests throwing any heavy object he can find, which makes the cashier increasingly nervous. Finally, he decides on three bowling balls. We have no idea why, but it’s all we can think about for the entire episode. Later, we see him take lunch with Howard Hamlin. Hamlin offers Jimmy a job at Hamlin, Hamlin and McGill, but Jimmy sees through the offer. Howard isn’t trying to make things right, he’s trying to assuage his guilt and make money off of Jimmy while he’s doing it. After a full day of work, we find out what the bowling balls are for. They’re an elaborate “thanks, but no thanks” aimed squarely at Howard’s fancy car. The one that says “Namast3” on the license plate. Yeah, I’m with Jimmy/Saul on this one.
Of course, it’s not all Jimmy and Kim this week. Last week’s episode brought back Hank, and now he figures into the season’s most tense sequence yet. Hank and Steve Gomez are staking out the last dead drop, waiting for someone to come collect it. They already arrested three other people and confiscated $750,000. This time, the guy sees their car and leads them on a chase into a water pipe. This, it turns out, was part of the plan. He escapes into a separate getaway car and calls Gus.
Meanwhile, Gus has been nervously waiting for that call, keeping the shift manager of Los Pollos Hermanos around as an alibi. He makes the manager clean the fryer over and over again, meticulously scrubbing down every inch as Gus waits for his burner phone to buzz. Somehow, the show turned cleaning a fryer into its most nerve-wracking moment. After allowing the manager to leave, Gus adjust the fry baskets to make sure their perfectly centered. It seems the cleaning demands might not have been purely for alibi purposes. Again, it’s the details that make this show.
We’re well into the fifth season now, and Better Call Saul is running at full speed. That’s a weird thing to say about a show that spends so much time on luxurious long takes and full scenes of silence, but those only make the big moments matter more. Even Mike Ehrmantraut’s story went somewhere interesting this week. After blowing up at his granddaughter for bringing up his son’s death, her mother doesn’t want him alone with her as much. As much as it hurts, he’s starting to think she might be right. He goes looking for a fight to get his anger out, and ends up on the ground getting stabbed. Strangely though, he doesn’t wake up in a hospital. He finds himself in a church in the middle of nowhere. Someone didn’t want a paper trail. For now, we’re as clueless as Mike is. But for the first time this season, his story is the one I’m most looking forward to picking back up next week.
Better Call Saul airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on AMC
Previously on Better Call Saul: