Although Better Call Saul has seen its hero through plenty of shady, scammy business, Jimmy McGill’s essential goodness has never really been in question — that is, until now. It’s becoming easier than ever to see Saul Goodman looming on the horizon. While the last few episodes of Better Call Saul have seen Jimmy using his skills as a scam artist to take down his backstabbing brother or shake down a pair of pompous music store owners, his actions in “Fall” mark a turning point, if not a point of no return.
…Or maybe I’m being too judgmental. Let he among us who hasn’t made an old lady cry for a million dollars cast the first stone, am I right?
Despite having scored a few weeks’ worth of financial security by selling his ad time, this week finds Jimmy chasing a much bigger payday: the one that will come when Sandpiper Crossing settles its class action suit. After stopping by Irene Landry’s apartment and sweet-talking his way into a look at her legal correspondence, he finally gets a look at the current settlement offer — of which his cut would be $1.16 million. (Side note: Bob Odenkirk’s “doing math in my head” face is every bit as Emmy-worthy as his “I just shanked my pompous jerk brother” face.)
Meanwhile, back at Hamlin-Hamlin-McGill, Howard and Chuck are having the first of several confrontations in this episode where nothing goes right for anyone. (The notable exception is Mike, who meets with Lydia Rodarte-Quayle at Madrigal and winds up with a place on their payroll as a security consultant… and a reality check from Lydia when he describes Gus Fring as a drug dealer. “If that’s all you think he is,” Lydia says, “you don’t know Gustavo Fring.”) It’s not just Chuck’s insurance costs going up; either every practicing attorney at HHM is getting their premiums doubled, or they’ll have to assign a partner to essentially babysit Chuck through every case he takes. Chuck wants to sue the insurer. Howard wants Chuck to retire.
“If enough people tell you that you’re drunk, maybe it’s time to sit down,” he says. (A panicked Chuck doesn’t help his case when he tries to demonstrate how mentally stable he is by throttling a table lamp. “See?! I’M FINE!”)
Hence, Howard isn’t in a great mood sometime later when Jimmy accosts him in the parking garage to discuss the Sandpiper case. He insists that taking the settlement is “the right thing to do,” which is admittedly a fair point — the octogenarians who put the class in class action aren’t getting any younger while HHM holds out for a bigger payday — but Howard isn’t an idiot.
“It’s like talking to Gollum,” he snaps. “You’re transparent, and pathetic. Next time, why don’t you bring a tin cup. It’ll be more honest.” (Man, Patrick Fabian had all the best lines in this episode — and who knew Howard would be a Tolkien fanboy?! I’d have guessed Trekkie, maybe.)
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What happens next is intercut with the following vignettes:
-Kim working harder than ever to help her new client with an interstate oil drilling issue, and narrowly escaping a potentially disastrous low-speed collision with an oil rig
-Howard learning that Chuck, rather than go quietly into the good night of retirement, is suing HHM for an amount of money that will destroy the firm, and,
-Hector Salamanca receiving news from Don Eladio that Gus is officially, solely in charge of their drug-running operation — which leads to a lot of sputtering, swearing, and the popping of a (useless, tampered-with) pill… but not an untimely death, alas, which leaves Nacho in a terrible position.
All of this forms the backdrop for Jimmy’s next move. And while Jimmy’s prior cons have been enjoyable to watch, in a witness-the-master-at-work sort of way, this one just… isn’t. Knowing that his Sandpiper payday hinges on Irene Landry settling the case, Jimmy poisons her elderly mean-girl friends against her by painting her as a heartless holdout who’s keeping them from getting their justly deserved cash.
It all culminates in a rigged game of Bingo, where Irene wins and then bursts into tears as her friends seethe, glare, and refuse to clap for her. An earlier scene where Jimmy plants the seeds of discontent while the noir classic Night of the Hunter plays in the background (featuring Robert Mitchum as a terrifying, murderous scam preacher hellbent on collecting his own cash settlement, so to speak) is a nice touch — and an interesting point of comparison. This might be the most absurd manipulation Jimmy has ever indulged in, but it’s also profoundly cruel in a way that’s new for him. And the conversation that follows, in which he suggests to a sobbing Irene that perhaps her friends feel she hasn’t considered their feelings, is slimy in a distinctly Saul-flavored way… as is Jimmy’s subsequent appearance at the offices of Wexler-McGill to celebrate the impending settlement with a bottle of Zafiro Añejo.
Only Kim doesn’t have time to celebrate; she can barely even pause to acknowledge Jimmy’s good news. After a full week of burning the candle at both ends (Jimmy refers to her having pulled “another all-nighter”), she’s frantically gathering documents for her client meeting, and she blows right past Jimmy as he exclaims, “Are you listening to me? Our troubles are over!”
“Just think of all the things you want to say to me, and say them to me later,” Kim says as she scoots out the door with a box of files in her hands.
And because Rhea Seehorn pulls off this line so smoothly and casually that it somehow doesn’t register at all as ominous, what happens next is straight-up shocking. As she drives out of town, she practices her pitch, and then falls silent as the landscape flashing by outside becomes an endless beige sprawl of sameness. The road to Gatwood’s desert drilling site is very flat and very smooth — and very, very bad for a woman who hasn’t slept for more than a few hours altogether in the past several days. One moment, Kim is sitting in profile, eyes on the road.
The next, she’s thrown forward as her airbag deploys with a bang.
It’s deeply unsettling to see the always poised, always in-control Kim Wexler looking like this: confused and terrified, breathing hard, her face bruised and bloodied. She whimpers in pain as she stumbles out of the car — one of her arms hangs limp at her side — and scrabbles for purchase on the sand as papers spill out of the seat behind her. The camera draws back and up, revealing the wrecked car, its nose in a ditch just ahead of the place where the empty road begins to curve. The wind sweeps a few more papers out of the gaping trunk. And while Kim is still standing, it’s pretty clear that Jimmy’s earlier declaration couldn’t have been more wrong. Their troubles aren’t over, and this particular one has only just begun.
To read a Q&A with Better Call Saul co-creator Peter Gould about Jimmy’s betrayal of Irene and Kim’s car accident, click here.
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