Ever since the very first season of Better Call Saul, we’ve been scrutinizing the episodes week after week for a glimpse of the Saul Goodman that Jimmy McGill will someday become: that sleazy, fast-talking, paper-shredding, cell-phone-hoarding, charming-in-spite-of-himself criminal lawyer we knew and loved. But this week, you don’t have to squint to see Saul. He’s right there, in the cold open of “Quite a Ride,” tearing apart the office we’ve seen so many times on Breaking Bad.
Francesca is shredding documents as Jimmy (aaaaargh, now that he’s gone full Saul, I can’t stop thinking of him as Jimmy!) pulls down a hidden bag of cash and punches through his We The People wall mural to retrieve a paper-wrapped package. This isn’t just Jimmy-as-Saul; it’s Jimmy on his last day as Saul, a flash-forward set firmly within the timeline of Breaking Bad. He gives Francesca a couple rolls of cash and some final instructions on document disposal, then holds out his arms like he’s going to hug her.
“I guess that’s it. Quite a ride, huh?” Jimmy says. He sounds like he’s on the verge of either laughing or crying; it’s impossible to tell. Francesca looks at his open arms and leaves. All that’s left is to make the call that’ll turn Saul from Albuquerque into Gene from Omaha — and lead him to his last run-in with Walter White.
Why would the show pick this moment to jump so far forward? It’ll all become clear soon enough, as we return to the original timeline. Jimmy is still Jimmy, at work in the cell phone store, still eyeing the crate of bouncy balls that serve as his only form of entertainment. (Side note: I’ve started referring to these in my own head as “Chekhov’s Balls,” as in if you show a crate of bouncy balls in the first act, one of ’em has to bounce off something before the episode ends. Right?) But finally, it happens: a customer comes, drawn by the siren song of Jimmy’s PRIVACY SOLD HERE paint job — and then drawn in by a hard sell for “information hygiene,” a.k.a. the single-use cell phone that all cash-based (read: criminal) enterprises rely on. Now we know where Saul Goodman got his love of burner phones: he’s not just a client, he’s also the spokesman!
What happens next is the perfect example of how Jimmy can’t help turning even the most honest, easy job into a hard-working, money-making scam. While Kim is distracted by a new side gig, working as a defense attorney for unappreciative youth offenders, Jimmy puts on a snazzy tracksuit and heads to a late-night wiener joint called the Doghouse, where criminals and the criminal-adjacent gather to eat hot dogs and make deals. He makes a killing selling burner phones — to a fabulous disco soundtrack, no less — but then, he gets mugged by three teenagers who take his money and kick the crap out of him for good measure.
Cut to Kim waking up and finding Jimmy in the bathroom, bruised and bleeding. She starts treating his wounds (one-handed, no less!) but Jimmy is preoccupied.
“What the hell is the matter with me?” he says, but he doesn’t mean it the way you think. He’s not mad at himself for turning an honest job into a con; he’s mad at himself for getting jumped by punks, who once upon a time would’ve known better than to mess with him.
“Those days are over,” Kim says — and for the second time in this episode, the camerawork tells you just how he feels about that. Suddenly, we’re down the hall, seeing Jimmy from a distance. He looks small and lost, dwarfed by the doorframe and the walls, like he’s shrinking down to nothing. (For fun: Compare this view of Jimmy to how we see Kim, who looms in the foreground throughout this episode, often dominating the frame with her back to the camera.)
Meanwhile, Jimmy isn’t the only one trying out a new line of work. Mike, seen in the last episode having a tense confrontation with Gus Fring, is helping to audition architects for Gus’ underground laundry meth lab. His first prospect, a Frenchman, declares with a wink and a swagger that the project can be completed in six months at max… and is promptly rejected. The next recruit, a German with a weak stomach, is far less confident — and exactly what they’re looking for, apparently. As the man lists off all the problems with the project, Gus emerges from the shadows.
“So it’s impossible?” he says.
“Dangerous. Difficult. Very, very expensive,” the German replies. “Not quite impossible.”
The men shake hands.
And then it’s back to Jimmy — this time at the courthouse where he’s set to meet his legal probation officer. He runs into a ragged-looking Howard Hamlin in the bathroom; Howard says he’s not sleeping and seeing a therapist but doesn’t share further (probably because he’s remembering Kim’s tirade two weeks ago, which still gives me chills every time I think about it.) Jimmy responds to this news by flushing his own therapist referral down the toilet, for… some reason. (A simple refusal to follow Howard’s example in any way? Discuss!)
Finally, we see Jimmy sitting opposite the man assigned to his case, who asks a series of questions: about his employment, his working hours, but most of all, about what he’ll do when his suspension ends. Jimmy’s response? He’s going to pick up his practice, only better. More clients, more wins, more fame.
“Bigger and better, everything will be better,” he says, practically snarling. It’s a show of passion the other man wasn’t expecting; he just wanted a simple answer.
“So, lawyer?” he prompts.
“Yeah,” Jimmy says. “Lawyer.”
This time, the camera doesn’t flinch.
And as we all know, a lawyer is what he becomes — for a while, anyway. But remembering how this episode began, this moment (and the show itself) feels ever more like a tragedy. After all, we know that Jimmy is going to have everything he’s dreaming of.
He’s also going to lose it.
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