Vince Gilligan directs a shocking episode that richly reconsiders a key setting from Breaking Bad.

Warning: This review contains spoilers for the Better Call Saul episode "Point and Click" (and, for that matter, all of Breaking Bad).

Prequels are tales of doom, even when they don't want to be. Writers and viewers know how things will end up for the characters and the world around them. Famously dead characters may live again — but their future already arrived in our past. Sunday's amazing episode of Better Call Saul ends with Mike (Jonathan Banks) and Tyrus (Ray Campbell) burying two bodies in the Superlab. Anyone who watched Breaking Bad recognizes that whole sentence as a graveyard. Mike will be shot to death. Tyrus will get exploded, collateral damage in a three-way underworld feud. And the whole Superlab will go down in flames.

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut - Better Call Saul _ Season 6, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television
Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Saul has never hidden from fate. Occasional flashforwards reveal Jimmy/Saul (Bob Odenkirk) double-renamed as snowbound Omaha Gene. In past seasons, the inevitability of our hero's fall has turned even the most lighthearted capers into signposts of eventual tragedy. In "Point and Shoot," that tragedy's scope becomes brutally clear. The episode starts with Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) dead on the floor of the apartment Jimmy shares with Kim (Rhea Seehorn). Husband and wife had only just been toasting the success of their magnum opus con trick, a seven-episode scam to turn on the Sandpiper money faucet by ruining Howard's reputation. In their moment of victory, they had passionate job-well-done sex. Will that be their last truly happy moment together?

When I talked to co-creator Peter Gould about the midseason finale, I openly wondered if the roundtable of attorneys at Hamlin Hamlin & McGill was "the series finale for the lawyer side of the show." After all, Saul has always split itself between two distinct Albuquerque worlds. In one corner, various McGill relations moved up and down the legal stratosphere, juggling corporate law, frantic public defending, and elder-care chicanery. Meanwhile, people like Mike and Salamanca enforcer Nacho (Michael Mando) plotted outside the law, crossing moral and national borders for (or against) the cartel. Neckties in one corner, guns in another; characters who never stopped talking versus characters who could spend a whole episode silently stalking. "You two and your mouths, Dios mio!" Lalo (Tony Dalton) complains in "Point and Shoot," when Jimmy and Kim blather on trying to convince him that the other is the better assassin.

There's always been this freefloating notion that Saul was moving Badder in style and story, getting bleaker and more ultraviolent while loading up the Salamanca wagon toward a criminal final act. That theory achieved liftoff with the season 3 addition of Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) and then the season 4 arrival of Lalo, a kind of uber-Salamanca with all his relatives' positive traits, no drug addiction, and a shark's smile. Lalo swaggered into this final season looking like the ultimate villain. I assumed his killing of Howard marked a final silencing, even an outright takeover of the legal drama by the druglord opera. Well, this whole season is clearly building to a Gus-Lalo climax is a thought I definitely had in mid-May.

With a script by Bad/Saul mainstay Gordon Smith, "Point and Shoot" accelerates that conflict — and turns the two criminals' rivalry into one final prologue. Lalo uses Jimmy and Kim as unknowing pawns. When he sends Kim out to kill Gus, he really just needs one final distraction: A decoy duck to flush out the last few Fring soldiers at the laundromat. After Kim leaves, Lalo teases Jimmy with a bit of intel that baffles the clueless lawyer. Lalo remembers that he only met "Saul Goodman" because of Ignacio — who wound up letting a murder squad into Lalo's compound. This is all more or less news to Jimmy, who still has only a vague sense of the larger criminal forces swirling around him.

If you're a freak for canon, things are getting interesting. Here's Jimmy's confused reaction to Lalo (with some key words in bold):

"Ignacio… Nacho? Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, I barely know Ignacio. Whatever he did, he did alone, not with me. Listen, you've gotta believe me, hand to God, I had no part in this. It wasn't me. It was Ig-AGH [Lalo gags him] Ignacio. Not me! Listen, listen, listen, I don't know him. I don't know him!"

The dialogue should sound familiar. Way back (forward?) in Breaking Bad season 2, episode 8, up-and-coming meth cooks Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) kidnap Saul Goodman. They try to intimidate him, pointing a gun at his head in front of an open grave. The lawyer is initially terrified:

"Oh no, no, no, no! No, it wasn't me! It was Ignacio, he's the one! Oh no. Oh no, no, no, no. Siempre soy amigo! Siempre, siempre soy amigo del cartel…Lalo didn't send you? No Lalo? Oh, thank God, oh Christ!"

That single throwaway Bad line formed two gigantic character arcs in Saul. The implication, always mysterious but potent, was that something bad was happening around Nacho — and that Lalo was a bad someone you would be very happy not to meet. ("Oh, thank God! Oh, Christ!")

"Point and Shoot" ties forward to that utmost Saul Goodman moment in an unexpectedly poignant way. Depending on the trajectory of the next five episodes, it's possible that Jimmy will never fully understand the story around him. Does he ever even learn that Nacho is dead? And despite Mike's episode-ending promise that Lalo is really gone this time, does he spend the next few years looking over his shoulder? He may have to live in fear of the Salamancas… and that's before he identity-swaps himself into the Midwest, living in fear of literally anyone recognizing him.

"I travel in worlds you can't even imagine!" Jimmy once told Howard Hamlin. "You can't conceive of what I'm capable of! I'm so far beyond you!" What "Point and Shoot" makes crystal clear is that, in a funny way, Jimmy remains a bacterium in his own show. Here's an epic-showdown episode where the title character is literally tied up and removed from the action. Kim has to play the role of Regular Citizen Gone Bad, terrified yet prepared to shoot a gun for the very first time at a man she doesn't know. And it's Kim who gets a phone call from Saul's man behind the curtain. She's traveling in a world she never imagined, but she clearly conceives that Gus is a powerful figure, even if she only knows his disembodied voice. She is ascending higher (or lower) on the scale of awareness. Meanwhile, Jimmy only ever knew Gus as the kindly manager fishing a watch out of the Pollos Hermanos trashcan. In "Point and Shoot," Jimmy's ultimate plea is his complete lack of knowledge: "I don't know him!"

Mike follows Lalo's decoy game, bringing a full contingent of Fring men to the Goodman apartment. But Gus recognizes a possible double-reverse gambit in Lalo's whoever decision to let Kim replace Jimmy as his instant assassin. He goes to the Lavenderia with a couple bodyguards. Lalo got their first, though: Goodbye, bodyguards. The renegade Salamanca demands that Gus show him the secret construction project downstairs. He's filming it all on a video camera, which will offer Don Eladio proof of the Fring betrayal. All hail Tony Dalton, who achieves apex Lalo in his hysterical reaction when some laundromat machinery moves to reveal a secret entrance: "I had a bathtub that did this!"

Tony Dalton as Lalo Salamanca - Better Call Saul _ Season 6, Episode 5 - Photo Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television
Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

We know Lalo won't kill Gus. And — I think — we know Gus will kill Lalo. Earlier in the season, Gus left a handgun in the Superlab — a mysterious, even mystical bit of foreshadowing, possibly explainable on the level of chess-move logic, equally understandable as a hunch toward maximum drama. "Point and Shoot" is directed by Vince Gilligan, the Saul co-creator and progenitor of the entire Breaking Bad universe, and he does a solid job building tension around an action climax that is not surprising on a plot level. Even knowing that Gus will grab his gun, it's a visual shock when he kicks out the light. And Esposito makes Gus' desperation palpable — which is another shock, given how his larger-than-life character has spent over a decade as a looming crime god. The first punchline comes right in the aftermath, when Lalo manages one last laugh before his life chokes out. The second comes later. Gus just survived the (first) great face off of his life. He is wounded, and tired. And he still insists on calling up trustworthy Lyle (Harrison Thomas), the most assistant of assistant managers, with some notes on staffing.

Time for an apology. I hated the Superlab back in season 4, when the construction of the meth-cooking utopia dominated the criminal side of the show. It felt to me like the lowest form of fan service, the adult-prestige equivalent of a whole miniseries about almost finishing the Death Star. In 2018 I was still a bit of a Saul skeptic: I loved the show's legal explorations, but I was always worrying the Mike-Gus quadrant of the show was a little bit of Bad leg shown to fans who loved the Cousins and hated Mesa Verde. But I was wrong. The last couple seasons have made it clear that the split Saul worlds were always moving closer together, expanding the Breaking Bad story in every direction.

"Point and Shoot" enriches the Superlab into a mythic space and makes it a potent symbol for the show itself. "Gustavo thought he was building an empire," Lalo narrates to his videotape. "But all he built was a tomb." He's right even though he's wrong. Lalo doesn't realize he's stepping into his own tomb. And doesn't know how completely this Superlab will make and break the Fring Empire. The lab won't properly activate until the arrival of Walter White — who will kill Gus Fring, before watching his own drug operation spiral through betrayal and collapse. And don't forget, this season began with a sneak peek of Jimmy's own imperial future: A gigantic mansion with a golden toilet and faux-royal walls to match the Roman columns in Saul Goodman's office.

Just another tomb, really. Add it to the list. Lalo's death leaves the Salamancas without a top dog, except for drug-addled Tuco (Raymond Cruz). Lalo's boss, Don Eladio (Steven Bauer), winds up poisoned with a bottle of Zafiro, the blue-tinged ultra-tequila. Recall that our look forward to Jimmy's empty mansion ended with a thrown-away Zafiro bottle stopper — a lost memory of Wexler-McGill happiness. To this dexterous weaving of catastrophes, don't forget that the towering firm of Hamlin Hamlin & McGill is pretty well liquidated now, with both remaining name partners dead partially because of Jimmy's actions.

Will more empires fall? You can sense the Saul endgame in the final scene between Jimmy, Kim, and Mike. The nonchalant enforcer promises to dispose of Howard's body ("You're getting a new refrigerator") and insists they go about their daily lives like nothing ever happened. Jimmy looks at Kim, who looks very distant indeed. Is she traumatized by what she's seen — or is her conscience reappearing at the worst possible moment?

But the end of "Point and Shoot" is the real flourish. Now, look. I'm just sure there's an easier way for the Fring operation to dispose of a couple bodies. But burying Howard next to Lalo in the yet-unfinished Superlab is a perfect-on-every-level moment of nasty-funny artistic expression. On Breaking Bad, the Superlab represented Walter White's promotion to Criminal Olympus, with capabilities far beyond a vintage RV. Now Saul shows us where the bodies are buried. It buries the prequel in the sequel, reducing two signature characters to construction materials for all the wild stuff that will happen in the future. Jonathan Banks can do so much with a dour stare, and he's never been better than his last look down at the two dead men. He could be thinking, There but for the grace of God go I. I sense more resignation, though, and a bit of prophecy: That's where I'm going.

Episode Grade: A

Read more of EW's coverage of Better Call Saul:

Episode Recaps

Better Call Saul

Saul Goodman, first introduced in Breaking Bad, gets his own prequel.



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