AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 4, Episode 5: “Quite a Ride”
Directed by Michael Morris
Written by Ann Cherkis
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Talk” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Piñata” – click here
We see papers being shredded, one after another. Saul Goodman a.k.a Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) is searching the roof to his office while Francesca keeps shredding. This is in the Breaking Bad timeline. He’s gathering up all the stashed money, even cutting a hole in the wall to get some out. These are the end times, when things were finally falling apart. “Quite a ride,” he remarks to his secretary before she leaves with hush money and bags of shredded files. Once she’s gone, Saul makes the same call to disappear as Walter White did in Season 5 of Breaking Bad. He’s about to get a whole new identity
Jump back to before those days, when Jimmy was still working at CC Mobile. He’s catering to a specific clientele, advertising to those with a “cash–based business” who might want to keep the government at bay. He gets a man in wondering about privacy. Before they even get talking, Jimmy cracks a burner cell in half and tosses it out, like a visual pitch— something we saw him do in the opening scene, in the future, for legitimate legal reasons. The irony of Better Call Saul is perfect. Anyway, it looks as if Jimmy’s beginning to figure out exactly to whom he should be selling his services. Only a matter of time before he decides his legal services ought to be geared in the same direction full time.
At an airport, a man locates a car, finding its key in a magnetic case in the wheel well. He opens the car, finding a cell phone. It rings automatically. O the other end of the line is Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), who gives a hearty “Welcome to the U.S.A.” then advises the man of his further instructions, including highway directions. He goes to a mile marker on the road elsewhere. Mike tells him to get a hood from the trunk and put it on. The man does as he’s told, wearing the hood and waiting with his luggage at the roadside. In moments, Mike arrives with a van and some help, taking the man with them.
When they arrive at their destination, Mike removes the man’s hood and they’re in an industrial building. This is a laundromat— yes, that laundromat. The man’s examining the place with a sensor and a computer, checking specifications. He gives a quote of about 6-7 months. They’re talking about the lab being built underneath the building. They’ve gone to great lengths ensuring secrecy, obviously. Love how we’re always privy to the methods, in both this series and Breaking Bad, used by Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) and others in the drug business when they’re doing this type of stuff.
In court, Kim (Rhea Seehorn) is back taking on clients and looking after a young man’s criminal case. She whittles out a deal for him, believing probation is better than jail. She plays hardball to get exactly what she wants out of the opposing lawyer. Not that her client’s particularly grateful. This is why she’s a good lawyer, she does an often thankless job.
Jimmy rushes off to work in the middle of the night. He’s printing out receipts, popping cash in the till, then leaving with a bunch of burner phones. What exactly is he planning on doing here? He’s off driving around the city looking to sell his burners to those who need them, further carving out a niche in clientele. He dresses like an ’80s drug dealer in a track suit, then goes looking around locations recognisable from Breaking Bad, where drug dealers, drug users, and others hang out. This could always serve as a good way to introduce Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), should the series get to a point where it wants to crossover directly with its events into the original series. Either way, this montage scene is maybe one of the top five sequences of the series out of four seasons. Fantastic! All set to a killer tune by Randy Crawford, also used by Tarantino in my favourite of his work, Jackie Brown. Listen here.
Although things get slightly tougher when it comes to the bikers. Jimmy tries chatting up their club’s boss, a big, scary dude. He gives them their speech about how the “man‘s always listening on those land lines” in prison, which makes it difficult for bikers, who’ve got lots of people behind bars. Our man’s got the gift of gab, because he walks away having sold all his merchandise. That’s when a few dudes stick him up for his money, beating the shit out of him. All that hard work for nothing— a real taste of the criminal life for an amateur such as himself.
When Kim wakes she discovers Jimmy in the bathroom nursing his wounds. Awkward. He claims it was a mugging. Other than wounded ego and pride, he’s not actually hurt too bad. Few scratches. He laments not being like he used to, when he was a guy people knew not to mess with, or some other such masculine shit. He’s trying to save face for something that didn’t happen. What really happened was his naivety got him in the “wrong place at the wrong time.” He goes back to work, stripping the windows of his privacy advertisement feeling defeated.
Kim has a client in trouble for drugs. The girl, Denise, doesn’t want to go to jail, so she doesn’t show up to court. Kim manages to get another date and she talks her client into going after all. Then she gets a call about paperwork problems, which she puts off for Denise. Later, at Mesa Verde, Kim gets an earful about it. Not good.
Again, Mike takes someone out to the laundromat. This man has a look around. No fancy lasers or computers like the last guy, just a simple notepad. He has a peek at the spot where they want to carve a hole for the lab, measuring the space and figuring out how to conceal the lab’s space below, too. He explains the need to support the “existing structure” to avoid a cave in during excavation. The whole thing will be a difficult process, not to mention getting all that dirt out of there in “complete secrecy,” as well as the blasting required. This engineer can do the work, he’s just worried about the problems. At this point, Gus comes in to secure the deal, not caring about price.
In a bathroom, Jimmy runs into Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian), who’s got insomnia at the moment and doesn’t look well. Howard won’t say anything else, though clearly he’s experiencing issues. It’s a weird encounter. It’s also where we see Jimmy’s better at giving advice to others than he is at running his own life. He can see the problems with others, he can’t seem to see his own, at least not with full clarity.
He goes to check in with parole. He has less than a year before he can get back to being a lawyer again. He’s got big ideas about what’ll happen. But with recent events, and what we know of his future, soon the slide into full criminality will occur. It’s only a matter of time.
This is a fantastic episode, where we get to see bits and pieces of the future weaving into the fabric of Better Call Saul. We know where it’s all headed, so the way the writers are able to keep us guessing and interested is downright incredible.
“Piñata” is up next time.