AMC’s Better Call Saul
Directed by Vince Gilligan
Written by Gordon Smith
* For a recap & review of 5×07, “JMM” – click here
* For a recap & review of 5×09, “Bad Choice Road” – click here
A couple Mexican men are working on a car that has a front seat full of blood and a windshield full of bullet holes. Then, we see familiar faces from Breaking Bad again: Marco and Leonel Salamanca (Luis & Daniel Moncada). They’ve arrived with a couple pouches, passing through a room full of bill counters to another room in the back of this little factory where there are stacks upon stacks of cash. Obviously this is one of many hubs from which the cartel operate. But where are the Salamanca brothers headed? Someone from the factory makes a call and says: “I got something for him, if he‘s still interested.” Hmm. Curious.
Meanwhile, Lalo’s reading about the fire at Los Pollos Hermanos and meeting with Jimmy. He’s making arrangements for the cash pickup so he can make bond to the tune of $7-million. He’s sending Jimmy on Saul business down dirt roads and other places to keep their cash exchanges under the radar. Jimmy’s trying hard to get out of doing the pickup, but he’s in too deep for that. Looks like he’ll get himself some commission, though: $100,000. Once more, the slippery slope of Jimmy’s morality descends deeper into Saul territory. How will he explain such a large influx of cash to Kim? Or, does he plan on doing more lying? He does try to explain things. However, his “friend of the cartel” relationship’s getting more difficult for Kim to fully ignore. Sketchier still, Kim’s worried and wants to go along for the ride. Jimmy assures it’ll all be fine.
But will it?
Thus, off Jimmy McGill goes in his duties as Saul Goodman. He waits out on that dirt road, practising what little Spanish he knows under his breath until the Salamanca twins approach in their vehicle. The Salamancas bring the bags weighted down with $7-million, leaving Jimmy there without a single word as usual. Then the lawyer’s clandestine trip is done, save for the ride back into Albuquerque. He foolishly doesn’t watch where he’s going on the way back and ends up with a Jeep on his tail. After that there are two more vehicles. Jimmy gets cut off and surrounded by men with assault rifles. They order him out of the car and take his keys, stealing the $7-million.
Before the men can kill Jimmy shots ring out from the distance and people die. Ole Saul’s officially gotten himself into deep shit. The question, like always, is whether Jimmy decides to tell Kim about his day in the desert? He makes it out alive, albeit somewhat spattered in blood and severely shaken up. This whole thing is the reason Jimmy was sent out there, because Lalo knew what would likely occur.
Thankfully Mike’s a one-man army.
Jimmy’s car dies before he and Mike can make it out of the desert hills. They break down a little ways down the road, and it’s not exactly the best place for cell service, either. Mike changes out the license plate, and notice he takes the gas cap (remember, he likes to hide trackers in those). Then he and Jimmy push the car towards a ravine, not before the lawyer grabs the coffee cup Kim gave him, and they let it go over the edge. Saul Goodman could probably use a better car, anyway.
The pair have a long, long walk ahead of them. They try to keep off the main road because of the sole armed man who got away. Eventually they come to a tree where they stop for shade and some rest. Jimmy wants to dig a hole and leave the money there because he’s tired. Mike advises against it, and then the armed man has returned, so they have no time for anything but getting back on the move. That night, the two hide out and camp. Mike’s not thrilled to hear from Jimmy that Kim knows about the border trip. Does this bode well for her? Oh, my. Mike cuddles up in a foil blanket to stay warm for the night, but Jimmy refuses— probably too many bad Chuck memories.
At the prison, Kim visits Lalo under false pretences. She wants to know what’s happened to Jimmy on his pickup. She’d like to find Jimmy and get the money to Salamanca. This all doesn’t sit well with Lalo, who doesn’t dig that his lawyer’s been telling someone else about their business. He’s surprised to hear that Saul has a wife. He’s not willing to tell her about where he sent Jimmy, calling him a “born survivor” like a cockroach. The whole thing is a difficult crash course for Kim in the logic and workings of the cartel.
Excellent use of Labi Siffre’s “I Got The…” here as the lads keep trekking in the desert. Many will recognise the sample as having been used for “My Name Is” by Eminem. Sort of a perfect song while Jimmy and Mike keep going, saving what little water they have and when they don’t have water Jimmy makes sure to bottle some piss for the journey. Not enough thinking ensures Jimmy nearly loses some of the money in those bags after he decides to strap them on and drag them through the desert, so he’s got to backtrack some and pick up errant bills. This winds up putting a cactus quill in his foot, too. Jimmy wants to give up and die, but Mike continues pushing him. They have a brief, frank discussion about why Mike does what he does, and he makes clear it’s about the people he cares for, not for himself.
Perfect time for the armed man to come around again.
While Mike sets up on a ridge with his binoculars and rifle, Jimmy wraps himself in foil and starts walking as a way to draw their enemy out. The distraction works, and Mike puts a bullet through the armed man tires, flipping the truck just before it reaches Jimmy on the road. Yowzahs. A small moment of relief for the two men. Mike makes sure the guy’s dead, then they move onto the hopeful last leg of their trek. The foil blanket slipping away on the mind is like that last shred of Chuck and the morality that existed within Jimmy. His whole transition into Saul is complete.
One of the best episodes of the series.
Better Call Saul is not only great storytelling, the performances are incredible from Bob Odenkirk to Rhea Seehorn to Jonathan Banks and everyone else in between.
“Bad Choice Road” is next.