Better Call Saul 6×09: “Fun and Games”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
6×09: “Fun and Games”
Directed by Michael Morris
Written by Ann Cherkis

* For a recap & review of 6×08, click here.
* For a recap & review of 6×10, click here.
Father Son Holy Gore - Better Call Saul - Bloody BucketSaul’s watching the big sign get placed atop his business. At the courts, Kim’s doing her thing, too. All’s normal for two people who’ve seen someone murdered in their presence. At Saul and Kim’s place, Mike and his men are busy sweeping and cleaning the place, removing bullets, plastering the wall. A miraculous process. Great juxtaposition of Kim holding up a photo of a victim’s battered face versus Mike holding up a photo of Howard’s corpse on the floor covered with a blanket. Once more, Better Call Saul proves how genius its storytelling is with no dialogue throughout the opening montage sequence, only the imagery telling everything visually.
At the end of the sequence is a perfect moment of Kim and Saul getting back to a totally normal living room. And it clearly affects her more than it affects him. The closer we get to the end of the series, the more I continue to wonder: when is it all going to be too much for Kim? We’ll find out soon, one way or another. Another wonderfully juxtaposed image comes when Saul talks about forgetting all of this one day, as he sits on the edge of the bed covered in darkness and Kim is in the foreground of the shot, saddened by their reality and bathed in light.

Gus has to go see the cartel, including Don Eladio, in order to set a few things straight after recent events. Another brilliance about Better Call Saul is that we know where Gus’s story goes and what happens with him, yet the writing’s able to keep us in suspense about exactly how things are going to play out anyway. Right now, the Chicken Man has to contend with Hector causing trouble, claiming that Lalo was about to take revenge on Fring before he went missing. “He is our enemy. He plots against us,” Juan Bolsa reads from a letter by Hector, “I demand blood for blood.” Despite what Hector says about calls from Lalo, nobody else heard them, and everything concerning Lalo’s supposed death officially checked out, leaving Don Eladio with the idea that Hector’s paranoia is just that: paranoia, and the fiction of an old man. After Hector’s taken away by his nephews, Don Eladio has a brief chat with Gus about territories; the Don puts Gus to work in one territory, under the supervision of Bolsa. It’s such dark fun since we know where this relationship heads, and that if Don Eladio had listened to Hector in this moment then he and all his pals wouldn’t die at the Chicken Man’s hands later down the road. A wonderful shot foreshadows the events of Breaking Bad with Gus captured from below standing over the pool.
Father Son Holy Gore - Better Call Saul - Mike Finds a Stray BulletWith Howard Hamlin pretty well behind everybody, Gus wants construction on the underground lab to start again; today, in fact. That means Mike has to find a new engineer and get everything rolling. Meanwhile, Gus is off to a fancy place having a drink at the bar. He runs into a friendly face, David, who works at the restaurant. From the way Gus looks at David, he’s got more than just platonic feelings for the man. David shares an expensive bottle of wine with Gus and they chat. David talks about his personal travels, an obvious free spirit; interesting character compared with Gus, who’s so buttoned up and not what you’d call free. Gus tells David about a “rare vintage” the latter told him about, which he’s saved for a “special occasion.” When David goes to fetch an interesting bottle to show Gus, the Chicken Man returns to his sombre self and heads out unexpectedly, as if remembering he’s only able to enjoy life so much. The last man Gus loved was taken brutally from him. He’s perhaps resigned himself to a solitary life to avoid such painful collateral damage.

Then there’s Mike, whose solitary life is still connected to others. He still feels the need to care for other people, and he has to deal with the potential collateral damage that this creates. He still has the Manitoba ID card that Nacho got for his father. He goes to see Mr. Varga, telling the man his son “wont be found.” He tells the father Nacho’s death was quick and without pain. He tries to assuage Mr. Varga’s own pain, saying Nacho wasn’t like the men he’d fallen in with, and he also says there will be justice against the Salamancas. Yet Mr. Varga doesn’t see revenge as justice: “It never ends.” And nothing will bring Nacho back from the dead. The last words Mr. Varga says to Mike cut to the bone, as Mike realises he’s just another gangster, there’s nothing separating him from the Salamancas just because he believes he has a sense of morality.

Saul and Kim have to go to HHM and show their faces as people gather to honour Howard. What a place to be, amongst blown up photographs of Howard’s smiling face and everybody talking about him. Rick Schweikart talks lovingly about Howard, and Saul tries to play the part, too. He mentions HHM are downsizing and changing their name; not only is the Hamlin name leaving, so is McGill, which seems to have an affect on Saul. After chatting with Rick, Saul and Kim go see Clifford and Howard’s wife, Cheryl. This is when Cheryl brings up Howard’s claims about Saul playing games and harassing him. Saul says it wasn’t true, and he even owns up to some of his behaviour after leaving the firm, such as jealousy over Howard’s relationship with Chuck. Cheryl pushes more about what Saul told the cops concerning Howard showing up at the apartment, the last time Howard was seen or heard alive. Saul continues with the cocaine narrative. But Cheryl doesn’t believe it, prompting Kim to tell a story about supposedly seeing Howard railing lines. True? Probably not. Just goes to show how deeply Kim is involved, now smearing a murdered man’s reputation. Yet everything adds up, especially considering Cliff’s been manipulated into believing the lies about Howard. Nasty gaslighting.Father Son Holy Gore - Better Call Saul - Gus Drinks WineAgain, Kim and Saul are both dealing with things differently. They’re on the same page, and somehow they’re not, all simultaneously. In court, Kim’s body reacts with anxiety while she pulls out of a current case to allow another lawyer to step in. The judge isn’t happy, though Kim cites “personal reasons.” He doesn’t want to allow it, and he wants a reason why Kim insists on withdrawing. So Kim explains she’s not a lawyer anymore. She’s put in notice with the bar. That night, Saul arrives home freaking out over Kim’s decision to quit. He thinks she’s throwing her life away. He suggests they need a long vacation, or a big move somewhere else. He thinks they can undo everything and make it all okay. Then he sees that Kim’s been packing already. “We are bad for each other,” Kim tells Saul. She obviously loves Jimmy McGill very much, but her and Saul Goodman together are a destructive, dangerous force. They argue a bit. Then Kim mentions knowing that Lalo was still alive and she said nothing. She didn’t want to tell Saul because she didn’t want him to blame himself or make them run and hide. She “was having too much fun.” She let herself be totally corrupted by it all, and Saul’s finally understanding that he helped corrupt the woman he loves. A tragic, though foreseen consequence.

Suddenly, some time later, Journey’s blaring on the radio alarm clock and Saul wakes up next to some woman in bed. He’s in his sprawling mansion. He showers and fixes his terrible hair while on the phone. He stands in his massive walk-in closet picking out clothes from his extensive wardrobe. Clearly what happened between him and Kim didn’t faze him a bit. He dove headlong into his identity as Saul Goodman, as we already know. But now the context makes the whole trajectory all the more interesting, and a lot more sad than it seemed originally when we first met Saul in Breaking Bad. Love the image of the somewhat deflated Statue of Liberty above Saul’s office, her torch wavering in the wind as she tries to hold it up, dragged down by the weight of Saul’s practice beneath her. Top tier stuff.
Father Son Holy Gore - Better Call Saul - Light and Dark, Kim and Saul

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