AMC’s Better Call Saul
Directed by Michelle MacLaren
Written by Alison Tatlock
* For a recap & review of 6×09, click here.
* For a recap & review of 6×11, click here.
More of Gene here at the start of this episode, which is yet another form of brilliance in Better Call Saul, managing to tell a story that, in a sense, has already been told, and also telling a story in the future, beyond the scope of Breaking Bad and its finale. In this opening, Gene’s putting up Lost Dog posters when he sees Marion (the ever amazing Carol Burnett) having trouble with her motorised scooter in the snow. He offers to help get her unstuck, in the process cutting one of the wires on her scooter. Suddenly Marion finds her scooter won’t move at all, so Gene conveniently pushes her all the way home.
Cab driver Jeff (Pat Healy) arrives home later to find his mother, Marion, is inside with Gene having a drink at the kitchen table. The son’s immediately suspicious of Gene. He hears all about how Gene and Marion met on the street, then how Gene got Marion home, as well as fixed her scooter with handy duct tape, too. What a tale! A timer goes off and we see that Gene’s helped cook supper. It’s funny that Gene is the endgame of Jimmy’s life because he looks the greasiest of all his identities.
We further find out that Jeff and Saul know each other, that’s why ol’ Gene turned up in the first place. Saul’s tempting Jeff with big dreams of money and women, talking about “all the angles” and knowing how to make it happen for him. He certainly hasn’t let go of Saul Goodman just yet, in spite of hiding out in Gene’s skin all this time. It’s not much a life, though. As Gene, he’s hiding out at home with the police scanner playing like anybody else might have the radio on in the background while they relax. He goes through a shoebox and finds a ring, putting it on his pinky like a physical reminder of the man he was before he had to become Gene.
The cartel to Cinnabon pipeline: a Saul Goodman story. What a depressing ride for him to be back amongst us, the working class. Gene used to be Saul, taking out the drug dealing competition for his pals, now he’s just Gene, taking out the Cinnabon trash at the end of the night. He takes an extra Cinnabon bag with him to the mall’s security office, rubbing his Saul ring for a little luck. He thanks a security guard for helping him when he fainted. The guard lets him in to deliver some free Cinnabon. The guard’s older coworker sends him off to do a round, as Gene’s invited to grab a coffee while the coworker digs into his tasty treat. Gene talks a good game while the older guard eats away and rants about sports. When the guy’s done eating Gene excuses himself, heads out, and continues to glance at his watch as he’s been doing for a few minutes.
Gene continues his free Cinnabon routine, getting better at talking sports with the older guard and keeping both guards happy with his treats. All the while, he’s getting a good look at the camera bank, times, routines, and we know this is all a classic reconnaissance mission for Saul Goodman.
But, for what purpose exactly?
Gene’s in a clothing store checking things out. He’s particularly counting the number of steps in certain areas of the store, likely connected to the location of the cameras. Then we see Gene out essentially creating a massive diagram of the store in a snowy field with Jeff and a guy named Buddy. He’s got Jeff running a drill to practice stealing from the target store. They have three minutes to get the job done before the guard notices the cameras. Jeff’s not as enthusiastic about the job, whereas Gene treats it as a foolproof plan. And still, Gene keeps project that Big Saul Energy, convincing anyone around him to do his bidding.
Buddy delivers a piece of equipment to the loading dock of the store at the mall, which prompts the store manager to call Gene at Cinnabon about the mixup. Gene, as usual, talks good shit and winds up convincing the manager to hold the equipment overnight. Naturally, the box doesn’t contain equipment, it contains Jeff. And soon Jeff’s unleashed to go find the most expensive clothing, rushing to do it all in record time to avoid the eyes of the guard and the cameras. Gene’s busy talking to the old guard about sports while Jeff uses rhyme to remember all the clothes and items to grab from the various sections of the store.
Suddenly, Jeff takes a hard spill and hits the floor, knocking himself out. Oh, my. They’re in trouble now. So what does Gene do? He breaks out in tears, talking about being alone, his whole family gone and no wife at home. It starts as a stall tactic but it sort of becomes reality as Gene/Saul/Jimmy realises the truth of what he’s saying. Although the stalling works and Jeff’s back on his feet completing the robbery. Gene finishes his sob story when Jeff is off camera, and the deed is done. That doesn’t necessarily mean it feels good for Gene. And there’s a LOT at stake for him nowadays.
When the store opens up the next day things go on as they do in a consumer capitalist society. Jeff sneaks out of the bathroom where he’s been hiding overnight, pretending to be any other customer. The box of stolen goods is prepared to be picked up, and Jeff walks out of the store. Later, Buddy and Jeff look through all their loot like a couple kids at a candy store. Their bubble is burst when Gene brings up all the laws they’ve broken in doing this whole job. Gene tells them it’s “mutually–assured destruction” in case one of them decides to do something stupid. He wants this little criminal union to be finished. “We‘re done,” he tells his two accomplices.
Marion sees Gene’s vehicle out front so she goes around back to see what’s going on, discovering him at a vehicle in the garage with Buddy and Jeff. All normal, yes. Marion really enjoys Gene’s company, offering him a place to wash up. They head inside and Marion talks about Jeff’s “tough times” back in Albuquerque where he fell in with some bad folks. Gene knows nothing of the sort! Never even been to the ALBQ.
We later see Gene back at the clothing store looking for a nice shirt and tie, picking out something he’d have worn in his previous life as Saul Goodman. For a moment he feels like himself again. Only for a moment, though. Gene has to hang up the clothes, like he hung up that life some time ago. It was a great one-two-punch having this episode right after the one ending with Kim deciding to leave Saul, showing the depths of Saul’s loneliness in his life after Breaking Bad, the lonely, sad future he created for himself.