Better Call Saul – Season 4, Episode 2: “Breathe”

Author’s note: This article CONTAINS SPOILERS for the episode of discussion and all episodes of the series that have preceded it.

In the latest episode of Better Call Saul, we see a natural escalation of all the plot lines laid out in the season premier last week.  Jimmy McGill, still reeling from learning that his brother Chuck has committed suicide, begins to move forward with his life.  We can clearly see he is in denial of this tragedy, shrugging off all thought of Chuck and suddenly in a whirlwind to find work.  Kim can see his struggle plainly, and she does an admirable job of trying to be there for him but also attempting to get him to deal with his brother’s passing.

Jimmy goes on to take a job interview for a salesman position.  He of course puts on a beautiful display of confidence and wins over the two interviewers easily.  He then blows up in their face and mocks them for being so easily swooned.  This is a clear indication Jimmy has no intention of actually accepting an office position.  Working an audience and being persuasive is what he does best; what better way to take his mind off the trauma in his life by doing just that while also impressing Kim (and himself) by scoring a bunch of job interviews?

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Rhea Seehorn in Better Call Saul, “Breathe”

Meanwhile, Kim is dealing with Chuck’s death head on as Jimmy continues to be emotionally incapacitated.  She attends a meeting with Howard and Chuck’s ex-wife to see through the dispersal of Chuck’s will.  Of course Chuck has left his ex-wife with all of his assets, besides a single check and a letter handed off from Howard to Kim.  She sees right through this, calling out what is known to be the minimal amount for the check and sounding off on a rant on how Howard has freed himself of any guilt for Chuck’s suicide and dropped it all on Jimmy.  It is a beautiful scene and brilliantly acted by both Seehorn and Patrick Fabian.  Before the scene I was having some feelings of disappointment at the lack of things for Kim to do so far this season, as she has just been a support beam for Jimmy. She has always been my favorite character.  It’s like the show could hear the voice inside my head as this scene immediately followed and alleviated those thoughts completely.  Kim is back.

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Giancarlo Esposito in Better Call Saul, “Breathe”

In the other half of this show, we continue to see the pre-Breaking Bad cards unfold.  Gus Fring is managing a couple different troubling problems surrounding his drug trade.  First and foremost is the hospitalization of Hector Salamanca.  Gustavo is desperate to ensure Hector is alive and well, for the sake of his own pride.  He wants to be the one to bring down his arch nemesis, and he will do anything to make sure that happens, even if it means saving his life first.  Nacho is working to cover his tracks after his attempted murder of Hector, and in a hilarious scene at the hospital we see Hector’s two nephews in the room with Nacho and Hector in a coma.  Gus ordered a special doctor to come in and help get Hector back on his feet, and the tension in the room with the twins, Nacho, and his partner was palpable and played to great comedic effect.

Later in the episode Gus has Nacho’s partner killed and lets him know in dramatic fashion that he knows what Nacho did to Hector and that he works for Gus know.  This could be a turning point for Nacho and for this segment of the series, as Gus starts to take more control and the Salamancas begin to look up at him.  Lastly there was a brief scene with Mike taking a meeting with Lydia in a darkly lit room, as she tried to reason with him about his fiddling with Madrigal in last week’s episode.  It is no surprise Mike shoots down her attempts at steering him in a different direction, and he indicates he will be mingling with all their facilities in the southwest.  Lydia alerts Gus to Mike’s activities, but he brushes it off and tells her to let him be.

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Bob Odenkirk in Better Call Saul, “Smoke”

This episode was directed by Michelle MacLaren, who was one of the more prominent directors of Breaking Bad but has also helmed episodes of Game of Thrones, The Leftovers, Westworld, and The Deuce, among others.  Her presence is immediately felt here, and I was instantly drawn in to her command with the camera, moving around the set and giving the actors room to breathe.  By no means was this a powerhouse episode of Better Call Saul, but it was another strong step in the race towards the finish line for this series.  We get to see all of the characters get a fair shake here and are beginning to see their course for the season take shape.  If I had to choose, I think the Nacho story line currently has the most intrigue, as he is a character whose outcome is not already predestined by Breaking Bad, and his arc feels to be hitting a tipping point.  Two episodes in, and I am already eagerly anticipating what the rest of the season has in store.

★★

Better Call Saul is currently airing Monday nights on AMC at 9/8c

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