Author’s note: This article CONTAINS SPOILERS for the episode of discussion and all episodes of the series that have preceded it.
There was a lot going on in the latest episode of Better Call Saul, as stories became more complex and widened their scope. The episode opens with Nacho, who is now under the thumb of Gus Fring’s control, as punctuated by the ending of last week’s episode. A couple of Gus’s men stage an attack to cover-up the murder of Nacho’s former comrade. The men shoot up a car, put a couple bullets in Nacho, and leave him to bleed out and call the Salamancas for rescue. It would appear this is a near death experience for Nacho, as he looks to be in seriously rough shape and the veterinarian who saves his life (with the help of the Salamanca twins) indicates it to be somewhat of a lucky draw. Where Nacho goes from here remains to be seen, but clearly he is going to need some time to get himself healed before he can be out in the field again. It will be interesting to see what Gus has in store for him.
Jimmy gets his meeting with Mike to discuss a business proposition and is swiftly shot down. Mike seems to know that Jimmy is reckless with his swindling, and he is far too sophisticated with his criminal undertakings to want to get down and dirty with Jimmy again. Of course, Jimmy simply looks for another man to do his work, which turns out to be more challenging than expected. What we can see here is that Jimmy is already back to his ways of dubious behavior; he simply cannot resist. Looking to rob the man who had offered him a job in last week’s episode, Jimmy is clearly not on a better path but more assuredly sliding down a slippery slope.
Gus has a very important scene in this episode, as he visits Gale, the scientist of Breaking Bad fame, in his chemistry lab. Gale expunges nothing but the utmost respect for Gustavo, and he even offers to make Gus more pure product than that which he had tested for him. Gus suggests now is not the time, but it is clear that, knowing Gus Fring, that time is just around the corner. The makings of Gus’s drug empire are becoming more and more clear on a weekly basis, and it is pretty cool seeing how things are falling into place for him and how he is gaining his power. Some might argue this is uninteresting because we already know the outcome for Gus Fring, but so far I am finding it quite intoxicating to watch the legend of the chicken man grow, played so brilliantly by Giancarlo Esposito.
Lastly, there is a very telling scene between Kim and Jimmy, in which she shares with him the money and the letter that he was left by Chuck in his will. The letter appears to have been written when Jimmy was still working in the mail room at Chuck’s firm, before Jimmy became a lawyer. The letter is full of kind words towards Jimmy, but Jimmy seems entirely unfazed by it. Kim becomes overcome by emotion, and it is because of the coldness Jimmy displays here and during the whole grieving process. He has completely shut himself off from any feelings of emotion over the loss of his brother, and Kim is clearly troubled by it. I could, in fact, see this being the beginning of the end for the two of them. She clearly loves him, but she is now being faced with a man who is emotionally damaged and unable to express sincerity towards anything. The episode ends with her leaving the room crying and him being left to feel… something.
This was the first week I really felt the lack of Chuck’s presence. That character was such a big part of what made the series unique, and Michael McKean gave what I would consider to be one of the most unsung performances in television history. The show is still chugging along with its three to four central plots in a course edging closer towards the Breaking Bad timeline, but the core of the show being the Jimmy-Chuck relationship has been lost. It’s a weird feeling, and I am starting to wonder if the show can recover from it. I certainly have faith in Vince Gilligan & company, as they have earned it after many years of masterful work, but I am feeling slightly worried.
Better Call Saul is currently airing Monday nights on AMC at 9/8c