Better Call Saul – Season 4, Episode 10: “Winner”

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

Here we arrive at the season finale of the fourth season of Better Call Saul.  It was a season that got off to a relatively slow start but with the swing of one episode found itself back on track and steamrolling ahead at full tilt.  By centering the season on Jimmy and Kim, backed up by Mike with a dash of Gus and Nacho on the side, the show started to find its footing in the wake of Chuck’s suicide.  Unfortunately, while this finale had some great moments, I don’t think it provided what I was looking for to finish off the season.  For one, it didn’t prove anything new about the characters to take into the next season.  By this I mean they are no different than the characters of Mike and Jimmy in this episode who have fully morphed into the characters we know from Breaking Bad, and that isn’t really that exciting.

Mike in this episode crosses a line that he hadn’t yet, breaking his moral compass and completing his transformation into Gus’ henchman, by murdering someone he believes to be a good man.  He is forced into the position by Werner, who escaped from working on the lab last week and Mike has been tracking down.  In the first part of this episode, we see Mike tracking down Werner in typical Mike fashion, persuading a cashier to give him security footage and finding the resort where Werner’s staying.  He also slyly evades Lalo Salamanca, who is following Mike shamelessly.

All this stuff with Mike was actually my favorite part of the episode, which is really surprising because I had been feeling pretty much the opposite about his story the whole season.  The way his tracking of Werner—followed by their moving conversation at the end—was constructed in this episode was exceptional, though I do have some quibbles with the direction here.  In that scene on the side of the highway at night, and a few other instances in the episode, the lighting is utilized in a way that casts essentially the entire screen dark to the point you can hardly visualize the characters.  Of course this was intentional; I presume the director was using shadow overcoming the characters to represent the darkness building within Mike and Jimmy that can really be felt in this episode, but it was a little over the top.

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Rhea Seehorn and Bob Odenkirk in Better Call Saul, “Winner”

It was in Jimmy and Kim’s story in this week’s episode that I found myself dissatisfied, and that is for a couple of reasons.  First off, NOT ENOUGH KIM!  Many fans and critics alike will attest to Kim being the best character on the show, and with good reason.  Her arc this season has been crazy good, and very supporting of that notion.  People worried that she would meet a dark fate at this season’s end.  Thankfully that didn’t happen, but but alternately there was little for her to do in the episode!

Her and Jimmy come up with the scheme of Jimmy doing everything to come off as sympathetic by exuding the grief he is feeling in the loss of his brother.  He hosts an elaborate event in Chuck’s honor, followed by appealing to the court at episode’s end.  In this moment, it genuinely appears to us the audience and to the courtroom alike that he is having a moment, he is showing real emotion in the loss of his brother for the first time ever.  He speaks with tear-filled eyes on never being able to live up to Chuck’s legacy but trying his best.  The camera cuts to Kim, and she is visibly shaken by his emotional outpouring.

Afterwards in the hallway, Jimmy comes out and he is ecstatic!  But moreover, Kim is shocked to realize it was all an act on his part.  The entire speech was him acting the part of the grieving brother; he really feels no grief.  Kim is horrified, and this is all we are left with for Kim.  In the episode, she is there just to react to Jimmy’s transformation, and it’s a bummer.  I am glad she will presumably be back on the show next season, but I would have appreciated more work being done with her character this episode to set her on a path for the next season.  Perhaps her realization that Jimmy is somewhat of a sociopath will finally shock her into quickly making a move away from him.

Looking at Jimmy’s character brings on its own set of problems.  First off, we can now officially say his transformation into Saul is complete.  Well, we don’t have to, because he says it for us in the final line of the episode, in which he turns to Kim and after suggesting he will be legally changing his name, proclaims, “S’all good, man.”  A little on the nose cut-to-black ending to the season for me, and that scene frustrated me.  When Jimmy is raving to Kim about his performance in the courtroom, he is clearly acting differently. By that I mean that Jimmy along with Bob Odenkirk is acting differently.  He is clearly channeling his more Breaking Bad-like form here in his physicality and emotion.  Some may find this exciting, but I would say quite the opposite.  We have grown to love Jimmy McGill over these four seasons, and he is a much more interesting and sympathetic character.  If our Jimmy is really dead and Saul has arrived, it feels like the show’s heart may have died with him.

It is of note that Nacho did not appear in this episode at all, which was another puzzling decision.  After building his story in about half the season and leaving him out of the other half (as has been ritual for his character on this show), we aren’t even provided any closure on an arc for his character this season either.  The last we saw of him, he was dealing with the arrival of Lalo Salamanca.  Rather, he was presumably about to deal with him, but we never saw that play out.  I suppose that will be pushed off until next season as well.  So, overall I suppose it is safe to say I am disappointed with this season finale and where we are left with this series looking ahead.  This season can now be seen as a transition year for the show, moving away from the lightheartedness of its first three seasons and edging further into darker territory.  With this episode, Mike and Jimmy made gigantic leaps and are now on the other side of where we have been with them on the show up to this point.  They have both officially “broken bad,” and as I feared at the beginning of the season, that isn’t very intriguing.

★★★

Better Call Saul‘s first three seasons are available to stream on Netflix, with the new season going up sometime next year.

 

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