This Better Call Saul review contains spoilers.
Better Call Saul Season 4 Episode 3
It’s time to come clean. Though I’ve alluded to it multiple times in other reviews, in my recent feature on Better Call Saul and in any conversation that I have about prestige TV, it’s time that I come out and say it: Through three seasons, I think Better Call Saul is a better series than Breaking Bad.
It’s not a matter of fact, as all art is subjective and yada yada yada. Better Call Saul also has the advantage of having its audio and visual style cemented, as well as my interest in its main characters. And we’re not talking about seasons 4 and 5 of Breaking Bad, where that show really kicked it into a different gear. Still, through three seasons the misadventures of Jimmy McGill feel more emotionally cathartic and relatable (with stronger supporting characters, too) to me than Breaking Bad did, and I treasure the smaller-scale storytelling of Better Call Saul.
That’s why I feel a bit apprehensive as Better Call Saul veers closer to the world of cartels and meth labs. It’s not that I’m tired of the methodical, high-stakes world of Gus Fring, as all of the Nacho-Gus material in “Something Beautiful” is all first-rate, white-knuckle stuff. It’s just that I’m afraid we’ll lose the first part of the “different but equal” distinction most fans use when talking about BCS in comparison to BB.
This is all preemptive worrying for the time being, but brought about by Jimmy’s screentime so far in the early episodes of Season 4. I’ve lightly lamented the fact that BCS feels like it’s split into two different shows (one about Jimmy and one about the cartel) and through three episodes, it certainly feels like the ladder is eating up the bulk of the episode’s runtime. Part of this must be because the writers have worked themselves into a bit of a corner; showrunner Peter Gould has repeatedly told media outlets that he takes no pleasure in seeing Jimmy transform into Saul Goodman and that completing the transformation means we’ll have reached the end of his story. Therefore, the writers are tasked with transforming the likable huckster into an amoral sleaze, but not too quickly. To delay the inevitable, we understandably have to focus on something else, it’s just a bummer that it comes at the expense of spending more time with Jimmy. I guess you really can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Jimmy’s plot line this week at least has him back interacting with Mike, but not for long. Jimmy wants to steal the Hummel figurine that he spotted last week in the Neff office, but Mike doesn’t want to be involved. Always perceptive, Mike can sense that this job has more to do with Jimmy’s personal life than it does with money or exacting some sort of revenge. That sends Jimmy to the offices of the good vet Dr. Caldera, who after some needling, gets him in touch with Ira, who Saul will later convince to sell his pest control business to Walter White. An interesting thing to note here is the look that Dr. Caldera gives Jimmy after he persuades Ira to take the job, acknowledging that Jimmy has a gift for appealing to criminals, a gift he’ll soon make a career out of. Anyway, Ira decides to help Jimmy with the job, but gets trapped inside of the Neff office as Mr. Neff is spending the night there after a disagreement with his wife. It’s a nice reminder of how far Jimmy has actually come, no longer sleeping in his own office.
With an assist from Jimmy, Ira is able to escape the office with the Hummel. Jimmy’s heist isn’t completely morally reprehensible, but it certainly isn’t a nice thing to do. That being said, I think there still may be some good intentions behind this one. Jimmy repeatedly claims that he can make an easy $8k selling the figurine, but later in the episode scoffs at receiving only $5k from Chuck’s will, joking that it can go toward paying off his MasterCard. Maybe it’s just in the context of his brother’s vast estate, but if Jimmy doesn’t think $5k is substantial, why go through the trouble for $8k? I’m predicting Jimmy doesn’t intend to sell the Hummel, but instead will offer it up to Irene as further reparation for damaging her reputation and social life.
The episode’s finest moment comes in its closing minutes. Kim, who is completely overwhelmed upon her return to her work with Mesa Verde (look at the thinly veiled terror on her face after she views each subsequent model), decides to give Jimmy the letter that Chuck left him. The letter is a well-written screed about how proud Chuck was of Jimmy, but knowing what we know, it all rings hollow to Jimmy. However, Kim begins to tear up and gets very emotional about the letter. I can speculate several different reasons why Kim had the reaction that she did, but the lingering shot of Jimmy watching Kim through the cracked door, dumbfounded, suggests that he doesn’t have a clue.
That was my favorite moment of the episode, but it won’t be the most talked about come tomorrow. That of course will be the appearance of exquisitely nerdy Gale Boetticher. Gus is tasked with covering up the death of Arturo and needs to make it convincing, so he has his men stage a shootout on Nacho and Arturo’s car, resulting in Nacho essentially being jumped into Gus’ gang in the most excruciating way possible. The “attempted hit” spooks Bolsa, who determines that their next shipment is compromised and that Gus and his operation will have to source meth domestically in the meantime, which brings us back to Gale. Gale and Gus are connected through the Max Arciniega Chemistry Scholarship, a chemistry scholarship set up by Gus in the honor of his slain business partner and given to Gale. At the moment, Gale is only testing the purity of Gus’ product, but this could be the first chess move in Gus’ plan for cornering the meth market.
As I said in my introduction, the cartel material is tense, thrilling stuff and doesn’t in any way bring down the quality of the episode, yet I still feel like I’m left wanting in the Jimmy department. Hopefully this is only because much bigger things are planned on that front later in the season. The Better Call Saul team was able to unseat my previous favorite show of the century, there’s no reason to doubt them at this point.
Nick Harley is a tortured Cleveland sports fan, thinks Douglas Sirk would have made a killer Batman movie, Spider-Man should be a big-budget HBO series, and Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson should direct a script written by one another. For more thoughts like these, read Nick’s work here at Den of Geek or follow him on Twitter.