The following spoils basically the entirety of Better Call Saul season 4.
“S’all good, man.”
With those three words, Better Call Saul season 4 fulfilled the promise of its series’ title. Only two seasons remain in this superb Breaking Bad prequel that charts the ascent (and descent) of another Albuquerque antihero: Jimmy McGill a.k.a. Saul Goodman. With Better Call Saul season 5 set to premiere on February 23, it’s worth taking time to reflect on the previous season that was. Better Call Saul season 4 held enormous implications for the story of Jimmy and what’s to come next for the entity known as Saul Goodman.
In case you forgot some of the details, here is a Better Call Saul season 4 recap to refresh you.
Better Call Saul Season 3 Recap
First, a (very) quick rundown of where the characters found themselves going into season 4.. After Jimmy publicly and humiliatingly proved that his brother’s electromagnetic hypersensitivity illness is psychosomatic, Chuck tried to rebuild his life. Unfortunately, Chuck is let go from the law firm he founded when their insurance rates go up (thanks to Jimmy) and he quickly spirals back into his EHS condition. Chuck eventually kills himself by knocking over a lantern in his Collyer’s Mansion of a home. Season 4 will find Jimmy having to deal with the fallout of that along with his suspension from practicing law for a year.
Meanwhile, Mike was contracted to be a security consultant for Madrigal Electromotive, Gus Fring’s shell company. Gus’s wildest dreams came true when his rival Hector Salamanca suffered a devastating stroke.
Better Call Saul Season 4 Timeline
The first six episodes of Better Call Saul season 4 take place in 2003. Episode seven features a time jump of several months that brings the plot forward to sometime in 2004.
Better Call Saul Season 4 Breaking Bad Cameos
Just like every other season of Better Call Saul, season 4 features many cameos from Breaking Bad. Two characters make their series debut this series including Walt’s one-time meth superlab co-worker Gale Boetticher and eventual owner of Vamonos Pest, Ira. Gale pops up in episode three when Gus comes to his school to check on the quality of a sample of meth he dropped off. Ira also turns up in episode three, with Jimmy having enlisted him to steal a valuable Hummel figurine.
Other Breaking Bad characters returning for a second round of duty on Better Call Saul include Gus, Lydia, Huell Babineaux, Francesca (via flash-forward), and The Cousins (Leonel and Marco).
Better Call Saul season 4 keeps an important tradition alive by opening with a black and white flash-forward to Jimmy’s post-crime life as Gene Takovic, a mild-mannered Omaha, Nebraska Cinnabon manager.
Following a health crisis while at work, Gene is taken to a local hospital. The good news is that Gene’s heart episode was a false alarm. The bad news is that he is extremely paranoid being in an environment that stretches his cover story to its limit. At first it seems like a hospital administrator realizes his driver’s license is fake, but in reality she’s just mistakenly typed an “o” instead of a “0” into her computer.
Gene’s taxi drive home from the hospital is even more stressful as his driver has the menacing look of a hitman about him. Not only that but he has an Albuquerque Isotopes baseball team air freshener. Gene asks to be let out of the taxi, well before reaching his apartment.
Breaking Bad Flash-Forward
Ok, one more flash-forward to attend to before getting into the real meat of the season. Episode five, “Quite a Ride,” opens with a flash-forward that seems to take place around the events of Breaking Bad’s classic episode “Ozymandias” only from Saul’s perspective. Saul and his assistant Francesca feverishly shred documents as Saul gathers up some cash and calls the vacuum repairman (Robert Forster) to help him disappear.
Chuck Aftermath and the Fall of Howard
Much of the early season deals with those who knew Chuck McGill best dealing with his untimely demise. Upon receiving the news of his brother’s death, Jimmy falls into a deep depression. He can’t help but note that all of Chuck’s electronics were in the backyard of his home. “Something must have happened. Something made him relapse,” Jimmy tells Kim. Jimmy knows full well, as do we, that that something was him.
Still, when Howard accepts blame for Chuck’s suicide because he fired him, Jimmy gleefully lets Howard take all that responsibility. From that moment on in the season, Jimmy seems like a weight has been lifted off of his shoulders while Howard begins to spiral.
Chuck McGill casts a tall shadow over the events of season 4. How Jimmy reacts (or doesn’t react) to his absence reveals multitudes about his headspace. Jimmy doesn’t respond emotionally at all to an undated letter that Chuck left him but Kim weeps at its contents. Later, Jimmy is far more devastated to hear that his first eldercare client, Geraldine, has died than he ever was for Chuck’s death.
Hummels and Burner Phones
In the wake of Chuck’s death and his own suspension from practicing law, Jimmy finds himself with a lot of free time on his hands in season 4…and there’s nothing more dangerous than a bored Jimmy McGill.
The first way that Jimmy tries to occupy his time is through getting a job. When a fax machine selling company falls for Jimmy’s Saul Goodman-esque sales pitch during his interview, Jimmy seems disgusted that they’d believe him so easily. Instead of working for the company he enlists Ira to help him steal a valuable Hummel figurine from them.
When that job goes well, Jimmy then opts to get a job managing a cell phone store. He quickly becomes bored with that as well and concocts a scheme to begin selling prepaid “burner” phones to criminals. In fact, Jimmy uses his $5,000 inheritance from his brother to buy a whole batch and continue to sell them off. Business isn’t always easy. At one point Jimmy is beaten and robbed by some teens. But he is able to vanquish those enemies and overcome those difficulties just as easily as he’s able to overcome everything else. Jimmy becomes something resembling Saul Goodman more closely than ever during this period, even frequently using the name amongst his new clients.
Kim Goes Pro-Bono
Boredom seems to be something of a recurring theme in the early episodes of Better Call Saul season 4. Just as Jimmy becomes bored with his post-law life, so too does Kim become bored of her current-law life. Kim still bears the injuries from her stress and exhaustion-induced car crash in season 3. And yet, not only does she still work for massive bank Mesa Verde, she finds herself seeking other, more fulfilling challenges.
Kim decides to take on some pro bono work helping guide underprivileged clients through the legal system. This spreads her even more thin than usual and eventually she decides to join powerful law firm Schweikart & Cokely, enabling her to better balance her two lives. The news comes as a blow to Jimmy, however, who wanted to open up a law firm with Kim. When the show flash-forwards several months at the beginning of episode 7, Kim and Jimmy’s relationship has deteriorated.
It’s not until Kim helps Jimmy by concocting a scheme to defend Huell Babineaux that they reconnect. In turn Jimmy helps Kim commit some light fraud and in helping Mesa Verde gets plans approved for a Lubbock branch that is bigger than the town charter allows.
Nacho in the Thrall of Gus
Now let’s catch up with the criminal world of Albuquerque. Nacho (Michael Mando) enjoys his biggest role yet in season 4, but unfortunately that’s because Nacho is under a lot to of duress. Hector has been effectively paralyzed by his stroke and lingers on the verge of life and death. Gus eventually has his doctors heal Hector just to the point where he can regain consciousness but little else. This way Gus can more properly torture him as we eventually see in Breaking Bad.
Gus has torture of a different kind in store for Nacho. Since Gus knows that Nacho effectively made an attempt on Hector’s life, he brings him into his own organization as a mole. This involves killing Nacho’s partner Arturo and severely injuring Nacho as well to make it look like a gang hit gone wrong. Things look to be going pretty well for Gus as he effectively runs his outfit and the Salamanca crew as well. That all changes when Lalo Salamanca is sent down from management to take over Salamanca business. By seasons’ end, Lalo is well aware that Gus is up to something and is prepared to retaliate in some way.
Mike, Werner, and The Superlab
Mike’s arc in season 4 begins with him turning in his windbreaker at his job as a toll-taker, since he now makes tens of thousands of dollars a month as Madrigal’s security consultant. Still, Mike is restless with his cushy no-show job and Gus finds a more appropriate duty for him.
Gus is ready to break ground on the enormous meth superlab that will eventually be used by Walter White, Gale Boetticher, and Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad. A project of this size, however, will require enormous manpower and intellect – particularly if it is to remain a secret throughout its construction. Eventually Gus finds an engineer to his liking – a German man named Werner. Mike is placed in charge of monitoring and assisting Werner and his crew of German builders. Mike spends the majority of his season babysitting the Germans and it proves to be a tremendously difficult job. These men will not be allowed out from underground or to have any contact with their families for months.
At first it seems like some of the restless younger workers will be an issue, but Mike is able to pacify them with a night out on the town and plenty of other below-ground amenities. Werner, however, simply begins to miss his wife too much. Right near the tail end of their work. Werner does the unthinkable and escapes the compound to go share a nice weekend with his wife. During his time out of “captivity,” Werner plans to meet up with his wife at a nearby hot spring resort and also unwittingly provides the location of Gus’s lab over the phone to Lalo. Mike urges Gus to spare Werner but by the time Mike finally catches up with him, Gus’s mind is made up. In the end, Mike has no choice but to execute the genial German in truly heartbreaking fashion.
The Rise of Saul Goodman
By season’s end, Jimmy’s year-end suspension is up. He attends a reinstatement hearing that he expects will be a formality but much to his surprise, his claim for reinstatement is denied. The chairman later suggests to Jimmy that the panel found him insincere. Kim then helps Jimmy enact a plan to get reinstated. It involves Jimmy publicly displaying some grief over Chuck’s death, first at his grave and then at a dedication of the Chuck McGill library wing that Jimmy paid for.
When the time comes for a second appeal, Jimmy appears to scrap his original plan and speak from the heart. He admits to his faults and says that if he is allowed to practice law again, it will be in a way that will do the McGill name proud. It’s a powerful, touching moment that helps his appeal succeed. Even Kim is floored by Jimmy’s display of vulnerability and emotion. Alas, it all turns out to be yet another act on Jimmy’s part. Kim can only look on in horror, as a newly energized Jimmy McGill in full sleazy lawyer mode announces his plans to practice law under a new name.
And that, friends, is where we will find Howard, Kim, Mike, Gus, Nacho, Lalo, and the artist now known as Saul Goodman at the beginning of Better Call Saul season 5.