This BETTER CALL SAUL review contains spoilers.
Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 10
Since the show began, viewers have been tuning into Better Call Saul waiting to see the definitive moment that Jimmy McGill officially embraces the moniker of Saul Goodman, leaving his old life behind. With only one season left, many fans expected that moment to occur before Season 5 concluded. However, “Something Unforgivable” doesn’t end with Jimmy embracing the dark side, but with Kim making a heel turn.
Kim has long been a moral compass for Jimmy. While she appreciates a good con every now and then, Kim has always reeled Jimmy back in before he went too far. Well, she did until Jimmy’s trip to the desert. Since Jimmy returned and the couple stared down Lalo together in their apartment, something has broken in both of them. You can see it on their faces and hear it in the tone of their voices. The threat of violence has almost paralyzed Jimmy with fear. He knows that this won’t be the last dangerous job that he takes on as Saul Goodman, but he refuses to put Kim at risk. He wouldn’t be able to live with himself if anything happened to her. At this point he loves her so much; he’d leave her to keep her safe.
Meanwhile, the proximity to real danger appears to have emboldened Kim. Free from her soul-sucking job and doing the public defender work that fulfills her, she is choosing her own path. Kim has seen why there’s no time to wait. It’s why she gets so angry when Howard Hamlin suggests that proximity to Jimmy is what’s causing her to act against conventional wisdom. In the past, she’d be upset to hear about Jimmy’s defiant acts against Howard. Now, she laughs right in Howard’s face and ponders new ways to make the man miserable.
In an episode featuring tense cartel showdowns and late-night raids, no moment hits harder than when the camera lingers on Kim’s face as she excitedly tosses around new ways that she and Jimmy could mess with Howard. It feels like watching a super villain origin story in real time. It’s like watching Jimmy’s safety net evaporate and it hurts. Jimmy seems to register that too. In the past, he’d love for Kim to embrace this side of herself, but now it all feels needlessly self-destructive.
Kim does have a brilliant plan though; if they were to ruin Howard’s reputation with something heinous, the optics would be bad. So bad, in fact, that it would force Cliff Main to settle the Sandpiper case early. That means the lawyers involved in the case would finally get paid. Kim could start a new pro bono firm and Jimmy could buy his dream home for them to live in. Still, this behavior is so unlike Kim, Jimmy can’t quite reconcile it. He tells her “this isn’t you.” But in the moment he sounds no different than Howard, insinuating that Kim isn’t capable of making her own choices. Somehow, their roles have reversed, and Jimmy doesn’t like being on the other side.
The acting on Better Call Saul is always impeccable, but it’s truly special in this episode. Regret and worry permeate through every pour of Odenkirk’s sun-burned skin. While Kim tries to lighten the mood, reading from the hotel menu, Jimmy looks like a wounded puppy. Meanwhile, Seehorn is so understated and controlled, she elevates material that other actresses would oversell. For instance, when Kim walks into the public defender office and gazes upon the boxes and boxes of undefended cases, we can sense that she’s overwhelmed, and we can feel her compassion with just a subtle look. Anything bigger would render the moment corny; Seehorn plays it perfectly. The Emmys would be insane not to finally recognize these two this year.
The episode’s title is not only derived from Kim’s plans for Howard, but also the cartel side of the story. Lalo finally heads south for Mexico, but he unexpectedly takes Nacho with him. Lalo wants to introduce Nacho to Don Eladio now that he’ll be running things on behalf of the Salamancas up north. If that meeting wasn’t pressure enough, Gus also expects Nacho to assist in assassinating Lalo while he’s there. At 3 am, he’s to open the gate to allow Gus’ team of killers to enter and carry out the hit.
There’s a pervasive sense of uneasiness in everything that happens south of the border. Besides Kim, Nacho and Lalo are the only two characters who do not have their story mapped out in Breaking Bad. One or both could meet their end in this finale at any moment. Lalo’s genial attitude about being back home can’t mask the fact that something terrible could suddenly happen. Don Eladio, casually sipping tequila in a way that nods toward his eventual demise, could decide he’s not charmed by Nacho’s soft-spoken ambition. It makes you hang on every single word.
The tension finally explodes when Nacho uses a tricky decoy to distract Lalo and open the gate. He walks out of Lalo’s estate confident that the trained killers will do their job, but Salamancas aren’t so easy to kill. In a thrilling sequence, Lalo out-maneuvers and dispatches of every would-be assassin. Lalo’s genial spirit is gone while he surveys the damage. He seethes seeing the bodies of the innocent people Nacho attempted to protect. In its place is a look of pure rage, as he hobbles off-screen Terminator-style to get his revenge. He knows exactly who’s to blame, and it doesn’t bode well for Nacho, or anyone else. If Lalo was a frustrating presence before, now he’ll return to Albuquerque like a plague.
It’s a satisfying conclusion to an absolutely brilliant season of television. Further, it sets things up nicely for the sixth and final season. Though I would have liked one more flash-forward to the Gene storyline, that’s just a selfish thought. It turns out that Jimmy becoming Saul wasn’t the tragedy that we should have been anticipating, it was Kim embracing the Saul way that we should have been worried about. Kim is officially in the game, and we should be as worried as Jimmy is, because we know how this game usually ends.