This Better Call Saul review contains spoilers.
Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 4
Jimmy may not be doing direct business with dangerous criminals in “Namaste,” but he’s still courting trouble. Howard Hamlin throws Jimmy a life line, a way off of the path that directly leads to a life of anonymity and paranoia, and Jimmy returns the favor by throwing bowling balls through the man’s car. Depending on whether Kim eventually delivers Jimmy some sort of ultimatum, this could very well have been Jimmy’s last chance to go legit, but he doubles down on Saul Goodman and burns a bridge in the process. Once you’re in, you’re in.
After five seasons, I’ve come to like Howard. Don’t get me wrong; out of the characters on this show that I’d like to spend time around in real life, Howard has to be toward the bottom of the list, narrowly beating out the Salamancas and the other scary cartel folks. Still, I like Howard because I know a lot of people like Howard. I think that Howard means well, and at this point, has sort of established that there’s mostly good intentions behind those sharp three-piece suits and veneers.
He’s also polite, personable and genuinely listens to people when they speak. Howard is a nice guy. That said, he’s also a massive tool who is clearly more concerned with material things and how he presents himself to the world than he does about any intellectual or philosophical ideas. Howard carries himself like a person who seems unlikely to spend time doing any self-analysis because so little has gone wrong in his life to make him reflect inward. His license plate unironically reads “Namaste.” I like Howard, but he and I are not alike, and he and Jimmy are definitely not alike.
There’s no way, after all Jimmy has gone through, that he was ever going to seriously consider Howard’s offer. That doesn’t mean he had to be vindictive while turning him down. But Jimmy is drinking his own Kool-Aid and starting to feel powerful in his Saul Goodman moniker. He’s using small cons and his flair for dramatics in the court room and it’s working. He’s convincing half-wits to fork over their money, which he knows they’ll do time and time again. There’s probably even a part of Jimmy that feels emboldened after getting out of the Nacho and Lalo situation alive, unscathed, and paid handsomely. Jimmy’s willing to sacrifice his dream gig at HHM because he’s feeling unstoppable as Saul.
Jimmy isn’t the only one making sacrifices. Gus forfeits $700,000 to Hank, Gomie and the DEA to avoid exposing Nacho as a rat, which is a chess move that he hopes will pay off down the line. Seeing Hank in his Breaking Bad season 1 persona still is a trip, watching him fluctuate from fiercely competent agent to inappropriate blowhard (sometimes in the same sentence), but it’s Gus here that stands out. I’ve been pretty critical of the way that Gus has remained mostly unexplored in this earlier timeline, but tonight was a step in the right direction, showing an obsessive-compulsive side to the character that could have been inferred in the past, but was never confirmed quite like this.
However, the best character work continues to come from Kim. After her beer bottle throwing blow out the night before, Kim wanders into the apartment parking lot and wonders who will clean up all of the broken glass. Jimmy suggests that someone will clean it up and that they shouldn’t worry about it, but the second that he drives away, Kim begins sweeping the glass up. Jimmy is fine to let someone else figure out how to navigate his wreckage; Kim feels compelled to clean up her own messes, and that’s the biggest difference between the two.
Attempting to clean up her Mesa Verde-related mess and keep a piece of her integrity, she suggests to the Mesa Verde brass that they move the location of their call center to a nearby vacant lot. Kim is doing everything she can to try and keep Mr. Acker from having to move, but the Mesa Verde folks won’t hear a word of it. It’s here that Kim allows her own compassion for the little guy to lower her moral guard and turn to Jimmy for help. Sending Jimmy to become Acker’s lawyer is an inspired idea and seems like it will make good television (let the presentation of the now infamous horse picture be proof), but there’s almost a 100% chance that Jimmy is going to escalate this thing and take it to a place that Kim isn’t comfortable with, and then instead of being upset with herself for letting her corporate clients displace an old man, she’ll be upset at herself for yet again resorting to dishonest chicanery. It’s a vicious cycle.
And finally, speaking of a vicious cycle, Mike’s sustained erratic behavior since the death of Werner plays out to what looks like a natural conclusion, until things take an unexpected turn. Still feeling sorry for himself and acting self-destructive, Mike goes to Stacey’s house and gets told point blank that until he shakes out of the funk he’s been in, he’s not going to see Kaylee. That causes Mike to be even more sour, and he basically goes courting a fight by purposefully strolling past the younger toughs that he had a run in with last week. After getting a few licks in, Mike is jumped and then eventually stabbed. Things get interesting when he awakes to find himself in what looks like a remote Mexican village. The whole thing an older action hero, Western sort of vibe, and I’m absolutely here for it, especially if it starts to move Mike’s story along.
“Namaste” delivers the solid Jimmy and Kim material that we’ve come to expect, while also making positive advancements with Gus and Mike as characters. If the show can continue to juggle its central figures in this way, this very well could be the best season of Better Call Saul yet. Now excuse me, I feel like bowling for some reason…