This BETTER CALL SAUL review contains spoilers.
Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 9
It’s become routine that the penultimate episode of a season serves as the climax in the era of Peak TV. The Sopranos started the formula and dramas like Game of Thrones, and yes, Breaking Bad continued the trend. We’ve become conditioned to expect fireworks in a penultimate episode, something that sets the stage for a momentous season finale. However, Better Call Saul Season 5’s penultimate episode “Bad Choice Road,” is perhaps one of the most introspective episodes of the season.
The more reflective mood is appropriate. We cannot just breeze right past what happened to Jimmy out in the desert. Being stranded in the desert is a traumatic experience itself, but this also was Jimmy’s first brush with brutal cartel violence. This isn’t something a person can just easily move past and carry on like everything is normal, despite Jimmy’s best attempts. Even with Kim being nurturing and dismissing their “full disclosure” policy, Jimmy tries to will himself back to business as usual, but he’s off his game. He loses a case and has to turn to Mike for reassurance that the PTSD he finds himself suffering from will pass.
Mike offers level-headed, if not exactly comforting, advice. He tells Jimmy that someday, he’ll notice he’s gone a day without think about what transpired in the desert. The act of realizing that he’s capable of forgetting will help him continue to forget. It’s a mantra that many of the characters in this universe must live by. It’s nice to hear but isn’t exactly helpful in the moment. Still, it’s a wonderful scene. This episode and last week highlight how much the show has missed Jonathan Banks and Bob Odenkirk sharing scenes, even if their dynamic is slightly off. Being a friend of the cartel already has visibly changed Jimmy, and I’m not talking about the wicked sunburns.
Jimmy’s near-death experience changes Kim too. Almost losing Jimmy puts things in perspective for Kim. Returning to her job after a morning taking care of Jimmy, Kim realizes her job at Schweikart & Cokely isn’t fulfilling. Kim abruptly leaves the firm and gives up the Mesa Verde account in the process. When Jimmy learns of this, he chastises her for making “bad choices.” The irony isn’t lost on Kim, who immediately berates Jimmy for not showing her the same support she’s shown him throughout all of his incredibly poor and risky decisions. It really hammers home just how selfish Jimmy has been throughout all of this and how selfless Kim has remained.
Before their fight can kick into another gear, Jimmy gets an urgent phone call from Mike. He demands that Jimmy keep his phone on and hidden so that he can hear what’s happening in their apartment. Before Jimmy can ask further questions, there’s a surprise visitor at the door. Lalo, who abruptly abandoned his plans to return to Mexico after discovering Jimmy’s Esteem in the desert riddled with bullet holes, struts in and makes himself comfortable. He wants to hear Jimmy’s story again, attempting to catch Jimmy in a lie.
Throughout their conversation, Jimmy gets increasingly more nervous and begs for Lalo to let Kim leave. During all of this, we see Mike watching through a sniper scope on an adjacent building. Jimmy would normally have a lie ready to satiate Lalo, but he’s still in a fragile state. Fortunately, Kim steps up and speaks on his behalf, remaining tough with Lalo and poking holes in his concerns If you thought last week’s gunfight was tense, this a new definition of a nail-biter. Lalo is unpredictable; if you come at him with the wrong tone, he won’t hesitate to display his disapproval. Fortunately, the bold strategy works, and Lalo promptly heads out. If Kim wasn’t in the game before, she certainly is now.
Meanwhile, Mike attempts to help Nacho get out of his situation with Gus. Now with Lalo seemingly on his way back to Mexico, Mike suggests that Nacho has served his purpose. Gus disagrees, asserting that it’s better to have a man on the inside. Even though Mike takes issue with Gus’ method for keeping Nacho in line, he doesn’t press the issue further. Gus also asserts that Juan Bolsa was the man behind the crew that tried to rob Jimmy in the desert. He probably doesn’t like working with Lalo either, but his motives are still a bit unclear.
It’s hard to believe that there’s only one more episode of Better Call Saul left this year. At one point this season Jimmy declared himself a god, now Kim’s fighting his battles and he’s standing scared on the sidelines. It feels like there’s so much left to resolve, between Jimmy and Kim, Gus and the Salamancas, Nacho and Gus, and Lalo with everyone else. I’m curious to see how next week’s episode attempts to tie up this spectacular season, and if Jimmy and Kim’s relationship can make it another 55-minute episode.