This Better Call Saul review contains spoilers.
Better Call Saul Season 6 Episode 5
Everyone is scheming on this week’s episode of Better Call Saul. Even Howard Hamlin, who up until this point has been a clueless mark in Jimmy and Kim’s scheme to settle the Sandpiper case early, is finally getting in the game. With all this careful planning, deceit, and mindful execution happening, director Melissa Bernstein gets to play with all of Better Call Saul’s best visual calling cards; meticulous montages detailing fine-tuned processes, time lapses, and revealing wide shots all appear as the parallel cat and mouse games between Jimmy and Howard and Gus and Lalo intensify. We’re waiting for these conflicts to explode, but at least one came to blows in “Black and Blue.”
The episode begins with Kim in bed, restless and awake next to a fast asleep Jimmy. It’s a subtle callback to the season’s premiere episode and shows that the Lalo information is clearly weighing on her. While Jimmy was left staring at the ceiling because of existential dread, Kim is kept up by a very tangible fear. Jimmy awakens and sees that Kim has placed a chair on the door and assumes she’s dealing with post-traumatic stress. He reiterates that he’s glad that Lalo is dead. It’s interesting that Kim decides not to relay the information that Mike told her. Perhaps she’s too close to realizing her dream, of having the funds to open her pro bono practice, to have Jimmy raise the alarm and uproot them off of their current track. For once, Kim is the one withholding sensitive information. It’s a cleverly staged bit of role reversal.
Meanwhile, Hamlin and Cliff Main meet with the Sandpiper victims and assure them that they should not seek separate counsel and stay the course with the class action lawsuit. However, Cliff starts to pay special attention to Howard’s fidgeting and performatively upbeat demeanor. When he finally confronts Howard about last week’s prostitute incident, he emphatically draws comparisons to his situation with his own son. During the altercation, Howard has an epiphany and decides to ask Cliff who exactly he was meeting with when he supposedly saw Howard throw a woman from his Jaguar. When Cliff replies with Kim’s name, it’s all Howard needs to know that Jimmy McGill was somehow behind all of this.
Except Jimmy doesn’t have any tricks up his sleeve for Howard this week. He’s far too busy with new business. There’s a line outside of his new office before the 9 a.m. open and he’s called Francesca back to serve as his secretary. She appears out of courtesy, but without Kim involved and with the clientele dramatically changed from Jimmy’s elder law days, she’s not exactly interested in returning. There’s a great moment when Jimmy barters with Francesca and tells her he’ll pay her double, in which she responds by asking whether he means double what he used to pay her, or double what she’s currently making. Being the huckster he is, Jimmy says whatever is less, until he sees that he’s driving Francesca out the door, and he corrects himself by saying whatever is more. It’s a classic Saul Goodman bit, one that would have felt natural and routine during the Breaking Bad run. It’s a simple thing, but it’s one of my highlights of the episode.
At the end of his workday, Francesca directs him to meet a client named Mr. Ward at a boxing gym. It turns out that the “client” is Howard, and he’s tricked Jimmy into coming so the pair could settle their differences once and for all by “punching it out.” At first, Jimmy laughs off the suggestion, but at the last moment, Jimmy gets that indignant fire in his eyes that we’ve seen countless times throughout the series. He decides to step in the ring with Howard and it’s a great scene full of physical comedy and some fun POV camera work. It ends with Jimmy flat on his back, and neither man leaves the ring believing that their problems are solved. We then see Howard meeting with a man that he asks to follow Jimmy and report back on everything he does and everyone he talks to. Now there are two separate parties tailing Jimmy McGill daily.
While Jimmy is getting a black eye, Kim meets with her old paralegal Viola. It’s supposed to play as a belated apology for leaving Schweikart & Cokely so suddenly, but in actuality, Kim is trying to get more information about the Sandpiper case. Kim learns that a man named Rand Casimiro is serving as judge, something that she and Jimmy are looking to exploit, but Viola spends the scene praising Kim and telling her how much she admires the work she is doing. You can almost see on Kim’s face how much she knows she doesn’t deserve to be treated as some altruistic saint. Once again, it’s fantastic acting from Rhea Seehorn.
Finally, Gus spends the episode highly alert and paranoid, ready for Lalo to spring at any moment. Gus doesn’t want to allow the Salamancas to get the drop on him in any way shape or form, going so far as to stash a .38 in the unfinished super lab just in case he should need it. Little does he know that Lalo is halfway across the world in Germany, continuing his investigation into the super lab. Lalo uses his charm and worldliness to stage an encounter with Werner’s widow. Seriously, Tony Dalton is so good here you almost forget he’s a murderous sociopath. He casually pries for information, but when she retires for the evening without inviting Lalo into her home, he decides to break in the next day and do some digging himself.
While Lalo is rooting around Werner’s office, the woman unexpectedly returns home. The camera work builds suspense, hinting that something awful may happen, but Lalo slips out a window without harming her. He decides to leave after he witnesses some sort of keepsake on the shelf, highlighted in the episode’s cold open. Forgive me for not knowing my tools, but it’s some sort of tool encased in plexiglass inscribed in German from Werner’s “boys.” On the bottom, a manufacturer name of “Voelker’s” can be seen. It seems like Lalo will try to hunt down some of Werner’s crew next for answers.
An episode with a Howard and Jimmy boxing match and the reappearance of Lalo is always going to score points, but there are subtle moments throughout “Black and Blue” that make it an enjoyable watch for Better Call Saul diehards, even more so than last week’s easter egg-filled hour. For others, it may be written off as another table setting installment, but Kim’s decision not to tell Jimmy about Lalo and her brush off of Viola’s flattering compliments feel like they might be moments of no return. At least now that Howard is aware that someone is coming after him, Kim’s mission to humiliate him doesn’t feel as cruel.