This Better Call Saul review contains spoilers.
Better Call Saul Season 6 Episode 7
At first glance, Howard Hamlin and Lalo Salamanca couldn’t seem more different. One is a respected lawyer and an upstanding member of his community, while the other is a lethal member of the cartel — they’re worlds apart. However, in the context of “Plan and Execution,” the mid-season finale of Better Call Saul’s final season, they start to feel a lot alike. Beyond both men participating in their respective family businesses and possessing preternatural charisma, they each spend the episode rightfully believing that their biggest rival is conducting a secret, elaborate plan to undermine them.
Judging from this information, it would be easy to assume that each man would have the opportunity to confront their rival. Based on what we know about the characters, their lines of business, and their futures in this franchise, it also would be logical to believe that a showdown for one of these men would end fatally. In “Plan and Execution,” the fatal confrontation doesn’t come for the man that we thought.
Howard Hamlin’s abrupt murder at the hands of Lalo Salamanca is one of the most shocking moments in both Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad. Just like Breaking Bad’s split final season, this mid-season finale ends on a cliffhanger that left me with my mouth agape, and when I finally recovered from the surprise, I was furious I would have to wait a month to see what happens next. Forget finding out why Lalo is there and what he wants from Jimmy and Kim; how do they explain what happened to Howard? How do they live with themselves in the aftermath, after all that they did to the guy? Every writer on the internet, myself included, has gone on and on speculating about what could happen to Kim and Lalo considering their absence from Breaking Bad. No one bothered to consider that something terrible might happen to Howard.
This death opens a wide number of possibilities. I thought that Kim might end up in jail due to her involvement in a plan to tarnish Hamlin’s reputation and get the Sandpiper case settled early, but now there’s a possibility that Kim’s exit from Jimmy’s life may just be the product of fear and guilt. Getting that close to death and the world of the cartel may convince Kim that a life with Jimmy is too dangerous. Perhaps some of Howard’s final words about Kim being “soulless” and how conning and scheming is “the life you choose” will rattle around her brain so badly that she’ll never be able to look at Jimmy the same. If there was ever a jumping off point from Slippin’ Jimmy’s wild life, this would be it.
The scene itself feels like something out of a horror movie, with Lalo’s presence being foreshadowed by the sway of a candle in the wind. Bob Odenkirk’s look of pure terror, as Jimmy believed that Lalo was dead, rivals any performance by your favorite scream queen. The sudden, yet seemingly inevitable nature of the violence just added to the dread. If people were waiting for Better Call Saul to kick things into gear, next time you might be careful what you wished for.
Howard Hamlin may have been a douche with a vanity license plate, but he never deserved this. His speech even hammers home that he wasn’t some smiling demigod who was meant to torment Jimmy and make him feel inadequate, he was just a person with problems like anyone else, trying to do his best. Lalo is likely back to pry for information about Mike, and subsequently Gus’ involvement in the desert fiasco from “Bagman,” but that all feels so secondary now. Howard’s death and the impact it will have on Jimmy and Kim will certainly drive what’s left of this series.
The terrifying final minutes punctuated what was otherwise a wildly entertaining episode of Better Call Saul, one that feels in the same mode as favorites like “Fifi” and “Coushatta,” with Jimmy in full Con God mode. The thrill and chaos that surrounds Jimmy and Kim attempting to reshoot their Casimiro double is enhanced by a wild, constantly moving camera and punctuated by the reliably funny performances of Jimmy’s crew. The reveal that Howard’s P.I. has been working for Jimmy all along is something that should have been obvious but still satisfies. And when the entire plan comes together, with Howard even impressively piecing it together quite quickly himself, it feels like another victorious Robin Hood moment. When we hear Jimmy and Kim celebrating the success of their well-laid plan, with the camera just out of focus, it makes everything that comes after even more striking.
I was critical of the slow-moving previous episodes, but all the material focused on Jimmy and Kim trying to make Howard’s life hell just adds to their guilt and the horror of that moment. As if the audience wasn’t already anticipating the final episodes, now we’re wild-eyed and practically frothing at the mouth like Howard Hamlin after encountering Jimmy’s mystery liquid. One explosive moment can’t qualify this first seven episodes as a wild success, but it certainly doesn’t hurt either.