Better Call Saul Season 6 Episode 9 Review: Fun and Games
Better Call Saul tries to pick up the pieces after an explosive midseason premiere, but finds it more difficult than anticipated in another stunning new episode.
This Better Call Saul review contains spoilers.
Better Call Saul Season 6 Episode 9
There is no Better Call Saul without Kim Wexler. The fact I’m saying that is such a testament to Peter Gould, his team of writers, and the incredible Rhea Seehorn, who created a character that was new yet instantly so compelling. Seriously, it’s no coincidence that the series began to find its identity as soon as Kim’s character becomes a larger presence in season two. While the tie to Breaking Bad was the obvious entry point for most viewers, Kim and her unknown fate became one of the driving reasons people keep tuning in. Speculating what would happen to Kim somehow became more popular than wondering where the show was heading with Gene.
Now we have the answer. All the speculation about a tragic death or prison sentence seems silly in hindsight; of course this is how Kim would exit the stage. A shocking murder would be something Better Call Saul’s parent show would do. A tearful, adult conversation feels far more fitting for Saul. Kim and Jimmy rode their Giselle and Viktor routine until the wheels came off, and when they did, there was simply no repairing things for Kim. Early in the episode, Jimmy talked about a day when he and Kim would know they could forget about what happened to Howard, but when giving this speech, Jimmy was shrouded in darkness. On the other hand, Kim’s face was illuminated by a bedside lamp. Perhaps Jimmy could hide the shame and regret in the shadows of his psyche, but with that light on you could already see that there would be no forgetting for Kim. Their apartment, the law, their relationship, it was all tainted now.
Maybe the return to the HHM office, where their complicated little love story began, sealed things. After putting on a brave face and going through the typical funeral conversations with Rich Schweikart, Jimmy and Kim proceed to offer their condolences to Cheryl, Howard’s estranged wife. Knowing exactly who they are and the relationship they had with Howard, Cheryl grills the pair on the “pranks” and what Howard said during their last visit.
Cheryl refuses to believe that Howard was using drugs, but Kim fabricates a story about catching Howard using late at the HHM offices. It’s a reminder, albeit a sick one, of how Jimmy and Kim’s con act worked best — Jimmy as the soft pedaling lead, Kim as the authoritative closer. In a moment that mirrors their old smoke breaks from season one, Kim gives Jimmy a long, passionate kiss that feels like a goodbye the second their lips meet. Intimacy between Jimmy and Kim usually only came after a well-played ruse; this time was no different, except it reminded Kim that their games only ever came at the expense of someone else.
We quickly learn that Kim is withdrawing from all her cases and has submitted her resignation as an attorney to the bar. When Jimmy hears the news, he rushes home and tries to talk her down, suggesting that using some of that Kim and Jimmy magic, they can undo the damage done, but it’s too late. Not only is Kim leaving the law behind, but she’s also leaving Jimmy too. She admits that she knew about Lalo and that the reason she didn’t tell Jimmy is that she knew Jimmy would react strongly and call off their Howard scheme. She knew that if he called it off, they would break up. She seemingly admits what viewers long feared, that the fun of pulling cons with Jimmy was the glue that held them together. Despite loving him, Kim knew that their toxic dynamic wasn’t sustainable, especially in the aftermath of Howard’s death.
Seehorn and Bob Odenkirk are each extraordinary in this exchange. You can almost physically see Jimmy trying to hold on as Kim pulls away from him. It feels honest, like a real breakup and not too histrionic or staged. Kim carries herself through the conversation like she’s already done the emotional heavy lifting in private and is trying to let Jimmy down without unpacking it all again. It’s a moment that I’ve been dreading since the pair made their relationship official, and watching it end feels appropriately gutting.
Before I was able to process the gravity of it all, the show then flashes forward to 2005, where a much more balding version of Jimmy McGill gets ready for his day inside of his tacky McMansion. It’s a stunning choice that suggests that the remainder of the season will take place within or near the Breaking Bad timeline. A part of me laments the fact that we won’t see the gradual transformation from heartbroken shell into hardened sleazeball, but it’s possible the choice was made for economical reasons and not to avoid hard work. With the time we have left, maybe this was the smartest way to handle things and not waste too much precious time. It also leaves open the possibility that we’ll see Breaking Bad-era Saul Goodman interact with Kim Wexler, which is a tantalizing prospect.
While the implosion of the Jimmy-Kim relationship will likely drive all the conversation surrounding “Fun and Games,” this week’s scenes with Gus were maybe my favorite BCS Gus material we’ve been given. In my opinion, Better Call Saul has done little to deepen or change our perception of Gus Fring. Whereas characters like Mike and even Hector Salamanca have been given more shading, my understanding of Gus hasn’t wavered. “Fun and Games” finally challenges that criticism. Gus visits Don Eladio’s compound, where he must come face to face with the Salamancas and their accusations that Gus was responsible for Lalo’s disappearance. Don Eladio lays out all the supporting evidence that suggests that Lalo was murdered in the raid on his compound and comes to the conclusion that the old Salamanca is making up stories.
While on the property, Gus lingers on the pool where his old business and implied romantic partner Max was killed. Once home, Gus visits a high-end restaurant and talks about wine with a sommelier named David. It appears that Gus and David have a mutual admiration for each other and that perhaps Gus’ visit is romantically motivated, but as David leaves the room to pull another bottle for Gus, Gus abruptly departs the restaurant before he can return. It seems that Gus’ memory of Max leads him to decide that the risk involved with getting close to another man is simply not worth it. David will only inevitably be used as a tool to get to or hurt Gus. He realizes that in his line of work, a personal life is simply untenable. This look at Gus’ compartmentalization is something we could have used more of throughout this show.
Finally, Mike decides to meet Nacho’s dad to give the man closure. Mike tries to tell Manuel that his son was different from the gangsters that he worked with, that he was a good person who got caught up with bad people. Mike also alludes that there will be justice for Nacho, but Manuel bristles at that word. Manuel tells Mike that revenge and justice are not synonymous, and that revenge is a cycle that will only continue. He admonishes Mike for being just another gangster, like the rest. This felt like another instance of Mike losing another little piece of his soul. It may seem like Mike wanted to do right by Nacho and Manuel, but it also seems just as likely that Mike knew how Manuel would react, and that he wanted that admonishment. It’s the sort of hardboiled, dark night of the soul stuff that Mike’s storylines so frequently produce, and it’s as excellent and heartbreaking as the rest.
Where we go in these final four episodes is truly anyone’s guess, but I hope we have not seen the last of Kim Wexler. For as impactful as tonight’s breakup felt, it still didn’t feel like a proper goodbye. There is no Better Call Saul without Kim Wexler, and I think there’s likely no ending without her too.