“What kinda asshole moves a cone?” – Faux-Howard.
Ever since Jimmy McGill was a child, he’s been a rule breaker. When he hears the word “no”, he steps up to the challenge, especially when the upper class are dictating terms. Out of all the characters on this show, Jimmy McGill knows the answer to who moves a cone. It’s what makes the scene funny, but it also conveys a dilemma as to why Jimmy can’t relate with such a Jimmy act. Jimmy is no longer Jimmy and for the moment, he’s not even Saul. He’s Howard. It’s a get-up he hasn’t worn since season 1’s fourth episode “Hero” back when he was declaring war on HHM for the suggestion (later apparent to be under Chuck’s instruction) that he not work under the name McGill. In season 1, Jimmy was cloning himself as Howard against Kim’s wishes. “You’re better than this,” she tells him and tries to make him see clear that what he’s doing is personal. His judgement was clouded as he struggled with his identity and how to lead the charge of who he is to get ahead. He’s come a long way since then but now he’s scamming Howard as his doppelganger because of Kim’s wishes. A defamation that Kim can’t even admit gives her more personal pleasure than the moral and financial rewards they can justify to reap. Jimmy, nor Saul feels comfortable with Howard’s sabotage, which leaves him again at an identity crisis as he walks in shoes he can’t claim as his own.
When Howard shows up for therapy, we peek further into his home life, learning he shares a relationship with a woman named Cheryl, both of whom currently stand on shaky ground. The show is likely beginning to paint the larger picture of Howard’s life before Jimmy and Kim tear it apart. Howard is no dummy. One way or another, Jimmy and Kim’s actions will catch up to them. One transitional shot in Rhea Seehorn’s directorial debut which suggests Howard’s subconscious is screaming at him of the strangeness that’s been occurring, is when Howard begins to tell the therapist of the dream he had. The camera cuts to the back of “Howard’s” head, out-of-focus, as he glides forward to the meditative beat of cymbals. At first, it feels like Better Call Saul is showing us its first dream sequence told by Howard, but unfortunately for him, it’s a peculiar reality. The Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul universe does not tend to use blatant dream sequences as a storytelling device. We’ve seen drug hallucinations and Walt once envisioned Skyler while Tuco had him locked in the trunk of Jesse’s car, but other than that, both shows use the universe’s concrete reality to convey the character’s headspace. That’s not to say the notion of a dreams or the subconscious is to be dismissed on this show. The in-between, beat by beat subtextual nature is very much always alive.
Howard may not have realized his car was taken, even when Jimmy had to improvise and park in the ‘No Parking’ zone after the Wendy stunt but he’s a man who possesses dreams and is working to make symbolic connections with a professional. He may not be able to make heads of tails of the actual dream he had (which was deliberately told and intercut with Jimmy’s heist), but it’s established here that the real world and the dream world are working in conjunction. It’s no stretch to say that Howard will come to a conclusion, especially after another prostitute was used to paint him in a bad light in front of Cliff Main. Howard has already called Jimmy out for the prostitutes and bowling balls during last season and Jimmy exposed himself as responsible. There’s too many coincidences between the Kettlemans’ allegations of Howard’s drug use and Jimmy being seen by Kevin Wachtell at the country club. One way or another, the fabric of the show’s universe will unveil Jimmy and Kim’s orbit behind these odd events. Howard might not understand what makes Jimmy tick, but he knows Jimmy’s actions is something to be figured out, much like the gate number to an old man’s international flight.
“The wicked flee when no man pursueth…” – Jimmy McGill
Sounds like the mantra to an individual who would hit and run after getting into an accident with their car. The next line out of that Bible proverb goes “but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” It may be a different big cat, but the shot of Howard’s hood ornament on his 1998 Jaguar XJ8 appropriately portrays Howard as a man who has unyielding moral footing on the life he leads. He has no question of whether he’s doing the wrong thing and if a problem does arise, he unafraid in trying to solve it for everyone’s sake. Being in therapy to begin with is significant step in the effort to improving one’s world. There’s a reason we don’t get to sit with Howard in therapy and really get a chance to understand what he deals with personally day to day, because Jimmy and Kim’s shenannigans robs that from us. To them, he’s a mark to be trifled with and nothing more, so when Kim starts to feel paranoid over whether she’s being followed, that’s her subconscious revealing she wouldn’t be feeling that if they were truly in the right. Jimmy interestingly revels in the idea that they’re wicked despite his own reservations. It’s meant as a comforting turn of phrase, in that her being followed is all in her head, but still admits guilt to what they’re doing.
Jimmy has been slipping hints to his misbehavior ever since he mistakenly let Lalo’s name be known to the opposing coucil. It’s almost as if a cry for help, possibly from the good man Suzanne Erickson detects may be buried deep underneath Saul’s showiness. Regardless, it seems that the bad choice road he’s been on has solidified itself as the only available avenue ever since allowing the murderous Lalo to walk free. Word is out. While Jimmy was busy playing Howard Hamlin, his Charlie Hustle and Slippin’ Jimmy counterparts have starved to death at the hands of his colleagues. Nobody wants to entertain Jimmy’s colorfulness anymore as he’s been shut out from every recess of the court house, even to the point where Bill Oakley is disgusted. Jimmy has chosen to be a friend of the cartel and the magnitude of that irreparable choice has set in. He demands Bill prove any of his misgivings, but Bill hits back with “There’s proving and then there’s knowing”. Jimmy’s chances to get back on the good choice road has become that much harder because now he’s going to draw harder criminals to his place of business like ants to ice cream. Fate is a sticky wicket.
“Who’s here for Saul Goodman?”
Becoming Saul Goodman has become less a choice as it’s now a way to survive. Jimmy meets with a large crowd of diverse, sketchy clients, including Spooge, at the nail salon who now refer to him as the guy. If Saul is willing to do what he did for Lalo, the trust from every other guilty client is gained. At this point, Ms. Nguyen can no longer let the company Saul keeps impede her place of business. The days of Jimmy McGill and the scrappy upstart of working from the back of a nail salon is over. If Jimmy is to thrive, it’s as Saul who’s pushed to escape one step closer to the seedy law office we’ll come to meet him in Breaking Bad. It may not be ideal real estate, but it’s practical. When you make decisions that limit your future options, practicality is what you settle for. It’s tragic it’s for many clients who will become enabled by their bad behavior and degrade into subhuman lifeforms like Spooge. To go from helping Bill Oakley retrieve his snagged bag of chips from a vending machine to the meth head who will get his head crushed trying to break into an ATM is a telling sign of the reckoning Jimmy will bring upon himself.
While Kim goes about her day, her paranoia of being followed becomes reality as she spots the same suspicious vehicle from the Crossroads Motel parked right outside her business lunch. Instead of fleeing, Kim doubles down on her righteousness like a lioness and marches straight towards the men who are watching her, demanding they reveal themselves. She threatens to call in their license plates due to their silence. Kim has always held her own in the face of confrontation. Whether it’s to defend an innocent client, a guilty client, or calling out people in power like Chuck, Howard, Rich, Kevin, or a dangerous adversary in Lalo, she can handle herself. But what happens when she’s directly placed under the spotlight of being in the clear wrong? If the entire resource of law enforcement were looking to pin her for her crimes, how long can she last before they learn the truth? The heat builds as we near the beginning of the end for her character, but fortunately, she’s only under surveillance in the effort to catch Lalo who turns out to be alive after a hit on his compound. Phew!
Kim and Mike meeting each other for the first time in the series is a gravitational moment. The first time Mike came into a contact with a main character from Jimmy’s world, it was as a repairman for Chuck’s busted door. That would be the first last time Chuck and Mike would cross paths. Kim, as Mike goes on to say, is made of “sterner stuff” than Jimmy, being someone who can hold her own as a non-civilian within the game. Mike is aware of her standoff with Lalo and as Kim is able to demonstrate, she’s quick to pick up on the fact that Lalo lives. Saul Goodman has undergone a tectonic shift with the company he keeps due to how he’s perceived from his actions. What’s most worrying is Kim is undergoing the same shift, as Mike establishes her as a competent player in a game where a murderous psychopath is on the loose. Chuck’s death had nothing directly to do with Mike fixing his door that day, but indirectly Mike’s choice to help Jimmy get pictures of Chuck’s house contributed in the ball rolling to Chuck’s downfall. How long is it before Kim’s downfall is met the more her world becomes filled with the shady company she keeps?
It’s important to note that the song being played at the El Camino Diner in this moment is Teri and Lester Norton’s 2004 song, “Isle of Misery”. Some of the lyrics include cryptic lines like “I don’t ever see rainbows and the stars don’t ever shine. The moon hides its face from me so no fate is worse than mine”. So far, the two main characters who never showed up in Breaking Bad have died from suicide. By listening to the lyrics of the song, it feels like Kim’s demise is more along the lines of exile or prison. If the writers are to imagine something worse than death, what is in store for Kim? Is it a choice she makes that puts her there or is it against her will? Is her worst fate something she can’t save herself from? A fate that was never navigated on her own terms? Perhaps it’s something more complicated as the song also hints towards the idea of unfaithful lovers. But speculation of that direction at this point seems unfathomable…
The more bubbly, hopeful song which kicks off the episode is “The Best Things in Life” by the Dreamliners. It’s played to a friendly couple riding bikes together throughout a residential neighborhood, using hand signals and going about their shared routine. We’re shown street cameras’ perspective of their joyful ride together as if it’s setting the scene for us to be aware of the couple’s outside surroundings. Given that the episode is entitled “Hit and Run”, we’re assuming the worst, waiting for their day to be brought to a screeching halt. But they make it home safely and it’s here we learn that this couple, like Kim and Jimmy, are not the honest, genuine people they would have you perceive them to be. Eerily, it’s them who are working from the inside of the larger plot as they stroll about the kitchen with armed men standing guard like it’s nothing. Who are these people? By the end of the cold open it’s revealed their good neighbor facade is all in favor for Gus’ cover. In the event that Lalo presents himself, Gus has taken every precaution to make sure he can see it coming. “Hit and Run” alludes more to the failed hit on Lalo.
How does Gus’ precautionary measures come to be? After the extensive construction of the superlab in season 4 which is still never fully realized, we can understand the architectural feat it would take for Gus to build a tunnel going from his luxury home to a neighboring house. Obviously the couple who reside in this neighboring house must have known about it from the get-go. Are they hired hands like any of Gus’ other mercenaries? Or are they cut more from the cloth of Gale Boetticher, who have earned Gus’ trust and are being paid handsomely to cooperate? I’d assume it’s the latter where they consented to the tunnel’s construction upon being granted the house in the event it needed to be used. Seeing as the couple don’t seem to drop any facade upon entering the house, they are likely a genuinely real couple. It would explain why they treat Mike’s guys like guests, seeing as they’ve only been employed here for two weeks. I don’t think Gus is happy that he has to use the tunnel to occupy the neighboring house, but again it’s the practical solution he’s been compelled to initiate.
The absurdity of the tunnel is a fair aspect to question. It makes sense that Gus, a man who hides in plain sight, would invest in extreme measures behind closed doors to ensure his safety. After all, he is the kingpin of the Southwest US region. If Lalo can have a secret bathtub escape hatch, surely Gus would be in over his head with adversaries like Don Eladio, Hector Salamanca, Juan Bolsa, or the D.E.A. if he didn’t put his money and power to good use. Sometimes I wonder if we’re being shown too much, but honestly it helps the Gus/Lalo conflict by establishing Gus is not a sitting duck. He’s got measures in place to ensure Lalo can’t just kick his door in. In Breaking Bad, Gus’ security felt more ominous when say, a character like Walt, attempts to knock on his door. In Breaking Bad, we view the attempt on a drug kingpin’s life from the lens of an ordinary Joe Schmo and how any successful or failed outcome is possible, given the execution is done right. Lalo is a different animal in that he has a plethora of resources, influence, and power at his disposal, which would make it necessary to divulge more to the audience into what Lalo can expect when taking Gus on.
In Breaking Bad, Gus became a ghost to Walter when he donned the Heisenberg hat and marched towards Gus’ front door. The neighborhood watch always had the upperhand. In Better Call Saul, Lalo has become the ghost despite the upperhand of Gus’ feelers and hired guards. It’s one thing for Gus to impose his work life on this couple, regardless if they signed up for this since the beginning, but he must also convince everyone it’s all worth it based on his own intuition. For all Gus knows, Lalo is dead and Hector may have chosen to play mind games. Anyone else in the room can argue that, but Gus knows the impulsive Hector can’t help but be himself. Mike is willing to help but how long is Gus willing to exhaust his resources. As an audience, we know Gus is right, but where is Lalo?
When Mike asked this question, the next shot intentionally shows Kim parked in a strange area at night. It’s very similar to us knowing Lalo was going to visit Saul’s apartment upon discovering the upturned Suzuki Esteem riddled with bullet holes in the desert. The next shot in that scenario played like a horror movie as Kim walks across the parking lot with the camera pressing in on her. The anxiety is played up again in this episode when we hear footsteps scraping across the pavement off-screen as Kim sits in the car. Until we can make out the driver’s side window’s reflection showing Jimmy, we feel relief. It’s safe to say the show is hinting towards another Lalo encounter with Jimmy and Kim at some point.
For now, Jimmy just wants Kim’s opinion on the prospect of a new office space. From Kim’s perspective, their little world has been exposed. She thought they were in control, but never considered the scope of the dangerous world they play in and how many eyes can be on them at a given time. Now that Kim knows Lalo is alive, her role as wife continues to subvert the male anti-hero genre as it’s her who’s withholding information from Jimmy for his “own good”. It’s she who decides to carry the burden for both of them as they move forward, trusting that the higher forces at play can resolve Lalo as a threat on their own. Given their marriage agreement to disclose anything they feel compelled not to tell, will she follow that rule? Is this what we can chalk up as ‘unfaithful’ in their unconventional relationship if she makes the decision not to tell him? Can that choice prove devastating for her own future?
-I’m enjoying how every episode title this season is “Blank and Blank”. It’s reminiscent of how most of season 1’s titles was one was word ending with the letter ‘O’ or season 2’s anagram “Fring’s Back!” with every title’s first letter. Makes you wonder if there’s any secret meaning going on with these.
-I’ve noticed that the more Breaking Bad characters who get a cameo on this show, the less I feel inclined to point them out. At first it was a novelty when we didn’t know how accomplished Better Call Saul would become as a prequel, but now the integration of all these characters in this shared universe makes so much sense, it’s an ode to how the story is the focal point of engagement.
What did everyone else think?