Welcome to our weekly review-recaps of Better Call Saul season 4. Each week, we’ll delve deep into the Breaking Bad prequel series, with spoilers galore. This week we examine episode 10 of season 4, “Winner.”
Poor, dumb, dead Werner. I will miss him. The character’s time on Better Call Saul was short-lived, but he still made an impact. He was a friendly face in an increasingly hostile world – which was probably a dead-giveaway that he was doomed. But at least he got to go out on a high note in a rather lovely, tragic moment.
Mike spends the season finale searching for old Werner, who has run off with the hopes of reuniting with his wife. The little lady is flying in from Germany, and Werner, dope that he is, thinks he can just spend a few days with her then head back to work on the super secret meth lab, no harm, no foul.
Mike’s hunt for Werner first leads him to a wire transfer service, where he cooks up a story about Werner being his demented brother-in-law to gain info. Through some old fashioned detective work, Mike is able to track Werner down to a motel, where the German is lounging poolside, oblivious.
Meanwhile, Lalo Salamanca is following Mike, and is able to track Werner down as well (and kill the wire transfer clerk in a somewhat ludicrous scene where Lalo tunnels through the ceiling to get behind bulletproof glass).
Mike finally finds Werner, and though he wants to give him another chance, Gus says no – enough is enough. Werner has crossed a line, and now Mike has to cross one too. And so Mike takes Werner out to the desert and in a brilliantly lit scene – the two men in shadow, lit by car headlights and starlight overhead – Mike tells Werner it’s too late and he has to kill him. Werner has to then call his wife – who has just landed in America – and angrily tell her to turn around, or else Gus will have her killed too.
It’s all a bit heartbreaking, Mike is clearly distressed by this –but goes through with it anyway. The scene plays out in gorgeous silhouette where Werner walks out further into the desert to see the stars, and Mike follows and shoots him in the back of the head. Mike has obviously killed people before, but this murder is different. There’s no going back for Mike now.
At the end of it all, Gus sends the rest of the German’s home, and old reliable Gale seems ready to start cooking immediately. But Gus angrily tells him he can’t until the underground lab is perfect, all as Mike watches silently from the shadows.
Jimmy and Kim (and Saul)
Jimmy McGill is dead. Long live Saul Goodman…? While it seemed like the Mike plotline took up the bulk of tonight’s finale, the Jimmy and Kim story was the more emotionally devastating. The time has come at least: Jimmy McGill is officially no more, and how horrifying that is.
At the episode’s beginning, we’re treated to a flashback to the night Jimmy first became a lawyer. Jimmy, Kim, chuck and more head out to karaoke, and Jimmy ends up pulling Chuck on stage to sing ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All” – a song Chuck really gets into. Later, Chuck takes a drunken Jimmy back to his apartment and spends the night. It’s a rare moment of pleasantry between the Brothers McGill, and it’s a moment firmly in the past. We watch this moment, and we can’t help but think: if only. If only the Brothers McGill would have remained this close.
The majority of this storyline plays out like an Ocean’s 11 movie, with Jimmy, Kim and Jimmy’s film crew engaged in an elaborate, expensive con to help Jimmy get his law license back. First, Jimmy camps out at Chuck’s grave, pretending to grieve for all who can see. Then he donates money to open a law library in Chuck’s name. Then he helps Howard and company pick three high school students to award a scholarship to. This last segment is handled particularly brilliantly – we see one student after another come in to pitch themselves for the scholarship, and the scene cuts just as they start to talk.
This leads to the most curious moment of tonight’s episode – one I’m not entirely sure how to read. Jimmy implores the board to award one of the scholarships to a student who once got arrested for shoplifting, but they refuse. Jimmy tracks her down and gives her a passionate speech about how to them, she’s always going to be an outsider – just like him. And that she needs to stop playing by their rules, and take whatever she wants. At first I thought this was a bit of theater on Jimmy’s part – that, like the graveside scene, he was playing a part. But then Jimmy retreats to his car and breaks down sobbing. Even here, I thought that perhaps Jimmy was acting. But there’s no one around to watch. He’s on his own.
It all culminates in a scene where Jimmy goes before a tribunal of judges and pleads his case. At first, he plans on reading the boilerplate letter Chuck left behind – the letter he likely wrote years ago. But then a look comes over Jimmy’s face. He emotionally claims that the letter should remain between himself and Chuck. Jimmy then launches into a speech that brings the judges, and Kim, who sits in the audience, to tears. He talks about how difficult Chuck could be, and how much he just wanted to please him. He talks about how no matter how things turn out, he’s going to do his best to make the McGill name proud. It works: the room is moved to tears, and ready to give him his license back.
And here is where the ground falls out. Out in the hall, Kim and Jimmy are celebratory. But despite everything that’s happened, Kim believes Jimmy was being sincere in the courtroom – she thought he really meant all the emotional things he said about his relationship with Chuck. So you can understand the look of horror that comes over her face when Jimmy makes it clear he meant none of it. “Did you see those suckers?” he laughs. My heart skipped a beat here – a part of me knew, of course, Jimmy was faking. But to hear him so bluntly spit it out, with no shame, was jarring.
The look of shock and confusion on Kim’s face only heightens things. She looks truly stunned, so much so that she stops dead in her tracks. Things only get worse from here: when a clerk arrives to have Jimmy sign some paperwork, he proclaims that he’s no longer going to be practicing law under the name McGill.
“Jimmy, what?!” Kim blurts out as Jimmy strolls down the hall, a big grin on his face. He spins on his heels, cocks a finger at Kim, and says: “S’all good, man!” The camera lingers on one final shot – Kim, adrift, alone, in total shock.
What a gut-punch this finale is. I’m somewhat terrified to see what happens next season – will we ever catch sight of the man we know as Jimmy McGill again? Or is it Saul from here on out? One last side-note: if Rhea Seehorn doesn’t get some Emmy love for her outstanding work on this show eventually, I’m going to riot. And enough can’t be said about Bob Odenkirk‘s consistently incredible performance, balancing humor and misery in equal measure.
Overall, season 4 packed a wallop, with a few minor caveats. The show seems unsure of what to do with Nacho at this point, so much so that he doesn’t feature into this finale at all. Howard also ended up on the sidelines. And the writers may have slightly jumped the gun with the super-lab subplot, since they close things out here with the lab unfinished.
None the less, Better Call Saul remains one of the best shows on TV right now. Not only did Jimmy change this season, he changed those around him – and for the worse. Poor Howard will probably never be the same, and Kim has perhaps dug herself into a hole she’ll never get out of. The only person left with a big smile on his face is Jimmy, unaware or unconcerned with the damage he’s done.
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