Spoiler alert: this recap is for people watching Better Call Saul season six, which airs on Netflix in the UK. Do not read on unless you have watched episodes one to four.
The neighbor at 1213
Where is Lalo? That’s the question everyone, including the viewer, is asking at the end of this brisk, unsettling episode which cranks up the tension again after last week’s moment of (tragic) catharsis.
The person pondering the hardest is Gus Fring, who has decided he needs to live in two houses at once, such is the threat from his Salamanca arch enemy. In one home, the normal Fring set-up; nice kitchen, all his clothes folded neatly and stored in industrial quantities in plastic tubs. In the second home, connected to the first by a secret tunnel, there’s a decoy family and a security team watching possible approaches to house one from every conceivable angle.
The conceit is set up in a gentle, incongruous cold open where we’re left to wonder quite what is going on (just one of many nice touches in this episode, directed by Rhea Seehorn, who plays Kim). It seems fair to say that Mike is puzzled, too. He’s put security everywhere he can think of, and some more places on top, but still the customarily cool Gus is freaking out over a guy everyone else believes is dead.
We all know that Gus’s assumption about Lalo is correct. We’re not used to seeing him this rattled (and this old… sorry but the suspension of disbelief continues to be difficult!), Although it’s easy to sympathize with the Chicken Man because we have no clue where Lalo is, either. Four episodes in and we’ve had precisely two scenes featuring the show’s biggest bad guy. His absence is not making the heart grow fonder. It’s making it far more scared.
Can you keep a secret?
Gus’s belief in Lalo’s continuing existence, and fear over the consequences, is shared by another criminal mastermind – Kim Wexler. Just joking – for now, as Kim has not entirely broken bad just yet. But after sussing that she has been tailed, and confronting her stalkers, she is filled in on the Lalo situation by Mike, who thinks she is the only part of the Wexler McGill partnership who could handle the news without melting down.
Melt down she does not, but it seems clear that Kim believes the possibility of Lalo being alive should be taken seriously and, also, that it frightens her. We get that from the 15 seconds we spend with Kim, as she composes herself after Mike’s departure. By the end of the episode, however, she has recovered enough to indulge Jimmy in his little moment of validation-seeking; telling him why his new office is a good choice, and refraining from mentioning Lalo.
Kim might well have chosen not to fill Jimmy in on his friend in the cartel because, as Mike observed, he could not handle the truth. Furthermore, she probably chose not to harsh Jimmy’s mellow, as he does his best to make out he’s happy about being known by everyone in Albuquerque’s criminal law circles as the Salamancas’ man. The upside to this is a load of new clients, too many to be catered for in one nail salon. But there is one small downside – everyone at court thinks he is a scumbag.
As his nerdy rival, deputy DA Bill Oakley puts it: “You scammed the court… it’s just wrong.” And, while Jimmy might be willing to fall back on some legalistic explanation for why he’s not a guilty party in the conspiracy that saw “Jorge de Guzman” fly the coop, Bill is having none of it. “There’s proving and then there’s knowing,He says.
So, Jimmy’s reputation is burned and Kim has probably guessed as much, given the enthusiasm with which he’s leaning into his new criminal client base. And, all this is happening while the pair are busy stealing cars in order to frame an innocent man as a drug user and consort of sex workers. Kim is a cigarette paper’s width away from Jimmy’s world now and the irony is that it is happening just as she has persuaded Clifford Main that her crusade for justice for the excluded is something worth investing in. Lucky for Kim, then, that she’s as tough as Mike says she is.
Rhea Seehorn’s directorial debut is an impressive one. We get moments of intense, almost theatrical emotion from both Kim and Gus, and perfectly played slapstick in the car park of Howard’s therapist. As mentioned, the cold open is odd to the point of eerie, adding another dramatic tone to the mix. Then there are tons of clever details too, such as the aerial shot that pans along the courthouse cafeteria before settling on solo diner Jimmy. All in a crisp 43-minute runtime, too.
Another Breaking Bad threshold has been crossed as Jimmy has found Saul’s office space. Still, no backdrop of the constitution or floating Statue of Liberty just yet. Just an unplumbed toilet sitting in the middle of the space (perhaps Jimmy takes it out and gold-plates it).
“The wicked flee when no man pursueth”: it’s a line made familiar from the pre-season trailer, but one that does not really stand up to scrutiny. Not only was Kim not trying to flee her tails (she confronts them), but bad guys in BCS tend to stand their ground. Gus is a criminal hiding in plain sight and Lalo does not seem at all bothered about the attentions of the criminal justice system. It did, however, set up Kim with a question that’s worth asking, though: vein she and Jimmy wicked?