Better Call Saul recap: All the old familiar places

·5 min read
Better Call Saul recap: All the old familiar places

There's an Edith Piaf song, the one about seeing the face of a lost lover everywhere, that kept running through my head during this episode of Better Call Saul. For one thing, we're finally seeing what became of Kim (Rhea Seehorn), who is living a life so bland, so vacant, that it's clearly a form of self-inflicted punishment. She works at a sprinkler company, writing catalog copy for pipe fittings; she wears sneakers and bangs that seem chosen specifically to be unflattering. This is her post-Saul purgatory, a cultivated emptiness that only makes the echoes of her old life that much louder, when they come. (Among other things, Kim cannot fail to notice that her boyfriend, a moon-faced mayonnaise aficionado with all the personality of a foam packing peanut, says "yup" like Don Wachtell when they're screwing. I mean, that has to be on purpose; much like the sneakers-and-skirt combination Kim wears at the office, it is way too disturbing to be an accident.) By the time Kim goes back to Albuquerque, you get the sense that she's only doing what she's done inside her head a thousand times over.

It's the phone call from Saul (Bob Odenkirk) that tips her over the edge. The question of what Kim said during that conversation has been a tantalizing mystery, but now we know that she didn't say much: Saul's half of that conversation, all shouting and arm-waving, was a tizzy he worked himself into after she told him to turn himself in. He counters — why doesn't she take her own advice? — and then says something about them both being too smart for that, and when he's done yelling she says, "I'm glad you're alive," and hangs up.

There's a debate to be had about whether Kim is glad, really, and also about whether Saul's current existence really counts as being alive. When he says "I'm still out here, still getting away with it," he doesn't sound like a guy who's gotten away. He sounds like a guy who's still running, with fewer and fewer places to go. He sounds exhausted. And for Kim… well, the thing about getting away with it is that the it you got away with stays with you. You have to carry it. And eventually, it gets heavy.

Bob Odenkirk as Gene - Better Call Saul _ Season 6, Episode 12 - Photo Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television
Bob Odenkirk as Gene - Better Call Saul _ Season 6, Episode 12 - Photo Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television Bob Odenkirk as Gene

All of this is interspersed with little scenes from the dissolution, six years back, of the McGill-Wexler union — and you can see the seeds in these moments of how it was always going to end, for each of them. Kim, who used to be so in control that she was practically unreadable, is already showing more and more of what she's feeling on her face; Jimmy, whose emotions always ran hot and close to the surface, is buried so deep inside the defensive skin of Saul Goodman that it's not clear he even exists anymore. When Kim runs into Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) outside the Cathedral of Justice after signing her divorce papers, and Jesse asks if Saul is any good, she takes a deep drag on her cigarette and says, "When I knew him, he was" — which is to say, she doesn't know him anymore.

Cut to present day, and Kim's return to Albuquerque. She visits the courthouse and then Howard's (Patrick Fabian) house, where she shows Cheryl Hamlin (Sandrine Holt) the affidavit she filed: it's a written statement about everything that happened, everything she did, everything they did that ultimately resulted in Howard's death. This is the closest she can get to making it right, but it's not close enough (among other things, Howard's body is still lying underneath the laundry floor, and everyone who knew this is now dead), and the inadequacy of it is what makes it all, finally, too much to keep carrying. Kim keeps her cool almost all the way through this trip, but on the bus back to the airport, she can't hold it back anymore. It starts with one sob, and then the floodgates open. She cries very hard, for a very long time.

Will this be the last time we see Kim? If so, then god, what an ending. A release, and then maybe, hopefully, redemption. Kim deserves this. Saul, on the other hand… look, there's breaking bad, and then there's just being evil. Running a series of identity theft scams, okay. Ripping off the guy with cancer, borderline. But when you're creeping up behind the man with cancer, who you just robbed, holding an urn containing the ashes of his beloved dog, which you are about to use to club him unconscious? This is too much, and you need to make better choices.

Except, of course, it's too late for that. But there does come a moment, not long after this one, when Saul seems to realize that he's gone too far. It's not the guy with cancer or the dog's ashes that does it; it's the way Marion (Carol Burnett) looks at him after he knows that she knows who he really is, as he's walking toward her with the phone cord wrapped around his hands like a garrotte. There was a time when Jimmy McGill would have been this woman's devoted attorney; now he's the terrifying intruder in her kitchen. And this is where we end it, until next week, when we really end it. Until then: S'all good, man.

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