Better Call Saul recap: season six, episode seven – the midseason finale throws up a shocking twist

·5 min read

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 seven.

Conversations with lawyers

Um, how to begin? What about that trick for de-fizzing a can of Coke? It’s very simple and looks effective, though I haven’t tried it. Wouldn’t want to run the risk of it going wrong.

Thinking about the exchange with young Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill staffer Cary, it had a dramatic irony that I hadn’t clocked at first. The tip about the cans, picked up from Chuck (a signifier of McGill Sr’s illness), was not just a piece of trivia delivered in a condescending but well-intentioned manner by a man about to endure a professional humiliation. It was the last act of good will Howard Hamlin would engage in on this Earth. You know those scenes where a character who is about to die gets to show the best of themselves, share their hard-won wisdom? Well this moment of bathos, for Howard, was it.

A few hours later, the brains of Albuquerque’s most charismatic lawyer are all over Kim and Jimmy’s floor. Did Lalo really have to do that? Is there any logic in the Mexican’s decision to strap on a silencer and take out a civilian he had only just met? Surely the answer to both questions is no. But that’s what happens when you pal around with impervious psychopaths: they’ll do what they want on an impulse and have no regard for the consequences.

Howard had shown up at Kim and Jimmy’s to let them know that he had sussed every detail of their devious Sandpiper masterplan. That the plan had come off without a hitch, leading the long grift of the class action to collapse, made our antiheroes horny and meant disaster for Howard’s career. But he seemed confident he would come out of it. In fact, the animus for revenge would be enough to keep him going. Revenge over Kim, in particular. Of Jimmy and his part in the plot, Howard was unsurprised and dismissive. But of Kim, he said: “One of the smartest and most promising human beings I’ve ever known, and this is the life you choose. You have a piece missing … you’re a sociopath.”

It’s at the peak of Howard’s peroration that the missing Salamanca walks in. He has been hiding in the drains watching Lavandería Brillante for the past four nights, but he remains laid-back and unflappable. Howard has a five-second window to read Kim and Jimmy’s body language (they’re clinging to each other) and get out of the room. Typically, he doesn’t spot the signs and chooses to linger. And that, tragically, is that.

The flickering candle

The killing of Howard Hamlin was an awful sequence to watch and not something I’m keen to see again. It was the death of another key character in Better Call Saul, but it had a different tone from Nacho’s demise. There was no sense of it being a just or appropriate end. No sense that it was even coming. It was tragic, and slightly pathetic, but also terrifying. It’s the first moment that the worlds of Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad truly crossover: an episode largely conducted as farce, ends in horror.

The scene is played like something from a horror movie, starting with a quiet knock at the door. Our post-coital couple are complacent, and neither betrays the slightest anxiety as to who it could be (they were maintaining a midnight vigil on their door only two episodes ago). The fact that it’s Howard, ready to give them a tongue-lashing is bad enough, as they are forced to double down on acting innocent, and add more lies to the pile. But that wasn’t the twist. The flickering of a candle betrays another arrival, outside the camera shot. Kim and Jimmy freeze and the colour drains from their faces: they have seen a ghost.

After Howard misses his chance to escape, his head bounces off the hardwood floor. What happens next to Kim and Jimmy, we do not know. Lalo says he wants to talk and there may be a part in a further scheme for the couple to play yet (most likely involving Gus Fring). But after all the discussion over whether Kim was breaking bad or about to go to jail for her husband’s sins, something worse has happened.

Jimmy has watched people die before and he was traumatised by his experience in the desert. Kim, however, has never come into contact with the reality of the cartel and the life she has been playing at. She met Lalo once and saw him off through the power of argument. This may have led her to adopt a comforting falsehood about the nature of the man she was facing and the world he represented. She has now been disabused of that notion and also has the death of an innocent man on her hands. If the good outcome is that Kim and Jimmy remain together some years later in Nebraska, it will be one that’s haunted by shame. They had better hope those cinnamon twirls taste good.

Albuquerque incidental

  • Gus and Lalo continue to be one step ahead of each other. Lalo guesses that the line to Hector’s care home is likely to be bugged. He sends a fake message that makes Mike think Gus – and not the superlab – is the focus of Lalo’s attentions. Gus, meanwhile, has already decided that the lab is where it all ends.

  • Some brief kudos for operation Sandpiper. They fixed the Judge Casimiro shoot, they planted Howard’s private investigator, they smeared drugs that can pass through human skin, they triggered Cliff, and they sat through a conference call for hours without falling asleep. If that’s their last true wheeze, it worked well.

  • Perhaps a little deliberate nod to life in 2022, as one of the people on the call is reminded that they are “on mute”, the bane of the modern home office worker.

  • Don’t know what movie Kim and Jimmy were watching. Do you?

This final season now takes a brief pause to heighten the tension further. It’s back on 12 July – see you then!

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