Netflix UK TV review: Better Call Saul: Season 5, Episode 6 and 7
For richer or poorer8
For better or worse8
Ivan Radford | On 06, Apr 2020
Who’s in charge? That’s the question at the heart of Kim and Jimmy’s relationship, and it’s one that comes back again and again to drive them apart. Because, of course, Jimmy is the one always calling the shots – or, at the very least, trying to. That’s truer than ever when it comes the Mesa Verde and Everett Acker showdown, with Jimmy’s blackmailing of Kevin crossing a line. Kim decides she wants a settlement, only for Jimmy to ask for millions of dollars, throwing the whole thing into disarray. Her anger at him, however, is all part of Jimmy’s plan to make the whole thing seem genuine and convincing – a revelation that marks the first time that one of Jimmy’s cons has targeted Kim as a patsy.
Jimmy, nonetheless, succeeds, meeting Kevin from Mesa Verde – delightfully played by Rex Linn with a macho swagger and arrogant drawl – in a car park to agree an off-the-record payout. It’s vindication for Jimmy’s demands for money, ostensibly because of Mesa Verde’s logo, which is based on a photograph that they never legally had permission to use. The fact that Kim is the one who recognised the photo only rubs salt in the wound further.
But Kim’s response is wonderfully surprising, and makes for a cracking cliffhanger between Episodes 6 and 7: they should break up, she declares to Jimmy, or get married.
It’s a bold move, one that permanently and irreversibly ups the stakes in their relationship – this is it, the final test of whether their bond is actually meaningful or not. But for all the sentiment and affection that evidently exists between Rhea Seehorn and Bob Odenkirk’s characters, there’s also a coolly logical pragmatism behind the concept: get hitched and spousal privilege applies to their conversations.
Who’s in charge? For an episode, it seems like Kim finally is, as she leads her boss Rich in a blunt meeting with Kevin, in which she spins around and tells him it’s all his fault that things spiralled out of control – if he wants to keep them on as his counsel, she demands, he has to actually listen to their advice.
Jimmy, meanwhile, is increasingly under pressure from Lalo, as he is picked up by the police for murder – at the behest of Gus, via Mike. (You can hear the pieces falling into place in the puzzle of how this all connects to Breaking Bad.) Lalo, naturally, hires Jimmy to get him off – or, at least, get him out on bail. Jimmy manages the impossible, by hiring actors to pretend to be Lalo’s upset, loving family (a sign of just how low his moral standards have sunk), and Lalo confidently says he can afford the $7 million cash bail.
Jimmy, then, is a friend of the cartel for life, which puts him in a great financial position – and maybe, just maybe, means his dreams of an extravagant marital estate with Kim could come to fruition. But, at the same time, he’s getting in deeper and deeper, losing control over events and what he can and can’t do. No wonder, then, that he steps up his anti-Howard campaign, not only lobbing bowling balls at HMM’s cheesiest big cheese but also getting sex workers to turn up at a business meeting and pretend he’s a former client.
When Howard accuses Jimmy, he flips – a moment that Bob Odenkirk sinks his teeth into with a heart-wrenching anguish and a cringe-inducing pride. “I move in worlds you can’t even imagine!” he yells, telling Howard he blames him for Chuck’s death. It’s atonce a cathartic piece of revenge, a desperate attempt to establish control and authority and a chance for Jimmy to continue drawing the line between his old life and his new identity – in short, it’s a darn good bit of writing.
Lalo, meanwhile, continues to exert his own authority even when he’s behind bars, ordering Nacho to set fire to one of the branches of Los Pollos Hermanos. Gus Fring is blissfully out of town, heading off to Houston for a meeting with Madrigal’s top dog, where he proudly unveils the chicken shop’s new southern-spiced curly fries. Needless to say, it’s all a front for him to talk narcotics with Peter, the CEO, and Gus insists that despite setbacks around the new meth lab, things will move forward.
How? By making sure that Nacho continues to be a double-agent between Gus and Lalo – and so Fring himself takes some oil and a match and burns down one of his restaurants so the Vargas don’t suspect anything. Gus, more than anyone, is the one pulling the strings and calling the shots.
And that bold play, which closes out the episode in striking, fiery fashion, makes it clear that, no matter what Kim and Jimmy might think or do, neither of them are really in charge at all. “Justice matters most,” Jimmy tells Lalo is the meaning of his monogrammed briefcase. “Just make money,” Lalo corrects him, sealing his fate afresh. With only two episodes to go, expect Jimmy and Kim’s fates to become just that little bit clearer and closer.
Better Call Saul Season 1 to 5 are available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription. New episodes arrive on Tuesdays, within 24 hours of their US broadcast.