[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for “Better Call Saul” Season 4 Episode 6, “Pinata.”]
We start off by going further back into the past than ever, encountering Jimmy and Kim at perhaps the youngest age we’ve ever seen them: Both are pushing the mail carts around Hamlin Hamlin & McGill, but it’s third-year-law-student Kim who shows her legal ambitions when she proves her knowledge of the law to a whole and healthy Chuck McGill (hi Michael McKean, nice to see you!).
10 years later, the dynamic hasn’t really changed — Kim is hard at work for Mesa Verde, and Jimmy continues to struggle with his pursuits outside the law. However, while they’re still living together, their relationship sustains a few body blows in “Pinata”; specifically, Kim decides to join the firm of Schweikart and Cokely as a partner leading their banking division, which means she’ll be able to split up her Mesa Verde work amongst other lawyers and continue doing the pro bono public defender work that actually makes her happy — but does shut down the dream Jimmy’s been clinging to, of re-opening the Wexler-McGill practice as soon as he gets his law license back.
Jimmy needs a release, and he finds it: First investing the $5,000 he was granted from Chuck’s will in more pay-as-you-go burner phones, then trying to broker a deal with the punks who rolled him before. But it turns out that when Jimmy’s deal-making fails, he has a backup plan in place: flipping the punks upside down (literally) and putting the fear of God in them — or more accurately, the fear of Jimmy.
Achievements in Filmmaking
First off, thanks to a retweet from IndieWire’s Chris O’Falt, here’s an incredible fact about the filming of the previous episode’s cold open that’s worth sharing:
BETTER CALL SAUL is usually shot at 6K with RED digital cameras. The flash-forward opening scene in S04E05 was shot on 35mm film to match the look of all sixty-two BREAKING BAD episodes also shot on 35mm film.#cinematography @AmericanCine @Kodak_ShootFilm pic.twitter.com/ltCLordhBh
— Vashi Nedomansky (@vashikoo) September 5, 2018
In addition, this week the staging, filming, and editing of the “pinata” scene built beautifully on established “Saul” cinematography tropes: those point-of-view shots were reminiscent of Chuck’s traumatic trip to the E.R. in Season 2) while also literally flipping things around; the disorienting upside-down moments, intertwined with things right side up, were almost as shattering as the fact that Jimmy has found within himself a capacity for inspiring very real fear in punk teens — and the “Saul” audience.
The sound editing during Kim and Jimmy’s celebratory drink also deserves a moment of appreciation, as Jimmy’s burning despair is heartbreaking to witness. The fact that it’s not a sad moment, but a tense one, is key — an aching reminder of what’s kept Jimmy from truly discovering his worst self so far.
Remembering What Hasn’t Happened Yet (The “Breaking Bad” Tie-In)
A fact that we failed to mention when the character of Ira (Franc Ross) was introduced for the Alpine Shepard Boy heist is that this is Ira’s introduction into Jimmy’s world, but it was not the last time they’d work together: Ira is the one who owned Vamanos Pests before Walt and Jesse bought it in Season 5 of “Breaking Bad,” and clearly this will be an ongoing relationship.
The other man behind the mask at the end is, of course, our good friend Huell (Lavell Crawford), who we’d met already in this timeline but is great to see again. What’s coming into focus with “Saul” is that the criminal underworld of Albuquerque, New Mexico might not be the deepest of talent pools. Which has always been a part of the show’s ethos, but as “Saul” continues to draw in more and more characters from “Breaking Bad,” the point becomes clearer.
Oh, That’s Right, It’s a Period Piece
Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television
It’s so rare to get a firm fix on when a scene of this show takes place that it was almost disconcerting, the reveal that this episode’s cold open took place in late March 1993, just before the 65th annual Academy Awards. (If you were wondering, the lady who leaned towards “Howards’ End” secured three wins, including Emma Thompson for Best Actress, while Al Pacino did in fact “hoo-hah!” his way to Best Actor for “Scent of a Woman.”) That places the scene about 10 years prior to what could be considered the “current” “Saul” timeline.
Kim, of course, is almost done with her law degree at this point, but what we may be seeing at the end of this cold open is Jimmy engaging fully with his own pursuit of the law. That’s at least the simplest way to interpret his entrance into the library — the beginning of a legal education that may or may not be ill-fated.
On the Journey From Jimmy to Saul
Have to shout-out a sad acknowledgment for the passing of Mrs. Strauss, inspiration for Jimmy’s Alpine Shepherd Boy capers and the nice old lady who starred in his legal practice commercials. The fact that her death affects Jimmy so profoundly seems like a step away from the ledge for him — until his reaction, it’s revealed, leads in an opposite direction.
Jimmy may think that therapy isn’t his jam. But you never know what will reveal how much you really still need to process.
What’s Up With Mike?
In his role as Gus’s associate, Mike is fully committed to the commencement of the Big Construction Project (AKA Gus’s future underground lab) and the large warehouse space built to house and entertain the workers actually seems like a pretty cool place to hang out… until, that is, one considers that you don’t go anywhere else, and you’re stuck hanging out with a bunch of German dudes. With his usual savvy, Mike quickly identifies a fellow named Kai as a troublemaker. This does not bode well for Kai’s future longevity.
But, revealing his softer side, Mike also does make the time to apologize to his daughter-in-law for exploding at a “charlatan” during group therapy; something which clearly costs him a lot, but is also clearly worth the price. It’s rare to see Mike in a humble position, but as the show has made a point of establishing, his love for Kaylee and Stacey brings out the very best in him.
It was a pleasure to see McKean return for the opening flashback, but seeing how he condescends and disregards Jimmy in such subtle ways continues to emphasize the deeply rooted dysfunctions of their relationship.
If you didn’t get chills during Giancarlo Esposito’s bedside monologue, you’re as (allegedly) comatose as Hector Salamanca. It’s easy to be horrified by the story of how a young Gus wouldn’t even show a wounded animal mercy, but for a reminder as to why Gus might be a little resentful of the man, here’s a heartbreaking “Breaking Bad” flashback. The most important detail of that scene, of course, is the long lingering close-up on Hector’s unmoving hand, the one which would ring a most fateful bell, years from now.
Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television
It’s the return of the Moscow mule — at this stage, the drink that should be defined as Kim’s power drink, or at least the drink most closely associated with her ambition, as she was first introduced to it when being headhunted by Robert Schweikart. The fact she orders two is a clear sign that she does want to include Jimmy in her success, but also knows, all too well, that he’s not going to love her decision. (Her discovery of his legal pad, which he even brought with him to work, scrawled with the teen crush equivalent of “Mr. Kim Wexler,” said everything that needed saying.) Kim is making an important choice for her own sanity, one that Jimmy is supporting on the record. But Jimmy’s own engagement with good choices is currently tempestuous to say the least, and their relationship is not on the best of footing as a result.
“I was thinking we could just be Kim and Jimmy today.”
“Those two aren’t so bad.”
—Kim and Jimmy
Kim shutting down the ol’ Gisele tradition in favor of their real-life romance, on the one hand, offers up hope that this relationship can last. On the other hand, it’s an important reminder that in recent years, pretending to be other people is what helped these two to get together in the first place. They’ve been dealing with real life together for a while, they’re capable of it. But these are fragile times.
“It’s From a Movie!”
Just a quick observation to note that zee Germans have a pretty sweet home theater set-up! Very curious about what kind of programming will be making the cut.
In Conclusion, Your Honor
Make no mistake: When you see the name of this episode in the future, you will not forget what happened. At least, very specifically, that final scene.
After a brilliant bit of misdirect when it comes to why Jimmy is calling his criminal vet for some help (love the detail about how the vet can’t help but nag about goldfish care), the episode’s final scene is the first time that this man has ever felt legitimately scary. It’s a hard thing to come away from, as charismatic as Bob Odenkirk can be. After all, we know how much worse things will get.