[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Monday’s episode of Better Call Saul, “The Guy For This.” Read at your own risk!]
I couldn’t get that image of Jimmy’s ice cream cone planted on the curb at the end of the second episode of Better Call Saul Season 5 out of my head all week. What a picture of sadness! A perfectly painted portrait signaling the end of the good times! Nothing is sadder than a dropped ice cream cone, just ask any 8-year-old. So imagine my elation when Episode 3, “The Guy For This,” began with an army of ants descending on the frozen treat. The only thing missing from this opening masterpiece was David Attenborough narrating it.
But for all the melting frozen treats and their obvious damning symbolism, “The Guy For This” contained Season 5’s most fun moment yet when a familiar face from Breaking Bad returned to our TVs: DEA agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris). We knew Hank and his partner Steven Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) would be appearing this season, but we didn’t know the details. Naturally, Hank and Steven show up and square off against Saul Goodman/Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) in a heated battle of bullsh– artist vs. bullsh– detectors. Hard-ass Hank against Showman Saul was a blast.
It comes to be after Jimmy’s services are “requested” by Lalo (Tony Dalton) to get Krazy-8 (Max Arciniega) out of custody, despite Jimmy doing all he can to distance himself from it. When Jimmy throws out an exorbitant number for his fees in hopes of scaring Lalo away, Lalo pulls eight grand out of his pocket like he’s buying a pack of gum. It’s rare to see Jimmy misjudge a situation so poorly, but this shows just how far out of his element he is with Lalo.
And though Jimmy is the one with the law degree, it appears that Lalo is the one with the plan here, as he asks Jimmy to get Krazy-8 to tell the cops a few things, namely, the location of Gus’ (Giancarlo Esposito) dead drops (more on that in a bit). As Krazy-8 begins to spill to Hank and Steven, Saul/Jimmy busts in and puts on his show, angrily telling Krazy-8 not to say a word, which only sells the idea that Krazy-8 is ready to talk to the cops. It’s the classic Saul specialty setup of convincing the buyer they want to buy instead of selling something to them, and after plenty of doubt (“Wow me, make my tiny eyes grow wide with delight,” Hank says in his deadpan sarcasm), Hank takes the bait when the two sides agree that Krazy-8 will get protection and no charges, provided the intel he gives the police is legit and leads to arrests.
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
The operation is a success, but Jimmy isn’t at ease. Someone’s going to need to get arrested, a part of the plan Jimmy had to negotiate on the spot, and it’s unlikely Jimmy’s guy who does time for cash will fit the profile of a cartel-affiliated meth dealer. So someone will need to go down, but I have no idea who that will be. Perhaps Lalo figures one of Gus’ men will get cuffed? Attacks between Lalo and Gus are being lobbed discreetly in the background, and I’m loving it. This is also happening as Jimmy’s business is booming. The timing? Not good. Everything is escalating in small but meaningful steps that can’t be backtracked, and things are feeling more dangerous than ever on Better Call Saul.
As Gus’ man on the inside, Nacho (Michael Mando) tells Gus what’s going down, and Tyrus (Ray Campbell) starts to make the call to pull the cash from the dead drops before Hank and the po-po can get it. When Nacho says that if the money is gone, Lalo will know someone talked, Gus stops Tyrus and says the cash stays in the bags, knowing the cops will grab it all. That’s an estimated half a million dollars that Gus is willing to lose in order to keep Nacho’s cover, and that shows me that Gus is more invested in the personal battle with the Salamancas than he is with a big payday. Keeping the cash in there keeps Gus in a position of power and is the correct long-term solution; he knows that Lalo doesn’t know that he knows what’s going on. We often think of Gus as a calculated business-first criminal, but this is a solid reminder that Gus’ beef with the Salamancas takes priority and is as fierce as anything that ever happened in Breaking Bad.
Rhea Seehorn, Better Call Saul
Meanwhile, Kim is also feeling the pressure from her ruthless boss. Mesa Verde comes down on her to put her pro bono work aside and help them kick out Mr. Acker (Barry Corbin), an old man whose refusal to leave his home is holding up breaking ground on a massive new call center. It’s more evidence that Kim is rethinking her place in the legal system; Mesa Verde pays the bills (and then some) but is soulless, empty work, and her public defense work feels good and fulfills her. But there are still some questions about Kim. After chewing out the stubborn holdout for not playing by the rules of the law, she returns later, apologetic, and offers to help him find a new home on her own time and dime. He doesn’t buy it and shuts the door on her face, but it begs the question of whether or not Kim was being sincere in her offer. Which was the real Kim? The one who tongue-lashed the old man for not taking the deal or the one who nearly brought me to tears because she so badly wanted to do the right thing and offer help?
The only for-sure authentic glimpses of Kim we get are in her returns home to Jimmy, drinking beer on the balcony after long days of lawyerin’. Early in the episode, she’s overly conscious of a beer bottle Jimmy leaves perilously standing on the railing, a clear nod to her disapproval of Jimmy’s recklessness. But by the end — after her encounters with Mr. Acker and dealing with Mesa Verde — she’s gleefully hurling beer bottles into the parking lot to explode into shards (Jimmy joins in). Is the duality of her actions (helping those who need it in the courthouse, helping a megacorp ruin a man’s life) breaking Kim, or is she seeing the light and letting go of her stress because she knows she’s about to drop Mesa Verde? Better Call Saul is all about the transformation of Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman, but Kim’s going through a transformation of her own, and it’s currently the most interesting thing on TV.
Kim’s professional pressures, Jimmy’s new business and involvement with Lalo, Kim and Jimmy’s fracturing relationship, Lalo and Gus’ almost silent (but getting louder) war, Nacho’s life in the hands of Gus… it’s all coming together remarkably for Better Call Saul in what’s shaping up to be the best season of the show yet.
Better Call Saul airs Monday nights at 9/8c on AMC.