Stay on target
With last night’s brief introduction of Gus Fring to Better Call Saul, these characters are now on a clear path to where they were when we first met them on Breaking Bad. Mike’s surveillance activities are now known to Gus, and things are about to go real bad for Jimmy. Could this be the event that leads him to becoming Saul? Let’s back up for a second and talk about what actually happened.
Rather than making us wait an entire season to find out what Chuck was planning to do with his tape, the show gave us our answer last night. That was a good decision. We already know things are going to get much worse from here for these characters. Trying to wring tension out of a tape recording would have fallen flat. At the beginning of the episode, we see that Chuck has hired private security to sit up all night and watch the windows. Why? We don’t find out until the end of the episode, but it’s pretty devious.
At the law offices of Wexler and McGill, we see a favorite character from Breaking Bad make their Saul debut. No, it’s not Gus Fring just yet. It’s Francesca, Saul’s future police-impersonating, document-shredding secretary. For now, she’s interviewing for a job as an assistant to both Jimmy and Kim. Jimmy wants to hire her as soon then and there, but Kim is still nervous about making a costly mistake. She wants to interview more people, but Jimmy, tired of living without an assistant, insists she start that day. So far, she seems pretty good. Jimmy is training her to be folksy with his elderly Cracker Barrel-loving clientele when she gets a call from Mike Ehrmentraut. He really doesn’t want to talk about Cracker Barrel.
Tina Parker (Photo by Michele K. Short/Sony Pictures Television/AMC)
What has Mike been up to since we left him last episode? He’s been following the guys who took his gas cap. He watches them hand off the cap to a man in a green Chevy Blazer and follows that car around for the rest of the night. He watches the man pick up a series of drops from various empty buildings and boxes hidden along the highway. You know, the job he will do in Breaking Bad. Mike tracks the man to a building where he leaves everything he’s collected, including the gas cap. As Mike drives away confused, the camera pulls back, and the music slowly builds excitement. We all knew this was coming, but the scene takes its time before showing it. Finally, there it is. The sign: Los Pollos Hermanos.
So that’s why he called Jimmy. Mike buys a new car that won’t be recognized so easily, and asks Jimmy to do some spying for him. He gives Jimmy a description of the man he’s been tailing, and tells Jimmy to watch everything he does. It’s great to see Mike and Jimmy working together again. The two actors play off each other really well, and we haven’t really seen them do something like this since season one. Unfortunately, Jimmy is the worst spy imaginable. He’s nervous, and super obvious about watching this guy. The man simply eats and leaves. The entire time, there’s a figure cleaning tables that goes unnoticed by Jimmy. When Jimmy digs through the trash, thinking the man might have stuffed something in there, he’s interrupted by someone.
Giancarlo Esposito and Bob Odenkirk. (Photo by Michele K. Short/Sony Pictures Television/AMC)
Here is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. The return of Gus Fring. Jimmy pretends he’s lost his watch in the garbage, and Gus helpfully finds it for him. He is the epitome of good customer service, but we all know he suspects something. Jimmy returns to Mike and tells him that he didn’t see anything. He doesn’t even think to mention the manager he just met. As Mike sends Jimmy away, we see Gus taking out the garbage. He doesn’t look happy. Yeah, he knows exactly what Jimmy was up to.
Mike keeps watch on the restaurant until he sees a car leave, along with the gas cap. He follows it out into the middle of nowhere, ending up on a long, flat stretch of road. There’s the gas cap, in the middle of the road with no one else around. On top of it is a cell phone. Mike answers. And that’s all we get for his story this week. Man, no showrunner leaves us hanging quite like Gilligan does.
Back in Jimmy’s world, despite having an awesome new assistant, things are going badly for him. Ernesto meets with Kim, and informs her of the existence of Chuck’s tape. She takes $20 from Jimmy to be his lawyer and promises that they’ll find a way to fight this. Jimmy buries his feelings and spends the rest of the day dealing with his clients as normal. Kim concludes that since there’s not much she can see Chuck doing with the tape, their only option is to wait and see what he does. Jimmy insists he’s fine with that, but it quickly becomes clear he is not. When pulling painter’s tape off the wall reminds him too much of helping Chuck, he breaks down.
Michael McKean, Bob Odenkirk. (Photo by Michele K. Short/Sony Pictures Television/AMC)
Meanwhile, back at Chuck’s, we learn the reason he’s hired a man to stay with him at night. Howard, who had to park a few blocks away and sneak in through the back, reveals that the man is a private investigator. Chuck knew the news of the tape would get back to Jimmy, and wants to catch Jimmy in the act of stealing it. Wouldn’t you know it, Jimmy chooses this time to break down Chuck’s door. With Howard and the P.I. in the other room, Jimmy screams at Chuck for recording him. He breaks into Chuck’s desk, finds the tape and destroys it, asking if it was worth destroying their family. This is exactly what Chuck wanted. Both Howard and the P.I. step into the room, saying they were witnesses to what just happened.
Things really aren’t looking too good for Jimmy. One thing that’s become clear in the last couple seasons is that Chuck, for all his moral grandstanding, isn’t really any more honest than his brother. The entire show, he’s proven to be more duplicitous and sleazy than Slipping Jimmy. He just does a better job of hiding it. For this episode, we’re seeing a lot of Breaking Bad pieces falling into place. Jimmy and Francesca have met, and so have Mike and Gus. And now, with Jimmy’s outburst, the stage is seemingly being set for his inevitable abandonment of his birth name. The really cool thing about last night’s episode? It would have been easy to make Gus’s appearance feel unnecessary and fan-servicey. It didn’t. This show has perfected the art of the slow build. Even things you see coming a mile away have the same impact as if they were complete surprises. Now that things are spiraling out of control for Jimmy, and even a little bit for Mike, I can’t wait to see how they handle whatever’s coming next.