THE FOLLOWING RECAP CONTAINS EXTENSIVE SPOILERS OF THE ABOVE EPISODE.
“Gotta make it look real”, sneers Tyrus as Nacho lies prone and in agony in the New Mexico desert.
The pain portrayed in ‘Something Beautiful’ comes both in the form of Nacho’s horrendous ordeal (although it hands-down beats the fate of Arturo) and the searing sorrow etched on Kim’s face in the episode’s closing moments. But the latter is portrayed with even more realism than the former. Chuck’s parting words from beyond the grave were not as revelatory as expected, nor as venomous or damning. In fact, they were wholly mundane and altogether unconvincingly predictable. Jimmy cares not – Chuck may as well have attached a manual on how to become immortal, and Jimmy would still be munching on cereal and slurping coffee every paragraph break.
But it’s Kim on the other side of the frame that the eye is drawn to, and for the second week running Rhea Seehorn is front and centre of the episode, last week directing her vitriol at Howard (tellingly absent this week – perhaps he is gone for good) and this week finding nowhere to channel her anguish but to break down in front of Jimmy at home. Is her emotion amplified on account of his lack thereof? There have been sharp contrasts in their post-Chuck personalities and coping methods, but none so explicit as this. The sobbing Kim puts a door between her and the remaining McGill brother, but what will ultimately separate them for good?
Kim’s place in this episode was already firm after an odd scene in which Kevin shows her Mesa Verde’s planned and aggressive international expansion. It couldn’t just have been me that sat up at the mention of Nebraska, but it seemed incidental – North Platte is 300 miles from Gene Kativic’s native Omaha. What is eating Kim here? Her distance from her usually tenacious approach to business appears far greater than it is from ABQ to any of the firm’s proposed locations.
Meanwhile Jimmy’s pursuit of an $8,000 Bavarian Boy has led to him ploughing the depths of his shady roster and recruiting Ira (Franc Ross), the first and lesser of two Breaking Bad cameos in ‘Something Beautiful’. Andrew Friedman is again excellent as the increasingly hapless Mr. Neff, the sort of man who buys his wife vacuum cleaners as birthday gifts and is banished to sleep in his office as punishment. As Jimmy has already established, he also seems unlikely to notice that one Hummel figurine has been replaced by another, and in any case a split sum of less than Chuck’s measly inheritance can surely not be what drives this particular narrative line. Regardless, anything that Mike gets a bad vibe from is probably bad news, and in one way or another this petty scheme will almost certainly come back to haunt Jimmy before long. Maybe even before Mrs. Neff lets her husband come home.
And so to the main BB guest spot in this ep – none other than the camp, terrier-like David Costabile as Gale Boetticher. Poor Gale. He loves chemistry so much that he raps out loud to Tom Lehrer’s ‘The Elements’ in between teaching high school classes, and he is rather good at it (the chemistry, not the rapping). Not quite as good as Walter White however, and in case we needed reminding, the purity of Gus’s meth samples is around 40% below what that particular anti-hero was/will be capable of. I hardly think Gale will feature much, if at all, for the remainder of the season. Gus is straining with every sinew not to submit to Gale’s hearty plea to let him cook up a kilo on school property, but as Gus says, he was “meant for better things”. Oh, Gale. His appearance is notable in that it is yet another indicator of two worlds set to collide, very soon. And in that Mr. Fring’s connections and influence are becoming ever more apparent and important, his power felt from classrooms to veterinary practices.
Just like Dr. Caldera’s, and the character played be Joe DeRosa shows real nerve to fix up Nacho in front of the twins, who almost show a sympathetic side – the sympathetic side of menace, that is. We knew Nacho would survive, at least for now, but he still gets shot – twice. The episode’s opening scene was the pick of a stellar bunch partly through nostalgia. It recalled some iconic scenes from out in the desert wilderness, not least the parent show’s pilot and season 5’s climactic episodes. The realisation of what is going on, as Tyrus and Victor thoroughly, expertly do their work is oozing with vintage Breaking Bad slickness and sun-kissed panache. And you feel everything Nacho does, from his colourless, cracked lips to the bullets in his lean torso.
But it doesn’t hurt quite as much as seeing Kim spiralling into something even darker. The best episode of the season yet.
Better Call Saul season 4, episode 3 is available on Netflix now