THE FOLLOWING RECAP CONTAINS EXTENSIVE SPOILERS OF THE BETTER CALL SAUL SEASON 4 FINALE!
There it is.
“S’all good, man!” As glorious as that pay off was – we’ve waited long enough alright – there is no doubting the significance of the Abba track in this finale. When Chuck takes the mic from Jimmy in that touching, insightful opening flashback, “The Winner Takes It All” refers to the elder brother, destined to eclipse Jimmy in ways ranging from karaoke to law. A drunk Jimmy suggests there be another ‘M’ added to H.H.M.; Chuck slyly dismisses the suggestion, knowing that he would sooner be found dead than to partner with Jimmy (not that he could then know the significance of that particular hyperbole).
The sight of the brothers lying next to one another, reprising their evening’s performance, is certainly the most poignant image of Jimmy and Chuck yet seen and does make the episode’s climactic developments somewhat cloudier – until the very end.
At which point the “winner” becomes Jimmy and the loser – who “has to fall”, as the song goes – becomes Kim. Rhea Seehorn has the best poker face showrunner Peter Gould has ever seen, but her expression as Jimmy reveals he won’t be practising under the name McGill doesn’t need to change. She is aghast; moved to tears by Jimmy’s apparently heartfelt outpouring that he substituted for Chuck’s letter, maybe she doesn’t know Jimmy like we know Jimmy.
The twist wasn’t super unpredictable, but Kim’s face tells you an awful lot about season 5. We thought they might separate this season, but after a drifting and court-duping reconciliation, the love seemed stronger than ever. One feels that Kim will forgive Jimmy once again – she has gone to greater lengths for him before – but has seen enough to know, in her mind, just how cold Jimmy can be (although she seemed fine with the put-on performance at Chuck’s gigantic headstone). After the opening flashback, we get a sense of that too and feel real sympathy for Kim. She is a well-loved, well-written and well-played character, and whatever her BCS fate her presence will continue to balance Jimmy’s – or Saul’s – antiheroic exploits.
Where there is no need for Jimmy to fake anything, however, is in his non-starting car in H.H.M.’s parking lot. Those tears are real, after his failure to land Christy Esposito (Abby Quinn) a scholarship over school newspaper editors and debating team captains, and the subsequent one-way conversation with her as she is about to board a bus. That is the true face of Jimmy, a man who cannot stomach the privileged corporate types sat beside him in the boardroom, cannot stomach Howard’s perfect hair and tailored suits, and could not stomach Chuck’s place in all that and the way he always seemed to be above Jimmy.
Therein lies maybe the most crucial part of Saul Goodman’s making: Chuck McGill’s participation in a world alien to everything Slippin’ Jimmy knows. His passion for doing things his way, or whatever way necessary, has never been so emphatic as he raves at a bemused, alarmed Christy. I wish her well, but I can’t imagine Jimmy’s pep-talk landed her a 50th-floor office, or for that matter a career in law, come Breaking Bad days.
We know where Gale Boetticher’s office is destined for, and it’s the most expensive hole in the ground this side of the Mississippi. The biggest price though is paid by Werner Ziegler. We knew deep down it was coming, and as this finale unfolded, it became clearer and clearer that it would be Mike to do the deed – a rather merciful end, next to whatever hell Gus’s men would unleash.
A bit like Kim’s blind ignorance to the extent of Jimmy’s wiliness, us Breaking Bad graduates (or anyone who watched ‘Breathe’) know Gus Fring better than Werner does, so the German’s decisions aren’t quite as thick-skulled as they appear. That said, his is a tragic case blinded by love and longing, unable to see the significance of his actions for the numbing experience of living in a warehouse for months. At least he made a friend. But that friend just put a bullet in his head. The unmoved Mike – but for a near-imperceptible swallow as Werner walked into the darkness – was chilling. After sharing beer and camaraderie, more emotion was expected on the part of the executioner. Mike just knows Gus even better than we do, and, just like the chewing gum in the parking barrier, he has weighed up everything in advance, knowing what must be done in order to avoid a similar fate himself.
Even though we never met Mrs Ziegler, the emotional punch of the way Werner was forced to say goodbye, or not say goodbye, was the most affecting moment of the whole season.
More than one person has pointed out the Learn’d Astronomer/Gale connection as Werner looks at the stars. At least he met a favourable end to that of the man now tasked with completing his lab project.
There was one other interesting aspect to the finale, and that is Lalo. Would Werner be dead were it not for Eduardo’s meddling? Perhaps, but perhaps not. Gus might put icy Mike on the case, but I doubt it. This is a Salamanca, and I rather think that Lalo is destined for a season 5 showdown with Gus, who, you imagine, knows or guesses everything Lalo did this episode, from spying on the Los Pollos trucks to knocking the innocent TravelWire guy unconscious. There will be no risks taken with the plans divulged by the unwitting Werner, no matter how insignificant.
Noticeably absent was Nacho, who sadly faded out of season 4 after starting off centre-stage. I wonder if another season 5 plot-line will see him attempt to skip town with his father – a move that Werner would wholeheartedly warn against.
It was a coolly executed finale, not a particularly surprising one, but when the paths of Jimmy, Kim, Mike, Nacho, Gus and everyone else cross in season 5, you can be sure it will be spectacular. I can’t wait to see what’s in store.
What a season – it’s been a pleasure to watch and write about, and thank you to anyone who has been reading.
Brig’s Big Binge will return soon!