‘Smoke’ – Better Call Saul season 4 episode 1 review

Jimmy deals with the fallout from the events of last season, while Nacho takes over Hector’s territory


It’s funny thinking back to four years ago, when Better Call Saul was still an unknown quantity. Breaking Bad never really set its stress levels that far below ‘massively’ and Bob Odenkirk’s Saul had served brilliantly as a respite to the tension, a fast-talking shark in a suit who got most of the best lines. To assume that his spin-off would be a lighter far, the adventures of a slippery lawyer and his colourful clientele, like some strip-mall version of Matlock, was the natural conclusion. Except that it wasn’t. After all Vince Gilligan doesn’t really do light hearted, otherwise his tale of a chemistry teacher turned drug dealer would have been a ‘let’s be badass bad guys’ adventure instead of a twisted journey to the depths of one man’s dark, dark heart.

Jimmy/Saul/Gene recovers after collapsing at Cinnabon, which is officially the worst place you could die

So it follows that Better Call Saul would be more concerned with how someone becomes Saul Goodman (oh how long it took me to get that pun) than his morally flexible adventures once he’s reached that low point. And that kind of story was never going to be a happy one. Over the three seasons so far, we’ve seen James ‘Slipping Jimmy’ McGill chip away at his soul time and time again in order to cover his tracks and stay ahead of those naïve enough to play by the rules. We’ve seen him destroy his brother, lie to the woman who loves him and nuke anything good that ever came his way. And then, finally, his lies inadvertently kill his brother. Season three ended with flames licking at the curtains of Charles McGill’s house and that’s where we pick up again, Jimmy receiving the awful news that the brother who disowned him is dead.

Kim stands by Jimmy as always, but for how long?

Well, that’s not exactly where we pick up. One of Vince Gilligan’s most effective ploys is the flash-forward, a hint at something to come a little further down the line, most famously the bear in the pool in Breaking Bad’s second season. He’s employed this throughout Better Call Saul, with glimpses of a washed-up post-Breaking Bad Jimmy as Gene, the Cinnabon employee, who begins season four on the ground, frosting on his cheek after a suspected heart attack. His panic at being potentially exposed by the hospital employee is understandable but what we don’t know is which identity is he more afraid of: Jimmy or Saul.

Hey everyone, Mike’s back!

“Gene” isn’t the only one with medical problems. Hector Salamanca also finished last season on the ground, after Nacho swapped out his pills. He’s carted off to hospital and Juan Bolsa makes it very clear to Nacho that the Salamanca interests are to continue as per usual. Although, behind closed doors, Gus – who doesn’t mean a thing – suggests that with Hector in hospital, someone is bound to move on the Salamanca territories and that will bring a war and DEA attention. Hence why Gus is having Nacho followed.

An emotionally numb Jimmy at Chuck’s funeral

Chuck’s funeral isn’t really an outpouring of emotion, that comes later, when a fraught Howard comes to Jimmy to tell him that he feels he’s responsible for Chuck’s death after forcing him out of the company. Jimmy discovers that it was his visit to the insurance company that forced Howard’s hand and offers no consolation. He just buries whatever guilt he feels and goes to feed his fish, like everything is a-ok. It’s getting hard to watch Jimmy get buried under the weight of his mistakes and the signs are all there that this season has a few more to heap on top.

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