For all the nefarious manoeuvring going on in Better Call Saul, it’s a testament to how beautifully realised these characters are that we care about nothing more than Kim and Jimmy. Last week, I alluded to the similarities between Jimmy and Walter White’s journeys. It’s not that Jimmy is any way the megalomaniac that Walt quickly became, but they both began with good intentions and axes to grind. That’s a dangerous combination. The crucial difference is that Walter would go to any length to prove himself better and smarter than everyone else. Jimmy just seems determined to be Jimmy. The commonality is that both pay little heed to the effect their actions have on the people who care about them.
Another line that runs through Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul is Vince Gilligan’s love of a musical montage. I’m usually wary of these elsewhere, but Gilligan and his team of writers and directors are dab hands at elevating the humble montage from a narrative shortcut to an art form. This week fast forwards through eight months of Jimmy and Kim’s deterioration in a matter of moments, beautifully told via a split screen device that carries on even when they’re together. It’s so effective that it might be the most heartbreaking thing Better Call Saul has pulled off yet. When we’re in the midst of a relationship, we rarely see how the fabric of it is fraying, bit by bit, until there’s nothing left. Fast-forwarded, it all seems so much more brutal and inevitable as Jimmy and Kim quickly fall further and further out of sync until it feels like there’s an enormous gulf between them.
It’s at this low point that Kim brings Jimmy to a party at Schweikart & Cokely, the kind of cocktails and chatter event where he should be in his element. Instead, he can’t help but ruffle feathers, spreading dissent with his attempts to bump the staff outing up to a private chartered jet to Aspen. This is Jimmy acting purely out of self-interest, consequences for Kim bedamned. When Jimmy later comes to her to help Huell avoid jail time for beating up a cop who was leaning on Jimmy, it’s telling that Kim was totally unaware of Jimmy’s burner business but still isn’t really surprised enough to make a big deal of it. Still, when the prosecutor trashes Jimmy, you can see that Kim still cares enough to potentially do something silly. It’s hard to imagine this ending well for her and that’s the tragedy here. Jimmy was never the right person for Kim, no matter how much they love each other, but the rest of her life seems on the verge of collapse too and that’s just not fair.
Mike’s having to contend with relationship issues of a different kind this week, as the construction project is running behind and the Germans are on the verge of throttling each other. There’s another neat montage employed to show the steps needed to keep the workers disorientated en route to the site and back again. We can be thankful that Gilligan decided to fast forward eight months and not subject us to the entire eight months of drunken Germanic bickering. Gus’s attention, however, is elsewhere. In the months that have passed, Hector has woken up and – surprise, surprise – can only communicate by moving a single finger. It’s a little piece of brilliance how the four seasons of Better Call Saul have cast Breaking Bad in such a different light, particularly the relationship between Gus and Hector. We knew Gus was a monster, we now know Hector was too, but it’s become pretty clear which one was the most merciless.