There is no more effective way to destroy any feeling of security while watching a show than to have someone invade a “safe space.”
The final scene of Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 9 was excellent in all regards and a perfect example of this show’s slow-burn style.
Jimmy and Kim’s apartment hasn’t been a completely drama-free place, but it has been a place that Jimmy and Kim are in control. The drama that has occurred there has come from within their relationship and was never of the dangerous type.
In the last few seasons, it is also the only place where Jimmy is just Jimmy and not Saul.
Lalo’s invasion changed that.
Not only did this invasion into their safe space create incredible tension for the narrative, but thematically it represented the full collision of Jimmy/Saul’s two worlds.
Saul’s life has invaded Jimmy’s and made the two lives inseparable.
That also means that Kim’s life and safety have been compromised.
Kim’s fate has never been more prevalent. Her ability to get out of Saul’s life by choice is diminishing, just like Nacho’s.
She’s in too deep now, even if she hasn’t actually committed any heinous crimes or acts.
That is unfortunate for Kim, to say the least, but good news for Saul, as it becomes more and more evident that Saul needs Kim to survive.
Kim’s defense of Saul wasn’t entirely convincing to Lalo, but it was plausible, and that’s enough to give them time to make a next move.
Saul had nothing but his story. Kim provided him backup and, essentially, a character witness to put some doubt in Lalo’s mind.
Without that, the end of Saul’s road may have been here.
The acting, tension, editing, writing, were all excellent in that last scene. Lalo ignoring Jimmy’s request not to tap the fish tank was the perfect way to show who held power and make us dislike Lalo.
What have I gotten myself involved with here?Saul
Tony Dalton has done a great job playing Lalo. He incites every line reading with energy. Lalo’s excitement for what’s happening around him tied with his cool energy makes him fun to watch.
Characters which are fun to watch often become likable, even if they aren't doing good things, so it was integral to reestablish Lalo’s villainy and menace in this scene and the fish did the job.
It was also convenient that the fish’s existence was reestablished in the opening scene to help set this up.
All of these aspects created one of the tensest scenes in the show’s history. It’s a perfect example of the show’s slow-burn style, as the lead up to this moment, has been slow and deliberate.
And yet nothing happened.
I don’t mean that in a literal sense nor a story sense. The implications of this encounter, as discussed above, are sprawling regarding the themes of the story, the fates of the characters, and the future of the plot.
But Lalo doesn’t actually do anything. He shows up, intimidates, and leaves.
We took a long road to this moment, and yet the tension still hasn’t been released. The downfall is yet to occur.
That dread is still in the air and it’s thicker than ever.
Within the scene itself, though, tension was released when Lalo finally left. That gives viewers a sense of release, so the ebb and flow of good storytelling with the proper build and release of tension is still intact.
A moment to breathe before we realize that it isn't over and we still don’t know what happens to Kim. Excellent.
More than just the final scene happened in this episode, though.
The opening scene was what I wanted a bit of last week before Kim went to see Lalo. I felt we needed to see her desperation before that visit, so we had a better sense of the mindset she was in.
The opening minutes of “Bad Choice Road” provided that and it did wonders for the catharsis of their reunion and the reasoning behind the visit.
The split-screen was effective as it provided a natural visual aid to compare the circumstances. I think more shows should utilize this effect to show concurrent events.
The way Kim casually used water in the opening scene also highlighted Mike and Saul’s struggles in the desert (as well as reestablished that fish as I mentioned before).
I also want to point out how money is the number one motivator of so many people “in the game” and yet it was nothing but a burden to Mike and Saul when struggling for survival.
All the money in the world cannot save you when you’re stranded in the desert.
Of course, it can help you buy new clothes at the first gas station you see. Mike in a t-shirt and shorts.
It was like running into a coworker outside of work and seeing them in casual wear. It was so disorienting seeing Mike that way.
I loved it.
That’s character humor on a purely visual level and is a joke that can be provided only by the visual mediums, which I always appreciate.
Jimmy and Kim’s relationship was explored deeply once again as Kim, for once, didn’t mind Jimmy lying to her about what happened in the desert.
That may be a show on her part, but I think part of why she didn’t mind the lying was because Jimmy is clearly traumatized by the incident, which proves her commitment and empathy to him.
Mike and Gus’ relationship was also explored a bit in “Bad Choice Road” (yay) and established a firm dynamic between the two.
Gus is clearly the boss.
Yes, I believe the coming weeks will be our best yet.Gus
Gus has been shown to respect Mike’s opinion in the past, even going so far as to listen to him at the end of Better Call Saul Season 4 when Mike proposed a different way to handle Werner.
Here, though, may be the first time we see Gus outright and thoroughly dismiss Mike in a way that makes Mike’s place in Gus’ life abundantly clear.
Mike isn’t a friend or a consultant to Gus, and while Gus is open to all strategies (as a smart businessman would be) he doesn’t let anyone else have a say in his operation.
This kind of dynamic exploration is what I hope to see even more of in the final season.
Gus won't let poor Nacho go, though. He just wants out. You can see the disappointment in his eyes when Lalo decides he isn’t leaving.
Lalo’s personality is thorough, and he’s loyal to his family, as evidenced by his words to Hector. Nacho is in huge trouble if Lalo ever gets word of Nacho’s informant status, which is tension created through personality.
Family is everything.Lalo
That personality spells trouble for Jimmy and Kim as well. Almost every character on this show is in their “active” state right now, which is where you want your characters to be.
They are driving the stories forward, and their decisions determine the direction the plot goes. Nothing is just “happening” to them.
Even when something does just happen, like the unpredictable shootout Saul experienced in the desert, Saul and Mike took active steps to march forward.
That experience brought them closer together, just as expected. Mike is the only person Saul feels comfortable talking to about their journey.
Eventually, it seems that Saul’s relationship with Mike will become more prominent in his life than his relationship with Kim, and Saul’s lack of communication with her will no doubt play a part.
However, I think part of that lack of communication comes from a fear that Kim will judge him. Judgment is Jimmy’s worst fear; it’s a huge part of what is driving him forward.
When Kim told Jimmy she won’t judge him for what happened in the desert, he laughed.
He doesn’t seem to have this fear with Mike. He isn’t close enough to Mike on a personal level to really care what Mike thinks of him, but Mike also doesn’t represent anything from Saul’s life (unlike Howard does).
That makes Mike a perfect partner for Saul (perfect in regards to his perception, not in reality).
Saul’s perception is putting his relationship with Kim at risk. Saul made it very clear that in his eyes, money equals success.
He berates Kim for quitting her lucrative job because she will be making “no money” now.
Kim doesn’t care about that. She never really has. We saw that on Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 2, “50% Off,” when they looked at the house.
Saul’s mindset is warped, though, and the idea that his brash decision to change his name to Saul Goodman is justified by leaving failure to achieve success shows just how deep his insecurity runs.
After all this...was it worth it?Kim
What an episode. Characters developed, relationships progressed, editing and score were top-notch, (particularly the editing during Kim's juicing and the score during Lalo's interrogation), and tension was expertly created and dissolved.
Better Call Saul is firing on all cylinders right now. Let me know if you agree in the comments below!
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Tommy Czerpak is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.