4 out of 5 stars

One trend in modern television (that True Blood started and Game of Thrones popularised) is having finales that aren’t especially climactic, but mostly deal with the fallout of the preceding episode and set the stage for what’s to come. Better Call Saul’s “Something Unforgivable” was an example of that, although it did deliver a big action set-piece that was a more traditional way to end season 5 with a bang. Or multiple bangs. But even that moment was mostly interesting for what it sets up for the final season…

Saul (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim (Rhea Seehorn) spent the finale in a numbed and reactive state of mind, grappling with their frightening late-night visit from Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton) in “Bad Choice Road” and trying to work out their next move. Understandably scared, they head for a nearby hotel to hide low for a while, after Saul finally reveals what happened to him in the desert with Lalo’s bail money. The scene’s set for Kim to leave Saul given the extreme danger he’s put them both in, and Saul’s clearly prepared to let their new marriage end if it means keeping his wife safe, but the end result of their time together was unexpected and even seemed to blow Saul’s mind.

Kim isn’t one to sit around being scared and feeling powerless, so she threw herself back into her work as a public defender, accepting numerous difficult felony cases as pro bono. While at the courthouse she bumps into Howard (Patrick Fabian), letting slip she’s parted ways with Schweikart and Cokely, which makes her old boss assume it’s a result of Saul’s influence. So he feels obliged to reveal all of Saul’s stupid “pranks” he’s been a victim of recently. But while the matter of expensive car damage and public humiliation with prostitutes is beyond the pale for a straight-arrow guy like Howard, it sounds like childish games for Kim now she’s had a taste of real danger with Lalo Salamanca, so she can’t help laughing in his face.

In general, Kim’s outlook crystallises over this hour. We’ve always assumed she would be the sensible one trying in vain to pull Saul away from wrongdoing, and perhaps pay the ultimate price for her attempts to keep him on the straight-and-narrow, but her encounter with Howard instead inspires a desire to wreck his life too. Under the bedsheets that night, Kim and Saul fantasize about how they could sabotage Howard’s legal career and force a resolution of HHM’s big Sandpiper case, meaning Saul would get his seven-figure share of the settlement sooner. Saul takes their discussion with a grain of salt because he knows Howard doesn’t deserve to have his career left in tatters — but is surprised and alarmed when Kim’s still keen to go through with their plan the next morning. She even throws ‘finger guns’ at him, as he did her in season 4’s finale, symbolising how she’s joining him on his reckless path. So rather than Kim being the voice of reason desperately trying to stop Slippin’ Jimmy McGill transform into Saul Goodman, it now looks like she’s been persuaded the “rogue lawyer” ways of her husband are something she enjoys too — perhaps more than he does!

Perhaps a little disappointing, this was the sum total of Kim and Saul’s impact on the finale. It was just setting up a big change in their dynamic as a couple and teasing what they’ll get up to in season 6, although I’ve always felt uncomfortable about how much of a punching bag Howard has become on the show… so getting more of that seems a little excessive to me. But it’s certainly surprising to see Kim’s reaction to recent events go in this direction.

The more entertaining aspect of “Something Unforgivable” was found in the half of the story focused on Lalo and Nacho (Michael Mando) as they cross over into Mexico and go to stay at Lalo’s fortified hacienda in Chihuahua. Mike (Jonathan Banks) reports back to Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) about Lalo’s hideout, and wheels are set in motion for a team of armed assassins to eliminate Lalo while he sleeps that night — information Mike reluctantly passes on to Saul when he comes calling, looking for assurances Kim’s going to be safe in the future. 

A lot of the finale took place in Lalo’s large home, filled with his family and friends, who treat Nacho hospitably before he goes to meet Don Eladio (Steven Bauer) at his luxury ranch the next morning. Nacho’s being elevated in status on Lalo’s word for his good work in Alburquerque, and Nacho manages to impress Don Eladio with his bold plans for expansion in “the north” while Lalo stays behind in Mexico and the other Salamanca’s aren’t able to keep the business afloat. In other times, this would be everything Nacho’s been working towards his whole adult life, but now he’s just looking for a way out because his father’s life is under threat from Gus. And thanks to Mike, Nacho gets an anonymous tip-off from the hitmen to open the homestead’s locked gate at 3 a.m, letting them in so they can take Lalo out of the picture once and for all.

The big set-piece of “Something Unforgivable” was the nighttime raid on the hacienda, with Nacho’s plans running into trouble because Lalo himself is late-night drinking near to the locked gate he needs to open before 3 a.m. Better Call Saul always offers a high benchmark when it comes to wringing tension out of scenes, so seeing Nacho set a delayed diversion with a kitchen fire to force Lalo away from the gate was edge-of-your-seat stuff… even before the suspense and mounting horror of seeing Nacho escape and let the armed men swarm into the homestead.

Unfortunately for Nacho, Lalo manages to survive the surprise attack because he has home turf advantage—with an escape hatch (evoking Pablo Escobar’s secret methods of evading capture) allowed him to circle back on his attackers and take them out. It was perhaps a little unlikely these highly trained men would be so easily tricked, without having a man keeping an eye on the bigger picture from a distance, but it still made for an entertaining action sequence. 

And so we end season 5 with Lalo forcing a surviving assassin to confirm the job has been done (meaning Gus, Mike, Saul and Kim are going to think a threat has vanished that’s actually alive and itching for vengeance), and it’s clear that Lalo’s instinctually knows Nacho was involved in the incursion because he’s suddenly nowhere to be seen. My prediction that Nacho won’t survive season 5 will have to be delayed for yet another year, but surely he doesn’t have long to live if he’s presumably out in the middle of nowhere with an enraged Lalo on his tail? The sixth season will be the last, of course.

For a season finale, “Something Unforgivable” was entertaining and contained bursts of memorable moments and some intriguing suggestions about where the story’s headed. I would’ve liked for bigger things to happen between Saul and Kim, perhaps, but the show has a tendency to keep those characters on a slightly more subdued area of the overall story and leave the seat-gripping drama and action to the machinations between Fring and the Salamanca family. But whichever ingredient of Better Call Saul grips you most (the character study side, or the drug cartel action side), “Something Unforgivable” offered a little of both, to cap a season that finally managed to balance the Saul and Mike halves of the storytelling.

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