4 out of 5 stars

This final season didn’t open with a flashforward to post-Breaking Bad events with Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk)—living under the alias of Gene Takavic, at a Cinnabon in Omaha, Nebraska—trying to keep a low profile. But after last week’s “Fun and Games”, which in many ways concluded the emotional journey of Jimmy in regards to his relationship with Kim Wexler, we’re now given our first full episode in Gene’s company.

“Nippy” will divide opinions because it doesn’t seem vital to the main Better Call Saul narrative, as it essentially stands apart as a fun diversion to explain how Jimmy avoids getting turned into the cops by cab driver Jeff (Pat Healy), who recognised him as the infamous Saul Goodman in the last flashback we had—if you can remember that far back. But if you’re the kind of person who loves to drink in the slow-burn hijinks Jimmy often gets up to, with his tricks and cons, there was a great deal to savour in this tale.

The story was a chance for Jimmy to brush aside his Gene persona, for a short while, to embrace the trickster he really is and use his skills to ensure Jeff’s silence. It began with him befriending Jeff’s elderly mother, Marion (Carol Burnett), after helping her with an electric wheelchair he’d sabotaged, and then offering Jeff a chance to become part of “the game” he was once a part of. As Jeff hasn’t yet gone to the cops, Jimmy correctly assumes this humble cabbie is slightly starstruck by him and dreams of enjoying the riches ‘Saul Goodman’ once had—even if they were ill-gotten gains tied to drug cartels and the criminal underworld. It’s perhaps easy to forget that, in the Breaking Bad universe, Walter White, Jesse Pinkman, and Saul Goodman have perhaps attained legendary status. They’re maybe even folk heroes to some.

Written by Alison Tatlock, “Nippy” took us through Jimmy’s plan to scam the local mall he works at. He befriends the security guards who keep an eye on the CCTV at night, and cosies up to the rotund Frank (Jim O’Heir) in particular with offerings of free Cinnabon rolls while feigning interest in football. But all the while he’s really just timing how long it takes Frank to devour the sweet treat, as his back’s turned to the surveillance monitors, while training Jeff to dash through the mall stealing luxury items (using a recreation of the shop floor he marked out the dimensions of in a field with ropes).

The con was pretty simple in design and execution, but one of the joys with Better Call Saul is the way it tells its stories. It was engrossing to watch things slowly unfold, putting pieces together as they appeared without knowing Jimmy’s entire plan until later. I particularly enjoyed the Trojan’s Horse-style idea of having a fake delivery man mess up with an unwanted wooden crate of equipment the store manager Kathy (Kelsey Scott) didn’t order, but allowed to remain on the premises overnight—not realising it contained Jeff and is the perfect place to hide his swag and vanish the following day.

This was an entertaining episode, although a little inconsequential considering we’re mere hours away from the series finale. It was nevertheless fun to see sad-sack Gene get his mojo back by letting some of the magic out of the bottle with the kind of scheme he used to come up with as Slippin’ Jimmy in another life. And the reveal towards the end that he only really did it to incriminate Jeff in a felony that would mean decades of jail time if they got caught, was a nice touch. I’m sure Jimmy savoured the chance to be himself again, but the con was ultimately to maintain his cover and get leverage on Jeff so he can’t go squealing to the cops for a reward.

There are things one had to swallow about the scam, however. A lot of it would fall apart in reality, or there would be too many variables to consider. I wondered why Frank is always dumb enough to turn his back to the monitors when eating, or why he takes roughly the same amount of time to eat one Cinnabon roll. Doesn’t he ever want to savour it a little? Does he never get distracted by his conversation with Gene? Might he be sick one evening and throw the whole plan awry? Still, the story did at least recognise you can’t plan for everything after Jeff slipped on a freshly-polished part of the floor (brilliantly foreshadowed), and was knocked out for an extra few minutes. The tension was palpable as Jimmy had to play for time to stop Frank turning back to the monitors, by pretending he’s in the midst of a depressive episode.

Maybe we’ll return to the world of Gene Takavic before the season’s over (it seems unthinkable we won’t), so it’ll be interesting to see how things catch up to him. Did Jimmy’s scam have a flaw that’ll see Jeff get caught and he’ll get to reduce his sentence by informing the cops where fugitive Saul Goodman works? Is his now ex-wife Kim going to enter the picture, knowing she grew up in Nebraska? “Nippy” may have been a little indulgence before the show disappears into history, but it was nevertheless one to savour.

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