4 out of 5 stars

The penultimate episode of Better Call Saul made for a nice companion piece to last week’s “Breaking Bad“, again jumping around the timeline to answer some lingering questions and fill gaps in our knowledge. Vince Gilligan both wrote and directed the episode, which primarily focused on Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) in the post-Breaking Bad future denoted by black-and-white photography. And it was fascinating to realise that she’s been living the same kind of miserable alternative lifestyle as her ex-husband Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk), only without the need to keep looking over her shoulder for the FBI.

It’s 2010 and Kim’s in Titusville, Florida, although even the sunkissed state is rendered somewhat flat when leeched of all colour from the image. She’s become something of a frumpy brunette, working a tedious desk job for a business selling sprinkler systems, in-between playing housewife for her partner Glenn (Alvin Cowan) and attending barbecues where she gossips with a small group of female friends whose lives are equally as humdrum. Everything seems maddeningly normal and unexciting when compared to the cut-and-thrust of being a lawyer, or even being around the charismatic Jimmy and getting involved in various scams. Safer, but a different kind of purgatory to what Jimmy’s experiencing in Nebraska as ‘Gene’. Only she’s been living this particular lie for six years.

It was a great idea to have us see Kim’s side of the phone conversation with Jimmy from Nebraska, which we didn’t hear anything of last time. It was his first attempt to reach out to her since their divorce, let alone since he became a wanted man, so the mix of emotions on Kim’s face was telling. It was like a ghost from the past had come back to haunt her, and yet she had to exert every bit of willpower to avoid being sucked back into his world. Managing to bite her lip through most of it, once Jimmy started playing mind games by reminding her she’s just as much a fugitive from justice as he is (referring to Howard Hamlin’s murder and the cover-up), Kim blurted out the advice to turn himself into the authorities before hanging up.

However, Jimmy’s talk of Kim’s hypocrisy hit home and we saw her try to make amends with a return visit to Albuquerque with an affidavit explaining what happened between her and Jimmy and the circumstances that led to Howard being shot in the head and his faked suicide. She even went to see Howard’s widow, Cheryl (Sandrine Holt), whom she’d lied to directly in that uncomfortable scene from “Fun and Games” at HHM. As a lawyer, she knows there’s no evidence to prosecute her, although Cheryl could ruin her life in civil court anyway. But the feeling from these scenes is that Cheryl understands what it’s taken for Kim to come clean, perhaps feels sympathy with the extraordinary circumstances behind what happened, and so Kim rides the bus home and has an emotional breakdown over finally having this guilty unburdened.

“Waterworks” actually opened with a scene of Jimmy, in the Breaking Bad era, awaiting his day’s clients as Saul Goodman in his kitsch office with the Declaration of Independence wallpaper. The fact he’s seen bouncing a ball against the walls like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape (1963) infers this office is already a prison for him before he ever got into serious criminal activities thanks to Walter White. When we pick up this scene later on, when it’s revealed his first client is Kim, there to sign their divorce papers, Jimmy’s emotionless and blase about the whole thing and seemingly unaware Kim’s on the brink of tears about how things have ended. ‘Saul Goodman’ is definitely a slick and super-confident persona for Jimmy to hide behind now, although as viewers we know there’s at least a bit of Jimmy left in there… as he was effectively psyching himself up for this uncaring performance earlier on with his ball-bouncing.

The surprise cameo from Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) loitering outside the ‘Better Call Saul!’ office, engaging with Kim about Saul and his reputation as a lawyer, was a lovely touch too. I preferred it over last week’s longer cameo alongside Walter White in the famous RV, if only because it retrospectively weaved Kim into the Breaking Bad world for a moment. Aaron Paul also gave a better performance here, and it was maybe another fork in the road moment for Jesse because he may have never gone to Saul for legal help if she didn’t vouch for him (in a roundabout way he didn’t fully appreciate).

Despite the crossovers of timelines, broadly speaking the second half belonged to Jimmy McGill in the future as Gene. We continued from the cliffhanger moment of him breaking into Mr Lingk’s (Kevin Sussman) home, with Jeff (Pat Healy) parking up in his cab later for a getaway. This was mostly just an entertaining diversion with Jimmy creeping around Lingk’s home, taking photos of his IDs and passwords, before jeopardising everything by getting greedy and stealing some valuable wristwatches. Lingk awakening cranked up the tension, especially once it looked like Jimmy may end up accidentally murdering him with an urn of his dead dog’s ashes, but luckily things didn’t get that bleak. There was instead a slightly unconvincing situation outside when a police car parks up behind Jeff and he decided to crash his cab to create a distraction for Jimmy to leave. I just wasn’t sure why a diversion was really needed, as they wouldn’t have stayed parked up for too long, and couldn’t Gene just leave through a back door and vault over some garden fences to get picked up on a different street? It felt like a hamfisted way to end up with Jeff being taken to the police station, which will presumably lead into the finale.

A more compelling area of the episode happened the next morning, with Gene arranging to bail Jeff out of custody and going over to ask his mother Marion (Carol Burnett) to accompany him. Only, that laptop she was given to watch cat videos on has opened her eyes to other things, like the Better Call Saul infomercial and searching for ‘con man Albuqurque’. Again, you do have to hand-wave Marion doing all this just because Gene demonstrated some legal nouse, but it was a fun way for Jimmy’s cover to be blown by a dotty old woman. The sort of person he was always especially skilled at schmoozing. I also loved the touch of Jimmy approaching Marion with the phone cord pulled taught between his hands, like cheese-wire, with the inference being he may stoop to murder to keep his cover. Only, thankfully not. There’s still enough good in him to drop his intimidation and let Marion call for help using her Life Alert button, before fleeing.

It’s a great setup for next week’s series finale. I assume Jimmy is going to try and leave town but will either be prevented or have a similar attack of conscience as Kim and turn himself in. This may lead to some kind of reunion with Kim (as a witness in his trial?) as a way to tie the show together, somehow, with a bittersweet ending that Jimmy McGill doesn’t escape justice and pays for his crimes… but is unburdened and arguably in a better place spiritually? And who’s to say his talents as a lawyer won’t be useful from behind bars? Anyway, “Waterworks” was a strong episode that wisely spent some time explaining Kim’s situation in 2010 vs 2004, and it’s great to be psyched for a finale I have theories about but really can’t predict with any feelings of accuracy.

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