BETTER CALL SAUL, 6.4 – ‘Hit and Run’
Despite assurances from the cartel, Gus takes extreme measures to protect himself against looming threats, while Kim and Jimmy enlist the help of a local to put on a show for Cliff Main.
After the heady events of “Rock and Hard Place“, which was the crescendo to season 6’s opening salvo of episodes, things were back to a more leisurely pace with “Hit and Run”, although the story progressed in notable ways and put an emphasis back on what Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) are getting up to. This episode was even directed by Seehorn herself, as it’s something of an unspoken tradition for US shows to give leading actors the opportunity to direct an episode or two, usually towards the end of a run after they’ve spent years gathering all the knowledge they need.
Knowing this was the case can’t help but make one consider every choice being made by Rhea Seehorn, perhaps unfairly, but it certainly felt like a strong episode of Better Call Saul focused more on characterisation and scenes with nothing too complex in terms of action. There were certainly some incredible shots and compositions here too, which the show has become known for (my favourite being a POV from inside a vending machine), even if there were so many it started to call attention to itself? But that’s a small complaint because “Hit and Run” really did look fantastic, and I especially enjoyed the eerie cold open with a happy couple riding bicycles through an affluent suburb and stopping to criticise one house’s ugly new paint job. Better Call Saul has a brilliant knack for drawing you into its stories with such unusual opening images or moments, as you’re wondering what on earth these two people have to do with anything… and then slowly realise what’s going on by the end.
Most of this week’s story put the spotlight on Saul and Kim’s plan to ruin Howard Hamlin’s (Patrick Fabian) career and life, as we saw the fruits of their labour from last week with Saul getting hold of a duplicate of Howard’s car keys. It turns out the plan, or this latest stage of it anyway, was simple: Saul stole Howard’s car while he spent time in therapy, while dressed in a suit and bad wig designed to make him look like Howard at a glance, then hired Breaking Bad hooker Wendy (Julia Minesci) to get tossed out onto the street right in front of Clifford Main (Ed Begley Jr.) as he was being pitched a business idea by Kim. So now Cliff thinks poor Howard not only has a secret cocaine habit but is using and abusing sex workers. It was certainly an entertaining sequence with plenty of amusing moments, not least seeing Saul’s awful spray tan, but given added tension once Saul arrived back to find someone had taken Howard’s parking bay and he had to improvise around it. However, I’m still unsure the final season of Better Call Saul should be dealing with such a lighthearted con against a character who, frankly, I kind of like despite the flaws in his personality. Howard just hasn’t come across as a horrible person to me, but am I alone in thinking that?
Thankfully, the episode ended on a note that suggests things are going to get more serious and dangerous for Saul now. It seems that news of his dealings with Lalo Salamanca has made him a pariah at the courthouse, where he’s shunned by staff because they can’t believe he defended a known drug lord using an alias, but news of his underworld connection has spread like wildfire amongst the city’s lowlifes and Mrs Nguyen’s (Eileen Fogarty) nail bar has been invaded by would-be clients because he’s now “Salamanca’s man”. And the sudden uptick in business prompts Saul to finally purchase his own office, the famously grotty-looking location recognisable from Breaking Bad (only minus the inflatable Statue of Liberty right now), which Kim approves of because it’s a stone’s throw from both the courthouse and county jail. It’s certainly promising we’re only four episodes in and Saul Goodman has edged this close to becoming the character we met in Breaking Bad.
Speaking of meetings, the mystery of who’s following Kim and Saul was also revealed after Kim noticed she was being tailed and confronted the two men parked close by. I hadn’t given this part of the narrative much consideration until now, but it made sense Mike (Jonathan Banks) was behind it all and essentially doing them a favour because he suspects Lalo Salamanca may reach out to them and he’s under orders from Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) to keep a watchful eye out—despite everyone else thinking he’s dead. The scene where Kim met Mike at the El Camino Dining Room was also a funny reminder those characters haven’t shared a scene together until now, which is extraordinary to realise because this is season 6! But Mike’s always been more attached to Gus once he entered the story properly, and before that only had a reason to occasionally interact with Jimmy’s shenanigans. So it was nice to see those actors get to have a scene together, no matter how late in the show’s lifespan, and it was an interesting touch that Mike tells Kim she’s made of sterner stuff than her husband.
I also enjoyed how this episode, written by Ann Cherkis, bookended with the weirdness of Gus’s house being surveilled. The aforementioned cyclists weren’t ordinary people, but employees of Gus paid to be decoys living inside his real home. It was a fun reminder of how much Gus lives a double life, too, as he returned to his expensive abode after working long hours at his restaurant and reveals he wears protection under his shirt and carried a pistol strapped to his ankle. And behind some shelves, there’s a secret tunnel that takes him to another property where the decoy cyclists live, with CCTV monitors capturing his home’s exterior and the city beyond. Of course, we know Gus isn’t going to be caught out by Lalo, to the extent where he’s killed or severely injured, as Better Call Saul’s one “weakness” is that it’s a prequel involving characters whose fates are unchangeable. But I’m still curious to see what Lalo’s counter-attack is going to be exactly, and how Gus will dispatch him to secure dominance of Albuquerque’s drug trade… until a certain Walter White enters the picture.
Overall, “Hit and Run” was another great hour of TV; cleverly shot and assemble with a keen sense of pace and precision which can’t be underestimated. Even ostensibly ‘mediocre episodes’ like this are elevated by just how well the story is being told, as Better Call Saul is such a well-oiled machine by this point—and always was, frankly. Any issues and concerns I have will hopefully be put to rest once the season gets into the thick of things, and Saul and Kim’s storylines integrates with the more exciting stuff happening with Gus and Mike versus the Salamanca’s.