BETTER CALL SAUL, 6.8 – ‘Point and Shoot’
An unexpected visitor forces Jimmy and Kim to face the consequences of their actions.
Vince Gilligan’s less hands-on with Better Call Saul than he was running Breaking Bad, even as co-creator of the series, but episodes he directs tend to be season highlights he simply had to be involved in. And continuing from “Plan and Execution”, where Howard (Patrick Fabian) was unceremoniously shot in the head by Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton), the unwanted nighttime caller to Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim’s (Rhea Seehorn) apartment, it wasn’t likely “Point and Shoot” would be humdrum. It’s easily the best episode of this final season so far, one of the better instalments of the entire series, and makes the short road ahead even less clear than before.
The cold open arguably undercut some tension baked into the episode, in that it showed us Howard’s faked suicide and thus let us know the situation in Jimmy and Kim’s apartment somehow resolves to the extent clear-headed people are able to cover up a murder. And it’s not in character for Lalo to go to that sort of trouble for collateral damage (in his mind), although my money was on Jimmy and Kim handling everything to cover for him—which wasn’t true—but the scene of Howard’s expensive shoes washing up ashore still gave us a degree of early comfort. If that’s the right word…
The present-day situation (days or weeks earlier) in the apartment played out against expectations, as it became clear Lalo doesn’t want Jimmy or Kim’s help with any legal matters as I presumed. He instead had a rather bizarre plan to force Jimmy to drive across town to Gus Fring’s (Giancarlo Esposito) expensive house and shoot him dead on his doorstep because he’s less conspicuous. A rattled Jimmy proposes an alteration to this crazy plan, asking for Kim to instead do the deed because she’ll arouse even less suspicion as a woman out alone at night.
Lalo agrees and suddenly poor Kim’s forced into becoming a killer in order to keep her husband alive, and I’m still unsure if Jimmy’s tweaked plan was born of complete cowardice or a missplaced sense that Kim would be better off being as far away from Lalo as possible. I may have to watch the scene again to pick up on some clues to what Jimmy was thinking here, although part of me wonders if Kim’s future on the show is now tied to an irreparable breakdown of their relationship because even she’s not sure why he wanted her to go instead. (Of course, this episode is also the one where Bob Odenkirk suffered a near-fatal heart attack while shooting these apartment scenes, so it’s possible the team had to adapt the script in order to keep to a schedule and it forced Rhea Seehorn to take Odenkirk’s place in the episode. That would actually make more sense to me.)
Regardless, it initially struck me as odd and disappointing that shrewd Lalo’s master plan to take down Fring was to send an armed ‘Trojan Horse’ to his home after dark. So I was glad it was revealed this was ultimately just a diversionary tactic, as Lalo knew the situation probably wouldn’t go to plan with a clever man like Mike (Jonathan Banks) in charge of Fring’s security, but it would cause enough disruption and confusion so he could sneak into the laundromat to find Fring’s underground Superlab.
To be honest, there was enough time to think ahead of the storytelling with a grim-faced Kim travelling to her destination by car, so I sadly wasn’t surprised her attack was foiled by Mike and she was forced to explain herself. It doesn’t make complete sense to me that Gus would then go against Mike’s orders to hunker down in his safe room, just because he heard that Kim’s husband made her switch roles with him, and so took a small detail of men to the Superlab himself. Quite what he was thinking is still unclear to me after a single viewing, but perhaps a rewatch would help. If he had a hunch Lalo would be there for a face-off, it seems strange to walk into a trap.
However, the result of a bit of plot contortion was an excellent sequence with Gus’s men being taken out by Lalo inside the laundromat as Mike’s men got sidetracked at Jimmy’s apartment and expected him to be there. There aren’t many scenes in either Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul when Gus Fring has his feathers ruffled by an enemy, but this was definitely one of them! Naturally, he maintained his cool composure in the face of Lalo’s gloating and grinning, even when forced to open the secret entrance to his Superlab and listen to smug Lalo narrate a video he’s making to send to Don Eladio. Of course, as Better Call Saul is a prequel, we knew Gus wouldn’t die and the tables would turn, but it was still great fun seeing exactly how he’d wriggle out of this predicament. The old ‘cut the lights and grab a hidden gun’ ploy was perhaps a bit old hat, but it was still seat-gripping stuff to see Gus blast bullets into Lalo at close range in pitch darkness.
Inevitably, Lalo Salamanca left the stage as Better Call Saul’s best original villain, and in fine style with a macabre shot of him choking on his own dark blood at the feet of Gus… and yet still able to force another of his trademark smiles in the face of failure. It’s certainly a surprise Lalo’s story has been resolved this early, too, as we still have five episodes left of the final season and no clear idea where things will go. And while that’s exciting in many ways, I do have concerns Better Call Saul might now face a shorter version of the problem Breaking Bad faced in its last season—killing off your best villain, then having to end the series with antagonists that aren’t as strong. But maybe the tone will shift away from diabolical drug lords and more towards Jimmy and Kim’s relationship because this has always been more of a character study than even Breaking Bad? Or is there more to be down with Gus and Don Eladio, or the Salamanca Cousins?
The end of the episode certainly felt like Jimmy and Kim have come out of a long nightmare together, but have ironically also been given a wake-up call about the criminal world they’ve been tip-toeing around the edges of. Mike did his best to talk them calmly through how their lives will continue as normal, but this isn’t the sort of experience to be put behind you easily. Even Mike looked perturbed by the ghoulish sight of Lalo’s corpse lying in a pit they dug in the Superlab, turned to face the poor innocent Howard Hamlin for all eternity… as they decompose and the world keeps turning above them.
I’m also curious to see what Kim’s reaction is going to be once she’s had time to think everything through. Is she going to try and break up with Jimmy because enough is enough, or will surviving an intense life-or-death situation bond them even closer? The biggest question mark hanging over Better Call Saul is what happens to Kim, of course, so maybe this is going to fuel the final batch of episodes? Will she turn against Jimmy completely, maybe intending to tell the cops what really happened to Howard, and he’ll have to take desperate action against the only person who’s ever loved him just to save his own skin? It’s hard to predict… which is both thrilling and a little concerning.