4 out of 5 stars

Following the intense “Point and Shoot“, Better Call Saul takes time out for four characters to reflect on what they’ve been through this season. How do you process near-death experiences and sudden grief? People process things differently and “Fun and Games” made for a fascinating hour of drama, turning what could be a ‘calm after the storm’ lull into another gem. Even better, a monumental thing suddenly happened near the end that worked even better because it was so unexpected.

The opening sequence was great, juxtaposing Mike’s (Jonathan Banks) team washing away blood stains to hide a murder scene with Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim (Rhea Seehorn) trying to get through another day of legal work. I particularly liked the match-cut from poured coffee to a wet cloth soaking up blood, and the curiously bloody remnants of a meal Jimmy was seen mopping up with bread. And when the deed’s done and Jimmy returns home seconds behind Kim after a difficult day trying to be normal, it’s clear the ghost of murdered Howard Hamlin and his killer Lalo Salamanca will be harder to make disappear psychologically.

Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) has also been through a rough time, even if we perhaps care less because he’s a villain whose eventual comeuppance is set in stone. But I enjoy the moments when we’re reminded he’s not the top dog in Albuquerque, so must keep Don Eladio (Steven Bauer) and Juan Bolsa (Javier Grajeda) sweet whenever Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) throws accusations at him. I’d forgotten that Hector knows Lalo survived the attack on his compound and called to inform him Fring was behind everything, so it makes sense Hector would now try to get his rival into trouble following the sudden disappearance of Lalo. But when it comes to poker-faces, few are the equal of ‘The Chicken Man’, and his dignified non-response to Hector’s wild theory (aided by the fact dental records identified Lalo as amongst the burned corpses, and even the Cousins admit they have no proof of anything) saw Gus maintain the trust of Don Eladio. Even if Eladio knows there’s a certain degree of hate towards him in Fring’s eyes. And as a result of recent events, the Salamanca’s will now control the South Valley and Fring keeps everything to the north.

As tense as that scene was, we’ve seen variations of it before with Gus Fring having to look like the levelheaded professional and Hector the gurning idiot. What was arguably more interesting was seeing a different side to his character later, after instructing Mike to find new engineers to complete the Superlab. Gus went to a wine bar to spend time with a handsome sommelier called David (Reed Diamond), who charmed him with a story about the origin of a particularly delicious bottle they shared at the bar. It was a rare instance of ‘R&R’ for Gus, where we even saw him smile and relax in the easy company of David, which also reminded me Gus is gay but keeps that part of his identity a secret. Gus has always been a fascinating character and a multifaceted villain, so I appreciate it when the show takes a moment to show us a few colours of his personality we don’t see as often. And it felt almost sad when Gus denies himself the chance of a wonderful evening (with David maybe even being a romantic opportunity?) to put on his sterner demeanour to get back to business.

A less-expected part of the episode belonged to Mike, who isn’t immune to feelings of regret and sadness about the things he does in order to provide for his family. Alone at night watching baseball on TV, Mike’s attention was caught by the toy he recently played with his granddaughter and paternal thoughts made him think about Nacho Vargas (Michael Mando) and the lack of closure for his father Manuel (Juan Carlos Cantu) unaware of his son’s death. There followed a touching scene undercut with bitterness and resentment, with Mike meeting with Manuel outside his workshop and explaining to him that his boy won’t be coming home. It was a noble gesture of Mike to prevent Manuel from spending the rest of his life unsure of what happened to Nacho (even if his reaction revealed he knew this would probably happen), but it was interesting that picked up on Mike’s talk of “justice” against the Salamanca’s as a misnomer for “revenge” that gangsters like him use. That certainly seemed to hit Mike, as he perhaps hasn’t thought of himself as one of the bad guys until now.

With so much focus on Gus and Mike, it felt like the episode was going to save Jimmy and Kim’s reactions for next week, perhaps to give them deserved focus. But that wasn’t the case, as we caught up with them both back at HHM for a memorial after Howard’s car was discovered and he’s been presumed dead after going on a drug-addled bender. We know Jimmy’s the type of person who’s going to stick to Mike’s story about what happened, but the risk of Kim’s conscience scuppering the plan loomed heavy over proceedings. It came as a surprise to me when Kim made up a fictional incident when she caught Howard snorting drugs after-hours, just to convince his disbelieving wife Cheryl (Sandrine Holt) that her husband was secretly a junkie. That seemed a particularly cruel thing for her to do because it trashes innocent Howard’s memory, and I was therefore convinced the show is going to confirm Kim is actually a meaner version of Jimmy…

However, the story had other plans. The next morning, Kim surrendered her law license and packed her bags ready to walk out on Jimmy, just as he comes home bewildered by her decision to turn her back on her dream of being a lawyer. There followed a brilliant scene between Odenkirk and Seehorn as their characters tried to thrash things out, with Jimmy arguing breaking up is a bad idea if it’s over a terrible murder neither of them could have prevented. But Kim’s reveal to Jimmy that she knew Lalo was alive all this time, so things would’ve played out differently if she’d only said something—with them likely halting their plot against Howard, and leaving town as a precaution (meaning Howard wouldn’t have been in the wrong place at the wrong time)—was a fantastic reason for Kim to realise they’re simply bad for each other. A poisonous double-act. Kim’s emotional outburst that she kept quiet because she was having so much fun also hit hard, evoking the title’s connection to the phrase “it’s all fun and games until someone [Howard] gets hurt.”

I’d be surprised if this is the last time we see Kim in season 6, but it seems like a painful but amicable split is indeed going to be how she departs Better Call Saul and isn’t seen during Breaking Bad. The possibility Kim could return in the flashforwards we’ve had (where fugitive Jimmy’s living as Gene at a Cinnabon post-Breaking Bad) is still open, but I’m just relieved we’re not going to see her killed off.

I also loved the flashforward we did get to round off “Fun and Games”, jumping to the time when Jimmy is now 100% into his slimy Saul Goodman persona during the Breaking Bad era. And what a transformation when you see Bob Odenkirk playing both roles close together; with sad-sack Saul reduced to sleeping with prostitutes (when a true life partner like Kim once shared his bed), combing over his bald patch, and living in a tasteless mansion with its sickening Trumpian decor. Even his thriving business on the strip is a horrendous and depressing place full of desperate clients. And poor Francesca (Tina Parker) is now brainlessly going about her duties as his secretary. It was a great reminder of just how much of a fall being “Saul Goodman” represented for Jimmy McGill, even if he either doesn’t realise or chooses to ignore his personal tragedy by filling his life with loud shirts, golden toilets, and tiger-print bedcovers.

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