Well, that was incredible. And while it was distinctively BCS it did feel more of a cloth with "Breaking Bad" than any prior episode with the last-minute decision at the drop point, the gunpoint tension, the change of clothes after a trauma.
I struggled with Kim throughout this but I was mesmerised as well. As much as she's the show's best character, they're just barely keeping the insane stuff she's swallowing believable. I think her determination to be non-judgmental is admirable in its own way and I love the fact that she sees straight through Jimmy's lies -- and with the prop of the mug which both symbolises Jimmy's love for Kim and the danger they now both face. I also loved the abrupt but, in that moment, somehow inevitable way that she ended her involvement with S&C and Mesa Verde. I really hope we get the conversation with Paige in a flashback at some point because I feel like that's such a huge moment and given how good the show is at playing out even excruciatingly small details, this felt like a big omission although the right choice for the flow of this episode. And of course her squaring up to Lalo was absolutely fantastic and of a piece with her past takedowns of Howard, Chuck, Rich and others.
But then again we have her feeling judged by Jimmy who just can't understand Kim's moves and lashing out. The fact that she still doesn't understand Saul Goodman after all this time feels like something that needs to be addressed -- as does the fact last mentioned in 506 that Jimmy duped her 'again', referring I guess to 410. Kim's laconic nature is part of her brilliance but I really want to see some of these issues aired.
The use of props remains absolutely superb. I've always looked at the juicer as a kind of metaphor for the ugly side of Saul -- Jimmy used it to basically scam Davis & Main and it featured prominently when he was getting ready to pull the Hummel heist last year. What a pay-off for that darkness to cause him trauma now. The scene also called back heavily Kim tending to Jimmy's wounds after being mugged. But mostly the breakfast scene felt like a complete reversal of 310 -- Kim's compulsion to work without end nearly cost her her life. Now Jimmy's compulsion to make money at nearly any cost has had a similar effect on Jimmy, down to the wrecked car. And the fish which Jimmy happily overfeeds when he's at his most Saul-like and vindictive, such as in 401, now feels like a real victim of a more apex predator.
And still more callbacks -- a curtailed reprise of the 407 which in its own way foreshadows Kim quitting. Where once she had her own life in parallel to Jimmy's, now she's just at home and worrying about him. But perhaps it also foreshadows further that Saul will be out in the sun whereas Kim will be working in the shadows. Definitely seems like her destiny more than ever is as one of the associates of Saul Goodman & Associates.
Mike had some great moments too but now that he's made his choices with regard to Gus, there doesn't seem as much to say about him. What's interesting is how he's sticking up for Nacho. The conversation with Gus was revealing and I am so intrigued to see how it plays.
Speaking of Nacho, I just love how Michael Mando takes scenes where he has almost no lines and makes them windows into Nacho's soul. This is another such episode. The constant cartwheeling of hope and horror as he's sat as Lalo's driver was played to absolute perfection. The less he says, the more we feel.
No Howard again though - not that there would have been room for him. I do feel bad for Patrick Fabian that basically his entire arc this season could have been squashed into a B-plot in a single episode. Just as Michael Mando was hugely underused in the first... well, two and a half seasons really... Howard's role seems to have become a footnote. I just really hope they find a big role for him in S6.
Lalo -- unlike the rest of the cast, Lalo doesn't seem to have the complexity or depth of others but we did see a little of that here. The scenes with Hector are so degrading to him -- frankly, I think more degrading than they need to be. I can't imagine Hector has done anything to suggest he enjoys either the vitamin juice or the birthday parties. Lalo's "family is everything" showed a morality of some kind at least. Presumably at the end he's taking a different route to Mexico because he's still not completely confident there wasn't trouble at the border. But does he suspect Bolsa, I wonder? It would be a surprise if he suspected Nacho at this point but Nacho's plotline has been one long fuse all year so maybe the finale will be the boom.
Speaking of Bolsa, I loved his role in this episode. It surprised me last week that they brought a new party into the mix so late on, and so against the way BCS has handled the cartel plot which is very much about fleshing out characters we have already met. But this really made Bolsa's situation interesting. Jimmy might be a friend of the Salamancas but he's no friend of the cartel.
And Jimmy... he really is a puzzle. The long scenes of his recovery and the pain he feels were brilliantly done. This is what BCS does better than any other show I can think of -- yes, it has those moments of high-octane drama but it spends at least as long mining the tiny moments of recovery afterwards and they're usually the most interesting. The fact that Fred weighs so heavily on the season and on both Jimmy and Mike's consciences is one terrific emblem of this. And we definitely see with Mike how disgusted Jimmy is at himself for what he's doing, even though with Kim he goes to huge lengths to lie. I think Jimmy's incredulity at Kim's actions reflects the fact that he seems to see all the carnage he's created on some level as a moral judgment for killing Chuck (as he seems to see it) whereas he sees Kim's choices objectively. The fact that everything he said about Kim could be said about him... I'm not sure if he's even aware of the irony at this point.
And yeah, it's painful to think we're most likely well over a year and perhaps more than two years from the finale although equally a part of me hopes they don't rush this show back into production, as reliant as it is on sensational senior male actors like Jonathan Banks and Mark Margolis (and a good number of relatively-old actors like Bob Odenkirk, Giancarlo Esposito, Lavell Crawford, even Bryan Cranston), to say nothing of the crew who by all accounts have been with the BB and BCS quite loyally for a long time and so I guess would skew older. Plus, I'd hate to think that the capper to this absolute tour-de-force of a series had to be creatively compromised to lose scenes with extras, have more green-screening and camera trickery due to filming restrictions or not having the same density of people supporting on set. I'm sure it will be a very difficult and painful task for the producers to figure out how to keep their crew in work, keep their crew safe and also maintain the show's artistic integrity but I'm confident they'll do a terrific job.