Winner in the End
Words by Llewellyn Horgan
Episodes 9 and 10 were two of the best episodes of Better Call Saul Season 4, which was good news really – the season was mostly pretty slow paced. It has, however, all come to a satisfying conclusion. The slow burn has paid off.
Episode 9: Wiedersehen
Wiedersehen, the penultimate episode, starts off with Kim and Jimmy committing a complicated yet strangely well thought out heist, the whole point of it apparently being so Kim can get a slightly larger building approved for her Mesa Verde. It really doesn’t seem worth the risks for either Jimmy and Kim. However, it seems as though there is a lot of joy in the mere committing of frauds – the journey, not the destination. Perhaps I will try scamming my elderly father soon, just to see what it is like.
The scheme goes on fine, and everything seems to be going smoothly. Jimmy is soon to be reinstated, and Kim and Jimmy’s relationship has been re-energized through all their petty crime. Although they seem to disagree as to whether they should only use their scamming powers for ‘good’, this seems like a minor detail in an otherwise reasonably healthy and supportive (?) relationship. Likewise, Mike’s German engineers, excavating for Gus’s ill-fated super-lab also seem to be doing a reasonable job.
Soon, however, things start to go wrong. Firstly, Mike’s head engineer Werner, who is homesick and misses his wife, makes the inexplicable decision to break out of the compound. He leaves a note saying he’ll be back in a few days. I admire his optimism that he’ll be let back into the fold, though it does strain credulity – engineers are supposed to be smart, right? It is particularly incongruous when one thinks of the ingenuity of the escape (blinding a number of security cameras with a laser pointer), contrasted with the stupidity of escaping. Mike is not impressed; and quickly, efficiently, and reluctantly sets off chase the engineer down. Things do not bode well for the German’s future.
Things also go badly for Jimmy – although his reinstatement hearing seems like a breeze, he is tripped up by not mentioning his dead brother and has his application to be reinstated rejected for not being sincere. After a brief and intense argument, where Jimmy accuses Kim of never really believing in him and just feeling sorry for him, the two come together to help Jimmy convince the board of his sincerity, since apparently actual sincerity is not an option (well, fair enough). A good episode, which sets things up for the finale: Winner.
Episode 10: Winner
The season finale starts off with a flashback of Chuck and Jimmy in happier times. Opening with this scene does a great job of setting up the fact that Jimmy and Chuck, once, had a relationship built on genuine love and connection. By foregrounding the original bond they had, it makes it all the sadder and shocking that for the rest of the episode Jimmy (and Kim) work to convince everyone that Jimmy does feel sad about his brother’s death. Following the opening flashback, the episode starts off with Jimmy pretending to mourn at Chuck’s gravestone, even muttering the words ‘boo hoo’ under his breath to give an approximation of sadness. Grief is something that he seems unable to feel due to some complicated psychological issue that is beyond my purview as reviewer. Kim is waiting in a car nearby, with snacks and coffee, to help him in his performance of grief. She is really in it for the long haul. Other grand gestures Jimmy uses to convince the world of his genuine sadness include sinking $13,000 in to open a Chuck McGill reading room at HHM, and sitting on a board to help decide who’ll receive the Chuck McGill yearly scholarship.
Jimmy seems to be doing a good job of approximating the feelings that other people want to see him have. Amongst all the faking, he even has a short and genuine breakdown in his car, though it is unclear exactly why. On the day of the reinstatement appeal, Jimmy and Kim figure that the letter Chuck left Jimmy in his will might be enough to win over the hearts and minds of the board. Jimmy begins to read the letter, and then changes his mind. He gives a heartfelt speech about his complicated relationship with his brother, and the massive impact Chuck had on his life. There is not a dry eye in the house, with even Kim wiping away a stray tear. It is the kind of scene that would not be out of place in the penultimate scene of an emotional film.
The next scene reveals that the whole thing was just part of Jimmy’s approximation of sincerity. Kim is shocked by this, and also by the fact that Jimmy is planning to practice under a different name. “Sa’ll good man,” he says, walking triumphantly away leaving Kim watching him leave, no longer entirely sure who she is dealing with.
In Mike’s plot, he chases after the rather clueless Werner, and then eventually reluctantly kills him on Gus’s orders. It is a real step for Mike – it is seemingly the first ‘nice guy’ he kills. Through his plot we are made to realize the real danger that Jimmy/Saul will be exposing himself and his loved ones to by entering the criminal underworld. With Jimmy taking on the Saul identity, it is clear that the next (and last?) season of Better Call Saul will have Mike’s and Jimmy’s worlds finally coming together. The only issue I can see is that we’ll have to wait a year for it.