Into every Better Call Saul season an exposition-heavy, downshifted episode must fall, and with “Black And Blue,” we have reached that point in the show’s final run. Like similar ones of the past—“Alpine Shepherd Boy” (season one, episode 5), “Bali Ha’i” (season 2, episode 6), “Sabrosito” (season 3, episode 4), “Talk” (season 4, episode 4), and “Dedicado A Max” (season 5, episode 5)—this episode pushes the storylines forward in ways we can only guess, but it also gives us a sort of breather. It allows us to sit back and think about where our characters are and where they might be headed. And this is especially a luxury now, given that those characters have such a short time left before Saul ends and, for some of them, Breaking Bad begins.
Since her first (official) meeting with Mike last week and his update on Lalo’s status as a very much still breathing human, the typically confident Kim has been rattled. Making things worse, Jimmy is oblivious. When Kim wedges a chair against their front door, and he finds her smoking on their couch in the middle of the night, he assumes her insomnia stems from leftover fear of Lalo’s visit. He relates how he thanks god Lalo is dead, despite how his childhood nuns back in Cicero would judge him for that sentiment.
Kim doesn’t fill him in, and it appears that she has no plans to do so. The two have promised to tell each other the truth going forward, but it’s now Kim who is keeping one whopper of a secret from her husband, just like how Jimmy initially didn’t tell her the whole truth about his desert misadventure with Mike. Jimmy’s half-told story is what led to the aforementioned face-off with Lalo, one quelled only by Kim’s quick thinking. In fact, it’s Kim’s performance during that confrontation, which Mike was privy to while listening on the phone, that led him to determine Kim, not Jimmy, was made “sterner stuff” and should know the deal.
Kim must have a good reason for not telling Jimmy. Maybe she’s bolstered by Mike’s opinion of her, believing she really is the one who can and should, alone, deal with the Lalo news. Maybe she suspects Jimmy would freak out, calling off the scam that will ruin Howard and get her the Sandpiper settlement cash. But here’s what concerns me: Kim knows the danger she and Jimmy may face (again). Kim is a savvy woman, committed to her plots and plans, but Lalo is equally committed to finding proof of what Gus is up to vis-à-vis the Salamancas. Also, he is a “soulless pig,” as Nacho called him so eloquently in his final speech, and I fear that the “committed, soulless pig” will come to outmaneuver the “committed and savvy” lawyer.
Which is not to sell Kim short in the ascription of less desirable qualities, i.e. the whole breaking bad-ness of her activities of late. There is plenty to admire her desire to provide all clients with the level of legal representation that only the rich can usually access. She doesn’t care nearly as much about getting a house with Jimmy—what he wants the Sandpiper money for—as she does about funding her legal practice. And let’s be honest, she wants to smack the smugness off Howard’s face every bit as much as Jimmy does, if not more.
Speaking of face-smacking, Jimmy literally gets the chance to do just that, and it’s by invitation from Howard. Cliff confronts Howard about the coke (baby powder) in the locker, the complaint about him from clients (the Kettlemans), and Howard (Fake Howard) kicking a hooker out of his car, and Howard immediately surmises it’s more Jimmy trickery. In frustration, he decides he’s going to make one last effort to end their war by pretending to be a client and luring Jimmy to a gym to meet Mr. Ward (as in H.O. Ward). Howard asks him to don boxing gear and go a few rounds in the ring, which Jimmy refuses. But for reasons he can’t explain to Kim later, Jimmy changes his mind, gets all gloved up, and proceeds to get his clock cleaned by Howard. “You’ve mistaken my kindness for weakness,” Howard says to Jimmy, who’s still on the ground. “I’d like to think tonight made a difference. I’d like to think this ends it, but probably not.”
Definitely not, H.O. If the boxing bout made a difference at all, aside from giving Jimmy the chance to make the rare Leon Spinks reference, it might make Jimmy double down on the takedown of Howard. It was nice, though, to see Howard make a genuine effort to fight back against Jimmy, who has often seemed unjustified in his extreme hatred of the junior Hamlin. But—and this could be a hint as to how Kim ends up in the BCS universe—just as Howard decides he’s had enough, he might soon learn that it’s Mrs. McGill who is his biggest foe.
With all these bombs big and small sprinkled throughout “Black And Blue” for potential detonation across the remainder of the series, it’s the final moments, which tie back to the curious opening, that are most certain to pay off. We haven’t seen Lalo since his last phone call with Tio Hector was followed by murdering the coyotes and stealing their truck for a trip back to the United States. Instead, he’s in Germany, posing as a charming businessman who just so happens to meet a charming German woman at a bar. “Ben” earns her attention as he tells the bartender he’s from Jemez, New Mexico, and the woman is soon telling Ben all about the accidental death of her husband, how he saved his employees before the structure he was working on caved in on him, and how lawyers visited her to take all her husband’s proprietary paperwork. Oh, her husband’s beloved employees, “the boys,” as he referred to them, didn’t show up to his memorial service, but sent cards and mementos, she says.
She, by now we know, is Marguerite, a.k.a. the wife—er widow—of Werner Ziegler, the German engineer hired by Gus to design and oversee the construction of the underground meth super-lab. “Ben” plies Marguerite with questions, which the lonely woman takes as genuine interest. He walks her to her home, and she considers asking him in, before she tells him “in another life,” and sends him on his way.
No problem; Lalo doesn’t require an invitation. He waits for Marguerite to leave the next morning and enters her house to snoop through Werner’s things. Notebooks provide no clues; the stack of sympathy cards are unhelpful. But then, just as Marguerite makes a surprise return to retrieve her forgotten phone, Lalo spots a slide rule encased in Lucite and engraved, “With Love, The Boys,” the very memento we see being crafted in the “Black And Blue” opening.
In the tense moments of the final scene, Lalo, with gun and silencer drawn, looks at the bottom of the memento, and sees a name just as Marguerite comes walking up the stairs. She enters the room, glances at Werner’s memento, and walks over to close a window. Lalo is already gone, off to his next destination— perhaps another research jaunt to the manufacturer of Lucite-encased tchotchkes?—before heading off to his ultimate trip, a fight with the Chicken Man.
At least Lalo has a definitive goal in mind to appease the wrongs he feels have been perpetrated against his family, and he’s taking a slow, steady path to see it through. Kim and the usually unflappable Gus have allowed themselves to be shaken by a threat currently unseen, while longtime enemies Jimmy and Howard just can’t quit each other. And the meticulously plotted storytelling of Gilligan and Gould keep us wondering which of them will remain standing at the end.
- Howard runs down the list of what he knows are Jimmy’s shenanigans, saying he knows Jimmy wants to get caught. Is there maybe some truth to that? Jimmy has been ambivalent about Kim’s plan to get the Sandpiper money since she first seriously suggested it. Getting caught might be a way to try to end it. How else can you explain how such experienced hustlers would make the obvious mistake of tying their biggest stunt so far to Kim being with Cliff when he witnessed (Fake) Howard in the car with Wendy? That detail is what immediately let Howard know Jimmy was involved and that he needed to hire a P.I.
- And speaking of that P.I., he’s following Jimmy, but aren’t Mike’s men also still following Jimmy and Kim? So does that mean Mike’s men will start tailing H.O.’s tail? That could lead to some ruckus.
- Francesca (the fantastic Tina Parker) is back as Saul’s secretary, and all it cost him was a signing bonus, doubling her Motor Vehicle Bureau salary, and giving her some say in decorating his new strip mall office. Is she going to be the one responsible for securing the giant Statue of Liberty inflatable for him?
- Mike was crushed by his orders to kill Werner, but he (supposedly) sent Werner’s men home with their pay. Did they actually make it home, or was the fact that none of them visited Marguerite after Werner’s death actually because Gus had them killed as a “full measure” of keeping the lab project a secret? Was the stack of sympathy cards and the slide rule memento Lalo found in Werner’s office just more cover up sent by Gus to keep Marguerite from asking more questions about Werner?
- How fastidious is Gus about Los Pollos Hermanos’ operations? When he is doing a walkthrough of the kitchen, before his Spidey senses start tingling and make him think Lalo danger might be afoot, he can’t even step past a row of uniform visors hanging on the wall without ever so slightly straightening one of them.
- As if trying to talk Gus down from scrubbing the bathtub with a toothbrush isn’t enough, Mike has to enter Gus’s two-household lair by laying down in the back of a car driven by Mrs. Ryman. No wonder he emits one of the all-time best Ehrmantraut grunts when he climbs out.
- The only way Gus was finally calmed was by taking a trip to the still unfinished super-lab, where he seemed to take a certain measurement by walking it before removing something from the holster around his ankle and planting it beside a piece of construction equipment. Are those Spidey senses telling Gus he and Lalo are going to meet up there?