Viewers have long wondered why Kim Wexler never appeared in Breaking Bad. Death, we have feared, would be the only thing that would separate the McGills, right? But a clearer picture has shaped up as a real possibility over this final season. And it’s a heartbreaker.
But first, let’s backtrack. Jimmy and Kim’s plan worked. They humiliated Howard and ikely forced a premature settlement in the Sandpiper case—even if it may mean Jimmy’s share of the loot will now net less capital for Kim’s startup firm. But, as Howard pointed out in his big, final, truth-bomb-dropping speech in the mid-season finale, that wasn’t really the point of the couple’s cruel vendetta against him. They tortured him, both of them, for the fun of it.
But who’s having fun now?
With Lalo casually killing Howard like some annoying, easily-rid-of collateral damage, Kim and Jimmy were left to deal with the most clever of the Salamancas. And he didn’t want explanations about what Jimmy did or didn’t tell anyone about the trip to the desert or representing Lalo’s legal affairs. He wanted access to his true, ultimate enemy: Gustavo Fring.
And he had, in true Lalo style, a simple, cleverly crafted plan to get it: He would hold Kim hostage, while Jimmy was sent off in his car, with a gun and a camera in the glove box. Jimmy was to knock on Gus’ door, and when he answered it, Jimmy was to unload the gun at Gus and take a photo of his dead body. It’s like one of those party-game questions that pose how far you would go to protect your loved one. Would you kill someone to save their life? Lalo was betting Jimmy—so lucky to be with a woman like Kim, to begin with, as Lalo tells him—will go for it. Jimmy flips the deal around, though, and convinces Lalo to hold him in the apartment with Howard’s dead body, while Kim is given the assignment to go murder a stranger and make it back with photographic evidence within 60 minutes.
Jimmy’s not being a weasel, of course. He pleads for Lalo’s sign-off to send Kim on the task and for Kim’s agreement to go and save her life—or at least have the chance to. When he looks at her and begs her to be the one to make the kill, he really just wants her to leave their home, to get away from Lalo and the gun he’s holding on them. Maybe he thinks she’ll come up with an alternative plan along the way. Maybe he thinks that to save him, she’ll make it to the house and commit that unforgivable assignment. But the look in his eyes when he peers into hers, desperately asking her to go, says that he thinks there’s a good chance he’s saying goodbye to her forever—and that he’s at peace with that decision.
Kim gets to the house, Gus’ compound, and is stopped by Mike and his men before she can do any damage, and before Lalo and Gus can have their inevitable showdown (more on that in a minute). But for Kim and Jimmy, the damage—more collateral damage—is done. They both survive Lalo’s second dangerous visit to their home, which, this time, has been left covered in Howard’s splattered brains and a huge pool of his blood. Home, and the recent events it hosted, is never going to feel like home again.
But the McGills are hoisted by their own petards. It’s not just about the aftermath of Howard’s death and its physical stains on their apartment. Mike and his men work that out quickly enough. It’s about Kim and Jimmy having to go right back to their daily lives. They have to live with the fact that Howard wouldn’t have even been at their apartment if he hadn’t come to roast them, to let them know he knew every single nasty thing they had done to him, knew how long and how much effort it took for them to plan it, and knew what truly disturbed motivations inspired them.
They now have to live with themselves and each other, and I’m not sure that will be possible, the living with each other part. We still have five precious episodes left before the series ends, but we may already have the crux of what happens to Jimmy and Kim and the reason for the Kim-less years ahead. How could anyone, even the two individuals who pulled off the things they did to Howard, go forward with their life together, knowing what they, together, have wrought? And let’s not forget: Jimmy still isn’t aware that Kim knew Lalo was alive. She didn’t trust him enough to have that information. That confrontation is inevitable and inevitably devastating.
And there should be plenty of time left to focus on a possible marital collapse, because two of the best villains in the Better Call Saul/Breaking Bad universe collided, and only one is left standing (though much worse for the wear). Gus unloaded his gun into Lalo in the meth lab under the laundry, just where we suspected something big would go down when Gus hid his firearm at the construction site in “Black And Blue.”
It’s sad to lose such an entertaining, charming baddie, especially with several episodes still remaining, but Lalo’s intent on filming the lab to present proof of Gus’ schemes to Don Eladio led to a worthy face-off. Gus felt free to spit his tirade at the camera (he addressed Eladio as “you greasy, bloated pimp”), sure he was going to kill Lalo or die himself if he didn’t. Lalo, meanwhile, was just as certain he would emerge victorious from the lab, video in hand. It was a satisfying end to the Lalo/Gus chapter of the cartel war, even if the brightest of the Salamancas is gone while rather hapless hotheads Hector and Tuco live to torment another day. And, of course, we know Hector will get his vengeance against Gus, who will ultimately be hoisted by his own petard by allowing Tio Salamanca to live.
Let’s end with a shoutout that brings us back to the beginning: Gordon Smith, the former Vince Gilligan assistant who created the Lalo character and wrote classic Saul eps like “Five-O,” “Chicanery,” and “Bagman,” as well as this one, does a fine job of driving home the tragedy and randomness of Howard’s death. Howard’s reputation, which he was sure he would be able to repair, is now permanently ruined. And though he had absolutely no connection to the cartel, and didn’t even suspect Jimmy had such ties, he is now buried with the man who killed him, under the future site of a huge meth lab. This episode is Smith’s final script for the series, one that is wonderfully paired with Gilligan’s thrilling direction.
- Big claps and a standing ovation to Tony Dalton, who certainly made his stamp on the show as Lalo. It’s only because Saul has such a deep bench of talent that he, like Michael Mando (Nacho), isn’t likely to get the Emmy nomination he has earned.
- Lalo’s description of Gus to Kim and Jimmy—a housecat who looks like a librarian—was a gem.
- That episode opening, with the men’s dress shoe floating: Didn’t you immediately know it was Howard’s, even before you saw the “NAMASTE” license plate?
- And the man most frustratingly denied an Emmy for his Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul work, Jonathan Banks (who has been nominated five times for those shows), gave a typically outstanding performance as Mike ran the three-ring circus of trying to protect Gus while also dealing with some guilt about Jimmy and Kim (and Howard). Mike had pulled the Lalo watch detail off Kim and Jimmy’s apartment, something she screamed at him about when she was at Gus’ compound. Then he got to the McGills’ apartment, saw Howard, and quickly pieced together what must have happened to him. After his men carelessly tossed Lalo into the meth lab grave, he told them to be “easy” when placing Howard’s body down there. Class act.