If you thought Kim and Jimmy’s plan to disgrace Howard Hamlin and get Jimmy’s cut of the Sandpiper settlement sooner was just pillow talk, think again. This opening pair of episodes for Better Call Saul’s final season proves Kim was serious about every decision she made in season five, be it her commitment to pro-bono legal work or being Mrs. McGill (Mrs. Goodman?) and all that entails.
Currently, that means she’s happily drowning in 20 public-defender cases, plotting the downfall of her former boss, and nudging her hubby back into cahoots with the Kettlemans (they’re back!), then saving his bacon when that goes askew. Jimmy deflates when Kim makes a call that blackmails the Kettlemans into keeping their mouths shut about the effort to ruin Howard. It’s a very cocky Kim then who leaves the Kettlemans and their seemingly squashed scam behind. “Wolves and sheep,” Jimmy mutters as he and Kim drive away. But who’s who in that grumble, as he grows increasingly uneasy with his wife’s willingness to operate like, well, him?
In this fast-paced two hours that felt like a mini season, we catch up with Lalo, who has nothing on his mind but catching up with Nacho. He knows Ignacio is responsible for letting the mercenaries onto his estate, and any charm that was masking his Hector-trained viciousness is dropped. A local neighbor becomes his stand-in when he needs a body to fool everyone into believing he was killed in the attack, and he apparently went so far as to plan for that very scenario: We learn he had paid for the man’s extensive dental work, presumably to make dental records match.
Showrunner Peter Gould wrote the opening script, and he knows Gus would not accept the news of Lalo’s assassination without irrefutable proof. Lalo knows that, too, which is why the long play of the sacrificial neighbor and the dental work is completely believable. Gus, in fact, doesn’t accept Lalo’s death, and ultimately outsmarts Hector into confirming he is alive.
That’s all bad news for Nacho, who is on the lam and reliant only on phone calls with Tyrus to steer him towards safety. Mike, still smarting from what Gus ordered him to do to Werner Ziegler, can’t bring himself to answer Nacho’s calls. He thinks Nacho’s loyalty to Gus should be rewarded, but Gus has him setting up Nacho to be Gus’ own scapegoat should Juan Bolsa and Don Eladio get proof that Gus paid the hit squad to kill Lalo.
Nacho makes his way on foot to a little motel hours away from the massacre at Lalo’s. Tyrus tells him to stay out of sight, as two men in a truck are on their way to save him.
But with everyone else, from Jimmy and now Kim to Gus and Juan Bolsa thinking they’re running things, only Nacho seems to realize he’s sitting in wait for his own death. Trapped in a hot, dark room with no AC and a man across the way spying on him, Nacho decides to take action.
What results in the Vince Gilligan-directed “Carrot and Stick” is the most hold-your-breath action sequence from this world since Hank’s showdown with the Salamanca cousins in the Breaking Bad classic “One Minute.” Nacho uses a truck to save himself in a shootout with Juan Bolsa’s minions and, in a brilliant callback, The Cousins. Now trapped inside the truck, Nacho floors it straight towards Leonel and Marco, shooting at them through his windshield. He makes it outside the motel parking lot, but we don’t know if he’s alive after that, after so many Salamanca bullets went straight at him.
Or maybe we do. In a gem of a cliffhanger, Mike is in a standoff with Tyrus and Gus over his refusal to deliver Nacho’s father to Gus. Tyrus’ gun is pointed straight at Mike when Mike gets a call. He says it’s Nacho, and this time he answers. “Not my call,” he tells Nacho, before holding out the phone to Gus, and telling him Nacho wants to talk to him. But does he? Is he really on the phone? Did Mike set his phone to ring when he briefly stepped to the trailer door to lock it? Or did he just happen to get a call at that moment?
“Whatever happens next, it’s not gonna go down the way you think it is,” Mike tells Tyrus. That’s probably true for us nervous viewers, too, but we’ve been warned that it’s not going to be a smooth ride.
- Kim is making performance art of her con work with Jimmy. Funniest Kim scene of the series: her, binoculars trained on Howard and Cliff at the golf course, very seriously retrieving a piece of gum from her bag, removing the silver wrapper, and popping it into her mouth without taking an eye off of her marks. It’s a small but deliberate choice that is the hallmark of Rhea Seehorn’s performance, which continues to beg an Emmy nomination at last.
- If there was an Emmy for the actor whose performance and whose character’s impact has only grown more memorable and impressive throughout the series, it would definitely go to Nacho portrayer Michael Mando. Nacho has seemed doomed since Gus drew him into a double agent role against Lalo, but in this ominous universe of unlikely happy endings, wouldn’t it be grand if Nacho and his dad were able to make a getaway together?
- Each previous season has begun with a Gene flash forward. Season six instead opens with what we can only assume is a group of legally-appointed movers confiscating the contents of Saul’s home after the Walter White saga becomes public. The most notable goodies in the garish collection: a bulletproof vest, lots of prescription pills, a gold toilet on a throne, a life-size Saul cutout, and the fancy stopper from a bottle of Zafiro Anejo tequila. It is the home’s only sign that Kim might have ever lived there or been part of Saul’s life.
- In addition to Jimmy being shaken by Kim’s newfound confidence after her takedown of the hapless Kettlemans, in “Wine and Roses,” Gould further telegraphs Jimmy’s descent into the nervous criminal butt-kisser he becomes as the Saul Goodman we’re introduced to in Breaking Bad. When Jimmy runs into ADA Khalil and APD Detective Roberts at the courthouse, he’s so rattled by the unexpected confrontation about “Jorge de Guzman” – the alias Lalo used when Jimmy argued for him to get out of jail on $7-million bail – that he goes on a rant in which he accidentally mentions his client by the name Lalo. He quickly covers (successfully?), but has to go to a quiet room to calm himself afterwards. Buck up, Jimmy; it’s only going to get worse from here.
- Hector Salamanca is a bitter, arrogant man who schooled all of his nephews towards the most violent ways of life. We know the outcome for Tuco and The Cousins. But whatever happens to Lalo, it’s still pretty incredible to think about how, with all his protégés, each smarter than the next, it was Salamanca who finally shut down Gustavo Fring (with a little help from Walter White).
- Just as it did when Jimmy needed an additional writing surface in that Sandpiper bathroom, toilet paper once again saves the day for him, when Kevin Wachtell gets on his Huffy bike and nearly ruined the caper at the golf club. Hooray for Team Saul’s appreciation for the versatility of TP.