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Justice gets speedier (and cheaper) as Better Call Saul season 5 hits its stride

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Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler, Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill
Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler, Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill
Photo: Warrick Page (AMC/Sony Pictures Television)

Jimmy McGill is now Saul Goodmannot just in the name of his legal practice, but every minute of every day. And he’s never seemed happier. That’s disconcerting for those of us who have rooted for him to throw off the distrust of Chuck and Howard and everyone else who never believed in him, who wanted him to have some success in legitimate lawyering to prove to himself he could do it. But we were always fighting a losing battle against his fated future. Our only hope now lies in Omaha, and we probably won’t get back there for many episodes.

I mentioned in last night’s review that there were at least four great sequences in this one-two opening punch. Now we come to my favorite, in which we see the consequences of Jimmy’s lavish phone and discount giveaway. Saul’s cup runneth over with clients, and Jimmy has to break out some of his patented courthouse moves to keep all the plates in the air. It’s like a walk-and-talk if Thomas Schlamme were an ice dancer, all twizzles and footwork and tight turns. Jimmy has every case and every angle at his fingertips, whether he’s taking calls on the bluetooth earpiece, accosting a prosecutor (“my featherweight was simply defending yourself against your raging bull!”), taking his fee in wads of cash, or sweet-talking the mailgirl (“Hannah Banana!”). But it’s inefficient to work the hallways, and Jimmy wants to go straight to the ADA and deal in bulk lots. Suzanne Ericson isn’t having it. “You’re looking for turnover, you want to churn through clients, make more money,” she assesses the situation. “That’s your problem, not mine.”


If Jimmy McGill has honed one skill over the past four seasons, it’s the art of making his problem somebody else’s. And he pulls it off again, by paying a maintenance worker to break the elevator just long enough to wear Suzanne down. After annoying her by practicing his opening statement in a vandalism case, full of performative appeals to freedom of speech (“moral fortitude … moral fortitude …”), they end up sitting on the floor making deals on his whole stack of files. “See you next week for the last three,” he calls out, before telling the elevator guy that he’ll provide legal services for the other half of what he owes.


Back at home, Saul’s loud attire is literally crowding Kim’s version of lawyering out of their shared closets. They crash a house showing, Jimmy urging Kim to dream of movie nights in front of a big plasma TVto see past what they’re doing to get back on their feet, and think about what being on their feet will look like. But she still wants to earn it. Maybe the stairwell in episode 1 reminded her: that steep ladder that gets you almost to the end of the board comes paired with the danger of the epic, soul-crushing chute.

The remaining white-knuckle scene of these opening two episodes comes in the Nacho storyline. Gus strongarms Nacho into acting as his inside man, telling him to stay close to Lalo Salamanca and gain his trust. Nacho sees an opportunity to demonstrate loyalty when they get a call from the 5th Street drug house, letting them know about a farcical problem. The drainpipe through which the drugs are dropped to eagerly waiting skells has developed a clog, and while Krazy-8 is up on a ladder doing customer service, the cops roll up. When the crew members report that they left the drugs behind in their hasty bug-out, Nacho decides to go for the grand gesturesprinting behind the line of cops, jumping from roof to roof, kicking his way through a skylight. It’s a masterfully choreographed and edited action scene, punctuated by the offhand comic energy of Lalo casually watching it all unfold. The cops prepare to storm the apartment where Nacho is collecting the drugs“Adios, Nachito,” Lalo eulogizes, popping snacks like he’s watching an action moviebut he drops out the back window just as they break down the door. When he hops in the back seat of Lalo’s car and displays the baggies, we know his desperation move has paid off. Next time we see them in the restaurant, Lalo defers to Nacho instead of micromanaging the crew. The only worrisome note sounds when Lalo says he’s got something “much better” planned for Domingo than Nacho ensuring his silence in custody. If Nacho has to stick his neck out to protect Krazy-8, that could jeopardize the trust he earned with that death-defying stunt.

Meanwhile, Mike is not coping well with his new identity as Fring muscle. Last episode Gus told Mike that the underground lab is on hold until Lalo stops snooping around (and snooping he ison a visit to Hector at Casa Tranquilo, he’s close to unraveling the whole massive scheme), but that Mike will of course continue to be paid. Those velvet handcuffs, to keep Mike loyal and on the payroll, drive him to drink and cause him to lash out at his granddaughter when she asks if her daddy Michael was a good policeman “like you.” Way harsh for a girl who figures out her sevens times tables by talking football (“Four touchdowns equal 28! Plus another one makes 35. Go Eagles, kick ass!”).

The line that resonates through all these storylines is “using our powers for good,” something Jimmy urged on Kim last week to protect her clients. Everybody’s trying to do the best they can with where they’ve found themselves stuck. Sometimes that best involves the hope of a way out of the stucknesslike Kim wanting to build back up to a respectable life and independence. And sometimes it’s just survival, like Nacho trying to shake Lalo off his back so he can go back to the soul-crushing drug kingpin lifestyle he’s built for himself. Only Jimmy seems to be reveling in where he’s wound up. He doesn’t feel stuck, although he talks a good game to Kim about a different future. This is his element. But as these opening episodes end, he has to give up a treat to take a ride with Nachoa reminder that he’s tangled in other webs.


Stray observations:

  • It’s been a long time since we saw Gus do something as cruel as threatening Nacho’s fathera reminder that his ruthless streak extends beyond what could be defended as tactically necessary (like eliminating Werner).
  • Emboldened by Saul Goodman’s flyers, the rapping skells double up on their non-violent felonies in the opening, gleefully stealing garden gnomes, pissing in trash cans, fleeing a convenience store trailing a whole roll of scratchers, smashing windshields, and indulging in ten baggies of coke instead of their usual two. (As with Kaylee, multiplication is not their strong suit.)
  • “Where are my Louboutins … Louboutins … Louboutins?” Jimmy echoes to emphasize the size of the new house’s walk-in closets.
  • The elevator guy’s relative is going to get his record scrubbed “cleaner than Doris Day’s greatest hits.”
  • Jimmy continues to show excellent taste in movie dates, inviting Kim to share scampi and After Hours.
  • Poor Domingo. Has to let the boss bluff him out of a big pot, gets arrested, but worst of all, has to climb the ladder to try to fix the drug pipe like some kind of stash house super.
  • “Life’s rich pageant, who are we to judge?”