Better Call Saul: Season Wrap-Up

I watched the pilot of Better Call Saul and had nearly the exact same experience as I did with Breaking Bad in that I had very low expectations and was blown away and instantly sold by the time the episode was over. I think that’s far less remarkable when you look back at the Breaking Bad pilot since that episode was so chock full of crazy and new and awesome. But Better Call Saul had a nearly zero chance of living up to its pedigree. I didn’t even tune in until I’d heard some good feedback on the pilot. So, I gave it a try and I’m so glad I did. Odenkirk was my biggest concern and turned out to be the greatest gift. That man has far more range than you’d ever know from the Saul character. And herein lies my problem. The finale left me with little doubt that Jimmy is on the highway to Saul now. I fully expect that next season’s opener will lead with the disappearance of that beater car of his and much of the charm of this season with it.

Look. I love Saul. But I love Saul in small doses. I found that I love Jimmy in large doses. As a leading character. So, I have concerns for the next season. I’ll be there of course. Everybody associated with the show so far has been killing it. I have to trust that they know what they’re doing and that spending more time with Jimmy isn’t in the best interest of the show. But I can’t lie. I really wanted to see Jimmy take on Chuck the legit way. Get on that partner track, even briefly, just long enough to make Chuck regret the way he’d killed Jimmy’s chances. Dare I say even make Chuck watch the eventual morph to Saul and feel that the fault for that might actually be as much Chuck’s as Jimmy’s? But, it doesn’t look like that’s a possibility. Whatever happens, I have such a newfound respect for Odenkirk that I’m going to be there to see it all play out.

See you next season!

Breaking Bad: ‘Granite State’ – Come on, Saul. Nebraska could be real nice. Your bunkmate is a complete nutter, though.

It’s fascinating to watch Walt now play at being Heisenberg. You watch Saul back away from him as he’s threatening him to comply and GIVE HIM SOME HIT MEN, DAMNIT, but Saul’s fear is more of the “This dude’s a complete nutter, and I’d like to get away from him before he goes off the deep end,” vein. The fire of vengeance makes him pretty threatening, of course, but it’s not the same. At least until the end of the episode, when his former partner, Elliott, and his wife, Gretchen, quote the exact recipe for Heisenberg and bring him fully back. Well done, idiots. To say that all he gave the company was the name wasn’t even a plausible story anyway. And then for Gretchen to dismiss the possibility of his existence. Hello? Way to incite the beast, dumbass! You can see his face transform from Walt, the dying father who has just fully realized that the loss of his son is a final matter and made the call to bring the DEA to his front door to Heisenberg who is ready for the final showdown with all those people who refuse to acknowledge his greatness and his supremacy. (This certainly includes Jack. It would have been more respectful to kill Walt. Particularly after killing Hank. But Walt isn’t a threat to Jack, so he gets to live.) Looks like Schwartz might have bought his own ticket, too. The little insignificant fool. (ED. Note: Obviously these two and Gray Matter were incredibly significant at the onset, and at the beginning were major drivers of the Heisenberg bus of destruction, but so much has taken place since then, and up until that interview, I think Walt believed he had finally bested them.) He wasn’t even on the radar. Maybe Gretchen as well. She was certainly extremely dismissive in that interview.

So Heisenberg is back by the close of the episode, but Walt was just wearing the persona at the beginning. I’m not sure at what moment Heisenberg was stripped from Walt. Was it the return of the cancer? Was it when he decided to quit the meth business? I always write these silly posts and then start reading the real reviews to see what I got totally wrong (almost always 90-100%) and what I misread. I think some of the reviews I read last week completely misread that phone call between Walt and Skyler. Some reviewers were pretty adamant that Heisenberg made that call and there was nothing but contempt and threat in there. No attempt to scrub Skyler of complicity in the crimes. But we’ve heard Heisenberg talk to Skyler before. “I’m the one who knocks.” Remember that one? Compare that conversation with last week’s call and you’ll see a distinct difference. Even if you couldn’t see Walt’s face crumpling from time to time with the weight of the words he’s flinging at Skyler, you can hear the hesitations. Oh sure, there was some anger in last week’s call. Anger that Walt didn’t have to dig too deep to find. But Heisenberg doesn’t really operate in emotion. And that phone call was all about emotion. I think Heisenberg hasn’t been around for a while. And I can’t quite put my finger on when he left. I’ll have to go back and rewatch the season to decide. But he’s certainly back now. Just in time for the finale.

Todd is one scary sociopath and watching him smile makes me shiver. He’s a very effective bad guy. That scene with them in Holly’s nursery scared the bejesus out of me. But the show hit a new low even from there for me. Watching Todd kill Andrea was the death that hit me the hardest. OK, wait. I’m forgetting how awful Mike’s was. But this one was extremely tough. I was expecting them to kill Jesse when he escaped. I was prepared for the gunshot. I was terrified for that death because Jesse deserved a better exit than that. And yet, I think that might have affected me less than this. Maybe it was the way the scene was filmed? Maybe it was that Todd was the executioner? Maybe it was the fact that yet more emotional pain is being inflicted on Jesse, and I don’t know how much more his character can possibly bear? I have no idea. This was the first point of the entire series that I thought, “I might not be up for the end game.”

So, here we go. It still has to be a Jesse and Walt/Heisenberg end. Jesse’s character is too important and has been put through far too much to be killed (if that’s his BB end) by a lesser character than Walt/Heisenberg. And frankly, the reverse is probably true as well. Though Skyler would be a very satisfying substitution. But this is Breaking Bad, so I’m sure something I can’t even dream up will be what happens and will be the perfect ending. I’m ready.

Breaking Bad: ‘To’Hajiilee’ – Why settle for blue meth when you can have bluish-if-it-catches-the-light-just-right instead? Todd’s cook has a more subtle style, yo.

It looks like Todd might be crushing on Lydia, and since he can’t yet cook her that sweet blue meth she’s been trying to successfully deliver to the Czech market since Walt ditched the biz, he tries to make it up to her by making her a cup of her tea to her specifications. Something tells me that nothing is ever quite up to Lydia’s specifications, but tea isn’t what she wants Todd to focus on. The whole bit where they discussed adding dye to the meth to achieve the correct hue like they do with salmon was hilarious. Todd’s music tastes are a little antiquated, but “She blinded me with Science” as his ringtone was inspired in my opinion, though I know others will argue it’s too on the nose because of his focus on Lydia.

The car wash is such a great location for tense scenes to develop. It’s such a banal backdrop. And the juxtaposition of the mundane rituals of a local business with the disintegration of Walt’s carefully constructed underworld just makes the tension escalate before the action even starts. The beginning of the con on Walt to get him to give away the location of the money – the one thing that can actually bring about his demise – occurs while Skyler and Walt, Jr. are shuttling customers through the car wash with their tired “Have an A1 day” motto to “reinforce their brand.” Saul shows up and the tension ratchets up. We know something is getting ready to go down. About that, when Walt notices the bullet proof vest, it’s obvious that he doesn’t even consider that Saul is wearing it to assure that Walt won’t harm him either. It’s clear that Walt is more Walt in this scene than Heisenberg. Heisenberg would have been clear-headed, and emotion wouldn’t have clouded his judgement allowing him to conclude that Jesse might not have been able to discover his burial ground. I think he wouldn’t have fallen for the con. But Walt has those feelings for Jesse that set the con in motion. And Jesse lit the fuse because he knows what buttons to push.

Those last few seconds of heart-pounding gunfire are when you find out what you are made of. My gut reaction was interesting because it was instinctive, and I was seriously concerned to find that I only cared about Jesse. Hank had just shared that touching phone call with Marie. I’ve always loved Gomie. Even Walt’s character finally achieved redemption when he called off the hit realizing that Hank was there, too. I think ultimately he wouldn’t have been able to see them take out Jesse either, but we’ll never know on that one. But as the gunfire went on and on and on, all I could think was, “Is Jesse ok? Please let Jesse make it out of this unscathed!” I think I know why Jesse remains my weakness. Sure, he’s got his flaws, and he’s by no means an innocent. But, Jesse has been pulled along on this nightmare at Walt’s insistence. Nothing done has been of his choosing. And as you listen to Walt plead with and berate him during that call as he is racing to his hiding place, you hear Walt say exactly that. Hank and Gomez know the dangers they face in their job. But Jesse hooked up with Mr. White, his impossibly nerdy and nonthreatening chem teach, to cook up some meth for a lark. How could he possibly have foreseen that things would go this godawful bad?

Breaking Bad: ‘Rabid Dog’ – Yo, Mr. White, I gave you a head start on a large-scale reno project for your house. Just strike a match.

NOTE: Spoilers Below

Fascinating. Skyler says they’ll need to put Jesse down to ensure that their family will be safe. And after seeing her game face in handling the Ted Beneke situation, I wasn’t surprised to see her jump to that conclusion so quickly. Walt’s reaction to this and to Saul’s identical suggestion is curious. He’s vehemently opposed, but I don’t think it’s so much because he cares about Jesse and is trying to protect him. I think that version of Walt is suppressed. This version of Walt is against putting Jesse down because he thinks he can fix it. He thinks he can talk Jesse out of turning him in and control his actions because Walt thinks he is omnipotent. And, of course, if Walt is unable to prevail, he certainly will go the route that Skyler and Saul are proposing though it will pain him to do so.

Could Hank be Jesse’s new father figure? Nah, he’s just using him to take down Walt. Hank’s a bit worse than Walt in my book, and I’m shocked to say it. But to hear him say that if Jesse gets plugged it will be ok because they can get it on tape and still nail Walt was very sad indeed. Poor Jesse. He can’t get any love. Someone please give Jesse some love! It was funny how Jesse punched Hank and Gomez in the gut with the statement that Walt was smarter than they are. You could see in Hank’s reaction how much that hurt. He still can’t believe that he’s being bested by his nerdy BIL. And when Jesse blows their plan by calling Walt and changing up the game on them, I was reminded that Jesse is the best idea man of the three when it comes to Walt. He’s lived in Walt’s world and knows the buttons to push. And though Hank clearly sees Jesse as nothing more than a druggie loser with nothing to offer, he has been the idea man a couple of times during his association with Walt. Remember, the magnet idea was his brainchild.

I’m going to be really pissed if Jesse isn’t left standing when this is all over, and if it’s Todd’s stupid uncle who does the deed, I’m going to be even angrier.

Hey, who writes HEISENBERG on the wall of Walt and Skyler’s house? So much to look forward to! I’m so excited, and yet so sad that it’s coming to an end soon.

Breaking Bad: ‘Buried’ – The early bird gets the fat stacks and a chance to meet the disillusioned Santa on the roundabout.

It’s great that Vince Gilligan is showing us the key scenes in their entirety now that we are in the end game. I’m glad we got to see the two gunslingers face off at Hank’s garage with their cell phone guns. Hank’s clearly got the faster trigger finger. That Walt didn’t immediately know that Hank was on the other line with Skyler shows that he continues to underestimate his adversaries. Hank and Skyler’s meeting was interesting. He didn’t understand how very carefully he needs to play her. He thinks Skyler is vulnerable and scared, but Skyler is very wily even when her world is falling apart. I believe she realized that Hank was looking for the upper hand with Walt by having the kids in his control.

I’m having some trouble sussing out when Skyler became a willing co-conspirator. She was drinking the punch bowl-sized glasses of wine and chain smoking her way to a title of widow. Now she’s keeping mum with Hank and even Marie, only allowing herself the luxury of a heartfelt “I’m sorry” but nothing else during Marie’s emotional come-to-Jesus talk. And she nursed Walt who was sick and exhausted after he dug his money grave while assuring him that she didn’t say anything to Hank. I just feel like I missed a key episode that explained that transition from fear and disgust to acceptance and even sympathy. (NOTE: When Saul’s intestinal-issues dude, Huell, turned his backside to Walt’s bed of green, I must admit that my initial thought was that he was going to do something of an unfortunate nature. Thank goodness that didn’t happen, but I’m very frightened about what that says about me.) It’s not that I don’t think this is a believable progression for her character. It’s more that I feel that they just needed to hit the notes a little cleaner. Small little criticism. And it’s even probable that the fault lies with me. I could have missed this playing out. It just seems that it wasn’t too long ago that I hoped Jesse and Skyler would band together, since, together, they have all the pieces of the puzzle. That’s clearly not going to happen.

When Lydia is out in the desert with all the boys, I knew something bad was getting ready to go down. As did everyone else. Lydia seems like such an underdog with her twitchy, nervous facade and yet she reveals herself to be ruthless underneath it all. The ambush she orchestrated was brutal, and she showed no qualms about being at the site when it went down. As long as she wouldn’t have to directly view the carnage. And Todd? He’s the scariest dude in all of Breaking Bad land for me. That Hee Haw exterior? Yikes! Every time he’s onscreen I hope his involvement in the scene is mercifully brief. He honestly terrifies me. So, yay. He’s obviously back. Thanks, Lydia.

Jesse and Hank in the interrogation room. Again. I’m really excited to see how that plays out this time.

I’ve changed my mind. I don’t think I’m going to want to see Saul again after all.

I thought I was pro a Saul spin-off series. But now that we are so close to the airing of the Breaking Bad final episodes, I think I’m going to feel very “scorched earth” about anything related to it after it’s over. When I’m that invested in something (book, movie, TV series), I feel very protective about it. And if Vince Gilligan is giving it the ending it deserves, I’m going to want it to be over once and for all. I know they are talking prequel which negates that particular argument, but I know I’m not going to be interested in watching. Sorry, Vince. Of course, I suspect you’ll have more than enough viewers. You’re a superstar! Breaking Bad has certainly convinced me of that!

On a related note, I hate to wish the summer away, but COME ON AUGUST 11!!