Saul: Halfway Through The Season

We’re now halfway through season 4 of Better Call Saul, so time to revisit my earlier predictions for the season and see if I’m anywhere close. Here’s the link to the original post: https://robertkirkendall.com/2018/08/06/countdown-to-saul/

SPOILERS AHEAD!

The first subject I tackled was the fallout of Chuck’s death. After much speculation I concluded that Chuck’s death would ruled accidental, his ex wife Rebecca would be named executor of his will, and Chuck’s final words to Jimmy would haunt him and push him into his transformation into Saul. The first prediction turned out to be correct, but with one wrinkle. The second prediction was technically false because Howard Hamlin was the named executor, but Rebecca was the main beneficiary of Chuck’s estate with Jimmy receiving only $5,000, so the spirit of the prediction was correct. The third prediction remains to be seen, but it’s been altered by the introduction of the sealed letter that Chuck wrote to Jimmy which was only to be opened by Jimmy at the time of Chuck’s demise. Chuck’s letter to Jimmy was stilted in its language, but also heartfelt and his best attempt at being supportive of his little brother, and perhaps in some way compensates for what Chuck said earlier.

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The aforementioned wrinkle about Chuck’s death being ruled accidental is Howard’s belief that Chuck actually killed himself intentionally, which ties into my speculation of Howard’s stunning confession. Turns out it did have to do with Chuck, but the body of the confession I didn’t predict at all, though it does make sense. I didn’t predict how much Chuck’s death was going to affect Howard, and that he was correct is his belief that Chuck killed himself intentionally adds to his stress. He looks frazzled by episode 5, and his admission to Jimmy that he’s been seeing a therapist twice a week convinces Jimmy that therapy isn’t right for him. Howard appears rudderless without Chuck’s presence, and it’s difficult to predict where his story line is going. In the promo for episode 6 Jimmy goes to see Howard at his office, perhaps for  a job opportunity, maybe Howard wants to replace Chuck with Jimmy, but we know there’s no mention of HHM in Breaking Bad so it seems that won’t go anywhere.

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My prediction about Gustavo Fring noticing the bottle of pills that Nacho Varga gave to the paramedics after Hector Salamanca’s stroke was accurate, though an easy prediction. But what Gus did with that information surprised me at every turn. I did not predict that Nacho’s vehicle would have a tracking device, that Victor would follow him and watch him dispose of the fake pills, that Gus would have his own doctor look at Hector, get tissue samples, and figure out what Nacho did. And I definitely did not see Gus killing Arturo in an ugly way right in front of Nacho to drive home that Nacho now belongs to Gus lest the Salamancas find out what Nacho did to Hector.

The rest of my Nacho predictions about his fate at the end of the season, whether he’s killed, disappears, or if he’s able to save his father, have yet to be seen. And now that he’s been shot, all a part of Gus’ plan to make it look like he and Arturo were ambushed by a rival gang, Nacho’s fate seems more doomed since he can’t go to a real hospital to take care of his injuries. Lalo, who I also mentioned in my prediction, hasn’t appeared yet, but I’ve read elsewhere that he’ll appear later this season. There have been released pictures of Lalo with Hector, so I assume he’s from the cartel.

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Though most of my predictions were somewhere in the ballpark, my predictions about Mike Ehrmantraut were mostly off course. I somehow got the idea that Mike was going to investigate Gus’s past, mainly based on a promo scene in which Mike says, “The guy’s story changes every time he tells it.” I thought he was talking about Gus, but was actually talking about another person in the grief support group that he attends with his daughter in law Stacey. Though after the way Mike called out Henry, the lying member, in front of the whole group probably means no more support group meeting for Mike. He’ll manage.

Mike’s decision to take his new job at Madrigal Automotive seriously instead staying home and collecting paychecks until his money is laundered is indicative that Mike likes to be productive and isn’t content with slothfulness. This eventually gets Gus’ attention, and he utilizes Mike to help vet potential engineers for his super lab, one of the main locations for BB. It now appears that Gus and Mike are now on the same page, but conflicts can still arise, probably over tactics and issues that’ll arise during the construction of the super lab.

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The next part of my predictions was the future of Jimmy and Kim, and how they were going to come apart. So far they’re still together, but there have been some fissures. Kim’s concern over Jimmy bottling up his feelings over Chuck’s death, Jimmy only taking a job when Kim suggests therapy as well as slipping back into old, dishonest habits, and an unease in the air are starting to separate them. They’re also starting to head down different paths. Kim getting into public defense work despite the plum job at Mesa Verde shows that she wants to do work that matters. It also shows she’s in touch with her moral center whereas Jimmy is moving into another direction.

I think Kim’s job at Mesa Verde will come to an end and then she can concentrate on public defense work. Not sure if she’ll resign or if they’ll terminate her employment, but probably the former because Kim won’t let things get to a point where she’s fired. But her new foray into the world of criminal law may put her into contact with the wrong kind of people. The brusque way she dealt with her defendant David seems to indicate that she doesn’t see the potential danger that lies ahead.

And then there’s Gene Takavic, Jimmy’s third persona. I discussed his scene from episode 1 of this season in my last BCS post, from him thinking his cover might be blown because of a receptionist error to the taxi ride with the suspicious driver who has an Albuquerque Isotopes air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror. I hope there’s another Gene scene this season, one a year isn’t enough. And since BCS will end up in the Gene timeline I predict we will see more of him, just not sure when.

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Getting back to Gus, something occurred to me a couple of days after watching episode 5. Earlier I speculated that Gus, being a Chilean, may have had ties to the Pinochet regime and the CIA. But after the scene in which he decides to hire the engineer Werner Ziegler and speaks to him in German, it got me to thinking how after World War II a lot of Nazis escaped to South America, and Gus is from South America…maybe there’s a connection there? That would make Gus even more insidious.

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Also wanted to say I was overjoyed to finally see Saul, the first BCS scene to take place during the BB timeline. The flash forward which showed him desperately getting his most important possessions together before disappearing and ending his Saul Goodman life while Francesca shreds documents was the perfect book end to the final scene of the episode which shows Jimmy resolving to be a lawyer again. They even shot the scene on film instead of digital to make it match BB.

That’s all for now, but I’ll add updates to this post as the season progresses. I’ll predict that the pressure will turn up on everyone over the next five episodes and force them to make some tough decisions. We’ve go some rough road ahead of us.

 

©2018 Robert Kirkendall

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Countdown To Saul

Tomorrow night on AMC is the long awaited premier of the fourth season of Better Call Saul. I was planning on making predictions for the upcoming season on this post like I did last year in the run up to season 3, but I’m having a hard time figuring out what to predict. What I have to go on is the ending of season three, the various promo commercials that have already been aired, and a couple of reveals that were leaked by Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, and some of the cast, but taken together there are so many moving parts that it’s difficult to make any kind of accurate or semi-accurate predictions. But I’ll give it a shot.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

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Among the clips shown in promo commercials are scenes from Chuck McGill’s funeral, so now we know for sure that he died in the fire that he started in the last episode of season 3. But there are so many questions surrounding his death that need sorting out. First, what’s in Chuck’s will? Jimmy would be the legal next of kin, but did Chuck instead leave everything to his ex wife Rebecca? Even though they’re divorced they still care for each other, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he made her the executor of his estate. Or did he die intestate? A lawyer would probably have a will made up, but we don’t know that for sure. Also, will his death be determined to be an intentional or accidental suicide? This is important if he had a life insurance policy, which normally don’t pay out in cases of intentional suicide. It’s also been revealed that Howard Hamlin makes a stunning confession at the end of episode 1, and I’m having a hard time figuring out what that could be. It may have to do with Chuck, or it may have to do with Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill, or both, or neither because it has something to do with his personal life. I’m looking forward to finding out. I’m going to predict that Chuck made Rebecca his executor, that his death will be ruled an accidental suicide, and the last words he said to his younger brother will haunt Jimmy and push the transformation into Saul.

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The other main story line is the merging of two worlds of Nacho Varga and Gustavo Fring. Though they are in two different camps, Nacho’s switching of Hector Salamanca’s pills is suspected by Gus after Hector’s stroke or heart attack (not sure which it is). This brings Nacho into Gus’ notice, and no doubt will cause him to take some kind of action, because as he’s already made clear, he decides when and how Hector dies.* Nacho was already skating on thin ice in season 3, especially when he switched out Hector’s glycerin pills in an effort to save his father from the cartel. From what’s been shown on the commercials and in stills like the one above it looks like the danger will continue for Nacho in season 4, but how it’ll happen seems complicated by other factors that will come into play. What happens to Nacho will depend on what Gus’ finds out, what he does with that information, how the cartel reacts, and who will succeed Hector in the hierarchy.

Another factor that will affect Nacho and Gus will be the introduction of the character of Lalo, who was mentioned in the same Breaking Bad episode that Nacho was mentioned in (episode 2/8, the one titled Better Call Saul). Lalo is probably sent by the cartel to bring order back to the chaos, but his lack of presence in BB makes him shadowy. As it appears now, Nacho will either end up dead, or he’ll go into hiding (perhaps with help from the vacuum store owner/identity changer). I read a comment on a fan page which predicted that Tuco would end up killing Nacho because eventually he’ll be released from jail to look after Hector once he’s wheelchair bound, and that will give Tuco the opportunity to kill him.

Nacho wants no part of the cartel and fears for the safety of his father, so whatever he does or whatever ultimately happens to him will have to do with those two motivations. If I had to predict, I’d have to say he ends up dead, and it will be tragic.

Mike

The storyline that ties them all together is Mike Ehrmantraut, the connector between Jimmy/Saul and the world of the criminal underground. At the end of season 3 he is working for Madrigal Automotive, part of the conglomerate that’s also partnered with Gus Fring’s Pollos Hermanos. Eventually Mike will be working directly for Gus, but in the mean time he’ll do what Mike does and investigate his new employer. No doubt this will cause tension, Gus is highly secretive of his Chilean past, but somehow the two of them will come to an understanding. How this comes about is the mystery, but I’m predicting Mike will realize he will have to give up some of his independence if he want to survive in Albuquerque, and Gus will realize that Mike is as close to a perfect employee as he’ll ever get (sorry, Lyle). And if anything is revealed about Gus’ past, I’m going to predict that he was involved in the Pinochet regime, and possibly a CIA asset.

But the biggest tragedy of season 4 will be the death of Jimmy and the birth of Saul. Not only will this be a transformation of his soul, it’ll be the end of his relationship to Kim Wexler, the only person left in the world who loves him. With his family all deceased, as well as his best friend Marco, Kim is Jimmy’s last tie to humanity, and with her out of his life there will be nothing to stop from Jimmy becoming Saul. How this comes about will be Kim unwilling to accept Jimmy’s morphing into Saul, but how this happens is the part we’ll have to see. Some think Kim will die at the end of 4, but I really hope not, she’s the heart of the show. I think Kim will survive, but it’ll be with a broken heart.

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And all the roads of the BB/BCS universe lead to Gene, the hardest to predict wildcard of all. From the clip that’s been shown and a couple of pictures taken by a fan that shows Gene leaving the hospital and getting into a taxi, we know that Gene is almost discovered by a hospital administrator who needs to see his ID again but somehow he makes it out of the hospital. What happens after is open to a number of possibilities. Perhaps the process of his eventual discovery was triggered by the hospital visit, and he may have to go on the run again, or maybe he’ll stay and make a stand, or maybe he reaches out for help from someone from his previous life. But which previous life, Jimmy or Saul? One of the main themes of BCS is identity crisis, and in the end, the identity he chooses to pursue will be the biggest decision he’ll ever make.

But as I keep saying even though some disagree, I think the Gene sequences are simultaneous to Walt’s exile in New Hampshire in the final episodes of BB, and not after as most others claim. This is the scenario that makes the most sense. Once Walt is dead the case is closed. The DEA may just assume that Walt killed Saul before he went into hiding to get rid of a loose end, they did disappear at the same time, and the DEA may downgrade the search for Saul to a low priority. No one will miss a crooked lawyer, no one will look for Saul, and after a number of years he may even be declared legally dead. All of this will give Gene a certain amount of freedom that he wouldn’t have during the manhunt to Walt.

Most or all my predictions my end up wrong, but it’s unpredictability that makes BCS compelling. What started out as an idea for a half hour sitcom has become a prequel that matches its predecessor in quality, is growing to the same intensity, and is one of the most original shows on television. I eagerly look forward to the premier of season 4, and after I see the first episode I’ll be able to refine my predictions. What I do know for sure is that the cast, crew, and creative team of BCS are among the best in the business.

I like to think I see things in people.

 

 

*And lucky for Gus, he’ll be there when it happens. 😀

 

UPDATE: So now that I’ve seen episode 1 I have learned about Howard’s big reveal. I wasn’t sure what it would be, but it does make sense that Howard would feel guilt over forcing Chuck to retire because of his increased insurance rates. And Howard’s suspicion that Chuck may have actually killed himself on purpose proves my supposition that the fire was determined to be accidental. Howard’s confession also seemed to absolve Jimmy of his responsibility, at least in his mind, so now he can become Saul.

And who was that mysterious taxi driver in the opening Gene sequence? Apparently he has a connection to Albuquerque, maybe he was one of Saul’s old clients? I have a feeling things are about to blow up in Omaha.

UPDATE: The mystery of the possible connection between Gus and Nacho was answered in a big way at the very end of episode 2. The end of the episode also explained why it was titled Breathe, a cruelly ironic title it turned out. And how about Kim tearing Howard a new one for messing with Jimmy with his confession. The claws came out!

UPDATE: Poor, poor Nacho, no turning back now. But at least we got to see the shady veterinarian again, working his illicit surgical magic on Nacho’s counterfeit bullet wounds. I wonder what the value of Arturo’s Oldsmobile 442 was before it was destroyed? Those old muscle cars are worth bank. As for Chuck’s final letter to Jimmy, a lot of people have suggested that Kim actually wrote it, but that makes no sense at all. That goes against Kim’s character, and the letter sounds like it was written before Chuck and Jimmy’s relationship worsened. I finally made a prediction that came true! But admittedly, I did see Ira in the IMDb in the credits, but I remember from BB that his specialty was burglary so it made sense that he was the one breaking into the Neff office, which they showed in the promos. Looking forward to episode 4.

©2018 Robert Kirkendall

Waiting For Saul

I am counting the days until the season premier of a television show, something I almost never do.  Season 3 of Better Call Saul will premier (finally!) on April 10th on AMC, and in a time of unprecedented turmoil and revolutionary foment, it is one of the few bright spots to look forward to in this crazy year.  Those of you who are fans as well are no doubt eagerly awaiting.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!  FOR BOTH BETTER CALL SAUL AND BREAKING BAD!

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Now when we last saw Jimmy at the end of season 2 of BCS, he had just admitted to his brother Chuck that he had indeed doctored the paperwork for the Mesa Verde project and bribed the employee at the copy store to keep quiet.  And after Jimmy leaves Chuck’s house, it’s revealed that Chuck was secretly recording their conversation.  At the very least Chuck has the evidence to get Jimmy disbarred, with possible criminal charges.

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In BCS’s parallel story at the end of season 2, we see Mike Ehrmantraut about to kill Hector Salamanca with a high powered rifle from a far distance when he’s interrupted by the continuous sound of a car horn.  As he investigates he sees that someone stuck a branch in his car to sound the horn and had left a single worded note on the windshield which reads DON’T.  Since it’s been subsequently revealed that Gustavo Fring will be in season 3, it’s not to difficult to guess that Fring is responsible for the interruption.

So what’s going to happen next?  And how are these two story lines going to intertwine?  The Mike story seems a bit easier to figure out.  Assuming it’s Gus, or rather one of his henchman (I’m guessing Victor) who sabotaged Mike’s assassination attempt, it must be because Gus has bigger revenge plans for Hector.  But how did Gus find out about Mike?  My guess is Mike ended up on Gus’ radar screen when Mike engineered the scuffle with Tuco that got Tuco thrown in jail.  Gus no doubt watches every move the Salamancas make (their back story shown in Breaking Bad explains why), so when somebody out of nowhere gets one of the Salamancas sent up, that would certainly get Gus’ attention.  At this point Gus would look deeper into Mike’s history and find out about his past with the Philadelphia PD.  He also would have put a tail on him, otherwise he would not know about his assassination attempt on Hector.  The only other way Gus would know would be if he had someone on the inside of Salamanca’s operation.  Nacho Varga perhaps?  I’ve seen this suggested on other BCS fan sites, and it seems plausible.  Would Nacho really order a hit on Tuco on his own?  If Tuco’s death allowed Nacho to rise up in the organization, that would make him a prime suspect.  Either way Gus would see an ally in Mike, and with Gus’ protection Mike would no longer have to be a lone wolf taking on an entire organization.  It’s safe to say season 3 will see an alliance between Gus and Mike, and a furthering of Gus’ chess like plans.

But predicting Jimmy’s story line in season 3 is a little trickier.  We know Chuck has incriminating evidence on Jimmy which Jimmy is seemingly not aware of.  We also know there’s the ongoing fight over the Mesa Verde account between Kim Wexler and Hamlin, Hamlin, & McGill, which will probably go to Kim after Chuck’s embarrassing behavior at the banking commission hearing.  And we also know Jimmy and Kim love each other, but that they also have a different set of morals.  I predict Chuck will take the incriminating tape to Howard Hamlin first, then he, or they, will make a move against Jimmy.  When that happens, Kim will then see the evidence proving Jimmy’s chicanery, then she’ll have to make a decision about her future with Jimmy.  For the sake of her career and her future, Kim would probably have to end their relationship, which will be heartbreaking for both of them.

However when Chuck plays his hand, with or without Hamlin’s assistance, it is not necessarily going to mean the end of Jimmy, or his law career, and this will be when the Mike story line reconnects with the Jimmy story line.  To be sure Chuck does have Jimmy over a barrel, but there people out there that need the services of a lawyer with flexible morals, people like Mike, and his future boss Gus.  One of the looming conflicts will be between Chuck who wants to take revenge on his brother, and the Mike/Gus consortium that wants to keep Jimmy is business.  There are a number of ways this can happen because there are other factors involved, like Chuck’s psychosomatic fear of electricity, or the reason why Chuck is no longer with his wife Rebecca, which could play out in the final conclusion.

I’ve also looked to Breaking Bad to find clues for what’s going to happen in BCS, but they’re sparse.  In BB, we only see Jimmy as Saul, and we don’t see any part of his personal life.  There is also no mention of Chuck, Kim, or Howard, and there’s only a brief mention of Nacho.  This leaves it wide open for what’s going to happen in season 3.  Do they survive into the BB timeline?  And if so, is there still a relationship with Jimmy/Saul?  interesting to speculate.

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But with all this said, there’s still the one wild card of BCS which is hard to predict, Gene.  Whereas with BB you knew it was going to end with Walter White’s death because BB was constructed like a tragedy (among other things), and he was dying of lung cancer.  The ending of BCS, which seemingly will end in the Gene storyline, is a little harder to predict because it can go in a number of directions, all of which depend upon what BCS is.  If Gene blows his cover somehow and gets himself killed, that would make BCS a tragedy.  If Gene remains where he’s at managing a Cinnabon in Omaha, NE for the rest of his days, that would be like a tragedy in slow motion.  If Gene gets caught by law enforcement, then BCS becomes more like a regular crime drama, or possibly a courtroom drama, with Kim coming to his defense (assuming her character is still around).

My prediction of the Gene storyline is that it will play out like an identity crisis.  When Saul becomes Gene, it is at the same time that Walt disappears into exile in New Hampshire, so when we first see Gene it is simultaneous to the last two episodes of BB.  But eventually Walt will get killed, and it will be national news.  When this happens, along with the deaths of Jack Welker and his gang, the end of their meth operation, the finding of all the money they got from Walt, as well as finding out where the bodies of Hank Schrader and Steve Gomez are so they can get a proper burial, the DEA may go a little easier in their case against Skyler White.  This will give Gene some more room to move around.  He will follow the ongoing case intently, and when the opportunity is right he will reach out to someone from his former life.  But which former life, Jimmy or Saul?  Over the course of his life he has three different identities, and he’ll have to decide who he will be for the rest of his days.  Each identity has its own risks, so it’ll be a difficult decision.  He’ll have to look into his heart and find out who he really is.

All these predictions are conjecture of course.  There are other BB characters who can still make an appearance (I read on another post that Robert Forester, the vacuum cleaner repairman/identity changer will appear on BCS), and there are still other characters and situations which are unknown now but may appear over the course of season 3 and determine the endgame for Jimmy/Saul/Gene.

And that’s what separates BCS from most other TV shows.  TV is formulaic out of necessity. It must follow a tight schedule, satisfy the sponsors, and is therefore predictable.  The good guys prevail in most crime dramas, and problems are wrapped up in 30 minutes in the average sitcom.  BCS is not formulaic, and is therefore harder to predict.  It also has an amazing cast, both the leads and all the interesting side characters, is well written, masterfully directed, has depth and dimension, unexpected plot twists, and in my humble opinion is one of the best shows on television today.   Looking forward to April 10th.

No half measures.