BETTER CALL SAUL: “Winner”

Eventually, Mike drives Werner out to a vacant lot, triumphantly doing what even Gus’s network couldn’t through his signature old-fashioned detective work. He calls Gus and appraises him on the strange interloper with the friendly voice. Gus seems to know who he’s talking about, but his admonition for Werner is clear: When a man can no longer be trusted, he’s of no use to Gustavo Fring. Despite Mike’s claims that the superlab cannot be finished without him, Werner’s fate is sealed. Mike asks to do it personally instead of leaving his friend to whatever murderers Gus intends. Gus agrees.

So Mike, in maybe the most emotionally wrenching scene in the history of either Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul, has Werner call his wife and browbeat her into going home before Gus’s men can trail her and silence her, too. He steels his face to Werner’s pleas of mercy, telling him that it was never up to him in the first place. Finally, Werner resigns to his fate, and asks Mike to make sure his wife isn’t left to wonder what happened to him. Mike says they’ll make up a story about some kind of accident that should be satisfactory. More than that, he promises to do it personally.

Finally, Werner sighs and starts talking about how pretty the night sky in the desert is, and how he wants to look up at it for awhile. He walks off, and in a painfully gorgeous long shot, Mike follows behind and puts him down with one bullet. It hurt him to do it (though I wonder if this was always the plan for Werner, if not his team), but it proves to Gus, once and for all, that Mike is a man to be trusted. If for no other reason than to help Kaylee, the last piece he has of his dead son and the only thing that matters to him in this world, Mike does it. He returns to the Superlab, briefly meets a very chipper Gale Boetticher, and commiserates with Gus.

Meanwhile, Jimmy returns to the Board, armed both with Kim and the letter Chuck left him after he died. He heads into the same office he was made a lawyer in, the same office where he destroyed Chuck’s career, to win back his own. After reading the opening few sentences, Jimmy pauses. Reading through it to himself (is this the first time he’s read it?), he calls it off and speaks, for the first time, from the heart.

He talks about how he knows that Chuck loved him as a brother, but not as lawyer. He talks about how the only thing he wanted was to make Chuck proud, to make the people on the 35th floor of the big building accept him. But they didn’t, and they won’t. He tells them that with or without their reinstatement, he’ll be the best McGill that he can be. That he’ll try to live up to Chuck’s good name. It works, and Jimmy and Kim both know it. As they wait to hear what should be a formality, Jimmy breaks character: He makes fun of those leering assholes at the committee, and praises himself for another job well conned. He knew the letter itself wouldn’t be enough, so he upped his game and tricked those bastards on the top yet again. He really is a winner.

The look on Kim’s face says otherwise. “It’s all good, man.”

  • You know, despite the great, great job to make Nacho and Kim worthy main characters in their own rights, this show was always about two men: Jimmy and Mike, and how a series of bad, selfish (or selfless) decisions led them down the untenable paths that they found themselves in before Walter White careened into their lives and blew everything to shit. It’s nice to see them both make those final steps to cement themselves as indisputable cogs in the machine of the Albuquerque underworld.
  • There’s a great bit when Jimmy puts away that letter and says that Chuck’s words to him are “between the two of us.” The committee takes it as a warm-hearted declaration of fraternal love, but Kim knows the score. That should have keyed her off right away, but it didn’t. She’s Jimmy’s biggest mark of all. After all, Jimmy said Chuck was usually right. This time, he was.
  • A great touch: the audience should have known who the mystery donor behind Chuck’s dedication was before anyone at that party, given the identity of the crew who was filming it. Jimmy McGill, the patron saint of idiots.
  • Howard Hamlin is a smug fucker, but I earnestly do like how much he respects Jimmy. He was never going to vote for Christina Espinoza, but he really admires Jimmy for trying, for sticking to his guns. His admiration for people like Jimmy and Kim, who reject the easy road he got, is his one redeeming quality. Just some great subtle acting from Patrick Fabian.
  • Another round of applause for Michael McKean, the perfect asshole. I was really starting to wonder if Jimmy without Chuck was really all that compelling of an underdog. He’s been self-destructive all season. Then I got to see Chuck’s beaming, sinister grin again and I remembered that the kinds of wounds your family inflicts on you never really heal. Also, Michael McKean seems like the nicest man in real life. It’s great to hear him finally bust out those Christopher Guest-approved pipes on this show.
  • What makes this all even sadder is that Chuck really did feel some brotherly affection for Jimmy, as the second half of that cold open flashback shows. After the party, the McGill boys limp home, and as a drunk Chuck and an even drunker Jimmy lay down in the same bed, they both start singing that ABBA song again. This time, without a crowd for either of them to play to, they’re in perfect harmony. What could have been.
  • I glossed over the bit where Lalo tracks Mike, but it was just perfect Breaking Bad-style tension. Mike pulling into that parking space and patiently waiting for another customer to leave so he could box Lalo out, literally gum up the machine with that gross little slip of wadded up chewing gum between two wrappers and escape into the horizon was pure genius. He really might be the most capable person on television. Lalo never stood a chance.
  • And that’s it for another stellar season of television from Gilligan, Gould and co. I imagine Season 5 will have to be the end point, and I can’t wait. Barring some unforeseen crazy time jumps into the post-Bad world, I have to think things will end right where they started for ol’ Jimmy McGill. Sitting in his tacky office as a mysterious looking man in sunglasses and a bowler hat waits nervously to talk about a man named Badger…
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