I have been eagerly anticipating the return of Saul Goodman since I saw Michael McKean’s tweet back in March. For a Breaking Bad obsessive like myself, this look was instantly recognizable: the purple shirt, the bandaged nose—this was undeniably “Granite State” Saul. I knew from this set photo that we would get a glimpse of Saul on his way out of Albuquerque in Season 4. I didn’t know exactly what the context would be but I knew it was coming and I’ve been waiting for it ever since.
In “Quite a Ride” (written by Ann Cherkis and directed by Michael Morris), I got the “Granite State” Saul I’d been waiting for. The episode opens with Francesca shredding incriminating documents (which I assume is basically every document in Saul’s office). Saul is on his way out of town, just before calling Ed the Disappearer. His office looks like a hurricane swept through and he’s gathering up a few things he wants to take with him. Of course, there’s the large bag of money (most of which is probably going to end up in Ed’s pocket), but the most interesting part of the scene is when Saul cuts through that garish Constitution wallpaper and removes a shoebox he’s hidden behind the drywall.
We’ve seen this box before, in the very first episode of the series (“Uno” S1E1). Gene keeps it hidden in the wall of his condo and it contains a number of objects that have sentimental value for him, including the videotape of his Saul Goodman commercials, some photographs, a foreign passport, and an old Band-Aid box. While I don’t know what’s in the Band-Aid box, I like to think that it’s Marco’s pinky ring because that makes the whole scenario even more deliciously painful than it already is.
It makes sense that Gene has this box squirreled away, but the fact that Saul has kept it holed up in the wall of his office all this time is interesting to me. While it may not contain exactly the same things as it does when we see it in “Uno,” it is obviously important enough to Saul that he has gone out of his way to keep it both secure and inaccessible. He can’t get to it without destroying the wall, so it’s not something he takes out and looks at occasionally. This leads me to believe that there’s a lot of Jimmy McGill in that box. Saul has kept Jimmy close all these years, but has locked him away, right behind his desk, perhaps a way to ensure that Jimmy McGill stays buried in his past. But whatever mementos he keeps in there are important enough that he can’t bring himself to get rid of them completely, and important enough that it’s one of the very few things he takes with him when he leaves Saul behind.
Saul tells Francesca to dump the bags of shredded documents in different locations and, in true Breaking Bad-Francesca form, she stands waiting for him to hand over two rolls of cash before agreeing to do it. The evolution of Francesca’s character from the sweet and innocent version we met in Season 3 to the Francesca of Breaking Bad is something I’m interested in seeing and something I hope that Better Call Saul will explore in the future. Saul tells Francesca that the cops will come looking for her and she knows better than to say anything to them without an attorney. He then hands her a business card and tells her, “Tell them Jimmy sent you.” I have to wonder whether that might be the business card of a law firm employing one Kim Wexler, Esq. I initially thought it might be an HHM card, but it’s not Hamlindigo blue so I’m pretty sure it isn’t.
Saul mentions that on November 12th at 3pm she is to be somewhere by a phone and she says that if it doesn’t ring at 3 on the dot, she’s gone. At that point, it’s all over, and Saul tells Francesca it’s been “quite a ride.” It’s a ride Francesca doesn’t seem too thrilled to have been on but, for Saul, it’s been everything—everything he has worked toward for years since he turned his back on Jimmy McGill—and it’s all gone now. Saul calls Ed and uses the S.O.S. code, breaking his phone in half when he’s done and surveying the ruins of his office (and his life as Saul Goodman).
Back in the BCS timeline, we see Jimmy at work at CC Mobile, still bored out of his mind and waiting for his window dressings to draw in customers. Finally, an interested party arrives and he springs into action, pretending to be on the phone with a customer who has reserved a number of pre-pay phones. He works his magic on the customer who wants to avoid attention from the IRS due to some off-the-books business. The guy ends up buying a stack of phones. Jackpot.
We learn what job Gus had for Mike at the end of last week’s episode: he has been tasked with shepherding potential structural engineers—via an uncomfortable secret route involving switch cars and hoods—to the Laundromat to survey the scene and give quotes for creating what will become the super lab. The first man isn’t up to Gus’s standards, but the second—a German named Werner Ziegler—meets his approval. It’s not clear whether this German man is in any way connected with Madrigal, but it’s a possibility. He certainly seems fine with the sketchy, secretive nature of the work and Gus wouldn’t bring anyone in for an interview if he didn’t think they could be trusted.
It’s interesting to note that they chose Werner, who uses more old-school methods (pencil and paper sketches, tape measure) over the guy who relied more on tech (computer for notes, electronic measuring device). The first man also took a lot less time to give his estimate and voiced fewer concerns with the job. He was a bit glib in his interaction with Mike at the Laundromat, which surely didn’t endear him to anyone, and he was sent packing pretty quickly. It’s not surprising that Gus and Mike preferred Werner, who was confident he could do the job but realized what a near-impossible task it would be. He took his time explaining to Mike exactly what would need to be done, and the pitfalls he might face along the way, and the detail of his forethought is likely what convinced Gus that he was the right man for the job—someone cautious, capable, and confident without being cocky. With the introduction of Gale into the Better Call Saul timeline and the engineer set to start work on the lab, we’re inching closer to the Breaking Bad-era lab, or at least the early days of it, which we saw in a flashback in “Box Cutter” (BrBa, S4E1). Even though I know it ends badly for him, I’m looking forward to seeing more of Gale’s involvement in the early stages of Gus’s operation.
Whether by choice or because Judge Munsinger made good on his promise to put her to work if he saw her lurking in court again, Kim is back at the courthouse doing some PD work. Her client is a young man who threw a cinder block through a jewelry store window and we get to see Kim wheeling and dealing with the always-entertaining DDA Oakley. The whole thing is reminiscent of Season 1 Jimmy, toiling away as a public defender and trying to build his business. It was a much simpler time, for him and for Kim, but Kim seems to take more pleasure in the work than Jimmy ever did.
Kim is in the process of working through exactly what it is she wants to do career-wise. Mesa Verde may be bringing in the money she needs but she gets no satisfaction from it, especially with their huge federal expansion plan in the works. She’s chosen to go back to her roots and work with individuals who need her help instead of working herself to the bone so a big corporation can get bigger. On a more personal level, Kim has reached a point in her relationship with Jimmy where she realizes that she can’t help him. She has tried and failed to get him to really deal with Chuck’s death but it hasn’t happened. Is it any wonder that she is seeking out a way to help others in need, to feel useful on an interpersonal level instead of just being a cog in some corporate machine?
Jimmy is also unhappy with his job situation, but takes a different (and equally self-destructive) approach. At home with Kim, who has Mesa Verde work to catch up on, Jimmy tries to unwind watching Doctor Zhivago but he can’t settle in. He uses the excuse that he’s distracting Kim from her work to get out of the apartment and up to his usual nonsense. This time it’s selling phones direct to customers on the street. After a run in with some punk kids who think he’s a narc, he goes to the nail salon to change into some more street-smart clothing. He chooses a tracksuit—classic Saul Goodman casualwear—and makes his way to the Dog House, where Albuquerque’s seedier element tends to congregate at night. In a classic Better Call Saul montage, Jimmy sells out his entire stock of phones from the trunk of his car. But just when he thinks the evening has been a complete success, the punks from earlier in the night show up to give him an epic beat down and take all the money he just made.
Kim wakes up in the middle of the night to find Jimmy in the bathroom, battered and bruised from his run-in at the Dog House. He tells her he was mugged (leaving out the part about his car-trunk cell-phone emporium) and she springs into action to take care of him. This is the closest we’ve come to seeing Jimmy accept Kim’s help and the least emotionally distant he has been since Chuck’s death. He’s shaken by the experience and opens up to her to some extent, talking about “back in the day” when he would never have gotten his ass handed to him by a bunch of punks. “I was one of them,” he says, and Kim tells him that those days are over—but they aren’t, not for Jimmy, and he changes the subject by telling her that he is going to call the doctor she suggested. As low and vulnerable as he is in this moment, I still don’t think Jimmy has any intention of calling. It’s just a way for him to get off the subject of the good old days of Slippin’ Jimmy. At work the next day, Jimmy cleans his handiwork off the windows, seemingly uninterested in dealing with the criminal element he had been courting.
Kim can only shirk her Mesa Verde responsibilities for so long. In accepting help from Viola, Kim has effectively just pushed all the work onto her paralegal. A mistake in some documents that Viola prepared (which Kim did not look over) results in a frantic call from Paige. Kim is torn between the responsibilities of Mesa Verde—promises made to Kevin and Page, which she chose to take on—and the responsibility to her PD client who desperately needs her guidance and help if she is to stay out of jail. Kim chooses the young woman, and she does it in a way that is incredibly unprofessional and rude to Paige—her friend who gave her a chance when she so desperately needed it. Paige doesn’t pull her punches when she chews out Kim for blowing off her responsibilities and hanging up on her, nor should she. Kim is, quite simply, not doing her job to the best of her ability. Her heart isn’t in it, and neither is her head, and it’s starting to show.
Jimmy has his PPD check at the DA’s office and runs into Howard in the courthouse bathroom. Howard looks absolutely destroyed and we learn that he’s been suffering from insomnia. Howard’s feelings of guilt over Chuck’s death are taking a visible physical and emotional toll on him. When Jimmy asks him what’s wrong—as if it shouldn’t be blatantly obvious—Howard almost opens up to him but then stops himself. Probably hearing Kim’s harsh-but-true words in his head, he chooses not to further burden Jimmy with his guilt about Chuck. Jimmy takes a page out of Kim’s book and tells Howard he should be seeing a shrink, even offering up the same number Kim gave him. When Howard tells him he sees someone twice a week, it’s exactly what Jimmy needs to hear in order to rationalize not calling the doctor. If Howard is in as rough shape as he is and he goes twice a week, what could a doctor possibly do for Jimmy?
Jimmy’s PPD supervisor goes through the motions, checking up on Jimmy’s employment situation and asking if he’s associating with any known criminals. Jimmy lies about that one, of course, but when the supervisor asks him about his plans for the future, he’s incredibly honest. He tells him that as soon as he can get his law license back, “everything will be better. I’m gonna have more clients. I’m gonna win more cases. I’m gonna be a damn good lawyer, and people are gonna know about it.” Sounds like Saul Goodman to me.
We’ve heard Jimmy talking about going back to the law before, but this is the first time we hear him expressing what his true goals are as a lawyer. He doesn’t talk about helping people or making the world a better place or any of the things that appeal to Kim about the law; he talks about success and fame. This is what Saul Goodman is all about: winning cases, making money, and being seen doing it. Jimmy is sketching out his future here, and it’s interesting that the person he chooses to tell this to is someone who isn’t particularly interested.
He could talk to Kim about his goals, but he doesn’t—perhaps because they don’t align with what her idea of a “good lawyer” is. While Jimmy dreams of that white Caddy and his face on TVs and billboards throughout Albuquerque, Kim is jeopardizing her solo practice’s success and her financial security just so that she can help people who really need help. It’s not just because we know Saul Goodman doesn’t end up working with Kim, but also that they are so obviously on different career paths within the law profession that it’s painful to listen to Jimmy talk about his future with “his partner.” The scene is an excellent ending to an episode that started with Saul’s last day in his office. We didn’t need a refresher on where Jimmy is going to end up, but it certainly reminded us that his whole story is quite a ride.