The penultimate episode of Season 4 started out fun but quickly became one of the most tension-filled episodes of the series to date. “Wiedersehen” (written by Gennifer Hutchison and directed by Vince Gilligan) was a difficult journey for both the characters and the viewer. I had to pause several times to pull myself together—especially when it came to the scenes with poor Werner. Throughout the hour I found myself vocalizing this tension with statements like “I don’t like this at all,” “This is gonna be bad,” and the simple-yet-effective “OH NO.” None of this tension was resolved by the end of the episode, and going forward into the finale I am even more worried for some of the characters than I have been in the past.
But first, the fun part. We see the return of Slippin’ Kimmy in this week’s teaser, which is all I really wanted after the end of last week’s episode when Kim expressed her desire to keep grifting with Jimmy. The target: the Lubbock, Texas building department, where Kim has decided to apply her skill set to get Kevin the building he wanted. Both Kim and Paige had agreed that it was impossible to change the plans and keep on schedule, and Kim had no interest in trying, but once she realized that she could use the art of the grift to get it done, she decided to kill two birds with one stone. It wasn’t about helping Kevin or Mesa Verde; it just happened to be something she could accomplish while satisfying Slippin’ Kimmy’s scamming needs.
The plan is executed perfectly. Kim—as “Lizzie,” a frazzled single mom with a sprained ankle—brings in a duplicate of Mesa Verde’s Lubbock branch plans to double check that they are correct. Shirley, the department employee, assures her that she has filed the correct plans. Enter Jimmy, playing the role of Kim’s flaky brother Bill who is supposed to be watching her 8-month-old son, Aidan. “Bill” has left a hungry Aidan in the car, thinking that babies are like dogs and are OK with a cracked window. He’s got a bag of milk with him, and in the chaos of “Lizzie” yelling at him and freaking out about poor little Aidan left all alone, he strategically places it on the building department’s copy of the plans without Shirley noticing. The milk bag has a hole in it and destroys the original copy, but Shirley allows a panicked Kim to switch out the originals with the copy. But Kim doesn’t use the identical copy; she uses new plans—plans for the building Kevin wants—and the kind and trusting Shirley stamps them approved without double-checking.
After their successful scam, Jimmy and Kim have dinner at a diner on their way back to Albuquerque. Jimmy’s hearing is set for the following morning, and he’s confident that he will be reinstated and able to practice law again. His time selling drop phones has given him an idea for the business strategy he will employ as Saul Goodman: criminal lawyer, representing Albuquerque’s many lawbreakers. However, Jimmy’s current plan involves Kim helping him give “the Huell Babineaux treatment” to clients who will pay top dollar for their powers combined. While Kim is enjoying that Slippin’ Kimmy life, she isn’t willing to do it all the time and for just anyone; she wants to be selective and tells Jimmy they need to use their powers for good. At this, Jimmy rightly calls her out for having a pretty nebulous definition of what “good” is and notes that using their powers so that Mesa Verde can have a slightly bigger branch in Lubbock, Texas isn’t exactly righting the world’s wrongs. Kim can’t argue that point, but she wants to move forward with a “know it when we see it” approach to their scamming and Jimmy agrees to it. Maybe he thinks he can convince her to become Slippin’ Kimmy full time or maybe he’s just so happy that Slippin’ Kimmy wants to come out to play sometimes that he’d agree to anything she suggested. Either way, for the moment, things are looking pretty rosy in McWexler land. But because this is Better Call Saul and they like to make everything hurt a lot, this doesn’t last long.
Jimmy is a bit overconfident going into his hearing and, though he later claims that he was completely sincere, he does sound fairly rehearsed. When questioned about the events that brought him to his current position, he makes no specific mention of Chuck. He is also thrown for a loop when asked what the law means to him. He was not expecting this question, but he does actually manage to pull an incredibly sincere answer out of his hat. Still, it’s not enough. The final nail in his coffin is when he’s asked about his influences and doesn’t say Chuck, instead giving props to University of American Samoa (Go Land Crabs!).
Even though he was told he’d receive a letter with their decision, Jimmy waits around the office and confronts the clerk when she comes out of the room, asking her what their decision was. Her face tells him everything he needs to go and he absolutely loses it, running around the building until he can find one of the committee members. He corners him on the stairs and questions him until he gets an answer: it was a “question of sincerity.” Jimmy can’t fathom how they could find him insincere and deny him for that even though he did everything he was supposed to do (which is actually not true at all considering he scammed his way through the past several months). But in Jimmy’s mind, he’s clean on paper and that should be enough. But it’s not, because the committee members were able to see through him. This is just another one of those instances where Jimmy is shocked when people can see him for who he really is.
Kim is just as confident as Jimmy that he’ll be reinstated. She’s on a work call but only half paying attention as she readies Jimmy’s congratulatory presents: a new monogrammed briefcase, and an edited version of his travel coffee mug that now reads “World’s 2nd Best Lawyer Again.” Jimmy calls her frantic to give her the bad news, and the two meet on the top of the parking garage at Kim’s office. As someone who has become invested in Jimmy and Kim’s relationship over the course of four seasons, watching them get into a vicious fight is one of the most stressful moments in a very stressful episode. Jimmy picks the fight with her, because of course he does; he’s angry, has a tendency to lash out, and Kim is the one that is there.
Jimmy questions Kim’s belief in him, even though if he stopped to think about it for two seconds he would realize that she is the one person on earth who does actually believe in him. But Jimmy is so wound up and wounded by his rejection that he projects onto Kim the way that other people see him: the lowlife, the asshole, the lawyer that guilty people hire. His voice breaks (and so does my heart) when he says, “You look at me and you see Slippin’ Jimmy.” It’s a pretty standard “wronged and angry” Jimmy rant up until Kim asks what he said about Chuck. She (like the committee members and the viewers) is shocked that he didn’t mention him at the hearing. For all his insistence that he was totally sincere, the fact that he left Chuck out of the equation is proof positive of his insincerity. Jimmy, who has managed to avoid the topic of Chuck pretty much all season, finally snaps: “I don’t think about Chuck…I don’t miss Chuck. Chuck was alive and now he’s dead and that’s that. Finito. Life goes on. So sue me.” To me (and to Kim) this reads as completely insincere, because for all Jimmy’s faults, he has always had a heart. I believe he hates Chuck and that, yes, his life is much easier without Chuck in it, but I don’t believe for one second that he doesn’t think about Chuck or care that he died—especially given the circumstances.
Since he’s on a roll, Jimmy decides to bring up the Wexler McGill office (or lack thereof) and Kim finally snaps. She reminds him that she is always there for him—no matter what kind of nonsense, legal or illegal—he’s gotten himself into. She is the one who drops everything for him and she can’t understand why he’s so obsessed with the office as the one true measure of her feelings for him. But for Jimmy, the office signifies her willingness to partner with him: the one thing that would prove to him that she sees him as a real lawyer.
Jimmy says a lot of unfair things, but the one thing that rings true is when he tells Kim that she only wants to roll around in the dirt with him when she gets bored and then she goes right back to her prestigious job, where she’s embarrassed by him. This is actually very true and she knows it, but at this point she’s too worked up herself to acknowledge the truth. Instead, she fights back, and when Jimmy accuses her of kicking him when he’s down, she says the soul-crushing line: “Jimmy, you are always down.” That one elicited a noise from me like I’d just been punched in the gut and I’m still not (nor will I ever be) over it.
That night, Kim is at the apartment, drinking alone and feeling bad about their fight, when Jimmy comes in to pack up his things. He’s also feeling bad about how they left things. He admits that he messed everything up, not just referring to the fight with Kim, but to his entire career. But he still wants to be a lawyer, and despite everything Kim is still going to be by his side, helping him out of his latest mess. Nothing is resolved, although at least (it seems) they aren’t going to break up, and now there’s one nagging question on my mind: is Kim the one that gets Saul Goodman, Esq. up and running? She’s certainly keen to help him become a lawyer again and we know that he ends up practicing as Saul. Could Slippin’ Kimmy be responsible for that particular turn of events? Exactly how deep into the dirt is Kim willing to get?
Jimmy and Kim aren’t the only two characters struggling to keep it together. The arrival of Lalo is proving to be a major challenge for Nacho. The two go to visit Hector at Casa Tranquila, and we finally get the origin story of Hector’s bell: it is a souvenir that Lalo took from Hotel Tulipan, which Hector burned down after killing the proprietor (who I’m assuming owed him money but who could easily just have rubbed him the wrong way). Lalo gives it to him and attaches it to his chair so that he can now ding for yes, as we see him do throughout Breaking Bad. I have to say, the first time he hit the bell and I heard that iconic sound again, I was hit with an unsettling nostalgia.
Everything about Lalo is unsettling to Nacho. It’s bad for him (and for Gus) to have a fully functional Salamanca back in the mix, and Lalo is a special kind of menacing. Tuco, the Cousins, and Hector were all frightening in their own ways, but Lalo is a wild card. He’s loquacious and friendly, all smiles all the time, which makes it even more anxiety inducing for Nacho (and for the viewer) because we don’t know how he operates or exactly what he’s up to. With the other Salamancas, what you saw was pretty much what you got, but Lalo is a sneaky one, and a sneaky Salamanca is a dangerous thing.
Knowing what we know about the Salamancas need to keep up their status and legacy, it’s safe to assume that Lalo is there to mind the store, so to speak, in the absence of the other Salamanca muscle. It’s also clear that he doesn’t fully trust Nacho, but to what extent? How much does he know and what does he suspect? These are all questions I’m sure Nacho is asking himself as he is sent away so Lalo and Hector can speak privately. In an overwhelmingly stressful episode, there was one great little moment in this scene: an old white lady sees Nacho and instinctively moves her purse closer to her. Michael Mando’s reaction was pitch perfect and broke some of the tension of the scene, but we’re right back into it as Lalo leaves the room and laughingly tells Nacho, “Same old Hector. He just wants to kill everybody.” Knowing that the subject of Lalo’s private chat with Hector was “the Chilean,” this doesn’t bode well for Nacho or Gus.
Lalo and Nacho post up at Pollos, which terrifies poor Lyle, who was there when Nacho showed up with Hector to torment Gus and his employees in “Sabrosito” (S3E4). Gus keeps his cool and approaches their table, making polite conversation with Lalo and mostly avoiding eye contact with Nacho. When he invites Lalo into his office to discuss a franchise opportunity, he exchanges a look with Nacho who wordlessly communicates that he has no idea how to deal with the Lalo situation.
I have to assume, knowing the amount of due diligence that Gus does and how familiar he is with the Salamancas, that Gus knows exactly who Lalo is. And in the unlikely scenario that Gus didn’t know about Lalo before, he would have received word from Nacho about his arrival. Either way, Lalo knows who Gus is and is familiar with the bad blood between him and Hector. Lalo thanks Gus for saving Hector’s life, but there’s an underlying suspicion to it since Lalo knows that Gus despises Hector. He claims that it must have been a gesture of peace on Gus’s part, but it’s unlikely he actually believes that. Lalo is a shrewd guy and he seems to have Gus’s number when it comes to the Hector situation. I’m not quite sure what his game is here, but Lalo’s message to Gus is clear: he’s here now and he’s not going anywhere.
Since he has to pretend he’s on Team Salamanca, Nacho has no choice but to take Lalo where he wants to go. Their next stop is going to be the chicken farm where Gus keeps his product for distribution, which is probably the last place that Gus would want a sneaky Salamanca to be. I’m operating under the assumption that Gus has a GPS tracker on Nacho’s car and/or has one of his guys keeping tabs on him, so hopefully if Lalo starts making trouble he will be able to put a stop to it. But I can’t shake the feeling that Lalo knows about Nacho and Gus, although I don’t know how he would. Maybe it’s because Nacho is sitting a little too pretty and flashing a bit too much money around, or maybe Hector suspected it before his accident and told him. Regardless, the new Salamanca on the block is nothing but trouble. Even though Lalo’s presence stresses me out, I think he’s a great character. Since he doesn’t appear in Breaking Bad, at this point it seems that he’s capable of anything. The one thing we do know from Breaking Bad is that, by the end, there are no Salamancas left alive, so at some point Lalo is going down, but I’m very interested to see how he gets there (and who if anyone goes down with him).
The saga of Mike and the Germans continues in what may be the single most stressful scene in the entirety of Better Call Saul. We see Werner and the German team setting up for the final blast to clear way for the super lab’s elevator. Demolition expert Kai has set everything up (and we see that the episode’s title “Wiedersehen” is written on the final rock to blast) but they discover that there is something wrong with one of the connections. Instead of Kai dealing with it, Werner tells Mike that it’s his responsibility and goes down to check the wire. Werner seems to have a mild panic attack, with shaky breathing and trembling hands, which is not something you want when dealing with explosives. Werner gives himself a little pep talk and manages to pull it together, but there’s an overwhelming sense of dread for the entire scene. I’ll admit, I had to take a break during this scene because I was just waiting for something tragic to happen to poor Werner (who is my favorite new character).
I wasn’t sure whether it’s just Werner’s frazzled nerves after months of working long hours and living off the grid far from home or whether there’s something more to it—perhaps an anxiety disorder, diagnosed or otherwise—but it was really disturbing to see him as shaken as he was. Though there have been a few bumps in the road with Werner, when it comes to the work, he’s always seemed highly capable and on top of things. With his engineering experience, he would be more than familiar with the use of explosives, and even though he’s not the team’s demo expert, it doesn’t seem like this should be that big of a deal for him. And yet he is almost unable to complete the task.
Ultimately the team was to complete the blast without Werner ending up in a million pieces. With the help of Tyrus and a very large, very loud truck as cover noise, the final demolition goes off successfully. But even though Werner tried to hide his nerves, Mike noticed that he wasn’t quite right. Back at the living quarters, the men all celebrate (and I could finally breathe again) but Werner goes off by himself. Mike tries to get to the bottom of what is going on with his top guy and it’s actually pretty simple—he misses his wife. Werner makes a request of Mike that even he knows is ridiculous; he wants to leave for a few days to go see her, but even more ridiculous is his suggestion that Kai of all people be the one to supervise in his absence. I like Werner, but he really needs to learn how to read a room. Obviously Mike turns this down, but he sees that Werner needs a lifeline and agrees to let him speak with his wife on the phone, hoping that will get him right enough to finish the job.
Mike’s friendship with Werner—and I do believe they have a real friendship at this point—has affected his ability to run the tightest possible ship when it comes to the German operation. He knows how crucial it is to keep the men in complete seclusion for the duration of the project, and he’s already slipped up big time in that department, and yet he allows Werner to make contact with the outside world. Even knowing that Werner has a tendency to let information slip, he allows him to speak to his wife. Mike may rationalize it by telling himself that Werner needs to speak to her so he doesn’t completely crack up, but at heart Mike has made a decision based on emotion and not logic. When it comes to Werner, Mike breaks his own rules, and this time the consequences are disastrous.
The actual phone call between Werner and his wife is uneventful. Mike has a guy listening in to make sure no classified information is revealed and Werner seems to have learned from his mistakes at the bar on that front. Mike thinks everything is all good—that the call had its intended, calming effect on Werner—but the opposite is true. After speaking to his wife, Werner decides he’s had enough and escapes, using the security system of Mike’s own design against him. Werner is officially MIA, and I fear that Mike is going to be forced to take a painful full measure against his friend once he finds him.
“Wiedersehen” was one of the most anxiety-inducing hours of television I’ve experienced in quite some time. With the powerhouse combo of Gennifer Hutchison writing and Vince Gilligan directing, it was sure to be a doozy, but this was more than I bargained for. The penultimate episodes of each Better Call Saul season are notoriously rough on the viewer—just think about the emotional trauma “Pimento” (S1E9) inflicted on all of us—and this one was no exception. With only the finale left, I am legitimately afraid of what the writers plan to do to us.
I’m most afraid for Werner for obvious reasons, but Lalo’s presence is just as troubling as Werner’s absence. Nacho has had a rough season, and I’m concerned his troubles are only just beginning. As far as Jimmy and Kim go, they are way past the point of no return. Kim is in deep and only getting deeper, and Jimmy’s options are very limited at this point. The major question remains: how does the unlicensed Jimmy McGill become the licensed Saul Goodman, able to practice law very publicly in the same city in which he was disbarred? I don’t think it’s a question that season 4 will answer, but I’m hoping for at least a hint of that trajectory in the finale.