Season 5 of Better Call Saul is almost universally recognized as the show’s best so far, and I agree with that assessment. Of course, there are no bad seasons of this show. Every single season has its own merits as the characters are all in different stages of their development. Season 5 does not exist without Seasons 1-4 being exactly as they were. It is, for my money, a perfect show, and Better Call Saul S5E10 was a perfect ending to a standout season.
“Something Unforgivable” (written by Peter Gould and Ariel Levine, and directed by Peter Gould) picks up where last week’s episode left off. Lalo has just left after Kim saved the day—something that was not lost on Mike, who was listening in the entire time with his sniper rifle at the ready. This is something I was thinking of after that monster scene at the end of “Bad Choice Road”: Mike listening in and hearing how clever Kim is. Even though Jimmy is clever as well, Kim is the brains of the operation, and I like that Mike got to experience that firsthand. I had hoped we might get a scene with Mike and Kim in the finale, but that didn’t happen so I am hoping we can finally get some scenes with those two next season. The combined powers of Mike and Kim would really be something special.
Jimmy wants answers from Mike about whether or not he and Kim are safe now, but Mike is not forthcoming per usual. The uncertainty of the situation is too much for Jimmy, and he decides that they should go check in to a hotel—but not before he finally tells Kim the whole truth about what happened in the desert. I actually think the timing of this reveal is much better than if he’d been honest with her from the beginning. I have to think that Kim’s approach to Lalo would have been different had she known the truth and had to work around it. It’s not like she would have had time to prepare. She went in blind and was able to make rational arguments without having to lie. Not that she’s not a skilled liar—she is—but I think she was more effective having been left in the dark on the details (even though she knew in her heart there was more to Jimmy’s story).
When Jimmy tells her the truth, it’s probably pretty similar to what the worst-case scenario was in her mind as she waited for him to return. While she can’t really conceive of what the experience was like, she is not angry, she doesn’t say “I told you so” or even think it; she is just sympathetic, relieved he is OK, sad that he went through it, and also still afraid for him and for herself. She doesn’t ask any questions about who the guy on the phone who saved him actually is or how he knows him; she is just happy that he was saved.
They end up staying at a luxury hotel, where they can hide out in style (and with lots of people between them and any bad guys who may come looking for them). Jimmy is still reeling from the fact that his home life with Kim and his cartel involvement have collided, and he straight-up asks her if he’s bad for her. This is a question that has been on the mind of all Better Call Saul fans since Jimmy and Kim got together, but the answer isn’t as simple as one might think.
It’s easy to say that yes, Jimmy is bad for Kim. He’s correct when he tells her that she would never have been in any sort of dangerous situation with the cartel had he not been with her. This is a given, and something that they are both painfully aware of. Chuck and Howard both believed that Jimmy was bad for Kim, but she has always defended him (and resented anyone who tried to involve themselves in her private life). There are about a million examples of Kim being in jams as a direct result of her involvement with Jimmy, but to say that Jimmy is bad for her is an oversimplification because it leaves out one hugely important factor: Kim makes her own choices, for better or worse.
Kim Wexler doesn’t allow anyone—especially any man—to decide what is good for her and what is bad for her. She defines that for her own life and determines what is right for her. Even with everything that has happened, she is still with Jimmy; she’s actually closer than she’s ever been to him as his wife. She doesn’t answer the question of whether or not he’s bad for her not just because it’s not the right time to get into that but because it would likely devolve into an argument (like the one they had about her quitting her job) wherein she has to beat it into Jimmy’s head that her choices are her own. She does, however, make it a point to tell Jimmy that he crossed a line and ask if it will happen again. It’s less a question than a statement, and Jimmy doesn’t answer it because he knows that he cannot guarantee that it won’t. He’s scarred from the experience in the desert and certainly won’t go looking for trouble with the cartel, but he can’t know for sure that he won’t get dragged into another “friend of the cartel” situation. He also knows himself, and he can’t promise her that he won’t make bad choices in the future.
Kim is ready to go back to work the next day but Jimmy wants her to take a day off, ostensibly to enjoy the many luxury amenities at their disposal, but really—and this is obvious to Kim—because he is worried that she’s still in danger. He correctly points out that it doesn’t matter if Lalo is gone; he has guys that can take care of business for him. While Kim would rather have assurances that they are safe, she refuses to just hide herself away. With no guarantees available, she decides they have to just live their lives. She feels like the courthouse is the safest place she could be, and so she goes to work, leaving Jimmy on his own for the day. Jimmy can’t take the not knowing anymore, more for Kim’s sake than for his own, and he is determined to get answers from Mike.
Mike blows him off on the phone, so Jimmy goes to his house. Mike comes home to find him making a scene outside, which displeases him greatly. This is one of those scenes that reminded me of the Season 1 dynamic between Jimmy and Mike. Things have gotten a bit too real in their worlds lately, but even though Jimmy is there for a serious reason (i.e. to find out if there’s someone coming to kill him and his wife), the Jimmy/Mike dynamic in Better Call Saul S5E10 still makes me laugh and reminds me of a simpler time when Mike was a curmudgeon in a parking booth and Jimmy was perpetually short on stickers.
But we’re not in Season 1 anymore, and Jimmy almost breaks down here begging Mike for answers because he can’t take not knowing whether or not Kim is safe. Mike can see that Jimmy has reached a breaking point, and he knows what fear for the safety of loves ones can do to a person, so he decides to tell him that Lalo will be out of the picture by morning. This calms Jimmy a bit, and he doesn’t press for any further information. It’s enough for him to know that Lalo has other concerns and won’t be around much longer.
Meanwhile, Kim is throwing herself into her pro bono work at the courthouse. She goes to Grant, one of the public defenders, and asks him to give her some of their case load. While she knows she’s not supposed to pick and choose her cases, she asks Grant if she can take some of their tricky cases where she can feel like she’s actually doing some good in the world. She agrees to take 20 felony cases, and he takes her down to storage so she can find the kind of tug-at-your-heartstrings caseload she’s looking for. At this point, with everything that’s happened, Kim needs not only the distraction of a ton of new cases but also to have those feel-good moments that come with this kind of work. She’s quit S&C to focus exclusively on pro bono work, and she needs that work to feel meaningful or else she’s right back in an unfulfilling Mesa Verde situation (only making no money doing it).
On her way upstairs, Kim ends up in the elevator with Howard. She exchanges some pleasantries with him and some of his new associates, and when Howard tells them that Kim is at Schweikart and Cokely, she corrects him right before exiting the elevator. Howard is shocked by that news and follows after her, wondering what firm she’s at now. Howard is surprised to learn that she quit S&C to go back out on her own (and without taking Mesa Verde with her). He asks why, but she won’t answer him. She has no interest in getting into the rationale for her personal decisions with Howard.
Howard, however, has something he wants to get off his chest. He pulls Kim aside and tells her about Jimmy’s recent misbehavior in an attempt to get her to rethink making any big life choices on account of Jimmy. His tales of bowling ball vandalism and sex worker shenanigans do not have the desired effect on Kim, though. She laughs in his face (because let’s be honest, it’s actually pretty funny). More importantly, though, she laughs at him and doesn’t take seriously his concern about her or Jimmy because she simply does not like him. She knows Jimmy hates Howard, and so Howard’s claims that no one in their right mind would do those things ring hollow. Jimmy was perfectly lucid when he went after Howard because he hates the guy. I think Kim is truly amused by Jimmy’s little stunts, but she’s also a bit jealous that she wasn’t in on sticking it to Howard Hamlin.
If there was any doubt as to why Kim hates Howard, he makes it clear in the course of their conversation in Better Call Saul S5E10. Let’s not forget that this is the same man who demoted her and disrespected her while she did nothing but work tirelessly for him and the firm. It’s the same man who helped Chuck to sabotage Jimmy for years. Howard can claim concern for Kim and Jimmy all he wants (and he may even be somewhat sincere), but that doesn’t change what he’s done in the past. Kim calls Howard out on having the audacity to suggest that Jimmy is swaying Kim’s career decisions. She cannot allow him to stand there and insult her by assuming that she is not fully in control of her own actions and choices. She’s also offended on Jimmy’s behalf because Howard is basically trying to argue that he is completely unhinged. Kim denies this, saying that she knows Jimmy, and Howard fires back one last barb: “You know who knew Jimmy? Chuck.”
This one stings Kim a bit because Howard isn’t entirely wrong. Chuck did know Jimmy, but all he ever saw was the bad. He could never (or never wanted to) look at the good parts of Jimmy McGill, and because of that, the Good Jimmy was always doomed to fail. I would argue that Kim knows Jimmy better than Chuck ever did because she sees both the good and the bad. Especially now, when they’ve never been closer, she knows him better than anyone. However, if Chuck knew the trajectory both Jimmy and Kim took after his death, he would feel self-satisfied in having believed not only the worst in Jimmy, but that he would drag Kim down with him. Chuck is another one who would never acknowledge that Kim makes her own choices, that she did truly know Jimmy (with all his flaws), and she chose to be with him anyway.
When Kim returns to the hotel and learns from Jimmy that Lalo won’t be a problem for them anymore, her relief is palpable. Jimmy does leave out the part about Lalo’s imminent demise, which seems unnecessary at this point since Kim knows everything else and would likely feel equally as relieved to know that Lalo will be permanently removed from the equation. It’s enough for her to know that he believes his contact, and she is finally feeling able to relax and enjoy the hotel they’ve already paid for. Jimmy wants to go home, but she presses for him to stay, and they have a nice room service dinner.
Kim tells Jimmy about her confrontation with Howard, and he assumes that she will be upset with him either for his actions or for not telling her or both, but he is surprised to find out that not only is she not upset, she’s actually supportive of it. Not just that, she wants him to continue his reign of terror on Howard, and she wants in. After letting loose all her feelings toward Howard and his white knight complex, Kim suggests that they go after Howard’s hair. This is mostly in jest—I don’t think she would seriously consider drugging Howard and shaving him bald, much as she does hate him—but she’s very into brainstorming ways to torture Howard.
As we’ve seen many times before, when Slippin’ Kimmy comes out, she tends to end up in bed with Jimmy, and this time is no exception. As they continue to think about ways to mess with Howard in the afterglow, things take a turn. We can almost see the lightbulb go off above Kim’s head as she suggests—not seriously at first—that they do something to destroy Howard’s career. We see the wheels turning as she works through a plan in which Howard’s “misconduct” would force a settlement in the Sandpiper Crossing class-action suit, which would both benefit the senior citizens involved and put around $2 million in Jimmy’s pocket.
Usually when Kim breaks bad, it gives me pause and I have a Kim No™ moment. This, though…I love this. I really do. It’s a classic Jimmy McGill ends-justifying-the-means situation: Howard gets screwed, but the old folks get what they deserve, and Jimmy and Kim make some serious bank in the process—money that is rightfully owed to Jimmy. If it were anyone else, I would be saying Kim No™, but it’s Howard Hamlin, a guy who has burned them both in various ways over the years. I don’t think Howard is a bad person, but I can’t say I would hate seeing Jimmy and Kim stick it to him in a serious way.
Yes, it’s bad. I’m not saying it’s not bad. Even Jimmy knows it’s bad and doesn’t think even Howard deserves that level of comeuppance, but Kim rationalizes it by calling it “a career setback for one lawyer.” That is, of course, a gross understatement of the situation, but at this point she seems to have weighed the pros and cons. The pros: she can start a pro bono practice and poach the best talent around, and she and Jimmy can buy a house. The cons: Howard Hamlin maybe loses his ability to practice law. When it was Jimmy’s license on the line, Howard was more than willing to testify against him. It would be a bit of poetic justice, really, and it would benefit a lot more people than it would hurt.
Jimmy can’t fathom that she’s actually serious, and he tells her that it isn’t her to do something like this and that she wouldn’t be OK with it after the fact. But if we’ve seen one thing from Kim throughout this season, and in this episode specifically, it’s that she doesn’t take kindly to anyone telling her what she is and what she isn’t. It comes as a huge shock to Jimmy that she’s dead serious about going through with this, and while he’s kind of into it (and impressed by her), he’s also left wondering who Kim really is. To Jimmy, this is out of character for her. He is the bad one that is willing to hurt people, and she is the good one that begrudgingly goes along with it. She likes to run scams and play harmless games, but something this big? Kim would never. Except she would, and she wants to, and Better Call Saul S5E10 leaves us with a whole lot of time to contemplate what that is going to look like in the show’s final season.
On the cartel side of things, Mike goes to meet Gus at the site of the destroyed Pollos Hermanos location and fills him in on the Lalo situation. In this conversation at least, he doesn’t mention anything about Lalo’s little detour to Jimmy and Kim’s place, but I have to assume that that was a conversation they have already had. Mike knows better than to keep anything that significant from Gus, especially when Lalo Salamanca is concerned, so it’s safe to say that not only Saul Goodman but now Kim Wexler is on Gus’s radar.
What Mike does tell Gus is that Lalo has crossed the border, taking Nacho with him, and is on his way to his compound in Chihuahua. Mike correctly assumes that Nacho is going to get a promotion and he wants to pull him out, but Gus is still unwilling to give up such a huge asset inside the Salamanca organization. He decides that Nacho will be the man inside to help his team of hired assassins take care of Lalo once and for all. Mike has a much longer history with Nacho than Gus does. He sees him as a human being while Gus only sees him as a means to an end. At the end of the day, though, Mike knows that all he can do is make suggestions that might help Nacho. Gus has the final say, and he is unwilling to let him go because he quite simply does not care about what happens to him as long as it benefits him.
Lalo and Nacho arrive at the Chihuahua compound, where Lalo is greeted like a king. Throughout the season, I have questioned how much Lalo has really come to trust Nacho. To Lalo, family is everything, and at the end of the day, Nacho is not a Salamanca. I think that Better Call Saul S5E10 shows us that Lalo has actually come to trust Nacho, and he considers him a friend. While Lalo may never completely trust anyone who isn’t his flesh and blood, Nacho has come about as close as anyone outside the Salamanca family can get. Nacho is a welcome guest at Lalo’s home, and he’s about to enter the inner circle when he meets Juan Bolsa and Don Eladio. This does nothing to put Nacho at ease, though. He knows that if he makes one false move, Lalo won’t hesitate to kill him. He also knows that Gus would do the same.
We all know that what Nacho wants is to get out of the game and get his father to safety, but I have to wonder at this point if—given only the two options—he would choose loyalty to Lalo over Gus. Lalo is certainly more affable in his dealings with Nacho (even though he can be equally as terrifying). Nacho is still operating with the hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that he and his father will be able to get out. It’s clear to everyone but Nacho that that is never going to happen, but he has to believe that it will, and so he goes along with Gus’s plans even though I think that, at this point, Lalo is the lesser of two evils to Nacho. He’s certainly the most palatable Salamanca (and he hasn’t threatened Mr. Varga’s life).
Lalo and Nacho go to Don Eladio’s hacienda to drop off some money (and a cherry red Magnum P.I. Ferrari). Lalo has coached Nacho on how to respectfully communicate with Don Eladio ahead of their first meeting and is confident that the boss will like Nacho, but Nacho is nervous nonetheless. Even if he wasn’t acting as a mole for Gus, meeting the big boss of the cartel would be a nerve-wracking experience. Lalo introduces Nacho as their man up north and says he’s a friend of Tuco, which amuses Don Eladio because everyone knows that Tuco is…well, Tuco.
Nacho handles himself well at the one-on-one sit-down with Don Eladio. He lays out a plan to increase revenue: expand the Salamanca territory by pitting rival biker gangs in the area against each other. Nacho and Tuco have a checkered history with biker gangs, with Tuco having shot and killed biker gang dealer Dog Paulson in California in 1998 (and Nacho carrying a piece of Dog’s skull that got lodged in his shoulder during the shooting). While Nacho has no intention of actually doing this, the plan seems to please Don Eladio, who can tell that Nacho is intelligent and thinks things through. Where Tuco would have no issue starting a bloody war to take new territory, Nacho’s plan would deftly avoid that and yield the same result.
Don Eladio asks Nacho what he wants, and Nacho answers honestly: he wants respect, the ability to make his own choices, and not to have to constantly worry about being backstabbed. Just about the only thing he could ever earn in his current business is respect; for the other things, as Don Eladio points out, he is in the wrong business. Regardless, Nacho has made a good impression on Don Eladio and is now in the position to take over for Lalo north of the border.
Having received a call with instructions to open the back gate at 3am and take off, Nacho is up late preparing to make his break for it (and let in the assassination squad in the process). Unbeknownst to him, though, Lalo is a night owl. He is sitting outside in the back, right next to the gate in question, having a beer in front of an open fire, and he invites Nacho to take a seat and have a drink with him. Nacho, always good at thinking quickly on his feet, makes an excuse to get back inside—he needs a stronger drink—and he puts some oil on the burner before grabbing a decanter of the good stuff. Lalo pours them both a drink, but he soon sees the smoke and rushes back in the house, giving Nacho the opportunity to pop the lock at the back gate, let the assassination squad in, and take off running.
Because Lalo is Lalo, he manages—with the help of his quick reflexes and a secret underground tunnel—to take out the entire squad by himself. Before killing the last guy, he has him call in and say that the job is done. Lalo knows Gus sent the squad to kill him. He also knows now—or at least strongly suspects—that Nacho was in on it. We don’t know where Nacho took off to or what Gus’s extraction plan for him is. What we do know is that Gus thinks Lalo is dead, but he is very much alive and very angry, and the season ends with him walking away from the slaughter at his house with a thirst for vengeance in his eyes.
Going by what we know from Breaking Bad, I was pretty sure that Lalo was going to make it through the events of Better Call Saul S5E10. After all, during Saul Goodman’s first episode, he asks Jesse and Walt if Lalo sent them. That would imply that, at least to Saul’s knowledge, Lalo is still alive during the Breaking Bad timeline. The line from that episode (Breaking Bad S2E8) where Saul says, “It wasn’t me, it was Ignacio,” could very well be in reference to what happens here at the end of Season 5. Saul could easily be referring to Nacho being the one to betray Lalo, not him. So now the question is, if Lalo does survive, how is Gus going to survive his wrath? And if Saul is still terrified of Lalo during the Breaking Bad timeline, what does Lalo have in store for Jimmy and Kim next season?
It’s going to be quite some time before we get any answers as production of Better Call Saul’s sixth and final season (along with everything else in the world) will be on hold due to the whole global pandemic nightmare in which we are currently living. Luckily for us, this show is so eminently rewatchable that it will give us all enough to chew on for however long it takes for its final chapter to grace our screens.