[rating=8.00] “Something Beautiful”
After an intense one-two punch of a beginning, Better Call Saul reeled itself in somewhat as season four charts its way forward. It was something of a breather episode, giving itself and the audience a chance to collect themselves as the series careens towards Breaking Bad, which now seems closer than ever before.
The most dramatic storyline of the night came from Nacho, whose peril seems to grow by the hour. Never have I been more worried for a character than I am Nacho, and the cold open last night gave us a small taste of what’s no doubt to come as Better Call Saul moves forward. In a beautifully shot sequence, we see a car being driven by an unknown man, after that same unknown man put out some road spikes just ahead of where he was driving. He floors it towards the spikes and burns out in spectacular fashion, sparks and smoke flying as the tires disintegrate and the wheels grind the pavement.
The mystery man is revealed to be Victor, who’s soon joined by Tyrus and Nacho. Tyrus and Victor proceed to stage a hit on Arturo’s dead body, as Nacho watches on. It’s tough to watch, knowing what this symbolizes for Nacho. Not only is he forced to witness the desecration of his friend’s—whom he already had to watch die—body, but each bullet hole hammers home the fact that he’s betraying the Salamancas. It might not be by choice, but in the end that won’t matter.
Of course, to make it look as real as possible, Tyrus and Victor also shoot Nacho, leaving him bloodied and alone in the desert, waiting for the Salamanca cousins to come to his rescue. Under Fring’s thumb, this can’t be too far off from how we’ll see Nacho wind up. Where once he had agency, he’s now simply fodder for Gus, a small cog in massive machination that is, ultimately, utterly insignificant. Whether he’s dispatched by Gus after wearing out his usefulness or by the Salamancas for disloyalty is immaterial. This, surely, won’t be the last we see of Nacho’s blood.
Sadder still, we also get to see what Salamanca loyalty looks like. Despite the fact that the cousins and Nacho have rarely spoken to each other, they carry his broken body from the desert and get him help, taking him to the shady veterinarian who we’ve seen act as a point of contact at various points throughout the show. The cousins even donate some of their blood to Nacho to keep him alive. While it’s true that they need him alive, in the hopes of identifying his “attackers,” the symbolism is hard to ignore. They are now, literally, bonded by blood. Salamanca pumps through Nacho’s veins.
While the cartel war brews, taking us ever closer to the events of Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul gave us even more indication of what’s to come by the introduction of two characters from its mother series last night. First in the form of Ira, whom we first met in season five of Breaking Bad as the owner of Vamanos Pest, the business Walt and Jesse buy into in order to further their meth cooking careers. As you’ll recall, Walt and Jesse met Ira through Saul, and last night’s episode showed us how those two first met.
Jimmy is dead set on carrying out his Hummel caper, even as Mike passes on the job. This makes sense from Mike’s perspective. He’s sitting pretty right now, and doesn’t need any additional heat, no matter how minor. Jimmy, however, is unemployed and needs the cash. So he too pays a visit to the veterinarian to try and find a willing party. Enter Ira.
It’s interesting to see how Jimmy makes the connections he utilizes as Saul, like we saw last season with Huell. The loose criminal network surrounding Saul Goodman was always fascinating to see at work, and brick by brick Better Call Saul is putting into to place. True, the Hummel heist didn’t go as smoothly as planned—Mr. Neff, it seems, is in hot water at home and is forced to spend the night in the office, much to the chagrin of Ira—but success is success, and thanks to some quick thinking sabotage by Jimmy, Ira and Jimmy can walk away (presumably) $4000 richer.
Elsewhere, the “hit” on Arturo and Nacho has the Salamancas spooked and Juan Bolsa makes the call to halt all border crossings as they investigate who might’ve attacked their men. In the meantime, he tells Gus to disobey Don Eladio and find a local manufacturer to ensure that they don’t lose their market share in this time of heat. Gus uses this as an opportunity to pay a visit to an old protégé, Gale Boetticher.
This gives us the chance to further see the wheels of Fring’s plans as they’re being set into motion. Though he makes overtures about not letting Gale in on the meth conspiracy, we know that this doesn’t last for long. In his own way, Gus certainly cares about Gale’s education, but only inasmuch as he was the recipient of a scholarship Gus gave, and his endangering his studies by jumping into the meth game at this point puts undue risk on the operation. While Gale probably won’t be joining the family in that capacity just yet, his introduction puts us one step closer to the Walter White era, and portends some exciting developments as season four continues to unfold.
Though slower paced and less dramatic intense than the two preceding episodes, Better Call Saul continues to show its mastery of the slow burn as it meticulously places its pieces on the board. The deeper we get into the moral quandaries presented the series, the more fascinating it becomes as both a character study and a drama. While not as good as what came before it, the fact that its lesser episodes can still remain so compelling and tense proves that Better Call Saul is the best drama on television today.
Better Call Saul airs Monday nights a 9pm/8pm central on AMC.