A ‘Breaking Bad’ Mystery is Solved on ‘Better Call Saul’ (TV RECAP)

[rating=8.00] “Coushatta”

Way back in season two, episode nine of Breaking Bad, a seed was planted, setting the stage for one of the biggest mysteries in the entire franchise. That episode, you might recall, was titled “Better Call Saul,” and served as the franchise introduction of Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman.

To refresh your memory, let’s set the scene. Jesse’s associate Badger has been arrested and Walt agrees to hire Saul because they don’t need a criminal lawyer, they need a “criminal lawyer.” Saul’s big plan? Have Badger flip on his bosses, not knowing that Walt, posing as Badger’s uncle, is Badger’s boss. To stop this plan, Walt and Jesse kidnap Saul, take him to the desert, and hold guns to his head while forcing him to look at a hole that is meant to be his grave. Thus began this beautiful friendship.

However, as he’s pleading for his life, Saul says two things of particular importance to this episode. First: “It wasn’t me, it was Ignacio.” This is before Saul knows who his assailants are (and, it’s worth noting, Ignacio is the real name of Better Call Saul favorite, Nacho). Second, as Saul is calming down, he says, “Lalo didn’t send you?”

Who or what Lalo is has been a mystery ever since. Now, we’ve finally got our answer.

Part of one at least, though the reveal stood out in an episode that was, despite all that happened, fairly slow and deliberate in its approach. If nothing else, at least we got Nacho.

Nacho has come up pretty hard over the 9-month time jump we saw last episode. He’s taken the reins previously held by Tuco (imprisoned since season one) and Don Hector (currently incapacitated) by overseeing the weekly money drop for the Salamancas, watching over Krazy-8’s shoulder to ensure a smooth and timely drop.

While this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Krazy-8 in Better Call Saul, it’s interesting to see how much he changed between this point and his introduction in Breaking Bad. In the previous series, Krazy-8 was hardened and took no shit from anyone (well, until Walter chained him up in a basement and strangled him to death after attempting to suffocate him with toxic fumes). Here he’s timid and uncertain, being trained in the ways of The Game by Nacho—who rips the earring off of a dealer who came up a little short. We’re about four years out from the Krazy-8 we met in Breaking Bad, and it’ll be interesting to see how he develops into the streetwise dealer we knew then.

Nacho, for his part, seems stressed, even with his come up. He’s got a nice house and girls but, as Jesse learned in Breaking Bad, that doesn’t always help. We don’t yet know what Gus’s plans for Nacho are, but we do know he’s working as a mole against his Salamancas, putting him in a precarious position. We can’t help but wonder what his plans are as we stares at his and his father’s IDs, tucked within his safe. Whether or not those plans come to fruition, however, are in doubt with the introduction of Lalo.

The episode closes with Nacho returning to the restaurant for the next week’s drops. He’s met with loud music and a strange voice singing from the kitchen. Krazy-8 and the owner sit in the dining room, looking confused but resigned. We meet a strange man, cooking and dancing as he prepares a meal, especially for Nacho he says. He is Eduardo Salamanca…but you can call him Lalo.

Lalo’s introduction has powerful implications that will guide the rest of the season, at least, and even the rest of the series. He’s clearly here to keep an eye on Nacho. Or, at least, that’s what it seems. Might the Salamancas suspect Nacho’s torn allegiance? What is Lalo’s purpose, really? What do Nacho and Jimmy do to invoke the kind of ire that would make him suspect Lalo sent men to kill him?

We clearly won’t get all of these answers in the two episodes before this season ends (barring another time jump, which is possible) but already Lalo is a fascinating character. He oozes the charm of Don Eladio, though not without the hint of threat. “You will die,” he tells Nacho, ostensibly about the quality of his food, but it’s hard to ignore the double meaning there. With Lalo on the scene, things are surely about to heat up.

Elsewhere, we finally saw just what Kim had planned with her mad run on office supplies. We see that plan play out as Jimmy rides a bus through Texas and into Louisiana, writing with different pens on different sheets of paper, even enlisting the help of other passengers, all the while. Meanwhile, Kim is playing hardball with ADA Ericsen, showing up with three associates in an intimidation power move. It doesn’t work, but Ericsen is clearly rattled. Matters are made worse when both attorneys are called into the office of Judge Munninger, who is at his wits end.

And suddenly Kim’s move is in play. In his chambers are boxes of correspondence from small town Louisiana, each pleading for leniency for the heroic Huell Babineaux. Frantic, Ericsen scours them for information, intrigued that some of them even include phone numbers. Enter, once again, Jimmy McGill, who has used his burner phone connections to set up an elaborate scheme to fool Ericsen and the court into thinking Huell is a churchgoing pillar of their community.

Huell gets off, of course, but shockingly Kim has embraced this turn of events. Despite her posturing as a good and ethical lawyer, she is excited by what they’ve pulled off, even going so far as to tell Jimmy she wants to do it again. This is a shocking character twist for Kim, though one that’s not without precedent. She and Jimmy have run low level schemes for fun in the past, but nothing like this. Nothing with potentially devastating consequences.

What might this mean for Kim as the series continues? This scheme has clearly reinvigorated her feelings for Jimmy, but how deep is she going to go? Is it possible that she exits the scene in disgraced, disbarred and forever tarnished? As good as it is to see these two in each other’s arms again, the implications are hard to ignore. Kim is heading down a treacherous path, with only Jimmy to guide her.

With only two episodes left until the end of season four, Better Call Saul is establishing something potentially explosive that will reverberate into the next season and beyond. Even with the slow pace of this episode and the last, there’s an undeniable tension laced into the deliberation that will, no doubt, pay off by the conclusion. Something big is lurking on the horizon; something big and bad.

Better Call Saul airs Monday nights at 9/8 central on AMC.

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