Better Call Saul Season 4
Some are saying Better Call Saul is a better show than Breaking Bad, though it hasn’t been quite the cultural sensation. This may be due to the fact that Better Call Saul has been somewhat of a long slow burn in its first 4 seasons. Better Call Saul season 5 promises to be a reward for those who have stuck with it.
This is one of the best shows on television, created by experienced and imaginative storytellers. It is well worth the time spent watching and even re-watching it. Season 5 is sure to be filled with more electric tension between characters, unexpected Breaking Bad Easter Eggs, and the kind of quirky humor show creator Vince Gilligan has become known for.
If you’ve forgotten some details from previous seasons of Better Call Saul, it’s understandable since season 4 was almost 2 years ago, due to the crew and several of the cast members taking time off to film El Camino, the Breaking Bad sequel movie. Or if you got behind and never watched all of the episodes, there’s good news: all 4 of the previous seasons are on Netflix (season 4 just dropped on Sunday). But keep reading for a bit of a catch-up and some predictions.
I’m going to do a very quick summary of seasons 1-3 and a more detailed summary of season 4.
Better Call Saul seasons 1 through 3
Better Call Saul is the story of Jimmy McGill, the real name of the character known as Saul Goodman, played by Bob Odenkirk, in Breaking Bad. At the end of Breaking Bad, Saul fled town and assumed a new identity. At the beginning of each season of Better Call Saul, we see where Gene Takovic (his new name) is, as the manager of a Cinnabon in a mall in Omaha, Nebraska.
But for most of the show, we see him as Jimmy McGill, younger brother of Charles Lindberg McGill, Esquire, brilliant attorney. Chuck and Jimmy have a complicated relationship, and a lot was left unsaid when Chuck died suddenly at the very end of season 3. Some of the scenes between Jimmy and Chuck are the best of this show and you should really watch them if you haven’t. At the end of season 3, Jimmy has yet to learn of Chuck’s death and has been suspended from practicing law for one year.
Jimmy’s girlfriend is Kim Wexler. She was Jimmy’s co-worker in the mailroom at Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill, and now they are both lawyers. Kim disapproves when Jimmy plays fast and loose with the letter of the law, but part of her is really turned on by the scams they pull together. Kim was corporate lawyer for a chain of banks and overworked herself to the point that she fell asleep at the wheel and crashed at the end of season 3.
But the show is not just about Jimmy/Saul. It’s also about Mike Ehrmantraut, another Breaking Bad character. A retired ex-cop, Mike is fascinating to watch. A man of few words, he makes the viewer puzzle out what he’s up to. His main goal is to provide for his grand-daughter and her mother, the widow of Mike’s late son. He gets involved with Gus Fring, another Breaking Bad character, and we see him moving further and further into the criminal underworld.
Gus Fring seems to be a local businessman, owner of Los Pollos Hermanos, a chain of fast food chicken restaurants. He uses the restaurant as a front to hide his involvement in meth distribution. He has goals to increase his profits by also manufacturing meth and cutting himself loose from his involvement with the cartel and the Salamancas.
Nacho Varga is another main character. He’s one that wasn’t in Breaking Bad, so we don’t know how his story ends. He becomes second-in-command to Hector Salamanca, one of the leaders of a drug cartel and kind of an adversary to Gus Fring. Nacho’s father is unhappy with his son’s involvement with the cartel, and Nacho fears for his father’s life, so he plots to kill Hector by replacing his nitro pills with ibuprofen, a medication that is contra-indicated for heart patients. It leads to Hector having a non-fatal stroke at the end of season 3. Quick-acting Gus performs CPR and revives Hector, and though he doesn’t say anything, he clearly thinks Nacho had something to do with it.
Better Call Saul Season 4
The season opens with Gene the Cinnabon manager passed out on the floor of the bakery area of the Cinnabon. The ambulance comes and takes him to the hospital. Turns out, he probably had a panic attack or dehydration or something. He’s told he didn’t have a heart attack, and he can go home. There’s a tense moment when the admin says the computer keeps kicking back his identification numbers, but it turns out she typed the letter O instead of a zero, which seems highly unlikely to me, but he’s free to go. He gets in a cab to go back to the mall where his car was left, still recovering from the near-miss at the hospital.
But it’s out of the frying pan into the fire, as he notices an Albuquerque air freshener hanging in the cab, and sees the cab driver looking intently at him in the rear-view mirror. Finally he tells the driver to stop on a residential street and Gene gets out. The cab doesn’t drive off, and Gene hurries around the corner looking over his shoulder. That’s where we leave him. The song playing during the beginning, when he’s being wheeled out by the EMTs, is about “my echo, my shadow, and me,” referring to his three personas: Jimmy McGill, Saul Goodman and Gene Takovic.
In Season 4, we learn how ruthless and vindictive Gus Fring can be. Early in the season, he kills Arturo Colon, a Salamanca henchman, and makes it clear to Nacho that he does indeed know about Nacho’s role in Hector’s stroke. “From now on, I own you,” he tells Nacho. Gus sends his personal physician into Hector Salamanca’s hospital room to ascertain his condition. Told that he could recover with better treatment than he will get in this hospital, Fring pays for an expert to come and work with Hector. She gets him to the point that he can control the index finger of his right hand, which Breaking Bad fans will remember seeing him use to ring a bell as his only means of communicating. At this point, Fring pulls the plug on the specialist, leaving Hector wheelchair-bound and unable to talk, but not before visiting him to make sure he knows who he has to thank for his condition.
Mike takes a major step towards the dark side at the end of season 4 when he’s forced to kill Werner, the German engineer he hired to build the super-lab beneath the laundry facility that becomes Walter White’s home-away-from-home in Breaking Bad. Under Mike’s watch, Werner gave them the slip to have a quick visit with his wife, but Gus says he can no longer be trusted and has to be eliminated. The excavation of the super-lab is a major plot point in season 4. As the season ends, the space has been excavated but concrete still needs to be poured and ventilation installed, as well as a whole lot of cleanup, and the German crew has been sent home now that their leader is gone.
We get a hint that Gale Boetticher, the chemist who briefly assists Walt in Breaking Bad, could be called upon to equip the lab. Gus shows him the unfinished site but tells him it’s not yet time to start cooking there. Gus has to deal with a problem first: one of the Salamancas was spying on Mike when he was searching for the missing Werner and he learned some details that will certainly cause him to keep a close eye on Gus and Mike in Better Call Saul season 5.
Lalo Salamanca is the new Salamanca in town. After Hector’s stroke, Juan Bolsa puts Nacho in charge of the Salamanca’s part of their meth operation. Nacho benefits financially from the deal, but we see evidence that he’s planning to take his father and skip town at some point. But then he’s surprised by the arrival of Lalo, who is polite and charming to his face while subtly making it clear he’s in charge and Nacho better do what he says. He and Nacho visit Gus at one of his restaurants and Lalo makes the same thing clear to Gus, and then starts spying on the chicken farm and following Mike. Mike loses him in another classic Mike Ehrmantrout maneuver that you have to see to appreciate, but it’s clear Lalo will continue to be a threat to Gus in season 5. Gus might secretly enjoy the challenge, but Nacho will likely be caught in the middle.