I’m going to do something a little different instead of a straight recap for the Better Call Saul season 5 finale. I hope you’ll forgive me.
This episode is mainly about two things. First, we see the rivalry between Gus Fring and the Salamancas finally coming to a head. Gus is hardly in this episode, but his presence looms large.
But let’s go back to the first time we ever heard the name “Lalo.” It wasn’t in “Coushatta,” episode 408 of Better Call Saul, which is when we first saw him. It was in Breaking Bad, season 2, episode 8. You know the one I mean. It was entitled “Better Call Saul.”
Walt and Jesse try to strong-arm Saul into representing Badger and getting him cleared of drug charges while not becoming an informant for the DEA. They stage a kidnapping and bring Saul out to the desert in the dead of night and plop him down, arms tied behind his back, in front of a newly-dug hole that looks very much like it’s intended to be Saul’s final resting place. Better Call Saul fans have been referring to what Saul says then and trying to gain clues to the final fate of Nacho, but it gives us a hint about Lalo also.
Saul still doesn’t know who Walt and Jesse are and he obviously thinks they’re from the Cartel. He repeats, in Spanish, that he’s a friend of the Cartel, and he says, “It wasn’t me. It was Ignacio!” When this doesn’t seem to matter to the two goons in ski masks, Saul ask them if Lalo sent them.
So, from this we can learn that Lalo and “Ignacio” are both still alive into the Breaking Bad timeline, several years after the events of tonight’s episode. It also tells us that Saul believes he can rat out “Ignacio” to men he thinks were sent by Lalo. It doesn’t give us a full picture of the relationship between Lalo and Ignacio in 2008, but it gives us a pretty good hint. (Nacho’s real name is Ignacio, and we see Lalo calling him that several times in the Better Call Saul season 5 finale when he introduces him to members of the Cartel.)
Getting back to tonight’s episode, it should be no surprise that Lalo survived. Though it took some quick thinking and a bit of planning ahead for him to survive the firefight. He had an escape tunnel built under the bathtub, and he could have just escaped that way, and run off, but he decides at the last minute to leave the bathtub hatch open so the gunmen find the tunnel, and then he kills them. Or most of them. He finds one crawling on his stomach outside and makes him call “whoever hired you” (though he says he knows who it is) and tell them the job is done. But the collateral damage appears to be every one of his servants, including the “old folks” Nacho tried to protect.
What we don’t know, at the end of the episode, is whether Lalo will figure out that Nacho was part of the plan. The last shot of Lalo limping off with a very dangerously angry look on his face says that the person or persons he believes responsible for the assassination attempt will be feeling Lalo’s wrath in the near future. We don’t know if that’s just Gus, or if it includes Nacho, Juan Bolsa and/or Don Eladio. For that, we’ll have to wait until Better Call Saul season 6.
What is clear is that Lalo is well-loved or at least respected in this part of Mexico. Chihuahua is about 450 miles south of Albuquerque. Somewhere on the journey down, Lalo and Nacho switched vehicles, arriving in a dark-colored SUV that was not familiar to Lalo’s guards at his house. We don’t know if he stole it or if some friend of the Cartel gave or loaned it to him. Lalo seems to know everyone at Don Eladio’s pool party, and clearly impressed Eladio with his “showmanship,” presenting his share of the earnings in a gift box with a bow, nestled inside the trunk of a mint condition classic Ferrari. We’re less sure whether Eladio is impressed by Nacho and his plan to cause a war amongst the “gringo” biker gangs and steal their territory, or maybe Eladio was just too drunk to make a responsible business decision.
The other main plot thread in the Better Call Saul season 5 finale involved Kim and Jimmy/Saul. Mostly, tonight, he acted like Jimmy again. And the shadow of Chuck was looming over their relationship.
Remember that Kim and Jimmy apparently met when they both worked in the mail room at Hamlin, Hamlin and McGill. We now know Kim likely had no support from her mother, so she is truly a self-made woman. She and Jimmy probably had a lot in common, both being ambitious and wanting something better for themselves, and having to work hard on their own to accomplish that.
Kim clearly idolized Chuck. Though she was working in the mail room, she was the recipient of a scholarship funded by HHM, paying for her law school tuition. She thought Chuck was a great attorney, and she identified with Jimmy when Chuck’s mental illness began, due to the similarities with her mother’s substance abuse problems.
She saw how Jimmy tried to live up to Chuck’s example and how Chuck never accepted him as a professional equal. Chuck was happy to have Jimmy be successful in the mail room, but he didn’t feel Jimmy was lawyer material. Kim saw her hero treating his own flesh and blood like a second-class person and this caused built-up resentment in her that’s now coming out.
Kim is one of those people like in the cartoon where there’s an angel sitting on one shoulder and a devil sitting on the other shoulder. She tries hard to listen to the angel, to do the right thing, to fight for the underdog, to hold to the letter of the Law that Chuck holds in higher esteem than his own brother. But Kim keeps listening to the little guy on the other shoulder, and it’s not always Jimmy who leads her down the darker paths.
We see an example of this when Kim and Jimmy pull a scam on a stockbroker in the bar of a fancy resort, getting him to buy an extremely expensive bottle of tequila while making him think that they’d inherited a small fortune and needed investment advice. Kim asked Jimmy to explain the scam idea to her. It wasn’t completely his idea. The excitement of this escapade clearly gave Kim a feeling that she wanted to feel again.
As Jimmy’s career advances, we see how Chuck continues to keep Jimmy from getting what he really wants. He influences Howard to keep Jimmy from getting hired at HHM. He has a hand in all but stealing clients from Jimmy (the Kettlemans) and Kim (Mesa Verde).
Kim and Jimmy continue to pull various scams together and Kim continues to get excited by the thrill.
She also starts to stick up for Jimmy. She takes Jimmy’s side and tells Chuck what she thinks of him even though she knows Jimmy doctored the paperwork on legal paperwork for Mesa Verde. She tells Howard what she thinks of his and Chuck’s treatment of Jimmy after Chuck passes away. She offers to go with Jimmy when he tells her that he’s going south to pick up Lalo’s bail money — somehow she thinks she can protect him from the dangers out there. Then she shows just how she can protect him by standing up to Lalo in their own apartment, even though Lalo confirms what she already knows, that Jimmy didn’t tell her the whole truth about what happened in the desert.
At the beginning of the Better Call Saul season 5 finale, Jimmy finally tells Kim the truth about what happened in the desert, though he doesn’t mention Mike’s name. They decide they better go to a hotel to make sure they’re safe.
He asks Kim if he’s bad for her, and she says, “You crossed a line. You’re not going to do it again.” That last sentence is almost a question. He says “yeah.” But he’s not sure he means it.
When Howard tells Kim about all of the pranks Jimmy has pulled recently, he pushes one of Kim’s buttons and she laughs in his face. He questions why she left Schweikart & Cokely, and she gets defensive she feels Howard is trying to imply she can’t make her own decisions. Later, she and Jimmy are spending their second night in the fancy hotel. Jimmy wants to go home, and he seems quite depressed despite getting news that Lalo is likely to not be a threat much longer. He almost seems to be saying he thinks she should just leave him. It seems he thinks his association with the Cartel will eventually put her in real danger and he’d almost rather separate than cause her death.
But Kim wants a gourmet cheeseburger from room service, and then she tells Jimmy about her encounter with Howard at the courthouse. Jimmy almost chokes on his wine, but instead of getting made at Jimmy for his childishness, she gets mad a Howard and the conversation devolves into brainstorming ways to hurt Howard, starting by damaging his hair and ending with a plan to do something to make it look as if Howard committed legal misconduct. They work out how it could lead to a settlement in the Sandpiper class action lawsuit, which would also give Jimmy a payout of approximately $2 million.
Kim is of the opinion that it’s only a career setback for one lawyer (Howard) while it would benefit them and allow them to help others by setting up a law practice helping the downtrodden. Jimmy can’t believe she’s serious about it, but as she goes off to take a shower, she still seems to be seriously considering doing something unforgivable.