Better Call Saul Midseason Premiere Reaction: A Twisty, Tense Return [Tribeca]

Just when you thought "Better Call Saul" couldn't ramp up the suspense even more, it does. And it does so with an iron grip around your throat and a gun to your heart, but still, you wonder if there's a way out of this.

But despite the show's skill with taking nail-biting twists and delivering jaw-dropping shocks, the genius of "Better Call Saul" has long been its incredibly complex, multifaceted characters. Characters that continue to surprise you long after you've embraced them, with their unseen depths seeming to startle even themselves. That's one leg up that "Better Call Saul" has had over its predecessor "Breaking Bad": you care about each of these characters, and the tension isn't written in how or if they're going to die, but how they ended up where they are.

The "Better Call Saul" season 6 midseason premiere, still untitled at the time of this writing, plays into this tension brilliantly. The breath that we were all holding following the shocking midseason finale is not given a chance to be let out, instead, we're left panting (maybe even hyperventilating) as the episode hits the ground running in a twisty, heart pounding, and — as always — visually striking race to the finish.

I saw the "Better Call Saul" midseason premiere with a theater full of fans at the Tribeca Film Festival, where we were asked not to reveal any spoilers or plot details for the episode. So here is the most spoiler-free reaction to the eighth episode of "Better Call Saul" season 6 that one can manage.

Out of their depths

Unsurprisingly, "Better Call Saul" delivers. It delivers in shocks, in action-packed scenes, in quiet moments of self-disgust and regret, in impeccably performed scenes that will have you bemoaning the fact that the cast of "Better Call Saul" continues to be snubbed by the Emmys. And it delivers in scenes that will have you very worried for Rhea Seehorn's Kim Wexler, but what's new?

Written by Gordon Smith (in his last episode of the series) and directed by Vince Gilligan, the midseason premiere of "Better Call Saul" features several clever rug-pulls and shocking resolutions that are the culmination of what we've seen being laid out over the past season. Tony Dalton takes center stage for much of this episode, in an hour that sees Lalo Salamanca fully evolved into that terrifying crime-lord boogeyman that we've only seen in glimpses throughout the season, even as he loomed over the minds of every character — especially that of Gus Fring (an always terrific Giancarlo Esposito), whose back remains against the wall.

Characters connect and clash in ways both satisfying and terrifying, while our two leads — and let's be honest, emotional core — Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk, managing to eke out a few moments of levity in an unbearably tense episode) and Kim Wexler remain obviously out of their depths. The other standout of the episode is also, unsurprisingly, Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut, whose careful planning and security measures over the past season are tested — as is his patience and his remorse over his ever-degenerating moral code. But the episode has quite a few characters furiously treading water as the tides that have come of their actions threaten to drown them all.

Now that I've got the water metaphors out of the way (again, this is all I can do to avoid spoilers), I will reiterate again, "Better Call Saul" does not disappoint. And it remains one of the most cinematically satisfying shows on TV, with Gilligan even throwing in a few visual tricks and flairs that serve to ramp up the tension even more. But with a midseason premiere this intense, I can only imagine that things are going to get darker and more troubling from here.

The "Better Call Saul" midseason premiere airs on AMC on Monday, July 11, 2022.