better call saul breathe review

Welcome to our weekly review-recaps of Better Call Saul season 4. Each week, we’ll delve deep into the Breaking Bad prequel series, with spoilers galore. This week kicks-off with the the second episode of season 4, “Breathe.”

better call saul breathe job interview

Jimmy

After a quiet, measured season 4 premiere, Better Call Saul explodes with “Breathe.” There are two big moments this week, one from Jimmy, one from Kim, and both are showstoppers in their own unique ways.

Jimmy has clearly come out of his stupor from last week’s episode. He’s no longer silent and morose. Instead, he’s bright and chipper – perhaps overly so. He bustles around, making fresh juice early in the morning, talking to Kim with his trademark rapid-fire speaking style. Is this an act? Is he covering up his true feelings? Or is this who Jimmy is now – just a disturbingly optimistic guy constantly on the move?

While Kim says it would be fine if Jimmy were to take some time off, Jimmy will hear none of it. He heads out on a job hunt, deliberately blowing off a reading of Chuck’s will in the process. The job quest brings him to Neff Copiers, a haggard-looking copy machine company.

He makes quite a first impression, drawing on his mailroom days to rattle off esoteric details regarding the various copiers. He’s also upfront with the manager and the owner he interviews with: yes, this is a sales gig, and yes, he doesn’t have any sales experience. And yet, he does. He was a lawyer, and part of that job involved selling a judge or jury on his clients.

The folks at Neff seem receptive, but they haven’t made up their minds yet. But Jimmy isn’t satisfied. After the interview ends, he marches back into the office and gives an impassioned speech about how he’s the right man for the job. It works – they’re ready to hire him on the spot.

And what does Jimmy do? He tanks the interview. Here, a crack in Jimmy’s sunny veneer shows. The confidence gives way to acidic rage, where he calls the men at Neff fools for falling for his spiel. “Are you out of your mind?” he laughs. “You don’t know me – I just came in off the street!”

It’s a fascinating scene, primarily because it’s a wonder to watch Bob Odenkirk work. To watch him slip from happy-go-lucky Jimmy into angry, spiteful Jimmy in the blink of an eye. What’s the end-game here? Why go on this interview, get the job, and then immediately blow it off? Jimmy is a man in limbo, caught between two worlds. He doesn’t have to be doing any of this. Kim explicitly said that everyone would understand if he wanted to take some time off. But he charges head-first into a job interview, and then sabotages his chances.

And that’s not all: in the owner’s office, he spots a Hummel figurine that used to belong to the original owner. Jimmy knows a thing or two about Hummels from one of his former elder clients, and he realizes that the figurine in question – “Bavarian Boy” – is worth almost 9000 dollars. A scheme begins to take shape, and Jimmy calls up an old pal: Mike. The two don’t cross paths this week, but the phone call makes it clear they’re about to be reunited. Jimmy needs Mike for something, and it’s clearly not something on the up and up.

Better Call Saul Breathe Mike

Mike

Speaking of Mike, he sits most of this episode out. He heads to the Madrigal corporate office to meet with Lydia Rodarte-Quayle. Lydia wants to know why Mike pulled that stunt at the warehouse, pretending to be an actual security consultant and shaking things up. Mike counters that if he shows his face as an real-life security consultant, it helps with the cover story.

Lydia doesn’t understand – Mike’s “job”, as far as she’s concerned, is about waiting for checks and nothing more. His showy actions increases the chance of people catching on to what’s really going on – the illegal wheeling and dealing between Lydia and Gus Fring.

Despite all this, Mike has no plans of stopping. He’s going to continue traveling to Madrigal locations and looking for security flaws. And for now, he has the support of Gus Fring. After the meeting, Lydia places a call to Gus, and Gus makes it abundantly clear that he’s fine with whatever Mike is doing. This is the beginning of Mike and Gus’ long working history – something that will carry over into Breaking Bad, and lead both of them to their demises. For now, though, the future is stretching out in front of them, but there’s very real danger lurking as well.

Better Call Saul Kim Breathe

Kim

We’re only two episodes into season 4, and Rhea Seehorn already has her Emmy clip ready. Seehorn continues to be one of the best elements of Better Call Saul, and “Breathe” gives her a chance to unleash hell in ways she hasn’t before. It’s as if all the rage, all the confusion, all the emotions in general within Kim finally erupt, and it knocks you flat on your back in the process.

While Jimmy is out job hunting, Kim goes to Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill (where the flags are at half-mast) to meet with Howard regarding Chuck’s will. She arrives just as Howard is finishing up with Chuck’s ex-wife Rebecca.

Howard reveals that most of Chuck’s estate was left to Rebecca, and both Howard and Rebecca suggest to Kim that Jimmy could dig through whatever survived the fire to see if he wanted anything. Kim curtly replies that Jimmy isn’t interested in that.

Howard goes on to say Chuck left $5000 for Jimmy – which Kim is quick to point out is just enough money to avoid having the will contested. It’s clear this meeting is not going as well as Howard expected, and he keeps trying to remain professional and cordial while Kim is blunt and unable to contain her disgust. The meeting culminates with Howard revealing Chuck left Jimmy a letter – an unopened letter for Jimmy’s eyes only. Rebecca clearly takes the hint that Kim is about to go nuclear, and excuses herself. The minute she’s out of the office, and the door is closed, Kim unloads on Howard.

Please watch Seehorn’s face carefully during this scene; focus on her eyes, the way you can imagine you almost see flames flickering behind her pupils. And the way the cords in her neck tense up to the point where you think they might just snap. It’s scary and exhilarating. Kim has had dramatic moments before, but we’ve never seen her as angry as she is here.

Kim is apoplectic that Howard came to Jimmy and talked about Chuck killing himself, and how Howard only did that to make himself feel better – never mind what it did to Jimmy. Howard stammers, and as great as Seehorn is here, praise must also by given to Patrick Fabian, who does a fantastic job conveying how uncomfortable and terrified he is at this outburst. He looks like someone who has literally just had the rug pulled out from him.

“What’s this?” Kim shouts, holding up Chuck’s note. “One last screw you, little brother, from beyond the grave?” She’s furious that both Chuck would leave such a letter, and that Howard would so casually hand it over She cares deeply about Jimmy, and the thought of contributing to hurting him in anyway has pushed her over the edge. “Am I really supposed to do this to him?” she cries.

Howard, unnerved by all of this, asks what he can do to make it better. “Nothing,” Kim says. “There is nothing you can do to make it better. Just stay away.” From the look of genuine fear and sadness on Howard’s face, it’s clear staying away from Kim won’t be a problem.

Later, Kim and Jimmy eat take-out and watch White Heat on TV. There’s no trace of Kim’s rage, But, interestingly enough, she neglects to give Jimmy the letter. Even more interesting: Jimmy has no interest in the details surrounding Chuck’s will.

better call saul breathe gus

Gus

Gustavo Fring, aka the Chicken Man, has a plan. We’re just not quite sure what it is yet. You’d think that Gus might be thrilled with Hector Salamanca’s current condition – being reduced to an invalid via a stroke (a stroke that Gus is positive was induced by Nacho).

And yet, Gus isn’t ready to sit back and revel in Hector’s suffering. Instead, he sends a man in to check on Hector in the hospital. The man comes back and comments that there’s really no way to tell if Hector will ever improve. To Gus, this is unacceptable. When Gus’ man counters that Hector’s current condition is exactly what the cruel old man deserves, Gus replies: “I decide what he deserves…no one else.”

Of course, we know from Breaking Bad Gus has an overarching plan involving revenge and seizing control. For now, though, we have to wait and see how things play out. Gus is a fascinating, complex character, especially here in his Better Call Saul form. He’s cool and collected, but he’s not quite as cool and collected as he was on Breaking Bad. He’s still learning the ropes, so to speak.

In the meantime, Gus brings a doctor in from Johns Hopkins to help treat Hector. And then he sets about dealing with Nacho.

As all this is unfolding, Nacho visits his father to tell he no longer has to worry about Hector. But Nacho’s father isn’t relieved. Instead, he’s heartbroken that his son is mixed up in this criminal lifestyle, and asks his son when he’s going to be done with all of this. “I’m working on it,” Nacho replies, because he has no idea what’s coming his way.

Later, when Nacho and Arturo go to a pick-up from Gus’ crew, Arturo suggests taking more – six keys – than usual, and asks Nacho to back him up. It’s a show of power. The Salamanca crew don’t want anyone to think they’re week even though their boss is now laid-up and unconscious.

Nacho obviously doesn’t like this whole idea, but agrees anyway. And things go terribly wrong. After the tense meeting, Nacho and Arturo stroll out into the parking lot, and are promptly jumped by Gus and his men.

Michelle MacLaren, one of the very best Breaking Bad directors, directs this episode, and she makes great use of shadow.There are lots of use of shadows here – characters shrouded in it, hiding it in like specters. When Nacho talks with his father, he remains mostly hidden in darkness while his father stands in the light. At the start of the episode, while Gus’ men are examining Hector in the hospital, we catch a glimpse of Gus standing in the hospital parking lot – a lone, shadowy figure in the night. When Mike meets with Lydia, her office doesn’t seem to have any actual lights, and pools of shadow linger. Jimmy and Kim spoon in bed, both of them indiscernible in the shadows. And then there’s this final moment, where Gus and his men coming out of the shadows to attack Nacho and Arturo – casting long, warped shadows across the ground. There’s a running motif here – one character in the light while others hang back in darkness, waiting, watching.

Gus violently tackles Arturo and promptly zip-ties a plastic bag over the hapless man’s head, resulting in a slow, panicky, painful death. It’s horrifying to watch, but watch is all Nacho can do. He looks on, aghast, as Arturo expires.

“I know what you’ve done,” Gus says – once again lost in shadows. “The Salamancas – they do not. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

Just in case Nacho doesn’t understand, Gus spells it out. “From now on,” he growls, “you are mine.” So much for Nacho’s plan to get out.

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