better call saul quite a ride 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 we examine episode 5 of season 4, “Quite a Ride.”

better call saul quite a ride jimmy

Jimmy

What a shock! “Quite A Ride” breaks the Better Call Saul format entirely and jumps right into Breaking Bad. Flash-forwards are nothing new on Saul – every season kicks off with Jimmy now in hiding as Gene, depressed Cinnabon manager. But we’ve never had a time-jump multiple episodes into a season before. And we’ve never jumped into the Breaking Bad timeline.

It’s jarring, and it further illustrates just how far Jimmy McGill eventually goes, and how low he sinks. Sporting his familiar Breaking Bad comb-over, and a loud purple shirt, Jimmy – now fully Saul Goodman – is in the midst of tearing apart his garish strip mall law office. The pillars are crooked and cracked, and Saul has literally punched a hole right into the Constitution (painted on his wall).

We’re knee-deep in the final season of Breaking Bad here, after Walter White’s criminal empire is coming to a violent close. Saul is having his secretary Francesca shred documents as he sets up his own extraction – the extraction that will destroy his current life and send him off to Omaha to become Gene. The moment ends with Saul trying to solicit a hug from Francesca, and Francesca turning it down. Had we seen this scenfe in Breaking Bad first, it would elicit a big laugh – because Saul was always a walking, talking joke on that show Here, in Better Call Saul, though, the scene is sad, tragic even. Because we know who Saul really is – he’s Jimmy McGill, a guy who always wanted to do the right thing, but never really could. And now, here, in this flash-forward, he has no one.  

I kept waiting for more clues to arise in this startling scene – perhaps Saul would place a call to Kim? But no, it’s over before we can get too settled in. And then we’re back into the normal Better Call Saul timeline.

And what a depressing timeline it is. Last week’s episode was all about the individual main characters caught in their own private traps, to crib a line from Psycho. Here, certain characters try to claw their way out, with mixed results. Jimmy decides to take his new cell phone gig – which ended last week with a big painted message practically advertising for criminal patronage – to the next level. He stocks up on several phones, and then hits the streets, looking to sell to the shadiest individuals possible.

This journey takes him to the Dog House, the familiar neon-lit hot dog stand featured in both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. What follows is a great, flashy montage as Jimmy sells one phone after another to some less-than-desirable clients, all of it scored to Street Life” performed by Randy Crawford).

It all goes very well, and director Michael Morris finds new and vibrant ways to make the moment cinematic, complete with neon reflections in puddles and plenty of trunk shots, with Jimmy revealing his wares to potential customers. As swimmingly as this is going for Jimmy, there’s an uneasy feeling about the sequence, because he we know he’s courting danger. It’s late at night – well after midnight – and Jimmy is dealing with some potential rough customers. He doesn’t exactly scream tough and intimidating. In fact, he’s decked out in a laughable tracksuit. Sure enough, three punk kids kick the crap out of him, and steal all his hard-earned money in the process.

There’s a moment where we think this beat-down will be a wake-up-call for Jimmy. He returns home, and inadvertently wakes Kim, who is understandably alarmed at his sate. Kim helps patch him up (blowing on one of his cuts in a truly wonderful little moment), and Jimmy wonders aloud: “What the hell is wrong with me?” As he explains to Kim, back in the day – the Slippin’ Jimmy day, most likely – kids like that would’ve never messed with him. Because he used to be one of them. “Those days are over,” Jim says, not unkindly. Hearing this triggers something in Jimmy’s troubled mind, and he tells Kim he wants to go see the psychiatrist she recommended in the previous episode. And the very next day, he washes his large “Is The Man Listening? Privacy Is Here!”  advertisement off the cell phone store windows.

But Jimmy’s moment of clarity is short lived. While at the courthouse to meet with his probation lawyer, Jimmy runs into Howard in the men’s room, and Howard looks bad. Tired, nervous and downright miserable, Howard is an absolute wreck, and Jimmy can’t for the life of him figure out why. He’s apparently forgotten all about Howard’s emotional confession about guilt over Chuck’s death, so much so that he even asks Howard what’s bugging him.

Stunned, hurt and angry, Howard comments that he’s already shared enough with Jimmy. Obvious, Jimmy tries to offer some help – by suggesting Howard see a psychiatrist. He even offers the number of the psychiatrist recommended by Kim, saying it was for a client. Howard counters that he’s already seeing a psychiatrist, and leaves. At which point Jimmy tears up the shrink’s number and flushes it.

This act of defiance invigorates Jimmy, and he marches into his meeting with the parole officer and proudly proclaims that once his parole is over, he’s going to go back to being the best damn lawyer he can be. It’s a funny but disturbing moment – Jimmy was so very close to reaching out for help, only to flush it all down the toilet.

better call saul quite a ride mike

Mike

Mike’s story this week is brief, but essential. He’s in the process of meeting with engineers who will help build Gus’ massive underground meth lab – the one beneath the industrial laundry that will one day be the stomping grounds of Walt and Jesse.

We’re treating to funny sequences in which Mike picks up one foreign engineer after another at the airport, makes them put bags over their heads, and then drives them out to the site. The first engineer, from France, makes an unimpressive offer to get the job done, and is promptly turned down.

A German engineer, however, sounds like he knows exactly what he’s doing. So much so that he lands the job, and a one-on-one meeting with Gus.

Everything here works, but this, coupled with the shocking opening flash-forward, gives me some pause. Better Call Saul seems to be kicking into overdrive now, and speeding toward Breaking Bad. I know this is inevitable, but I’m still in no rush for it to happen.

better call saul quite a ride kim

Kim

Kim felt trapped by the scope of the Mesa Verde expansion, and this week, she appears to be deliberately trying to tank the job. She’s still trolling around the courthouse, looking for a noble case. Again and again, she finds herself serving as a public defender for clients in desperate need. It’s not glamorous, and it’s surely a step-down in pay compared to Mesa Verde. But it’s what she needs. In many ways, Kim is regressing back to the point where Jimmy was when we first met him on the show. She even has to deal with Bill, the prosecutor Jimmy constantly butted heads with.

There’s a redemptive quality to these cases. Kim isn’t representing a big, wealthy bank. She’s representing clients in dire need, and she’s doing her best. A fine, quiet moment comes late in the episode, where Kim finds herself representing a young woman named Denise. Denise is due in court on drug possession charges, but she’s scared. She misses her court time, and hides out at home – inspiring Kim to come looking for her. Denise tearfully talks about how she’s so very afraid of going to jail, and Kim levels with her: she can’t guarantee zero jail time, but she’ll do her best, and the chances are very good. This scene is shot with the two women sitting on Densie’s front step, the camera placed in the shadows behind them, looking out. Denise relents, heading back inside to get changed.

And that’s when Kim’s phone rings. It’s Paige at Mesa Verde, demanding Kim come in to straighten out some paperwork. The old Kim – the Kim before he car accident – likely would’ve gone. Would’ve hung up the phone, apologized to Denise, and sped off to Mesa Verde. But the new Kim doesn’t seem to care. She rudely hangs up on Paige, and takes Denise to court.

Later, Kim apologizes to Paige, and swears it will never happen again. She seems sincere in this statement, which is troubling. Because if she really is sincere, that means she’s climbing right back into her trap after almost escaping. Like Jimmy, salvation seemed to be in reach…only to end up circling down the drain.

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