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TV Review: Better Call Saul (Season 4)

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Season Four of Better Call Saul finished on a high with its tenth episode Winner.

It was a welcome surprise to see Michael McKean reprising Chuck in a flashback at the beginning of the episode, which showcased the good points of his relationship with Jimmy.

Source: IMDb

Chuck endorsed his brother, and later celebrated him passing the bar by getting royally drunk. Bob Odenkirk’s has been exceptional in showing the persuasive and calculated side of Jimmy this season, and this is prevalent throughout the flashback as he wheedles his brother into staying out, resulting in a series highlight where the duo performs ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All” at karaoke at the after-party.

Chuck and Jimmy drunkenly help each other home, with Chuck getting a bucket for Jimmy in case he’s sick, before lying down next to him and reprising the song.

Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul is a producer who painstakingly choses elements and additions to the story, making it a compellingly tight narrative. True to form, the lyrics of “The Winner Takes It All” is especially poignant, as they foreshadow the stormy relationship of Jimmy and Chuck that perpetrates the show.

A thematic aspect of the narrative of this season has been on running away: Nacho (played by Michael Mando) is troubled by the dangerous situation he is situated in between the cartels, and acquires forged passports for him and his father to leave.

Kim (Rhea Seehorn) struggles with, and tries to ignore the gulf that widens between herself and Jimmy, only realising it when the prosecuting District Attorney on Huell’s case says she doesn’t know why Kim want’s “anything to do” with the case and unknowingly insults Jimmy, saying that the only witness is a “scumbag, disbarred lawyer who peddles drop phones to criminals”.

Werner Ziegler, the German engineer hired to construct Gustavo’s lab, physically flees his confines to see his wife; and Jimmy ignores all moral sensibilities, as well as the impact his brother’s death must have had on him.

Chuck was a titanic figure for the first three seasons of the show and his absence hangs over the fourth season – Kim is convinced that Jimmy must miss his brother, despite the fact the two incessantly warring siblings constantly battled and hurt each other.

After screaming that he was sincere in the penultimate episode of the season when he failed to convince the board to reinstate him as a lawyer, Kim tentively asks what he said about Chuck. Jimmy, disgusted, asks what he should have said, refusing to acknowledge Chuck’s impact on him out of pride.

After revising his strategy, and to prove his sincerity, Jimmy concocts elaborate schemes in the final episode to elicit sympathy from the lawyers – and viewers. It’s hard to distinguish what Jimmy does sincerely if given no context, such as when he cries over his brother’s grave, only to reveal later to Kim that it was an act to garner sympathy.

Later, at an unveiling for a reading room constructed as a memorial for Chuck, Jimmy hires out the actors that usually supplement his schemes to act as waiters at the gathering, so that they can tell the congregation of lawyers paying their respects that Jimmy paid for it – all in a bid to prove sincerity. “I can’t believe I wrote a $23,000 check for this,” Jimmy scoffs to Kim as she goes to check on him as he mourns outside, “I don’t even see anyone from the Bar Association in there.”

Even Kim, who has been a constant fixture of support for Jimmy, begins to recoil from him. Whilst initially happy to go along with victimless schemes, she looks visibly concerned after Jimmy reveals that his emotional testimony to the board, that got him reinstated to the bar, was a ruse.

“Did you see those suckers?” Jimmy sneers in triumph, “That one asshole was crying, he had actual tears.” Like the audience, Kim is shocked – even though we know Jimmy isn’t completely sincere, his persuasive capabilities to pretend that he is and to draw in an audience, as well as the lengths that he goes to, is extreme.

But Kim is more than shocked – because like the viewer, she’s hurt that Jimmy duped her into believing his act as well, as seen when she wipes a tear away as he speaks about Chuck to the board. She stammers as he’s led away to sign the process papers, asking “Jimmy, what, what?”, unable to believe what she’s hearing. He winks and finger guns the air, quipping “it’s all good man,” a prelude to his future practicing name.

Similar to Breaking Bad’s anti-hero, the last episode of this season provides a pivotal point in distinguishing Jimmy’s descent in to this trope more self-consciously than Walter ever entered it.

Breaking Bad showcased Walter White’s transformation into Heisenberg, and Better Call Saul demonstrates Jimmy McGill’s alteration into Saul Goodman, with the unfeeling lies about his brother hammering the last nails in to the coffin of Jimmy McGill, and paving the way for his alter-ego, Saul Goodman to rise.

Better Call Saul is available on Netflix. 

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