In the previous episode I explored the notion of segments. One idea I had was to do TV recaps. There’s a few shows that I watch consistently, and I thought it’d be fun to do a short post-episode discussion. I start with the mid season finale of Better Call Saul, the show I have been consistently watching longer than any other. I watched it from the beginning, which was 2015, which seems like a different life to me now.
In this episode (SPOILER ALERT) we see d-day, the culmination of Jimmy and Kim’s plan to take down Howard and force the settlement of the Sandpiper case, which goes off without a hitch. We see Lalo, in his ongoing mission to gather Prueba of Gus’s malfeasance, spying on the laundry from the sewer. And of course the big wham moment of the episode, where Lalo enters Kim and Jimmy’s apartment after Howard came over to give them a dressing down, and proceeds to shoot Howard in the head in the middle of the apartment.
Now they succeeded with the wham, with the shock of the sudden murder, succeeded with me for sure in shocking me, and while these moments have that strong impact in the moment, they can often feel like cheap writing. Because to be truly shocking there has to be some kind of a disconnect between what happened before and what is happening now. Now not everything is the Wire, but what I loved about the wire is that that didn’t really happen. There were shocking moments for sure, but the characters, for the most part stayed who they were, and the action unfolded almost inevitably from the nature of the characters and the context, like a ball rolling down hill. So they often did these shocker moments on Breaking Bad, and while they always left me with my mouth agape when the credits began to roll, I don’t really like them in the longer view, because I watch these shows for the slow burn and character development, and it just seems like a cheap way to get an audience reaction.
Honestly, I think that the preceding scene with Howard was the much more compelling television for the reasons that I watch it. The confrontation was the culmination of the way that the relationships between these three characters for 6 seasons! And it took the glee that we had in watching Kim and Jimmy plan this epic con and flipped it around on us. Do you really think that Kim and Jimmy are the good guys here? What did Howard really ever do to Kim and Jimmy? The show had placed Howard in the villian chair of the show from the outset and we just went along, and now the show is making us ask ourselves why we never stopped to question it at all.
My strongest takeaway from the whole thing though was Howard’s precision strike comment, which isn’t even really an insult, because he’s not saying it to hurt her per se, but just because he thinks it’s true, when he says to Kim “You have a piece missing.” I felt like I took collateral damage when he said that. It just cut so quickly to the core of what he sees in this situation. And I can’t honestly say I disagree. That’s the sort of moment that I watch for. The whole scene, and then that line in particular, that it took six seasons to build to, and would not have hit me the same way if I could have just binge watched all 6 seasons in 2015. That’s what makes it worth it, and the shocker, gun to the head surprise execution, doesn’t have any of that same resonance to me, and it kind of cheapens the scene by tacking that on to the end. The episode could have ended with him screwing on the silencer and saying let’s talk. We’d be tense for the next six weeks! But the whiplash really comes from a hallmark example of what is the best about this show, immediately capped with the what makes it the weakest. You’re only shocked the first time, but Howard’s line will make me feel something every time I hear it.