REVIEW: Better Call Saul – “Breathe”

The following is a recap and review of the second episode of the fourth season of Better Call Saul, available on AMC in the U. S. and on Netflix internationally. Expect story spoilers. 

In the second episode of the fourth season — Breathe — Jimmy (played by Bob Odenkirk) goes jobhunting, and Kim Wexler (played by Rhea Seehorn) stands up for her partner. Breathe was written by Thomas Schnauz and directed by Michelle MacLaren.

The one thing that we know for sure about this season of Better Call Saul is what event will change the lives of both Kim Wexler and Jimmy McGill. Jimmy’s brother is dead. He took his own life, and, in one of his last big speeches, he basically told Jimmy to just realize who he really is — to accept it and embrace it.

With Hamlin’s confession in the previous episode, Jimmy also found out that Chuck died by suicide because of a problem Jimmy had brought into his life. His initial reaction was stunningly calm. He started to whistle, feed his fish, and make coffee.

Jimmy is not equipped to process the loss of his brother, so he has tried to numb his feelings of guilt and grief. In this episode, Jimmy continues to do so by blowing off the meeting about Chuck’s estate (more on that in a moment), and then he, instead, goes on a job hunt to take his mind off things.

Initially, Jimmy just does his best to get a job, there isn’t much to criticize about that, but then, when he feels like a job offer isn’t a certainty, he retreats back into his scheming ways and does his best salesman pitch to overcome the waiting period and cut corners. He feels the urge to do that, which is why he goes back into the main office room at Neff Copiers.

But, in doing so, he proves something to himself. That his speech works on the Neff Copiers representatives just reminds him of all the criticism that Chuck has given him about cutting corners. And that may be why he, at the end of the episode, decides to follow his brother’s last advice — to follow the urge and embrace his scheming ways — and investigate how much the Neff Copiers’ Hummel figurines are worth.

This is an episode that also does a great job of reminding us just how much of a cold-hearted monster Gus Fring can be. In Better Call Saul, he hasn’t previously been an actual villain, as he, like Mike, did not like the Salamancas either. In the episode-opening teaser, Gus tells someone that he is to decide what the proper judgment for Hector is. Gus wants to be the one to handle the Hector-problem. We all know how that ends, obviously.

What is, on the other hand, frightening is his treatment of Nacho (played by Michael Mando). Nacho is one of the great new characters introduced by Better Call Saul, and he has become a true fan favorite thanks in large part to the compelling performances delivered by Michael Mando, which is why it is so uncomfortable to see him in the position that he is in at the end of the episode.

This is a power move that Gus Fring makes by taking out one of the two Salamanca errand-boys and blackmailing the other — Nacho. Fring feels cheated by Nacho, as he took care of a problem that Gus wanted to handle himself — the sidelining of Hector Salamanca. This, unfortunately, creates a new problem for the Varga family — Nacho has been found out by one of the greatest villains this corner of the television universe has given us.

The scene that makes this episode memorable is the one where Kim Wexler appears at the meeting about Chuck’s estate to represent Jimmy McGill. Kim shows up at the meeting for two reasons. First and foremost, I gather it is to spare Jimmy of the heartbreak of getting one last scornful message from his brother in the form of a likely hateful letter or a rudely small inheritance.

But she also shows up at the meeting to confront Howard (played by Patrick Fabian). Howard Hamlin has had a tough week, huh? First, Jimmy told a broken Howard that he had to live with his guilt, and, now, Kim screams at Howard for having unloaded his guilt unto Jimmy at the day of Chuck’s funeral, as well as for letting Chuck have this last laugh at Jimmy via the inheritance.

Rhea Seehorn has not previously gotten the attention she deserves. Her character is, in my opinion, the most underappreciated new addition to the Breaking Bad world that this show has given us. The rant that she gives in this episode, honestly, awards-worthy. It made me so happy to see Wexler show her true feelings like this that Seehorn almost made me choke up.

Her rant is so raw and unfiltered. You can basically see veins popping out of her neck as her voice cracks when she screams at her former boss. This is Seehorn’s scene, and it steals the episode away from all other main characters. So much pent-up frustration is unloaded in this scene, and it is so nice to see her get it all out at Howard.

As someone who is a big fan of Seehorn in this role, it was so satisfying to see her shine in this strong second episode of the season. My only problem with the episode is how pronounced the differences are between the Gus and Mike parts of the episode and the Jimmy and Kim scenes. Sometimes the Gus and Mike section feels too far removed from this show and too much like a different show that I love.


– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen

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