REVIEW: Better Call Saul – “Quite a Ride”

The following is a recap and review of the fifth 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 fifth episode of the fourth season — Quite a Ride — Kim (played by Rhea Seehorn) starts to ignore her main client, and Jimmy (played by Bob Odenkirk) goes to the Dog House. Quite a Ride was written by Ann Cherkis and directed by Michael Morris.

Prior to this episode, Better Call Saul had steered clear of the Breaking Bad timeline. Mostly, over the course of the show, we have been shown scenes set prior to, or after, the events of Breaking Bad. If I remember correctly, Quite a Ride marks the first time in the series where we’ve seen this show’s titular character during the time of Breaking Bad.

This scene comes via the episode-opening teaser. The scene takes place between the Breaking Bad episodes Ozymandias and Granite State, and it shows us Jimmy/Saul getting ready to leave his office to ‘disappear’. It’s a perfectly good scene that fills in a gap left by Breaking Bad, but what really excites me about the scene is the promise of it.

So far in this series, if I remember correctly, we’ve only had one glimpse of ‘Gene’ each season (in the season premieres). With this episode-opening teaser, the showrunners are telling us that we can get scenes from the time of Breaking Bad (in color, no less) in pretty much every episode imaginable. That means we could potentially have one scene with Gene in every episode to fill in the gap much quicker if they choose to do that.

It also may suggest how close we are to the beginning of ‘Saul Goodman’, because this episode certainly continues to give us more scenes aimed at those wanting to find out something new about the tiniest details in Breaking Bad. For example, this episode starts to ask the question of how they built Gus Fring’s meth lab.

In Quite a Ride, we find out what job Gus needed Mike for in the last episode. Gus needed someone to discreetly get structural engineers from point a to point b without getting too much information about the operation, in case they aren’t hired for the job. Mike is perfect for the job. We see him with two different structural engineers.

The first engineer seems very unimpressed with the operation and he sees no problem with any of it. In fact, he’s so certain he can do the job that he decides to tell Mike about a previous operation. At that point he lost the job, if he’s willing to talk about that job, then he’d be willing to talk about this one to someone else. They end up accepting a German engineer, who is much more skeptical.

While Mike is doing a fairly simple job for Gus, Kim Wexler doesn’t seem willing to do her’s. Mesa Verde is no longer her first priority, which she had promised them they’d be. Instead, she is searching for her love of the profession in pro bono criminal defense cases. It feels like, to me, that what Kim feels she and Jimmy did to Chuck ruined her love of the law, but even more pronounced is this idea that each time she interacts with her Mesa Verde clients, she is reminded of Chuck and the hearing that ruined him.

It also doesn’t help that Jimmy and Kim still aren’t being truthful to each other. Speaking of Jimmy, his ‘boring’ job at the phone store has inspired him to do something new to make money — something more exciting. That includes going out at night to sell cell phones on the street while wearing a tracksuit.

It works — it really works — until some kids decide to beat him up and steal his money. This entire sequence includes a brilliant montage of Jimmy meeting up with various characters of the night to sell privacy in the form of these cell phones. The montage itself is paired with a perfect song — The Crusaders‘ “Street Life.” This sometimes humorous Better Call Saul montage is among the most memorable sequences in the entire show. Good job, Skip Macdonald (the editor of the episode)!

Remember how I mentioned Jimmy and Kim can’t stop lying to each other? Well, a clearly bruised and embarrassed Jimmy changes his clothes before he goes home to tend to his wounds. It’s unnecessary, but Jimmy knows he’s doing something Kim can’t support.

Then, as he was getting ready for his monthly check-in at the district attorney’s office, Jimmy runs into a disheveled and broken Howard Hamlin in the men’s bathroom. I want you to notice something about this scene.

What is noteworthy about this scene isn’t just that Patrick Fabian brilliantly makes Hamlin look damaged, the costume decision having been made is brilliant. What do we remember about Hamlin? His blonde hair, his attitude, and, perhaps more than anything else, his Hamlindigo blue suit. What does he wear here? A bland, black-and-white suit you might as well wear to a funeral.

I wish I could say that Jimmy saw that Hamlin was a mess and that he too needed professional help to break his outer shell, but Hamlin only made Jimmy realize that going to a therapist would be hellish for him. Instead, the episode ends with Jimmy saying once and for all that he’s going to be an important lawyer, which, to me, signaled that he may try to become Saul Goodman sooner rather than later. We’ll see.

In any case, this was the best episode of the season thus far. It wasn’t just that it gave us new, satisfying glimpses into the details of what we took for granted in Breaking Bad, and it wasn’t just because it moved the story forward in a great way. Quite a Ride suggested the potential of a new approach to the episode-opening teaser, and it also showed us some elegant editing in the episode’s gorgeous “Street Life”-montage.

A

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen

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