REVIEW: Better Call Saul – “Piñata”

The following is a recap and review of the sixth 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 sixth episode of the fourth season — Piñata — Kim Wexler (played by Rhea Seehorn) makes an important decision for her career, Mike (played by Jonathan Banks) meets a German construction crew, and Jimmy McGill (played by Bob Odenkirk) gets his revenge. Piñata was written by Gennifer Hutchison and directed by Andrew Stanton.

There have been some really memorable episode-opening teasers this season. Of course, the Gene scene in the season premiere was a highlight, as was last episode’s flash forward to the days of Breaking Bad. This time around, the episode-opening teaser was meant to show us something about Jimmy’s past, which gave the show a great opportunity to give a guest appearance to Michael McKean’s character, Chuck.

In the teaser flashback, we see Jimmy collecting Oscar prediction ballots from the HHM office, before Chuck has a quick chat with Jimmy and Kim, who, unlike Jimmy, seems so passionate about the law. What neither Chuck nor Kim seem to know, however, is that Jimmy sneaks into the firm’s law library to secretly study. You get the sense that one of the reasons why he wanted to know the law was to impress Kim — she was the motivation for his studying, which makes Kim’s major decision in this episode even more sad to witness.

You see, I really look at this episode as the episode in which Kim and Jimmy’s relationship is ruined — whether they realize it or not. Now we’ll see if I’m right, but I think what happens in this episode suggests that they don’t want the same thing and that Kim specifically doesn’t want what Jimmy is dreaming of.

As seen in an early scene, Kim, late at night, is acting like she is only focused on Mesa Verde. When she returns to bed, she finds Jimmy asleep, and she also finds drawings of potential Wexler-McGill logos. Jimmy wants to have a future with Kim, but she seemingly wants none of that as she later makes a move that makes Wexler-McGill impossible.

Kim, in a meeting with Rick Schweikart, suggests that she could create and oversee a banking division in the law firm Schweikart & Cokely. When she tells Jimmy, however, she acts as if she didn’t suggest this new business opportunity to Schweikart. She doesn’t want Jimmy to realize that she is rejecting him.

One fun thing that I noticed in the lunch scene is that when Jimmy needs a minute and he walks away from the restaurant table, Jimmy stops at a sign that says ‘forque’. It is apparently the name of the restaurant, but it’s also a clever way of symbolizing both the fork in the road for his relationship with Kim, but also how ‘fucked’ he feels now that he knows he and Kim won’t work together anymore — if the show didn’t need to be censored, you can easily imagine Jimmy saying “fuck,” out loud here, and this is a censored way of showing his frustration visually.

You might even go one step further and say you can put a fork in their relationship, which is to say that it’s dead, finished, over, and done. It isn’t really a break-up, per se, but I definitely got the sense that Kim had knowingly torn down Jimmy’s dream. And with Jimmy realizing how they are going down two separate paths, this is a decision that may have extinguished the fire that has kept their passion going.

But Jimmy is still passionate about his clients — at least the ones he used to have. When he receives a phone call from a relative of his former client, he is taken aback. You see, his former client Geraldine Strauss has passed away, and her family now needs to get in touch with a lawyer. Jimmy sends them to HHM, but what I was really struck by is how shocked and saddened about her death he was.

This is Jimmy McGill — Slippin’ Jimmy himself — who hasn’t shown any sensible emotion after Chuck died, but suddenly it is his former client that gets to him. I really hope this is what opens him up, but his insistence on not going to a therapist won’t really help him in dealing with his repressed emotions about his brother’s death.

“You’re a shitty lawyer, Howard. But you’re a great salesman. So get out there and sell.”

Howard Hamlin is still struggling with Chuck’s death, and so is the company as a whole, as it turns out. As Jimmy stops by to pick up his scanty inheritance check, Jimmy sees that losing Chuck and HHM’s good reputation has forced them to downsize and Hamlin seems to be in over his head. But if anything can reignite Howard’s fire it is a rant from Jimmy McGill with an insult peppered in.

This seems to snap Howard out of his funk, but I have to say that I am a little bit worried that this is going to be the last we see of Howard Hamlin — and, in length, the great actor Patrick Fabian — because if it is as bad as he suggests, then I’m not sure HHM will exist when Breaking Bad begins. We will have to see about that, but this was a great scene for the fired up McGill brother who needs to find a new direction in life without the hope of Wexler-McGill.

But, I have to say, it didn’t look like it was Jimmy McGill behind the wheel, so to speak, in the ‘piñata’ scene. While it is nice to see Jimmy get his revenge on the three young men who beat him up, I must say that this seems more like something Saul Goodman would do, which isn’t to say that it is unrealistic — I’m just saying that it is a shame that the character that I have loved during this show’s runtime is, for the lack of a better phrase, breaking bad here.

To me, the McGill and Wexler scenes will always take center stage on Better Call Saul, but you at least hope that the scenes with Mike, Gus, and Nacho are great B-stories to complement what Jimmy and Kim are doing. In this episode, however, I was a bit disappointed with what we got. For starters, once again Nacho is nowhere to be seen, which is a shame (I love that character and I worry about him).

Furthermore, I got nothing of value out of the dark scene between a bed-ridden Hector and Gus Fring drenched in the shadows of the hospital room. I think this is one of those instances when the prequel series is teasing us with what we know, but where there really isn’t much we can imagine that can happen between the two between now and then. Maybe I’m wrong — I hope I am — but I don’t suspect that we will see many crucial scenes between Gus and Hector for the remainder of Better Call Saul.

I did, however, enjoy the Mike scenes, and I really liked seeing him interact with the German construction crew. There isn’t much to go on here, other than the obvious suggestion that ‘Kai’ will be trouble for the construction. But he sure did get a nice ‘home away from home (and real life)’ ready for the male Germans. Football, Beer, and a home theater with comfortable chairs. That works. Sure, it’s stereotypical, but, really, that should be exactly what any European man needs to relax and have fun.

But, to be honest with you (and I always am), the B-stories, as it were, with Mike and Gus left me slightly underwhelmed. I think they need to focus on Nacho again, and maybe Gus Fring needs to be seen on another storyline. There is no use in reselling us how much Gus and Hector hate each other, at least not right now. I think Nacho will factor heavily into what happens between the Salamancas and Fring, but we will have to see when fan favorite actor Michael Mando returns.

B+

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen

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