REVIEW: Better Call Saul – “Fun and Games”

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

In the ninth episode of the sixth season of Better Call Saul — titled Fun and Games — Mike (played by Jonathan Banks) meets with Nacho’s father, while Kim (played by Rhea Seehorn) makes a definitive decision about her future. Fun and Games was written by Ann Cherkis and directed by Michael Morris. The episode is dedicated to Julia Clark Downs.

The episode opens with a beautiful montage of Kim and Jimmy trying to go through their day like nothing ever happened while Mike cleans up the mess. It’s got beautiful solemn music and perfectly edited match cuts. Another example of just how exceptional the people behind this show are. When Kim and Jimmy return home, their faces drop as they look at the spot where Howard’s body once was. They both stare with sadness in their eyes, but when Jimmy walks away, Kim continues to stare at it. A perfect way to communicate how Jimmy has the ability to move on, whereas Kim is really struggling. Of course, she is. Kim blames herself for Howard more than Jimmy does. If she had told Jimmy about Lalo being alive, they wouldn’t have focused on the Howard Hamlin smear campaign. It’s as simple as that.

To me, it felt very much like this episode was trying to set the table for the events of Breaking Bad. We see Gus defending himself in front of Don Eladio, and Don Hector being ignored by Eladio. Now the power dynamics of the cartel are established, for example. But there are also some really fascinating character beats, like when we see Gus flirt with a sommelier. Esposito is wonderful in his scene with the sommelier. He shows so many emotions on his previously so-often unflinching face, and it’s sad that he doesn’t allow himself more than a small moment of true happiness. But I guess romance has no place in the criminal underworld of Albuquerque.

When Jimmy and Kim go to the HHM offices for Howard’s memorial they immediately notice that the once dented trashcan now looks completely new. Jimmy liked to kick it, but there are no longer any signs of that having happened. It could symbolically represent how Kim and Jimmy’s immoral actions that led to Howard’s death will be forgotten, just as Mike had insisted to them. But it’ll take a little bit longer for that to happen as they find out at the memorial, at which Howard’s widow (Cheryl, played by Sandrine Holt) grills them about the circumstances of his death. To save herself and Jimmy, Kim quickly deflects the blame by pointing out that Cheryl hadn’t noticed Howard’s drug addiction — which he, truthfully, never had — and that, along with Cliff indicating that he saw signs, makes Cheryl break into tears. Yet another cruel act from the Goodman-Wexler duo. As they leave the offices, Kim looks at Jimmy, gives him a kiss, and drives away without saying anything. He is left by himself in the parking facility.

This was also probably the last time we see a new scene in the HHM offices, as Rich Schweikart (played by Dennis Boutsikaris) reveals that HHM is downsizing and changing its name. This is yet another consequence of Jimmy and Kim’s actions. There is no longer a Hamlin to protect the HHM name, so now Howard and Chuck’s company will be largely forgotten (since I don’t believe we ever hear of it in Breaking Bad).

“I love you too, but so what?”

Like Gus did, Jimmy too comes to accept that there is no place for romance in the Albuquerque underworld. But it isn’t his choice. The next day, Kim tells Jimmy that she has surrendered her license to practice law, and, while Jimmy tries to get her to reconsider, it becomes clear that she is also saying goodbye to their relationship. He loves her, he pleads, but it’s a declaration that does him no good. The scene features top-notch work from them both, with Odenkirk’s desperate performance feeling so real. Jimmy is unable to talk her out of this one. Again, she especially blames herself for Hamlin’s death. Full of regret and guilt, she no longer thinks they can be together. Although they love each other, them together is what got them to this place. They get off on their schemes, and they don’t know when to leave well enough alone. If Jimmy can be a ‘chimp with a machine guy’ then Kim is his enabler. At least, that is how she feels. Tragically, this is the end of their relationship, which the show makes very clear by abruptly cutting to the Saul Goodman of Breaking Bad. It makes sense. Kim held Jimmy together, and without her, he’s just proper Saul. And as a longtime fan of the show and Kim and Jimmy’s relationship, this one really hurts.

“My boy is gone.”

I should also mention Mike’s meeting with Nacho’s father. They meet ‘face-to-face’ but are separated by a fence. Nacho’s father is protected behind it and Mike is speaking to him from the outside looking in and promising him justice. Just like Nacho struggled to really make his father understand what was going on, Mike doesn’t have a lot of luck either. Set in his ways, Nacho’s father notes that Mike is confusing justice with revenge. I did think it was a shame that Nacho’s father never really cared for Mike’s intentions or recognized that he wasn’t like the rest.

I think it was a smart choice for them to meet like this, separated by a fence, because it is a smart way of showing how guarded his father will be but also how he doesn’t really have a good idea of what’s happening on the other side of the fence. There is also this really good shot of the two of them from the side, which, in a way, makes it look like Mike is behind the fencing (stuck in a prison of a never-ending cycle of revenge) and that the father is free.

This was an ‘immediate aftermath’ kind of episode, wherein the slate is wiped clean by Mike Ehrmantraut, and the show ties up loose ends (Kim leaving and thus turning Jimmy into proper Saul, HHM downsizing, Nacho’s father telling Mike off, Hector being ignored by Don Eladio). I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel a little bit like the show was working off of a checklist here, though. It feels fast-paced, in a way. It might’ve been better if Kim’s exit had taken another episode to happen.

In spite of that aforementioned checklist-y feel, the episode also showcases Better Call Saul at its best, with the lengthy and extremely well-edited montage in the beginning, as well as the image of Kim kissing Jimmy one last time and leaving him standing in place. Tragically, it’s an episode where people walk away from things that might’ve made them happier. Varga’s dad isn’t interested in the comfort of Mike’s justice, Kim loves Jimmy but she has found out that they are bad influences on each other and so she splits (Jimmy might’ve led a better life with her), and Gus decides not to pursue a relationship with the nice sommelier.

We also flash forward to Breaking Bad-era Saul Goodman and show Jimmy all alone in his palace of loneliness. Everything is fancy or covered in gold but it has little worth, just like how he’s trying to appear whole when he’s really empty. And now we’re ready for post-Breaking Bad black-and-white in the next episodes, I presume, since there really isn’t much else they need to show prior to the events of Breaking Bad. Honestly, this feels like the actual end to Better Call Saul, even though we’ve still got episodes to go. And this ending is another heartbreaker. Although it couldn’t happen, I think we all wanted Kim and Jimmy to go into the horizon together. It’s a heartbreaker that we all knew would end in heartbreak. But that doesn’t make it hurt any less.

Goodbye, Jimmy. Better Call Gene.

A-

– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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