Better Call Saul took some surprisingly big leaps forward last night, bringing it much closer to Breaking Bad. But the leaps were done in such a way that writer Alison Tatlock and director Deborah Chow clearly showed evolutions in character relationships to make the tipping points very effective.
Spoilers after the screenshot
The months pass in split screen and we see Kim (Rhea Seehorn) and Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) diverge in careers and lifestyle even as they continue to live and sleep together. It’s nicely done, like watching Kane and his wife gradually sitting further apart at the breakfast table in Citizen Kane. Jimmy goes from putting the paste on Kim’s toothbrush to not even eating with her.
So then it makes sense that there’s suddenly a culture clash between them. They grew apart so gradually that Jimmy springing the news that he’d been selling drop phones is a severe shock. I love how uncomfortable Kim looks in that scene, you can tell she’s absolutely repulsed and wants to be a million miles away from Jimmy.
Who’d have thought Huell (Lavel Crawford) would have such an important role. The scene where he hits that cop over the head with a bag of sandwiches is just the right mixture of sad, funny, and credible. And then, against all odds, Kim does find a point of interest in the case; it seems Huell is facing “unequal justice”, the prosecutor aiming for an unusual amount of jail time, the implication being that institutional racism is at work. The episode ends with a tease that Kim has cooked up something clever but the real axe hanging over the episode is the sense that, rather than drawing Jimmy and Kim back together, it’ll be the final wake-up call that drives them apart. It’s a testament to how well done this show is that you understand both points of view—Kim wanting to help people and have a stable career and Jimmy wanting respect and a job that challenges him. These two simple differences in motive are exacerbated by the characters belonging to two different cultures now, as highlighted in the office party at the beginning where Jimmy embarrasses Kim.
And he has business cards now that rhyme “call” with “Saul”, an omen of the fate the show’s promised from the beginning. The inevitability nicely plays off the complexity of the characters so that you feel how deeply sad it is that Jimmy is trapped.