The Fourth Season of Breaking Bad Prequel Only Gets Better
In an interview given regarding Breaking Bad’s tenth anniversary, Bob Odenkirk, who plays the title character (sort of) in Better Call Saul, Odenkirk admitted that while he loves the job, each successive season fills him with a little dread, “because Jimmy is slowly becoming Saul, and I like Jimmy more.” It is tribute to both Odenkirk and master craftsman Vince Gilligan that the viewer feels the same way with each successive season. And in the opening episodes of Season 4, one gets the picture that Jimmy McGill is closing in on that Rubicon.
A critical moment occurred when Jimmy’s brother Chuck literally went up flames at the climax of last season. We know that there has to be a critical break with Jimmy here, as the last thing that Chuck said to him was basically that he should embrace his inner con artist. Granted, Chuck subsequently went off the deep end, and may have committed suicide soon after, but its hard to imagine that this wasn’t another push in that direction. In the opening episode, Odenkirk was magnificent, utterly muted as he dealt with the passing of his brother, and the subsequent memorial. But when Howard (Patrick Fabian), Chuck’s former partner told him of his suspicions, there was clearly a minor break that may have added just a little bit of Saul into his character. Jimmy’s still trying to be a good man — in last night’s episode, where he went on a job search, there was clear evidence that there was more conscience than huckster in him — but there’s clearly more to him than this.
As for the other characters in Bad universe, Mike (the ever astounding Jonathan Banks), continues to demonstrate a sense of humor in his ever steely personality as he embraces his new role as head of security at Madrigal, the organization that was Gus Fring’s silent partner. Doing an ‘undercover boss’ scenario, he went to a southwest branch of the plant, casually infiltrated, and then demonstrated just how good he is at his fake job. This clearly irks Lydia (Laura Fraser, infinitely steelier than she would be throughout Bad), but still trying to play the woman behind the man.
And Gus has slowly begun to expand his empire, while filling in far more of his backstory than we could have imagined. After Hector Salmanaca suffered the stroke that would essentially paralyze him, Gus continues to try and nurse the man back to health. We know the plan of vengeance that Gus has in mind (and just to assure us, the Cousins, as silently imposing as ever have returned), but we are slowly beginning to see just how merciless he can be. This became very clear in the final scene where he utterly imposed death on the colleague of the man who caused Hector’s stroke, and forced him into a servitude that almost certainly will not end well. Giancarlo Esposito joins the Breaking Bad characters who are adding to the layers we got hints of in that world.
Better Call Saul has very quickly become one of the greatest spinoffs in the history of television, a series that adds layers to an already lush world, and just like the series that spawned it, improves exponentially with each successive season. There are so many questions that this series has yet to answer, most notably involved Jimmy’s girlfriend Kim (Rhea Seehorn) the one person in this world who unequivocally loves him. And then, there are the black and white flashforwards which seem to be leading to a frightening future for Saul. We know just how good Gilligan is at lacing a story with threads that don’t seem to tie together until the last episode. Both Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul have discussed making appearances in Saul, and Gilligan has said he would be more than glad to do so. Yet as much as I’d love to see Walter and Jesse again, this series stands so well on its own that it almost wouldn’t need them. We feel like Odenkirk does as Saul Goodman appears in Jimmy’s rearview: we know its coming, but we almost wish there was another way.
My score: 4.75 stars.