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Three Takeaways From the Fourth Season of ‘Better Call Saul’

The spinoff keeps getting better—and darker

Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy in ‘Better Call Saul’ AMC/Ringer illustration

Every season of Better Call Saul elicits some vague forewarning for the viewers that we are approaching the earliest stages of Breaking Bad. Seasons 1 and 2 gave us the return of Tuco Salamanca and the Cousins, still badass and scary as hell; Season 3 brought us Gus Fring; Season 4 gave us a couple of Gale cameos, a deep-canon reference with Lalo Salamanca (Jimmy shouts his name, along with Nacho’s, in his first episode on Breaking Bad), and even a scene from the Breaking Bad timeline.

Try as creators Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan might to deepen the mythos of Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk), there was no delaying the inevitable: Jimmy had to become Saul Goodman in a literal sense, even if he had long embodied his alter ego’s seedy characteristics. After fits and starts—including a side hustle selling burner phones under the pseudonym—the show made it as official as possible in the waning moments of the Season 4 finale, “Winner.” No longer disbarred, McGill takes his licensed independence a step further by changing his name under practice. To reassure Kim—though not very well—he offers these final words for the season before the credits roll: “S’all good, man!” Except, [extreme Captain Obvious voice] it is not good, man.

Better Call Saul may never rival the epic bloodshed of its parent series, but the show is often devastating in more understated ways. And the show’s existential dread has never felt more apparent than at Season 4’s end. Here are the three biggest takeaways from Better Call Saul’s latest, and arguably best, season.

Kim—GET OUT

Kim Wexler (give Rhea Seehorn the Emmy nomination or so help me God) is the emotional anchor of the show, an all-time great TV character, and also one of Better Call Saul’s biggest X factors: We don’t know what becomes of her by the time Breaking Bad comes around, and that is a mystery the show knowingly dangles. It’s very stressful, which is why a piece on this website has a headline that begins with “Don’t Kill Kim.”

While there is no dramatic fallout between Jimmy and Kim in “Winner,” the relationship appears to have finally hit an inflection point. If Season 3 was centered on the irreversibly fractured, Shakespearean relationship between Jimmy and Chuck, Season 4 posited a similar breakdown festering between Jimmy and Kim. Indeed, Jimmy and Kim have drifted apart—as evidenced by the seventh episode’s stunning montage that spent five minutes deconstructing their relationship and jumping several months in time—only to get pulled back together again, even if mostly for the erotic thrill of executing a convoluted con.

Better Call Saul has demonstrated just how difficult it is for people who have irreconcilable differences to permanently separate from one another. Kim loves Jimmy in spite of his many flaws—including when he throws a temper tantrum in the penultimate episode for being described as insincere by the lawyers presiding over his case. (Spoiler: You are insincere, Jimmy, and it’s easy to see through the bullshit!)

Kim is still by his side in “Winner” despite this big blowup, and this suggests a horrifying reality: Jimmy will have to do far worse to remove Kim from the picture. The finale is a start: Jimmy does get reinstated, but only after using Chuck’s parting letter to him as leverage to manufacture his own sympathy (and some crocodile tears) in the eyes of the court. You can see the moment that Kim realizes there’s something inherently rotten about the man she loves, and it’s about halfway through his celebratory spiel that borders on the sociopathic: “Did you see those suckers? That one asshole was crying, he had actual tears—Jesus, Kim!”

The moment is bookended with Jimmy declaring he’s going to go by Saul Goodman, attorney at law. Perhaps this; this is the moment that’ll irreparably separate Jimmy and Kim, or at least chart the course for Kim to exit the series in Season 5. If nothing else, the events of “Winner” suggest that their relationship has all but symbolically concluded. The title is in reference to ABBA’s “Winner Takes It All,” which is not just an iconic jam but also the best breakup ballad (the song reportedly helped lead to the band’s split). Kim, listen to ABBA, and heed these words: GET OUT.

We Now Know How the Foundation for Gus’s Secret Lab Was Built, Sort Of

The Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) side of Better Call Saul’s fourth season focused on a group of German workers beginning the ambitious project of creating Gus Fring’s underground meth lab. We know the lab looks pristine in Breaking Bad, but I’m not sure many fans thought much about how it came about. Imagine a world where Disney greenlit a movie about the construction workers behind the Death Star.

And yet, after spending time with his German freundes, Mike developed a bit of a bromance for his emotionally distant standards: He was ready to share a Hefeweizen or two with the project’s leader, Werner Ziegler (Rainer Bock), and even allowed the engineering team to have a night out at a strip club. (The secrecy of the project meant the Germans were never otherwise let outside of a warehouse.)

Unfortunately—unsurprisingly—living in such isolation for an extended period of time takes its toll. Werner escapes the warehouse with the most wholesome intentions—to spend a few days with his wife, and assumes he can return without consequence. His amicable relationship with Mike softened him; but his fatal mistake was assuming Mike had the final say on matters, and not Fring. Mike catches Werner, because of course he does, and offers the small kindness of ensuring that Werner’s wife will assume her husband’s death is an accident and assuring him that she will be unharmed. (Leave it to Better Call Saul to deliver a devastating moment when killing a German dude you just met.)

But the German engineer subplot did more than provide the bizarrely specific context of how Fring got his lab; it was an opportunity to prod at Mike’s humanity a bit more, and the sacrifices he’d have to make to endure in Fring’s empire. Mike is never going to be mistaken for a sentimental man, but he was so hardened at the start of Breaking Bad that I worried Jonathan Banks face was trapped in a permanent scowl. Better Call Saul Mike was a slightly warmer person—he still has a relationship with his daughter-in-law, who, notably is never seen on Breaking Bad, implying an eventual fissure. But Mike’s story is only going to get grimmer the longer he’s under Fring’s employ. Also, the lab still needs completing.

Here’s a Thought: Post-Breaking Bad Jimmy for a Future Season?

Since the start of the series, we’ve seen black-and-white flash-forwards of Jimmy-Saul working at a Cinnabon in Omaha, Nebraska, and going by Gene Takovic. These vignettes have served the purpose of showing the fallout from the events of Breaking Bad. Aside from Jesse Pinkman, Saul is the only main character from that world to survive all the chaos and have a life.

Presumably, Season 5 will continue the tradition of the black-and-white Gene flash-forwards, as Jimmy in the current timeline begins cutting legal corners under his Saul pseudonym. But Better Call Saul has only so many more revelations before we’re fully in Breaking Bad territory—Kim is still the great unknown, but with the aforementioned Lalo Salamanca now in the picture, we know it’s only a matter of time before Saul meets Walter White.

So once the Kim stuff is resolved—please, please keep her alive—instead of avoiding a rehash of Saul’s sketchy antics in New Mexico, Better Call Saul should propel the narrative and make the ultimate gambit. Let’s spend several episodes—perhaps even a future season—with Gene Takovic. It could be the ideal send-off for the Breaking Bad universe, and a weirdly fitting end for Jimmy McGill. That the ultimate survivor of the series would be the slimy, chameleonic lawyer would have a certain rightness to it. Maybe that’s where we find out that he tries to reunite with Kim. Though, really, she should shut the door in his face.