In their 4th season, Better Call Saul begins to shift its perspective. By the end of season 4, the titular Saul’s creation begins to take form – molded from clay that the person we have gotten to know, and love decides to change into. A beacon of hope for the hopeless, those oppressed by the system with a stigma attached and who better to defend those than someone who knows every shortcut and loophole and every advantage he can take with a bit of creative thinking put behind it.
For the past 3 season, creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould return to the world of this shows predecessor Breaking Bad and follows a supporting but heavily involved player that immediately becomes the center of this universes gravity. Handled with the same fragile care, Gilligan and Gould turned a questionable prequel into a series that is a worthy successor and even at the same quality of Breaking Bad.
Much of that quality comes with time. Time spent getting to know the lawyer formally known as Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) from his humble con beginnings in Cicero, Illinois to making the move to Albuquerque, New Mexico at his now deceased brother Chuck’s (Michael McKean) insistence to turn straight. But episode after episode and season after season, Jimmy proves that once a con, always a con. Now he just has the full backing of the United States Law and Constitution behind him.
At least, Jimmy used to be a lawyer, season 3 leaves off with Jimmy’s license to practice, suspended after openly admitting to committing a felony to his meticulous but unstable brother.
Picking immediately up after the finale of season 3, what was alluded to in the closing moments, becomes true. And season 4 deals with the aftermath of Jimmy losing Chuck to serving his time and community service to waiting for the 1-year period to end so he can practice law again. With Jimmy every step of the way is Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) who despite the level of shadiness and questionable actions by Jimmy is his biggest supporter and his rock. When no one else is there for Jimmy, Kim is, protecting his integrity and reputation as a human and a lawyer even if it destroys her.
The two together are this series’ Walt and Jesse – complicated, frustrating, sweet and sincere, but you can’t help rooting for these two underdogs.
Aside from the Jimmy and Kim storyline, season 4 follows the supporting cast that feels like the A plotline. Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) hires Mike (Jonathan Banks) to the legitimate side of the business, Los Pollos Hermanos as a front for the meth distribution empire Gus has built from the ground up. Howard (Patrick Fabian) is also dealing with the aftermath of Chuck’s passing while trying to keep HHM (Hamlin Hamlin McGill) afloat. Meanwhile, Nacho (Michael Mando) treads dangerous waters with his boss Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) after poisoning him and having to hide his new allegiance to Gustavo.
Each plotline that Gillian and Gould navigate is done with only excellence in mind. If seasons 1-3 were the build up of Saul Goodman, season 4 is the climax. This version of the character had to begin at some point throughout this series and its finally here. The con artist Jimmy McGill back in Cicero came up with it ‘It’s all good, man’ and turned that into a pseudo persona. Jimmy McGill is no more. How it will affect his relationships is something to watch as the beginning of the end has commenced.
Leading the way once again in this grounded legal/crime drama is Bob Odenkirk. His ability to mesh his comedic nature with a gravely underdog with a dark and negative outlook full of ambition is special to unpack and watch blossom into the crooked lawyer we all want to call in Breaking Bad. You know the one with the flashy suits, bad combover and slick personality who won’t take no for an answer? Yes, that same one.
Not to be understated or overlooked is an equally powerful and poignant performance by Rhea Sehorn who deserves her flowers in her 4th turn at Kim Wexler. In the role, Rhea is a commanding force of nature – she’s the good of the two-faced styled coin to Jimmy’s burnt half. For as good morally a person as Kim is, she is willing to bend the rules, not break them like Jimmy but have her cake and eat it too.
As for the supporting roles, those returning like Banks, Mando, Fabian and Esposito are exceptional to watch as worlds begin to collide. Mike and Gus together are a dangerous duo and the mutual respect for one another is brought out by Banks and Epositio who have returned to their characters effortlessly. Both can transition from good to evil with just a look, the raising of an eyebrow or the furrowing of them. But still, Esposito as Fring has never been more dangerous and exciting to watch as the calculating and soft-spoken drug distributor.
Saul has thrived as an intense character study and pushes further now that one of the shows staple characters is no longer here. At any given time, a character can die, nobody is safe and the same was true with its predecessor. One action or decision can set a character on a path they may never recover from – turning them into an idea they firmly stood against. Watching it all happen organically and unpredictably is one of the many strengths Better Call Saul boasts.
Season 4 continues the expected level of excellence this series has built its foundation upon. From top notch writing to the outstanding dense complex character development to the performances and tense musical score by returning collaborator Dave Porter, Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s consistency is an absolute triumph when it comes to their series. Bridging the gap between the end of season 4 to seeing the next installment in Gene Takavic’s post Breaking Bad life brings the character full circle. With each season, Better Call Saul outdoes itself, getting more claustrophobic and tense as the characters that were introduced in this series have an inevitable conclusion. Where it all ends up makes the series worth returning to season after season.
Created By: Vince Gilligan & Peter Gould
Episodes Directed By: Minkie Spiro, Michelle MacLaren, Daniel Sackheim, John Shiban, Michael Morris, Andrew Stanton, Deborah Chow, Jim McKay, Vince Gilligan & Adam Bernstein
Music By: David Porter
Cinematography: Arthur Albert, Marshall Adams & Paul Donachie
Starring: Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Rhea Seehorn, Michael Mando, Patrick Fabian, Giancarlo Esposito, Mark Margolis, Kerry Condon
Where to Watch: Netflix
Release Date: August 6, 2018
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%