In “Better Call Saul’s” fourth season, Chuck’s death catalyzes Jimmy McGill’s (Odenkirk) transformation into Saul Goodman. In the wake of his loss, Jimmy takes steps into the criminal world that will put his future as a lawyer — and his relationship with Kim (Rhea Seehorn) — in jeopardy. Chuck’s (Michael McKean) death deeply affects former colleagues.
TV SEASON INFO
- Howard (Patrick Fabian) and Kim as well, putting the two of them once again on opposite sides of a battle sparked by the Brothers McGill.
- Meanwhile, Mike Ehrmantraut takes a more active role as Madrigal Electromotive’s newest (and most thorough) security consultant.
- It’s a volatile time to be in Gus Fring’s employ.
- As Hector’s collapse sends shock waves throughout the Albuquerque underworld and throws the cartel into chaos.
And instantly, shockingly, we’re back in the Albuquerque of the last season of Breaking Bad, when Walter White’s story was gyring rapidly to a close—but it’s like we’re seeing it from the other side of the mirror. Saul’s office, which was a comedy sketch in Breaking Bad, now seems bigger, shot from lower angles, a set he built for his one-man show that now becomes the stage for an improvised tragedy. He stands behind the desk, framed by lopsided pillars, the Constitution backdrop marred by the hole he literally punched through it, finally the center of his own story—exactly at the moment that story has become debris for someone else to hoover up.
And how about that centerpiece at the Dog House? Overt nods to Tarantino (“Street Life” as heard in Jackie Brown, the POV shot from inside a car trunk) anchor it in homage, but it’s the montage, piled on with glorious excess atop the foundation laid last week in “Talk,” that propels the sequence. Contrast that smooth disco-jazz soundtrack, unifying hours and hours worth of trips to the trunk, to the disjointed bits of soft rock playing over the CC Mobile speakers while Jimmy waits for his novel marketing idea to bring in the customers (and later while he’s scraping the paint off the windows in disgust). At night we experience the giddiness of watching a plan come together, but by day it’s the fear, nausea, despair, and tedium of the workaday world, where all plans are projects either dictated by invisible bosses or surreptitiously and seditiously carried out under the bosses’ noses.
The montage is just as wonderous—and played for explosive laughter, besides—in our glimpse of Mike’s job for Gus Fring, wherein he squires foreign engineers to the laundry to assess the job of building an underground meth lab. It’s carefully set up in the first half of the episode, as we follow a Frenchman from the Denver airport to a remote mountain road and then into a hood and the back of a van, all directed by Mike from a burner phone. So the payoff when we see the process repeated toward the end of the hour with the abbreviating language of montage—all jump cuts, no underscoring to soften the sound edits—is both surprising and utterly delightful.
But there’s one more payoff beyond that, just as Jimmy’s story doesn’t end with the first opportunity for a lesson learned or a transformation initiated. The German engineer has none of the technology or the cocky attitude of the Frenchman. How he gets to the laundry is given to us in shorthand, but once he gets there, he takes much more time, and his frank disclosure of the difficulties unfolds in layers. It’s an illustration of the inverse of Jimmy’s lesson: Beware the easy answer and the quick fix. Tedium underlies everything worth doing, because doing things right is tedious.
Kim’s story has delicious montage as well, in a more understated tone. When the deputy district attorney keeps flubbing his chances to take Kim’s deal and having her come back with less and less punishment. When Denise says she can’t go to jail, and with one beautiful cut, we are behind the two of them sitting on the stoop, looking out from her front door, part of her story for a moment. But there’s also an extended static shot in her story that underscores the importance of not cutting: the close-up of her first client’s face as she takes back the tie and tells him she won’t come to his rescue if he blows the chance she’s given him. His expression goes from smug to scared as she speaks just off-camera, and by the time she’s done, his future plans have changed. Kim is making a real difference for these clients, but she’s risking her Mesa Verde meal ticket in the process, and when she promises that she’ll never hang up on her supposedly only client again, we wonder what will happen to the work that’s feeding her soul.