Breaking Bad prequel series Better Call Saul delivered another stellar installment with its just-concluded fifth season, the penultimate look at the origin story of slick criminal attorney Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). From a cast full of Emmy-worthy performances — c’mon Television Academy, please finally acknowledge the work of Rhea Seehorn and Jonathan Banks — to riveting storytelling and at least one episode that was an instant classic (“Bagman”), season 5 left fans wanting for nothing except more, even if the coronavirus pandemic means a delay in getting it.
The upside is that it allows plenty of time to mull over these questions that need to be answered in season 6, which will conclude the series and be the last chance the BCS writers have to match up the timelines of two of television’s finest gems.
Until Lalo (Tony Dalton) maneuvered past all those trained assassins and dropped into the tunnel beneath his bedroom to make his way to safety outside, it wasn’t clear just how capable he was. But now that he has survived a whole team of men sent for the sole purpose of killing him – and instead witnessed them kill his beloved aunt , other relatives, and his staff – the very dangerous, very motivated, and, yes, highly capable, Lalo has a whole list of people who don’t even know he’s coming for them.
Nacho (Michael Mando) is surely atop the vengeance list, and even if he somehow makes it out of Mexico and back home to Albuquerque, Lalo knows where he lives. He also knows where Nacho’s father lives, and even if Nacho can pack his own bags and make plans to flee the ABQ, it’s unlikely he’ll get his father to leave his home.
Then there’s Gus (Giancarlo Esposito), Mike (Banks), Jimmy, and Kim (Seehorn). Sure, we know those first three are alive in the post-Better Call Saul timeline of Breaking Bad, but what about Kim? She already boldly defused the situation when Lalo showed up at the McGills’ apartment, suspicious of Jimmy’s adventure in the desert — is she maybe not so lucky in another showdown with Lalo? After all, he is well aware of how important she is to Jimmy; if he really wants to hurt Jimmy/Saul, harming Kim would be the best way to do that.
Of course, the question isn’t only how far Lalo will go to get his pound of flesh, it’s how long he’ll live to carry out his plans. Maybe Lalo doesn’t survive a meetup with Nacho. Maybe Gus and Mike find out their assassins were unsuccessful and send a fresh batch after him. Good money would be on Gus and Mike to not let Lalo slip away again — except for that one scene in Breaking Bad season 2, episode 8, “Better Call Saul,” the very episode that introduces Odenkirk’s classic character into Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s universe.
When Walt (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul) kidnap Saul and take him to the desert to get him to agree to represent Badger (Matt Jones), Saul thinks his captors are someone else. “No, it wasn’t me! It was Ignacio!” he insists. OK, that doesn’t necessarily mean Ignacio (Nacho) is still alive. But what Saul says next suggests that Lalo is, or at least that, as of season 2 of Breaking Bad, Saul thinks he is. “Lalo didn’t send you?” a terrified Saul asks Walt and Jesse. Dead men don’t send kidnappers, first of all, and if Lalo is dead, why would Mike keep that knowledge from Saul, especially since Saul is working with Mike and Gus?
So, as of BB season 2, Lalo may very well be alive.
But likely not by the post–Breaking Bad timeline. In BB season 4, episode 11, “Crawl Space,” Gus visits Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) in the nursing home, after Gus, Mike, and Jesse kill Don Eladio (Steven Bauer) and the Cartel leaders in Mexico. Gus taunts Hector that his grandson, Joaquin, was among the victims, meaning that there are now no Salamancas left to carry on the family name. If that’s true, Hector’s nephew, Lalo, is presumably dead, too.
Lalo’s presence in town, and his suspicions of what Gus was really building at the superlab site, put such a damper on Gus’ plans that he scrapped them, temporarily, and sent all the men constructing the lab back to Germany. Does the fact that he eventually completes his project suggest Lalo remains out of Albuquerque, by whatever means necessary, permanently?
We know that Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz) eventually takes over Tio’s operations after being released from jail. But we also know Tuco isn’t exactly the sharpest — and certainly not the sanest — most even-tempered member of the Salamanca clan. Tuco’s leadership, then, would not necessarily hinder Gus’s superlab. Which again argues that perhaps Lalo is completely out of the picture after all by the time Breaking Bad begins.
Aside from watching Mike singlehandedly show those much younger punks in his neighborhood a thing or two, it was not at all fun watching our beloved Mr. Ehrmantraut spiral down into a serious case of depression after he was ordered by Gus to execute his friend Werner Ziegler at the end of season 4. Mike was repulsed by Gus’s coldness with Werner’s death, and so angry that he even lashed out at Kaylee, briefly alienating himself from his granddaughter and her mom. After a brutal beating by that neighborhood gang left him recuperating in Mexico, courtesy of Gus, Mike seemed to accept his role with Gus as some sort of payback for his involvement in the death of his cop son, Kaylee’s dad. This, playing permanent cleaner and hitman for international drug lord-in-the-making Gustavo Fring, is all he deserves in life, Mike seems to be deciding.
But, as we see in Breaking Bad, Mike very much has a code of ethics by which he continues to operate — from taking Jesse under his protective wing to standing against Walt’s worst inclinations.
In the Better Call Saul season 5 finale, Mike again goes to bat for Nacho. Gus already turned down Nacho’s request to leave the drug business because he’s worried about the safety of his father. Mike again asks Gus to consider Nacho’s safety when Nacho unexpectedly found himself personally transporting Lalo back to Mexico. When Mike finds out about the assassins, and that Nacho is likely to get caught in the crossfire, he suggests they try to save Nacho. Gus refuses.
Which makes us wonder: If something does happen to Nacho and/or his family because Gus wouldn’t allow him to leave his operation, how will Mike be able to continue working for Gus, so shortly after Werner’s death?
Or would not being able to save another person he cares about from Gus’ destruction just make Mike even more resigned to his own role in Gus’ quest for global domination and revenge against Don Eladio and the Salamancas?
With the final season up next, we can no longer ignore the fact that something bad must happen to Kim, because she is never seen nor mentioned in Breaking Bad. And given just how important she is to Jimmy, it stands to reason something really, really bad happens for her to not even rate a mention.
So, is Kim a victim of Lalo? Does she get caught up in another of Jimmy’s schemes, with yet another of his shady associates? Does she have a run-in with a shady client of her own?
Or, as per that scheme to ruin Howard Hamlin she outlined for Jimmy in the season 5 finale, does Kim end up in legal hot water of her own? Does her suggestion that she and Jimmy frame Howard so they can get Jimmy’s share of the Sandpiper money and use it to help those who can’t otherwise afford top legal services land her in jail?
Heartbreaking as that would be, it’s probably more optimistic than anyone should be about the future of Jimmy’s bride. Though levity abounds throughout the series, it is a drama, and a tragic one at that. The Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul teams have pulled off an astonishing number of twists and turns and surprises big and small, and though we have no doubt they’ll continue to surprise us with the specifics, it’s tough to see any good end coming for Kim Wexler’s story or how it could be anything but directly tied to some action taken by Jimmy.
We can’t stop thinking about what Howard said to Kim at the courthouse in “Something Unforgivable,” after he tried to warn her how out of contro Jimmy is: “You know who really knew Jimmy?” Howard asked. “Chuck.”
The boldness of Jimmy McGill and Saul Goodman gave way to the timidity of Gene Takovic, the Cinnabon-slingin’ alter ego Jimmy/Saul adopted when he was forced to go on the lam at the end of Breaking Bad. It’s a lonely existence for the once shiny bright (and we don’t just mean those suit and tie ensembles) barrister, with copious amounts of alcohol and a recliner in his cookie-cutter Omaha apartment seemingly his only comforts.
But season 5 of Better Call Saul opened with the best Gene flashforward yet, and the only Gene update of the season. That creepy cab driver who transported him from the hospital at the end of season 4 turned out to be a former ABQ resident – the odds! – who also happened to be a big fan of those ubiquitous “Better Call Saul” ads, benches, and matchbook promos. So when Jimmy was in his cab, he realized who he was, despite the thinner ’do and more modest clothing. Not only did Jeff, the cabbie, recognize Saul, but he followed him to the mall where he works, and, with a tall, menacing friend accompanying him, let Gene know he was never far away, and would be seeing him again soon. That sent Gene straight to the mall payphone, where he called Ed Galbraith, the vacuum cleaner repairman/fixer who helped him flee New Mexico (and who was so brilliantly played by the late Robert Forster).
Gene was ready to pack up his belongings (including that Band-Aid tin that, we finally learned, was filled with a ton of small diamonds) and, with Ed’s help, hit the road again, but just as they were finalizing the getaway, Gene’s face changed, and he told The Fixer he’d decided to fix his problem himself.
Does that mean Jimmy/Saul got a bit of the old spark back and has a new scheme for dealing with Jeff and company? Was perhaps the mere mention of his old persona all it took to give Jimmy/Saul his confidence back?
Or what if there is no scheme? What if Jimmy/Saul learned a lot more than wheelin’ and dealin’ from his old associates? What if Jeff and his friend will soon be staring down the business end of a more permanent solution to Gene problem? Like, say, a trip to Belize?
Are there other questions you want answered in the season 6 conclusion of Better Call Saul? Tell us in the comments!