For those folks out there who REALLY miss Breaking Bad (and count me among them), this is the episode for you!
On the thrilling Better Call Saul Season 3 Episode 4, this is probably as close as we're ever gonna get to a Breaking Bad episode.
Another fantastic character is brought back into the mix: this time, the great Steven Bauer returns as Don Eladio, the Speedo wearing cartel boss who was poisoned by Gus Fring in Breaking Bad.
We know there was always a war of wills between Hector and Gus, but the genesis of that battle was never really brought to light.
We finally get to see some of the reasons why, and it seems to boil down to out and out jealousy.
Gus is simply better at his job than Hector, and brings in much more money every month to Eladio.
Eladio teases Hector, but there's always an edge to the joking, and it really gets under Hector's skin.
Gus disrupting Hector's supply lines (with Mike's help) doesn't make it any better for Hector, so it's not a surprise when Hector takes the bold step of terrorizing the employees at Los Pollos Hermanos to get back at Gus.
Gus: Don Hector, mine is a cartel business, but it is mine. And it is legitimate. My employees are civilians. Your actions here today have endangered them, my interests, and those of the cartel.
Hector: I am the cartel, and from now on you are my mule. You are going to bring my product north.
The staging of this confrontation is brilliant, with Hector scraping dog shit off the bottom of his shoe onto Gus' desk during the entire conversation.
This, more than any words, tells us the utter contempt and hatred Hector has for Gus.
Giancarlo Esposito does a masterful job as Gus: seething just underneath his placid exterior, showing his anger only in the eyes.
He has a great handle on this character, and the subtlety he shows in his portrayal fits into the whole storytelling method of Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould. Understated, but intense.
Gus: May I ask, did Don Eladio approve this?
Hector: I approved this. You are doing it.
Gus is already thinking ten steps ahead of course, and I have no doubt all of this will get back to Don Eladio in some form.
Gus won't get implicated either: he's too smart for that.
I want to know how Hector eventually ends up in the wheelchair. I know he supposedly has a stroke, but I wouldn't put it past Gus to do something nefarious to cause that.
The patriotic, B.S. story Gus shoveled onto his employees was very funny, and you could tell nobody but the clueless assistant manager was buying it. But, hey 24 hours of O.T. covers a lot of sins, right?
The Mike/Gus dynamic is coming more into focus as well. Victor was shocked when Mike turned down yet another bag of cash for doing Gus' dirty work.
Mike tries his best to be a straight arrow: he has a strict personal code of right and wrong, and an old school mindset about business.
Mike is, by far, my favorite character. As I said in my review of Better Call Saul Season 3 Episode 3, I like the Mike story at this point better than the Jimmy one.
Don't get me wrong, I love the Jimmy story as well, and Bob Odenkirk is doing a masterful job portraying Jimmy's sad descent from a scalawag with a good heart to the morally bankrupt Saul Goodman, but Mike's arc is more thrilling and gritty to me.
I know it's because Mike's orbit includes more of the shady characters from Breaking Bad, and the allure of seeing all of our old friends is appealing.
So, not only are we getting the Jimmy back story, we are also getting the back stories for Mike, Gus, and most of the Breaking Bad crew.
Gus: Perhaps, in the future, you will consider working for me.
Mike: Could be. That would depend on the work.
Gus: Would you care to know why I stopped you from killing Hector?
Mike: I said it wasn't in your interest.
Gus: A bullet to the head would have been far too humane.
Mike's uneasy alliance with Gus is starting to come to bear: Mike has wanted this sort of "work" since day one, and Gus is more than willing to give him the work.
It's clear they have much respect for one another, and Gus telling Mike about his hatred for Hector is just another manipulation from the master.
The "common enemy" tactic appeals to Mike's moral code, so I assume he will be all in with Gus in no time flat.
Mike's relationship with Jimmy is certainly more problematic: they help one another, but it's pretty clear they don't like each other that much.
We know they end up having a long standing relationship, and I like the "Bickersons" act they have going. Mike's world weary sighs, eye rolls and grunts are priceless.
Jonathan Banks is a treasure, and doesn't get enough recognition for his understated, layered performance.
Nice to fix something for once.Mike [to Jimmy]
Director Thomas Schnauz does a fantastic job evoking the look and tone of Breaking Bad here, which makes sense since he worked on Breaking Bad for years. Kudos!
Jimmy's continuing legal battle with Chuck is relegated to the B side, clocking in at maybe ten minutes of airtime.
The plea hearing was pretty perfunctory, which was a little disappointing.
Ms. Hay making Jimmy apologize to Chuck was interesting, if not a little weird.
Chuck, I'm very sorry. I lost my temper and I did some things, so many things that I regret. I shouldn't have broken down your door. Doesn't matter how I was provoked, I shouldn't have done that. There's no excuse for that, or for the things that I said. I regret it all, all of it, more than you can imagine. Because, you're my brother, and no one should treat his own brother like that. Ever.Jimmy
Jimmy is really hating on Chuck right now, so it was obvious to me the "apology" was a load of B.S., but hey, he has to jump through their hoops to save his law license.
Chuck was a dick, of course, adding the cost of a lousy cassette tape ($2.98!) to the damages. What a scumbag!
The most important part of the scene was Chuck admitting to the existence of the original tape to Kim.
Kim: You knew Jimmy was going to break in-you wanted him to. There's no way you were going to let him destroy the only copy of that tape, so you made a duplicate. The first thing you did.
Howard: Kim, this is not how we do discovery.
Chuck: Actually, Jimmy destroyed the duplicate. The original's under lock and key, and in due time it will be put in as evidence for your review. So, of course, file whatever motions you would like, that's your privilege.
Kim: I will. Count on it.
Chuck: But Kim, you should be aware, because this will be your first disciplinary hearing, the bar association standard of proof is far more lenient that what you're used to. Motions aside, that tape will be played.
Kim and Jimmy have a definite plan of action. The pictures Mike took inside Chuck's house surely factor in, as well as the mystery item he gave Jimmy in the diner.
Just what that is we don't know yet, but we will soon, I'm sure.
Their last exchange tells us they think they have Chuck right where they want him:
Jimmy: Well? What?
Kim and Jimmy are wonderful together: so much emotion is passed between them with a glance or a smile. Again, the understated speaks volumes.
I absolutely loved this episode: it had the best of Breaking Bad, great callbacks, and it moved the Chuck/Jimmy mess forward just enough to satisfy.
Maybe I was the only one thinking this, but I really wanted to see Hank Schrader when the DEA was taking apart Hector's ice cream store.
Hopefully we will see Dean Norris' Schrader at some point in the show. He would be a perfect fit, no?
That's my take: tell me your thoughts. Do you like Mike's story more than Jimmy's right now? Does it even matter? It doesn't to me, frankly. As long as good stories are being told, I don't care whose story dominates. Sound off on the comments section.
And, of course, you can watch Better Call Saul online anytime, right here on TV Fanatic!