Better Call Saul: Plan and Execution
May 23, 2022 5:56 PM - Season 6, Episode 7 - Subscribe

Jimmy and Kim deal with a last-minute snag in their plan. [Mid-season finale - last six episodes start July 11th]
posted by Rhaomi (110 comments total)
 
Jesus fucking Christ.

Howard’s monologue, perfect. The scam really was soulless, awful, truly amoral. And the way the scene was shot like a horror movie, the fisheye closeup after the candle flickered.

I said to myself early on in this episode, I don’t care about Lalo or Gus or any of the Salamancas except insofar as their story intersects with Jimmy and Kim.

And I guess I got my wish.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:11 PM on May 23 [13 favorites]


It's incredible how completely they turned around perceptions of Howard since season 1. He deserved so much better. I'm surprised they didn't have him mention how much their "prank" screwed over the Sandpiper residents, just to underscore how shitty and excessive it was and how thoroughly Jimmy in particular sold out his old, respectable career in elder law.

Just thinking now, Kim's decision to turn around and commit to D-Day obviously put Howard in Lalo's path -- but if she hadn't, and gone for the light side of the luncheon, charity, and forgiveness? It easily could have been her that he chose to execute to make a statement, right as she and Jimmy were celebrating a new life together. A tragedy either way.

Seven... more... weeks...
posted by Rhaomi at 7:33 PM on May 23 [6 favorites]


I. WAS. SCREAMING.
posted by bleep at 9:02 PM on May 23


That’s how fast a life can change. Or end. And yeah, it would’ve been Kim without a doubt if not Howard. He wanted to make a point.

I just…

Wow. I’m sorry, Howard. You were trying. His monologue revealing his marital problems to them. No one knows what another is going through. Giving them Grace if you can is not a hard call. Fuck.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:54 PM on May 23 [2 favorites]


The way Lalo's entrance was that almost a particle-effect shadow behind Howard...at first I thought Jimmy and Kim were acting on hallucinations.

I gotta say: poor Howard. I watched Talking Saul for the first time tonight and one of the things they pointed out was that in the very first episode Jimmy called Howard "Lord Vader." For a long time I figured Howard was simply turning good while Jimmy turned into Saul.

What tipped Lalo off about Gus (or the laundromat) while he was on hold calling Hector from the sewer? I rewound and couldn't figure it out.
posted by rhizome at 11:39 PM on May 23


What tipped Lalo off about Gus...
There are clicking noises while Lalo is on hold with Casa Tranquila, indicating the line is tapped. This tells Lalo that Gus is probably aware he's not dead and is prepared for Lalo's inevitable return to Albuquerque.

On a semi-related note, notice how Lalo always starts in Spanish when he calls Casa Tranquila so he can determine if the person handling the call would be able to understand what he's saying to Hector, should they overhear.
posted by theory at 11:56 PM on May 23 [22 favorites]


I'm surprised they didn't have him mention how much their "prank" screwed over the Sandpiper residents, just to underscore how shitty and excessive it was

Is this really true, though? Or was HHM screwing over the residents by holding out for a bigger payout for themselves? If you want to talk about elder care, it does seem like offering your clients their best possible life for as many as possible of the few years they have left would need to factor into the equation.

Kim and Jimmy obviously have separate motivations. But as far as HHM is concerned... listening Howard and Cliff try to lower Irene's expectations to "one and a half to two years minimum," and acting like they really cared about any clout she might likely use toward an alternative as class representative, was pretty horrible.
posted by torticat at 12:22 AM on May 24 [14 favorites]


So the question now for Gus is whether he will figure out whether Lalo tried to mislead him via the tapped call? Mike was apparently taken in by that; his lack of suspicion seemed maybe a little out of character (pulling nearly all his forces to protect Gus's house). Lalo didn't give away that he was onto the laundromat. But I suspect Gus has good enough instincts to figure that out.

Interesting that Howard told Cliff that Jimmy had been ahead of him, "every step of the way," while that is exactly the same game being played out between Lalo and Gus (but we don't know who is ahead of whom).
posted by torticat at 12:34 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]


I think the show asks us to think about Howard's culpability, even though he's presented as a sympathetic character at the end. He didn't deserve a shot to the temple, obviously... but that was not something that Kim and Jimmy had ever considered--they stopped short of planning a career-ending stunt (Howard was always supposed to "land on his feet"). Howard's marital problems and depression do need to be placed against the fact that he would have been getting something from the Sandpiper settlement--if Jimmy is due close to $2MM, what is coming to Howard? Is this a guy who really needs to be complaining about setbacks? Could he maybe have used some of his millions to get real therapy, or to offer fair payments to his ex-wife? Is a career setback really the most important thing to him... and if so, why did he not consider that in the past when he put Kim in doc review even after she had brought the firm a major client?

How much of Kim's and Jimmy's payback is based on revenge, and how much of it it comes from some kind of crazy positive moral calculation--you have to go back to the season 5 finale to try to parse that out. Kim and Jimmy picked on a guy who had really been a dick to both of them in the past, and decided to use him to get a reasonable payout to Sandpiper and a payout to Jimmy that would have allowed Kim to pursue justice for folks in a way she had never been permitted to do in the past, in the major law firms where she'd been employed.
posted by torticat at 1:46 AM on May 24 [7 favorites]


Jimmy and Kim started their plan keeping it within certain guidelines, and with morally good goals (although with seriously questionable tactics!). Their increasing glee as the plan worked out does speak more to their actual love of a con. But the end of Howard's career--much less his death--was never part of the plan. I think the idea that their intentions were
soulless, awful, truly amoral
is questionable. Howard was not a good guy, regardless of his personal problems. He certainly did not deserve to die... but I think the intersection between Saul's cartel connections, and the relatively harmless con he developed with Kim to set a millionaire lawyer back a year or two in order to achieve their ends (which were admirable)--I think that intersection will be the real issue going forward.
posted by torticat at 2:05 AM on May 24 [4 favorites]


That ending was just incredible. I really didn't see it coming... as soon as Lalo entered the room Howard's fate was probably inevitable (and makes sense from a tidying up loose ends point of view), but still...

I'm with uncleozzy that this season I haven't really been that engaged with Lalo's antics, because they haven't threatened people I care about... but all of a sudden, here he is, crashing into Jimmy and Kim's lives again. I love it.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 2:18 AM on May 24 [2 favorites]


But the end of Howard's career--much less his death--was never part of the plan. I think the idea that their intentions were soulless, awful, truly amoral is questionable. Howard was not a good guy, regardless of his personal problems

To me, Howard and Saul are two sides of the same coin. Maybe the same side at different stages of wear. Howard's oily obsequiousness with the Sandpiper class representative is really not so different from how Saul moves through the world.

But to completely shred Howard's professional image -- in such an elaborate way! -- starts to edge from chaotic neutral into chaotic evil real quick. Just because they think they're sure that Howard will "land on his feet" doesn't mean that he will. Ignoring the actual outcome, there are a hundred ways the scam could have destroyed him in such a way that he could never come back. I can absolutely see how Jimmy and Kim felt justified in such an aggressive attack, but even from the start it felt outrageous to me.

Of course they couldn't have foreseen Lalo shooting Howard. But Kim having known that he was alive and being, in a way, doubly responsible for the murder? I don't see how it doesn't absolutely ruin her, if she makes it out alive.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:51 AM on May 24 [7 favorites]


I think the idea that their intentions were
soulless, awful, truly amoral
is questionable. Howard was not a good guy, regardless of his personal problems.


I think it's a mistake to judge their plan's morality based on the victim. That's the logic con artists use themselves-- their actions are justified because on some level Howard deserves it. No matter who Howard was their scheme is still not right. And they're using a bunch of old people who have been wronged as pawns in their scheme.

(Howard is arguably also using the Sandpiper residents as pawns, but the difference is that he's acting within the law and within a contract that they all willingly signed.)

I've actually never disliked Howard. He was unwilling to stand up to Chuck, and he was a terrible boss to Kim. But he was a law-abiding citizen who was trying to be a better person than he used to be.

Anyway, Jimmy and Kim just got a lesson about consequences smashed into their heads. Howard's lecture told them everything they did wrong, and Lalo's gunshot showed them that amoral schemes can have unexpected consequences.

As much as I hated what happened to Howard that was a great surprise. I thought the Lalo time bomb was headed for Gus, or Mike, or even Mike's family. Or Kim. I didn't even suspect it would be Howard.

But Kim having known that he was alive and being, in a way, doubly responsible for the murder? I don't see how it doesn't absolutely ruin her, if she makes it out alive.

On top of that, Kim talked Jimmy into all of this. He was happy to just throw a few bowling balls and hookers at Howard and call it a day. Kim is not going to handle this well.
posted by mmoncur at 5:10 AM on May 24 [13 favorites]


One more thing: I just realized that the title of this episode has a double meaning.
posted by mmoncur at 5:15 AM on May 24 [4 favorites]


Can't stop thinking about Kim's finger guns now.
posted by GrammarMoses at 5:55 AM on May 24 [8 favorites]


That was masterful. From the high jinx in the first half, to the horror show at the end.

Something I'm not clear on is how much time there is between that episode and Saul first appearing in Breaking Bad? In Breaking Bad, he's clearly still terrified of Lalo when we first meet him, doesn't appear to know that Nacho is dead, and Gus's meth lab is ready to be kitted out. On the other hand Saul in Breaking Bad seems to truly revel in being a *criminal* lawyer, so it feels like his character still has a good way to sink morality wise.
posted by chill at 6:22 AM on May 24 [3 favorites]


Way to wreck my Howard spin-off series, Lalo.

I was wondering how they got the PI in their pocket, but of course it was part of the pre-pre-planning.

Did Kim really have to come back just to help with a re-shoot? I was expecting some much more last-second "Back to the Future plug in the extension cord as the lightning hits" style fix to the problem. But looking back to last episode, I'm surprised Jimmy wouldn't have immediately started the scramble for new pictures instead of calling Kim with an "oh well we tried" attitude. Then again, maybe he saw it as a reasonable out to calling off a plan he was initially reluctantly on board with. Either way, it seems like she could have tried to get to the lunch after they got the new pics, as Jimmy suggested.

I feel like Jimmy's eventual "you'll land on your feet Howard" comments were a bit too much of letting his guard down/saying too much for a guy who recently had his schemes/life wrecked when tape-recorded by his own brother.

I don't think Lalo would have shot Kim had Howard not been there, because that would have launched Jimmy into a (no doubt suicidal) attack. The threat of Kim being killed is what will get Lalo whatever he wants out of Jimmy.

Kim is going to feel so responsible for this I wouldn't be surprised if she teamed up with Mike (who reluctantly agrees she could use the element of surprise), killed Lalo herself, and then vacuum-repaired herself out of existence.
posted by mikepop at 6:35 AM on May 24 [6 favorites]


Howard was not a good guy, regardless of his personal problems. He certainly did not deserve to die...

those fucking tie pins tho
posted by flabdablet at 6:46 AM on May 24 [10 favorites]


Something I'm not clear on is how much time there is between that episode and Saul first appearing in Breaking Bad?

This season takes place sometime in 2004 and Saul first appears in BB at the end of 2008, so at least 4 years and probably a bit longer than that.
posted by rhymedirective at 6:57 AM on May 24 [3 favorites]


The soda can bit was an interesting touch. A reminder of Chuck, who also wound up dead as result of a prior elaborate takedown scam perpetrated by Jimmy. As Howard was talking to the intern, I had to assume the reason Chuck was so wary of his soda can having been shaken is that Jimmy must have pranked him on more than one occasion. His personality is to be a trickster and a clown... he loves getting one over on someone, but never seems cognizant of the lasting harmful effects his antics have on other people. Up to and including unintended deaths of people that you'd think would remain on his conscience and pull him up short, make him hang up his clown shoes forever. But we know from BB that he just goes all-in.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:21 AM on May 24 [8 favorites]


I liked how Howard pieces together the entire scheme immediately but of course sounded like a madman. I always think when I see this happen on tv when people say something that sounds improbable but is true, that if someone ever came to me with a story like that it'd be better to just hear them out, even if I did think they were on drugs. Of course I doubt Cliff Main has watched more tv than me.
Loved the poetic symmetry of Howard being dragged away screaming things that were true, just like his hero Chuck.
posted by bleep at 7:31 AM on May 24 [5 favorites]


Of course I doubt Cliff Main has watched more tv than me.

I feel like Cliff has a look on his face in Howard's office that he is at least considering the Jimmy theory, but as he says it doesn't matter at that point. The problem for them is that you'd only ever be able to convince anyone who has been on the receiving end of Jimmy's work before.
posted by mikepop at 7:51 AM on May 24 [9 favorites]


When they got married, Kim and Jimmy agreed to “no more secrets.” They’d tell each other everything. Kim didn’t tell Jimmy that Lalo was alive and, well, hello.

As far as anyone is concerned, Lalo is dead. That’s what sealed Howard’s fate as much as anything. Howard saw him alive and Lalo can’t have anyone getting the word out that the reports of his demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Good lord, they may slow burn the buildup to things but when they detonate it, it is absolutely bonkers.
posted by azpenguin at 8:12 AM on May 24 [6 favorites]


I'd been complaining this whole season about how the show was two very different stories: a goofy lawyer hijinx prank plot and then a grim story of a violent drug cartel. This episode resolved all that tension and in an intense, satisfying way. I suspect the back half of this season is just going to be grimmer and grimmer.

This episode starts and ends with Lalo. The story is literally framed in the context of the cartel. But in the middle it's all the Jimmy & Kim show. And that was delightful! Basically the whole Howard caper was presented like a heist movie and this episode we got to watch the clockwork plan unfold just like they expected. It all went off without a hitch and was so satisfying!

But then also awful, even as it was happening. And then Howard delivered his speech that rang so true, that it was such a petty thing Jimmy and Kim had done. And just when we're grappling with that bam the cartel story comes back and shoots Howard in the fucking head.

That's definitely the end for any hilarious Giselle and Viktor shenanigans, any "we pulled it off" victory sex on the couch. This whole season I've been rooting for Kim to somehow get out clean but I think that's very unlikely now. The real question to resolve is how Jimmy doesn't end up dead.
posted by Nelson at 10:50 AM on May 24 [8 favorites]


In thinking again, I felt actual intense fear when Lalo appeared at the end. That was really a thing I didn't expect.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:51 AM on May 24 [4 favorites]


bleep: "I liked how Howard pieces together the entire scheme immediately but of course sounded like a madman. I always think when I see this happen on tv when people say something that sounds improbable but is true, that if someone ever came to me with a story like that it'd be better to just hear them out, even if I did think they were on drugs."

I liked how they avoided that cliché but still got to the same narrative place by having Cliff say that it didn't matter whether he was telling the truth or not.

bleep: " Loved the poetic symmetry of Howard being dragged away screaming things that were true, just like his hero Chuck."

More symmetry:

Silencing the explosion

"Your man, he's like the cucaracha..."
posted by Rhaomi at 10:52 AM on May 24 [5 favorites]


I can absolutely see how Jimmy and Kim felt justified in such an aggressive attack, but even from the start it felt outrageous to me.

uncleozzy I completely agree in a real-life sense. I do think the show asks us to think about who is ultimately the more amoral (or immoral) actor, but more as a thought experiment.

The Vulture review said this:
But fate can be cruel and nonnegotiable, too: If Lalo doesn’t pick up on the fact that Gus has bugged the phones at Casa Tranquila, Howard lives.

...and I was trying to figure out how the recapper got there (why couldn't Lalo have been headed to Kim's apartment in any case?), and then I realized... Mike had pulled protection from Kim's place. Gulp!
posted by torticat at 11:12 AM on May 24 [8 favorites]


Something I'm not clear on is how much time there is between that episode and Saul first appearing in Breaking Bad?

Timeline from the Breaking Bad fandom wiki.
posted by Pendragon at 12:13 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]


There's a lot of ifs, ands, and buts, I have to imagine Jimmy would have insisted putting the kibosh on it if he knew that Mike thought that Lalo might pop up again soon. & here Mike thought Kim was the sensible one.
posted by bleep at 12:14 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]


I can't wait to see Mike become a stitch more jaded thereby.
posted by rhizome at 12:30 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]


"Anyway, Jimmy and Kim just got a lesson about consequences smashed into their heads. Howard's lecture told them everything they did wrong, and Lalo's gunshot showed them that amoral schemes can have unexpected consequences."

But their prank on Howard didn't directly result in him getting shot. Had their been no prank, and Howard just came over for some wine, he'd still have been just as dead - wrong place, wrong time.

It's Jimmy getting in bed with the cartel that got Howard killed. Not the prank.
posted by jetsetsc at 12:32 PM on May 24 [4 favorites]


But I feel like the addition of Howard's wife lets us know that's not true, they weren't friends and had nothing to do with each other. Howard was completely out of their lives.
posted by bleep at 12:49 PM on May 24 [2 favorites]


From my comment on last week's episode:

I think that this will be it for Howard and HHM; he'll get the divorce, close up the practice, and move out of the ABQ and get a job somewhere else.

[embarrassed throat-clearing]

welp
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:49 PM on May 24 [4 favorites]


This an episode of multiple plot payoffs and connections, one in which execution seems to be the focus in so many senses, all leading up to that shock ending. And because this episode's suspense-to-payoff sequences dominate, its easy to overlook -- indeed, to forget -- the humorous scenes just after the credits, as Jimmy wrangles actors and crew and Kim plays director.

But these scenes are, I'd argue, the key to what has been happening and what will soon happen in this episode and, indeed, this season. Consider Jimmy's, er, "lead actor," a grocery cart handler and would-be thespian, practicing his monologue, wondering about his character's backstory, getting his makeup just right. We see it as bathos; his seriousness belies both his status as a minor character. He's almost a living prop in Jim and Kimmy's scheme, his name escapes us, and his "role" in the show itself seems minor next to the main characters.

Yet his preparations, his questioning, event he unrelated monologue he is rehearsing, all reflect in farce the preparations for the tragedy that will unfold across this episode. Most visibly, they fit the other somewhat comedic scene, as Howard Hamlin engages in transparent, condescending ploys to stage Irene's appearance at the Sandpiper mediation. Here, Howard's not so different from Jimmy and Kim, using props as contrived as theirs -- his wheelchair, their arm-cast -- and swiftly pressing Irene into her role just as Jimmy presses his ersatz judge into his part.

Here, the performance of "the law" is so close to the performance of a scam, to crime (if minor crime, at this stage), that there's some truth to the idea that Jimmy and Kim are no worse than Howard, and perhaps better insofar as they are superior scammers, superior at staging what they want and setting the narrative that others will, unwittingly, enforce as truth. Why, we might even recall Jimmy using Irene as a prop in an earlier, nearly successful attempt to rush the Sandpiper case to a settlement. What is haling doing but using her as a prop to extend it for profit?

Indeed, the characters who belong to the law come across as absurd, hollow people: hear, as a an amused and delighted Jimmy and Kim do, Davis and Main associate Erin Brill's fumbling on the phone and insincere, ineffective, canned statements tot he phone-in parties to the lawsuit that "This is a fluid situation" and they'll all be updated soon. And going back into season 1, where Sandpiper began, is the retired judge's impeccably waxed mustache any less absurd than Hamlindigo Blue? And is Jimmy copying Howard's look to manipulate him in season 1, setting up the billboard's removal and Jimmy's stated heroism, any different than mimicking this absurd accoutrement on the judge now to trick Howard into a similar kind of retaliatory action, which will lead him to fall into this newest trap?

Jimmy and Kim, across the episode, know that the best way to attack Howard -- to attack the unfairly tilted legal system and its self-appointed representatives -- is to attack its appearance: as fair, as accomplished and revered, as the arbiters of truth. It's why the con, the manipulation, the false appearance works so well and why they find it fun. hey accept amorality because they've learned the hard way that legitimacy is just the trappings of a bigger amorality in the world around them. It's what Kim learned from her mother and Jimmy from his brother.

What the show does to turn this into tragedy is to show that everyone is still a person, not just a performance or an image. Howard's death -- preceded by his monologue and earlier episodes releasing his hollow, miserable life -- is the episode's most striking reminder of this. There's a pointed scene midway through, where Howard quite directly notes the gap between the revered image of Chuck -- the painting, but also Howard's former admiration of "the greatest legal mind [he] ever knew." -- and those things that may be "more important." That "more important" thing is empathy and humanity, with Howard has been trying to find by modifying his image, his behavior -- "NAMAST3" and peace signs in collates -- and it's what Howard means when he says there's "a piece missing" from Jimmy and Kim, at least from his perspective.

He's arguably to right about that: Jimmy and Kim are, contra Howard, not people who have simply been "born that way" or made evil choices, but people shaped by a system, wounded by it, ironically much as Howard's hollow preening is suggested to be the result of his following his father and Chuck, being given what he knows, deep down, he hasn't earned.

It's certainly missing from Lalo and Gus, one of whom seems to have been born to it -- the Salamanca family makes sure of that -- and one whose sociopath may be a choice, a retaliation. Indeed, they arguably fit Howard's diagnosis better than Jimmy or Kim, at least based on all we know of them. And it's their machinations and Lalo's own improvisation when his initial scheme won't work that also lead to Howard's death. Jimmy and Kim don't know Howard so well -- the failing marriage and the depression seem like surprises to them -- and they know he will, in some way, manage to stay well-off and survive their plot. But Lalo really doesn't care; people are really just props to him, in a way they aren't even to Jimmy and Kim, so Howard is just a witness to be disposed of, an inconvenience between him and what he wants from his lawyers.

This is where Jimmy and Kim really do fail, in terms of moral imagination: they imagine the world outside the law mostly in terms of resources and victims of the system, and their forays against "the system" have led them into involvement with people who truly want no system at all, not even the kinder, more empathetic counter-institutions that Kim, in her way, probably thinks she might be able to build through her public defense work.

Jimmy's work to help Lalo evade punishment -- admittedly coerced -- and his practice as Saul Goodman are a mockery of Kim's ambition and Jimmy's own earlier work as a public defender. It's the creation and development of Saul Goodman, as ever, that really undermines Jimmy and Kim's better ambitions. Is that work part of their retaliation against the systems of power and legalism that have marginalized them and so many less-privileged people? Yes and no, because "Sal Goodman" is born out of bracketing empathy, shoving it aside in the name of pragmatism, and going full throttle on making a grotesque mockery of dominant social systems without much worry about ends. Saul Goodman is the pleasure of pure means, and, why, when you're having fun, "S'all good, man."

This takes us back to the season opener and a house that was truly Saul Goodman's, not Jimmy McGill's evidence of willful bad taste, almost Trumpian in its sleazy decor. But it also takes us back to the fake judge, t hat would-be thespian, practicing a monologue for something where his character -- not him -- claims to have "a philosophy" that means something must be done, whose desire to act (and make some ready cash) means he'll let those shopping carts go and leave. He never sees that they slam into someone's car. The rush of getting a gig and picking up some fast cash have swept him away from attending to that little bit of care. And that abandonment of care creates unintended, yet inevitable consequences in the moral universe obscured by all these performances, all these systems and counter-systems.
posted by kewb at 1:58 PM on May 24 [27 favorites]


the revered image of Chuck -- the painting, but also Howard's former admiration of "the greatest legal mind [he] ever knew.

I noticed that Howard was wearing a suit almost identical to the one Chuck was wearing in the portrait. And there was -- as always -- a lot of great camerawork going on.
posted by mikelieman at 4:35 PM on May 24


kewb, your analysis deserves all the favorites. More insightful than any of the recaps I've read.

This is excellent:
Jimmy and Kim, across the episode, know that the best way to attack Howard -- to attack the unfairly tilted legal system and its self-appointed representatives -- is to attack its appearance: as fair, as accomplished and revered, as the arbiters of truth. It's why the con, the manipulation, the false appearance works so well and why they find it fun. hey accept amorality because they've learned the hard way that legitimacy is just the trappings of a bigger amorality in the world around them. It's what Kim learned from her mother and Jimmy from his brother.

Regarding this--
It's the creation and development of Saul Goodman, as ever, that really undermines Jimmy and Kim's better ambitions.

Yes. But Kim contributes by committing so fully to the (righteous, as she sees it) con, that she betrays her promise of no-more-secrets and doesn't tell Jimmy about the potential threat from Lalo--because Jimmy, if he knew, would probably call off the whole d-day scam. And yet... Kim thinks she has protection from Mike. And that belief is betrayed because of Jimmy's criminal connections. But she doesn't know the critical way they have been undermined, just as Jimmy doesn't know they might be undermined because the lethal threat that he brought into their lives is still out there.
posted by torticat at 4:36 PM on May 24 [2 favorites]


Having scanned some internet reactions, I am honestly surprised at how many people are super-angry that Howard died (because he was a "good guy"), and also the hagiography regarding the callbacks/honoring of Chuck.

Chuck was an absolute dick! He formed an idea of his brother early on and, based on that, did everything he could to hold Jimmy back, rather than to honor his efforts and help him move forward. Chuck was the ultimate elitist (and Howard did go along with him). If there is any one person responsible for Jimmy's turn into Saul, Chuck would surely have to top the list.

And (as I have said above) Howard surely did not deserve a death penalty. BUT he really, really was not a good guy. He was a representative of Big Law. Sure, he did some nice things for Kim, like paying for her school (did that cost him anything?). But he was also spiteful (putting Kim in doc review, repeatedly) and venal (manipulating Irene to hold out for a settlement that might well come after her death). Was there ever an indication in his professional life that he put his clients first? Wasn't Kim's striking out on her own supposed to suggest a direct contrast with how HHM did business?
posted by torticat at 5:41 PM on May 24 [3 favorites]


But Kim having known that he was alive and being, in a way, doubly responsible for the murder? I don't see how it doesn't absolutely ruin her, if she makes it out alive.


Yeeeaaaah.
posted by tilde at 6:01 PM on May 24


But their prank on Howard didn't directly result in him getting shot. Had their been no prank, and Howard just came over for some wine, he'd still have been just as dead - wrong place, wrong time.

I was thinking about this intersection for a while last night and I think if the prank hadn't happened, Howard wouldn't have had a reason to come over to Jimmy's. Prior to the prank, when Howard was offering Jimmy/Saul a job back at HHM, Jimmy couldn't get far enough away from him or any idea of having Howard in his life at all. I'm still a little fuzzy on the animating event that produced the pranking, but yeah, before the bowling balls IIRC Jimmy and Kim were living completely sans HHM.
posted by rhizome at 6:38 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]


Thanks, kewb, for another of your great analyses. I've been reading them since season 1.
posted by Agave at 6:40 PM on May 24


How did Lalo get to the laundry? I know he tortured the worker, but the workers were kept in a big concrete building, and then taking in a closed van to the construction site. How did the worker know where the laundry was?
posted by kirkaracha at 7:00 PM on May 24


I feel like Cliff has a look on his face in Howard's office that he is at least considering the Jimmy theory, but as he says it doesn't matter at that point. The problem for them is that you'd only ever be able to convince anyone who has been on the receiving end of Jimmy's work before.

Cliff actually did get a taste when Jimmy was deliberately unbearable so Cliff would let him leave Clifford and Main, but keep his signing bonus.
posted by snofoam at 7:06 PM on May 24 [2 favorites]


Er, Davis & Main.
posted by snofoam at 7:15 PM on May 24


the workers were kept in a big concrete building, and then taking in a closed van to the construction site. How did the worker know where the laundry was?

I’d have to go back and check to be sure, but the workers had to go through the laundry to get to the site. So Ax Guy would have been able to say it was a laundry, then Lalo would have figured out which laundry.
posted by emkelley at 7:30 PM on May 24


Neat!

(in neat, I mean the joke coming back on them by someone serious)

I can't remember any specifics, but it [the expected outcome of Lalo finding them] could explain Goodman's general fussiness in BB as less an affectation (but still a conscious affectation) and by exaggerating it, it's more a coverup of actual psychological damage/ aversion-learning from (the) experience(s) that flipped him over the final edge of respectability?
posted by porpoise at 9:34 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]


So, maybe Kim ends up in witness protection? She probably wouldn't be able to practice law if that was the case, she would lose the law and Jimmy.
posted by oldnumberseven at 10:55 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]


I can’t stand him myself but I suppose Howard is a good guy in the way that, say, Marie in Breaking Bad is. Which is to say, a ghastly and selfish person with a veneer of outward respectability masking some ugly behaviour, but in a line up of characters in a show with absolutely no decent people in it, on the “not that bad” end of the scale.

Trivia from the podcast that I enjoyed: due to time constraints when set building, the tunnel in the storm drain is the tanker in which Nacho sank into the oil.
posted by chill at 12:42 AM on May 25 [5 favorites]


That ending was just incredible. I really didn't see it coming..

Some masterful misdirection of the audience here: when a knock comes at Kim and Jimmy's apartment door we suspect it might be Lalo - and relax when it turns out to be just Howard. Kim sees the candle flicker in the breeze as Howard enters - and notices the same flickering that announces Lalo's arrival.

As the legal and cartel plotlines come together, there is a lovely symmetry between how little Lalo means to Howard and how little Howard means to Lalo: Howard assumes this is just some random client who has walked in - not even a need to turn to acknowledge the interloper (who is saying "don't worry" as he screws the silencer onto his gun). No doubt he notices the look of terror on Kim and Jimmy's faces - and he assumes this is their reaction to the threat he made to them: "I'm going to dedicate my life to making sure that everybody knows the truth!". Lalo, for his part is equally dismissive of Howard - who he dispatches as a sort of hors d'oeuvre to his discussion he came to have with Saul - the cockroach.
posted by rongorongo at 4:30 AM on May 25 [10 favorites]


I can’t stand him myself but I suppose Howard is a good guy

Agreed, I really don't understand all of the "Howard is a bad guy too" comments. I mean, from a strict moral perspective, this is a show where the "bad guys" are murderers (Gus, Mike, Lalo, Nacho, Don Eladio, Tuco...) and people who represent murderers in court (Jimmy) and people who marry people who represent murderers in court and help them con people (Kim).

I guess Chuck was a non-murdering bad guy because he was essentially an abuser.

Howard was a by-the-book lawyer (corrupt profession), a millionaire (unfair to society), a terrible boss to Kim, and an enabler of Chuck's mistreatment of Jimmy. If this show was a lawyer show like "The Good Wife" he'd be the bad guy, but in a show about a cartel lawyer and his clients...

I was thinking about this intersection for a while last night and I think if the prank hadn't happened, Howard wouldn't have had a reason to come over to Jimmy's.

Absolutely true. Howard doesn't want conflict with Jimmy, he isn't his friend, and he probably wouldn't normally be seen in the neighborhood Jimmy and Kim live in. His death was an unforeseen consequence of the scheme, and not a predictable one... but it was a consequence.
posted by mmoncur at 4:53 AM on May 25 [6 favorites]


There is some kind of symbolic resonance between the soda can scene, a cylinder Howard rotates to keep things in order, and the cylinder that we see Lalo attach to his gun, also rotated to keep things in order.
posted by sylvanshine at 5:03 AM on May 25 [5 favorites]


(Reading more comments: I see Rhaomi's image links to Reddit have already made that point... oh well. I was hoping to notice something before Reddit, as if that could happen!)
posted by sylvanshine at 5:09 AM on May 25


Love the way Saul and the UNM kids have developed into a well-oiled machine. Mike the Fixer would respect their competence.
posted by whuppy at 5:28 AM on May 25 [2 favorites]


There is some kind of symbolic resonance between the soda can scene, a cylinder Howard rotates to keep things in order, and the cylinder that we see Lalo attach to his gun, also rotated to keep things in order.

There is also, of course, a world of Youtube videos telling you how to open shaken soda cans prettily. Swirling seems to be less popular than tapping: unless you are trying to make a visual link with gun silencers. I like to think this behaviour may become a way in which BCS fans identify themselves to each other. Important caveat: does not work for beer.
posted by rongorongo at 6:46 AM on May 25


So the single bullet to the temple coming hot on the heels of Howard's very public disgrace, marital problems and perceived drug abuse means Saul and Kim are definitely going to stage his death as a suicide, right?
posted by Parasite Unseen at 9:31 AM on May 25 [4 favorites]


All this time I was afraid Howard would kill himself.

Kewb, your insights are tremendous, thank you.
posted by tiny frying pan at 9:38 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]


I'd put Howard in the "good guy" column. He has a ton of flaws and his moral compass is pointed towards a false North*, but he consistently does the right thing as he sees it and when he's made a mistake (again, according to his compass) he tries to right it.

Like the real world, there are very, very few unambiguously good people in the Walter White universe. There are extremely and proudly bad people, there are well-intentioned people who are corrupted or corruptable, there are broken people who use their hurts to excuse hurting others, and good people generally get crushed (Mike's son).

* As mmoncur pointed out, he's by the book in a corrupt profession and being wealthy may be unfair to society - but he does what he believes to be right and tries to correct wrongs.
posted by jzb at 9:58 AM on May 25 [6 favorites]


Howard deliberately stalled on settling the Sandpiper case, because the more old people who died without collecting their shares, means more money for the lawyers. He was a crafty lawyer but a shit human being.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:52 AM on May 25


I expect Mike will kill Lalo and then help Kim and Saul "fix" the Howard situation somehow. This will cause a rift between Kim and Saul and eventually Kim will say "I'm out." I don't see them killing Kim off.

Did anyone else catch the brief mid-credit b&w "Gene" scene? Something about a happy ending, though it sounded a bit sarcastic.
posted by bondcliff at 10:53 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]


Credits at the beginning or ending of the episode?
posted by tiny frying pan at 10:56 AM on May 25 [2 favorites]


It was weird - it went to black and showed Directed By, and then it looked like a black & white shot of Jimmy & Kimmy's living room, and it sounded like Jimmy saying "And after all of that, a happy ending." I wasn't sure what to make of it but it seemed to me to be like a balm for all of our highly rattled nerves. Like hey, we know maybe 6 or 7 years ago seeing a man being shot in the head was something we had more mental resources to deal with, hey it's going to be ok. But I don't really know.
posted by bleep at 11:19 AM on May 25 [3 favorites]


it went to black and showed Directed By, and then it looked like a black & white shot of Jimmy & Kimmy's living room, and it sounded like Jimmy saying "And after all of that, a happy ending."

I went back and looked at the episode we have, and there's nothing like that on ours, just the April 7th season 6 trailer with a montage of various scenes. But that scene does exist and maybe some viewers got that and some didn't?
posted by oneirodynia at 11:42 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]


Credits at the beginning or ending of the episode?

End credits. Bleep gave a very good description of it above. It was very brief.
posted by bondcliff at 11:42 AM on May 25


I'm kinda bummed we didn't, actually. It's weird and haunting.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:42 AM on May 25


Looks like Howard's blood might still be on the carpet in that black and white scene. Didn't see this when it aired either but I probably didn't watch any "coming next" stuff cause I hardly ever do in case they spoil something.
posted by tiny frying pan at 11:44 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the link oneirodynia. I didn't see that either. The Youtube video you linked calls it a "teaser", perhaps it was intended as a promotion of the second half of the season rather than a stinger / coda on this last episode.
posted by Nelson at 11:47 AM on May 25


This season didn't begin with a Gene scene like all the other seasons so I took it as maybe a bit of hope that things ultimately work out for Jimmy/Saul/Gene and hopefully Kim.
posted by bondcliff at 11:50 AM on May 25 [2 favorites]


Howard deliberately stalled on settling the Sandpiper case, because the more old people who died without collecting their shares, means more money for the lawyers.

Nah, he stalled on Sandpiper because he believed that the case was ultimately very strong and that they could ultimately force a much larger settlement or win at trial. He was looking for a bigger pie, but his slice of the pie was always going to be a set proportion of the whole. A member of the class dying wouldn't necessarily change anyone's position--a claim can survive an individual plaintiff's death. That's consistent with him being a selfish asshole, since waiting a few years won't really matter much to his situation, but probably would for most of the class members.

As for Kim, I think that regardless of whether she's directly responsible for Howard's death or not, her scheme got him killed, just like Jimmy's schemes got Chuck killed. She's got to reckon with that. Jimmy brushed off any feelings of guilt over Chuck because he wasn't directly responsible, and I think they're setting up a contrast between Jimmy and Kim, she's not going to be able to dismiss her guilt so easily.
posted by skewed at 11:51 AM on May 25 [9 favorites]


BTW, there's a very good interview with Patrick Fabian (Howard) on Vanity Fair (I had to open in a private window to read it because apparently I've read all my free articles):

The good news is I got great guys like Dennis Boutsikaris [as Rick Schweikart] and Ed Begley Jr. [as Clifford Main]. So I’m trying to explain this complicated yet absurd thing, and Ed literally can make his eyes turn into pins. And you’re like, “Oh no, he’s retreating. He’s not listening.” And then I look over at Dennis, and Dennis has these big saucers of eyes, these big, like, oh, poor baby eyes. So with the two of them, I was getting nothing. There was nowhere to hide. That’s what it felt like: nowhere to hide.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:59 AM on May 25 [3 favorites]


That is a great interview. Fabian seems like a really grounded guy, and it's easy to see why others in the cast consider him such a great friend/colleague.

Tom and Mary Lou Fabian in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, first of all, are not completely on board with all the violence anyway, but they are certainly not going to be happy about this.
...LOL.

tiny frying pan
Looks like Howard's blood might still be on the carpet

Speaking of Howard's blood... I suppose everyone has already seen this. Pretty funny
posted by torticat at 12:54 PM on May 25 [5 favorites]


From the VF interview:

Maybe you and Michael McKean can reunite on the new Spinal Tap movie. What would you want to play in that one?

Well, I guess I’d be a drummer for 30 seconds if they’d have me.


If they could make that happen, I would howl.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:12 PM on May 25 [4 favorites]


Salamanca preferred communication styles:
Hector: You can reach me by phone any time - but it may not be secure. If I believe the line is bugged I will ring my bell (I may also ring my bell for other reasons).
Don Eladio: I'm busy by the pool; just record yourself on a VHS-C tape and drop it in the post when you get a chance. If its anything urgent - call Hector.
posted by rongorongo at 2:47 PM on May 25 [2 favorites]


...due to time constraints when set building, the tunnel in the storm drain is the tanker in which Nacho sank into the oil.

Well that explains the weird acoustics from Lalo's footsteps. Surprised they wouldn't have corrected that.
posted by Flashman at 3:26 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]


All sounds are likely from bad Foley. My husband and I were laughing at how INSANE the sounds were when the guy Lalo approached was cutting wood - wood cutting sounds like "plink," not like a ripe cantaloupe being slammed against a walk at 100 MPH.
posted by tiny frying pan at 3:31 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]


(Although we were trying to be generous in assuming those sounds were the result of bad producer notes - this show seems smarter than that usually, but in TV some things are out of creator's control).
posted by tiny frying pan at 3:32 PM on May 25


Re-watching the Season 3, Episode 8, "Slip," I am reminded of Kim's attempt to pay Howard back for her student loans, and when he refuses, she throws his deceit back on him:

HOWARD: I'm not cashing this. Kim, your debt is forgiven. But anything else? That's on you.

KIM: All Jimmy and I did was show the situation for what it is. And if you are hiding that from your
clients? Well, Howard, that's on you.


Just thought I'd point out another Howard malfeasance in hiding Chuck's mental illness from the firm's client's. I know at that level things end up pretty shady, the corporate world being what it is. For what's it's worth, beyond business I always found Howard to be a straight shooter, and I liked him. And found him true to type as a corporate lawyer type - although Rich Schweikart is SO spot on, delightful.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:51 PM on May 25 [3 favorites]


As shocking as Howard's death was, I felt his doom coming from that conversation about Chuck on. Had Chuck's life mattered? And if not...? You could see that existential dread in his eyes (which was probably speed, but it might have been existential dread). When Howard ran up the stairs, I was quite sure for a moment he would have a heart attack. When someone first showed up at the door, I thought it would be someone telling Jimmy and Kim that Howard had committed suicide. When it was just drunk, whining Howard, I figured the danger had passed, and we wouldn't see Lalo, Mike or Gus again until summertime. More fool I!

For a while there, I figured Jimmy wouldn't see Lalo again until the very end, when Lalo would pull a surprise appearance on poor Gene. That probably wouldn't work so well now, dramatically, although one presumes that either Lalo survives the main events of the show, or Jimmy doesn't find out Lalo's dead by the time he meets Walt and Jesse.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:00 PM on May 25


I don't remember too many finer details from Breaking Bad, so there are probably 10 good reasons why this couldn't happen, but my most wild imagining for this show's ending is Kim somehow ending up as a high-powered in-house lawyer for Madrigal.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 8:49 PM on May 25 [2 favorites]


Howard’s death was so upsetting. A whole person blown away in an instant, just so Lalo could remind already scared people that he’s very scary.

I think Howard was a pretty solid citizen. He wasn’t a saint, but honestly, he would have been better off if he were a worse guy. Why did he shoot himself in the foot by getting indignant about the mediator being “corrupt” right there in the mediation? If he’d held his tongue and talked to the mediator privately, it would have been a smarter move on all fronts. But Howard wasn’t much of a sneak, he was a pretty earnest person despite the slime ball lawyer veneer, so not only does it not occur to him not to speak his mind then and there, call the mediator out on corruption and blow up the mediation — Jimmy and Kim *knew* that’s what he would do, and their whole plan in fact hinged on it.

I think Jimmy and Kim’s real beef with Howard was just that he was the crown prince of HHM. He could just follow directly in his father’s footsteps and have their eminently respectable family name carved into a building as a reward (which I can see getting under Kim’s skin), and he had Chuck’s approval and mentorship (which obviously got under Jimmy’s). I think it’s less about his actual privilege and more about him being able to live a simple and direct life because he’s exactly who he’s supposed to be. He has his lot in life, and he likes it, and he fits into it perfectly, and he happily reaps its benefits. Howard is the exact opposite of “faking it till you make it.”

Or at least that’s what Jimmy and Kim see from their limited vantage point. The only thing that belies the ease with which everything falls into place for Howard is that his wife hates him. I think that’s why his marital troubles were important this season. Jimmy and Kim only know him within the context of HHM, but HHM isn’t his life. According to Howard, it’s not even the most important part of his life.

But I think the elaborate scheme to bring Howard down a peg wasn’t about their antipathy toward him anyway, it was mostly to keep their minds off of the drug cartel chaos. They felt utterly out of control when Lalo essentially held them hostage last season, and this scheme was a way of reasserting control. They didn’t mean to destroy Howard’s career, let alone kill him, they just bullied him because it was a game they could immerse themselves fully in. They knew that Howard wasn’t truly dangerous to them. He could be an ass, but he wasn’t ruthless or violent, and at the end of the day he had a soft spot for both of them. And they knew that they weren’t truly dangerous to Howard, because he was rich and powerful and basically unsinkable. Besides, they were just out to embarrass him, not destroy him. The low stakes were the point. The all-consuming, clockwork intricacy of the plan was the point. And Lalo had to ruin it by shooting Howard in the head during Jimmy and Kim’s victory lap. He proved the stakes weren’t really low and Jimmy and Kim weren’t really in control.

I think that Howard’s death wasn’t the only unintended consequence of Jimmy bringing the cartel chaos into their lives, it was also a catalyst for some dark self-discovery on Kim’s part. She knew she liked the schemes and con games, but throwing herself into this one seemed to really get her hooked. I mean, Kim didn’t really have to come back for the reshoot, but she had no second thoughts about ditching the lunch for it. And she was immersed 100% in the reshoot, loving every minute of D-Day. I don’t think she’s a bad person, but this is clearly what she loves to do. She was born to con. And I guess the question is whether it’s even possible to do that in a moral way or as a moral person.

Kim and Jimmy tried to run a relatively gentle, albeit elaborate, con on the most unsinkable person they knew, within the most bloodless environment they could find, and even that ended with his murder. Clearly running cons is bad for their souls and bad for everyone around them and just plain bad. But they also clearly have a compulsion to do it, need to do it, and will always do it. So basically, are they doomed?

I hate the sheep v. wolves dichotomy, so I can’t really believe that just because they will do anything not to be sheep means that they have to be wolves. But I dunno, maybe within the moral world of the show, they do?
posted by rue72 at 9:56 PM on May 25 [15 favorites]


I don't know how anyone was able to separate the Lalo/Cartel storylines from the Jimmy/Kim storyline when the show has treated Lalo all season like a bullet that is headed straight for them, especially given Saul's fear of Lalo in his first episode of BB. Weirdly, Howard's death gives me hope for Kim's fate, since we now have a plausible explanation for Saul's terror at the thought of Lalo in BB that doesn't include Lalo murdering Kim.

I'm fascinated by the debate about whether Howard was a Bad Guy. The question of who is good and bad is basically the axis on which the ABQ-verse turns. There's the Upright World and the Drug World, and whether people are good or bad often depends on which World they're in. And I never really thought Howard rated as either. He did everything I'd expect the Managing Partner of one of Albequerque's most prestigious law firms to do.

But to me the main message of the ABQ-verse has always been that respectable people in the Upright World can cause just as much destruction and human suffering as people in the Drug World, they just use the privileges the Upright World confers on them to look like decent people while doing it. Which family has caused more human suffering, the Sacklers or the (admittedly fictional) Salamancas? That's the calculation Kim made when she threw in her lot with Jimmy. He might defend the Salamancas in court, but Howard wouldn't think twice about representing the Sacklers of the world. How many people who weren't either gangsters or corporate billionaires have been ground into dust by the criminal/legal system that made Howard rich?

I didn't take pleasure, or recoil in horror, at what Jimmy and Kim did to him. In the grand scheme it was a minor re-balancing of the karmic scales. He was handed enough things in life. And no, he didn't "deserve" to die. But he also didn't deserve the protection from his ultimate fate that had up until that moment been afforded him by his status, a status that was randomly handed to him at birth, in the Upright World.

Having said all that, I do think Kim and Jimmy had a hand in bringing him to that end. But I feel like a lot of this Howard Good/Howard Bad debate is in service of the question of whether that makes them Good or Bad and how we're supposed to feel about them. And I just don't think that matters.
posted by dry white toast at 10:29 PM on May 25 [6 favorites]


I hate the sheep v. wolves dichotomy, so I can’t really believe that just because they will do anything not to be sheep means that they have to be wolves. But I dunno, maybe within the moral world of the show, they do?

I think they're probably bobbing around in the middle. There might be a wolves and sheep metaphor to be had somewhere, but there seem to be mostly wolves in the mix and...maybe they're hyenas? ;) Regardless, while Jimmy was familiar with Lalo's true ferocity, within the goals of the prank Kim is definitely in "SHIT JUST GOT REAL" mode now.

Why did he shoot himself in the foot by getting indignant about the mediator being “corrupt” right there in the mediation?

He was hopped up on goofballs.

As for Howard in general, I think "Jaguar with a NAMAST3 vanity plate" says a lot.
posted by rhizome at 10:35 PM on May 25 [5 favorites]


either Lalo survives the main events of the show, or Jimmy doesn't find out Lalo's dead by the time he meets Walt and Jesse.

Everyone seems to know that Hector is the last of the Salamancas by the end of Breaking Bad season 4, so maybe the latter. Or maybe he just never comes out of the shadows and survives both the events of Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad. Maybe he’s such a good character we’re going to get a Breaking Bad sequel!
posted by chill at 12:37 AM on May 26 [3 favorites]


Having said all that, I do think Kim and Jimmy had a hand in bringing him to that end. But I feel like a lot of this Howard Good/Howard Bad debate is in service of the question of whether that makes them Good or Bad and how we're supposed to feel about them. And I just don't think that matters.

At the end of the day, BB/BCS have always been very clear that "civilians" are out of play, and when that line is crossed (as in "Dead Freight") it has enormous consequences. Aside from the thematic point of Howard's death to the character arcs of Jimmy and Kim, it demonstrates that Lalo is a type of "in the game" character that hasn't really been seen in this universe before. He doesn't make a distinction. He has his goal and whoever gets in his way is in danger. No other criminal character in the show would have ever killed Howard.
posted by rhymedirective at 6:55 AM on May 26 [7 favorites]


Aside from the thematic point of Howard's death to the character arcs of Jimmy and Kim, it demonstrates that Lalo is a type of "in the game" character that hasn't really been seen in this universe before. He doesn't make a distinction. He has his goal and whoever gets in his way is in danger. No other criminal character in the show would have ever killed Howard.

Even The Cousins, had they been written into this scene instead of Lalo, would have silently (albeit menacingly) looked Howard up and down, and then just stepped around him (or let him flee in terror) to get down to business with Kim and Saul.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:48 AM on May 26 [3 favorites]


Yeah, Dead Freight is a great comparison: both episodes are capers that take a sharp turn into tragedy at the end that undercut both the protagonists celebration, and our own perception of the episode: "that was fun wasn't it? but BOOM consequences."

DF had repercussions that shaped the rest of BB, and I suspect this similarly does for BCS.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:51 AM on May 26 [3 favorites]


I liked BB so much. And enjoyed Better Call Saul.
But somehow Jimmies destruction of Howard repels me. As in: I'm disgusted with the personae of Jimmy and Kim. With the evil they did.
Strange how the enjoyment of a tv show or film can evaporate.
posted by jouke at 11:34 AM on May 26 [6 favorites]


Bob Odenkirk doesn't even like Saul. He has said he can have sympathy for Jimmy but not Mr. Goodman.
posted by tiny frying pan at 11:44 AM on May 26 [1 favorite]


I’m 100 percent with you, jouke, and to be honest, I’ve been a bit disturbed by everyone who keeps biting their nails and praying that Kim gets away clean. I mean, why? What makes her deserving of absolution and a happy life after this? But I’m in a distinct minority, it seems (perhaps even a minority of one) of people who have come to affirmatively dislike Kim.
posted by holborne at 1:15 PM on May 26 [3 favorites]


Clearly running cons is bad for their souls and bad for everyone around them and just plain bad. But they also clearly have a compulsion to do it, need to do it, and will always do it. So basically, are they doomed?

I feel like this is one of the differences between BCS Jimmy and BB Saul. In BB Saul isn't really shown running a con - he's just a lawyer who does his job (for drug dealers.) It struck me reading this that maybe in a way we're watching a "reformed" Saul in BB.

But somehow Jimmies destruction of Howard repels me.

I feel like it crossed a line, and would have even if Howard didn't die. Jimmy's typo-conning of Chuck crossed a line too, but Chuck deserved it far more than Howard.

I think Kim is a good person who has an addiction to con artistry. She tries to be good - even wanting to basically help the helpless full time - but she's tempted. I feel like this might be the end of her temptation and she's going to go cold turkey from cons. (This means bad things for her relationship with Jimmy of course.)

I don't know, Jimmy and Kim are so likable but I kind of do want them to face consequences for their actions. I think maybe they're redeemable though.

They're both characters I can love and hate. It's certainly a contrast with Walter White, who literally became a meth-manufacturing murderer in the first two episodes but some people inexplicably watched four seasons thinking he was the good guy of the show...
posted by mmoncur at 8:30 PM on May 26 [5 favorites]


yea, I have absolutely loved he Kim character, but she's starting to feel like that new friend you've made that you think is going to be your bestie forever, and then something weird happens and the extreme way they react to it makes you back away slowly and wonder how you are going to get out of some of the future plans you've made with them.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:33 PM on May 26 [12 favorites]




In BB Saul isn't really shown running a con - he's just a lawyer who does his job (for drug dealers.)

He has a professional "go to jail" guy stand in for Heisenberg to get arrested, that's definitely a con.
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:48 AM on May 27 [2 favorites]


Saul is also a professional money-launderer by the time we get to BB times, so I think he really is a *criminal* lawyer at that point.
posted by skewed at 7:27 AM on May 27 [2 favorites]


dry white toast said: But to me the main message of the ABQ-verse has always been that respectable people in the Upright World can cause just as much destruction and human suffering as people in the Drug World, they just use the privileges the Upright World confers on them to look like decent people while doing it. Which family has caused more human suffering, the Sacklers or the (admittedly fictional) Salamancas? That's the calculation Kim made when she threw in her lot with Jimmy. He might defend the Salamancas in court, but Howard wouldn't think twice about representing the Sacklers of the world. How many people who weren't either gangsters or corporate billionaires have been ground into dust by the criminal/legal system that made Howard rich?

I didn't take pleasure, or recoil in horror, at what Jimmy and Kim did to him. In the grand scheme it was a minor re-balancing of the karmic scales. He was handed enough things in life. And no, he didn't "deserve" to die. But he also didn't deserve the protection from his ultimate fate that had up until that moment been afforded him by his status, a status that was randomly handed to him at birth, in the Upright World.


It's interesting, though: in the bigger picture, HHM's loss and Howard's loss are Sandpiper's and Schweikert and Cokely's gain. And Schweikert, as nice as he is to Kim, was still the guy willing to scoff at Jimmy's initial lawsuit and try to bury him in paper to make the case go away. And all on behalf of his clients who were, in fact, defrauding the old folks. So I think the show's take is that you can go after one actor in the Upright World, but that world -- like the world of crime -- is still a system, and the system itself not only keeps going but will just benefit a different actor when you make one of them "pay up."

But I come back to the idea that the show is a criticism of the System, but also of con games as a means of "re-balancing the karmic scales." The majority of Jimmy's scams have consistently led to quick reversals or have had excess collateral damage, and he's ended up doing his scamming for the parties in a cartel war, hurting folks like poor Fred Whalen/TravelWire guy's family. For that matter, some of Kim's first "real" scams as a lawyer -- not just as Giselle in the bar -- were about helping Mesa Verde get its way, even cheating on some planning and zoning stuff at one point, until Mesa Verde wanted something that reminded her that they were not the "little guy" with whom she empathizes. (Schweikert even recruited Kim via empathy for her situation at HHM.)

The two scams that seems to have played out pretty well in the show are the one to force the Kettlemans to turn themselves in and the one to protect Huell from overzealous prosecution. Not coincidentally, these are the two con jobs in the show that were not done to for personal gain or for some kind of vengeance or displacement, but rather to repair or prevent real and concrete harms. Jimmy actually has to give up his ill-gotten gains to bring down the Kettlemans, and Kim is working pro bono for Huell, buying the stationery supplies for the fake letters of support and sending Jimmy on that bus trip to Louisiana on her own or their own dime.

Even here, there's an implication that taking those actions is corrupting. Kim's reaction after the successful ploy on Huell's behalf is that she "wants to do it again," which is how she ends up scamming on behalf of, then against Mesa Verde, and what sets her on the road that ends with Howard and Howard's fate. And Jimmy is so, well, bitter at putting back the money in the Kettleman case that he makes a decision to never let that kind of norms-based conscience be his problem again. The show seems to want to say that even the best-intentioned, least destructive efforts at this kind of deception are still not good answers to systemic faults.

More generally, I think that Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul share a problem of wanting to believe in good elites, or at least good elite actions, however rare or situational they are. BrBa has Elliot and Gretchen, early on, offering a solution to most of Walt's problems; rejecting their offer out of pride cements his fall and reveals his fundamental character flaw. in BCS, we get Kim's abandonment of a chance to legitimately expand her work for indigent defendants. These are portrayed a turning points, decisions that mark a character leaning into their moral failings or choosing to willfully ignore their reasonable larger goals for the momentary satisfaction of anger or pride.

Kim's justice project connection in Better Call Saul works a lot better for this purpose than Grey Matter giving Walt a sinecure in Breaking Bad. That was a couple of rich, privileged white folks feeling bad for a guy who could've been them, should've been them, in the most literal sense, and sort of still was them, right down to the arrogance. But both shows still want there to be a way for the system to correct its injustices, a concept that loses credibility given the ABQ-verse's otherwise deep and incisive criticisms of unjust systems, the blindness of privilege, and institutions on any side of the law.
posted by kewb at 1:29 PM on May 27 [8 favorites]


rhymedirective
At the end of the day, BB/BCS have always been very clear that "civilians" are out of play

Maaaybe... but I'd be interested to hear what characters you see in BB who would be comparable to the characters of Chuck and Howard in BCS. There was no "civilian" in BB who broke down Walter White in the unforgiving way that Chuck undermined Jimmy. WW was motivated by end-of-life considerations, by protecting his family (initially), and predominantly (as he finally admitted at the end) by his own drive for control & accumulation of money.

Likewise there wasn't a "civilian" in BB whose actions had such devastating effects as Howard's did, but who was also a figure of such ambiguous morality. In Howard's final impassioned speech, when he says:
"I sided with Chuck, too often? I took away your office, put you in doc review?"

...Howard obviously considers those offenses practically trivial compared to what Kim and Jimmy had done to him. But I was thinking, yes. YES, Howard! You were a complete dick!

Think of what Howard's siding with Chuck against Jimmy meant to Jimmy's career; or what Howard's draconian punishment of Kim would have meant for her morale and career prospects. She certainly felt at the time that she was going nowhere, unless she could work overtime to deliver something big to the firm. And after she did, she got kicked in the teeth again. Why? And why might she not think, hey--you sidelined my career for months, why shouldn't I sideline yours.

Howard really did fuck with both of their careers--in an active way with Kim, and in a complicit way with regard to Jimmy. They, in turn, fucked with his. (And they had a morally good ulterior motive, albeit one that was also self-serving--What was Howard's larger motive?) The way that Kim and Jimmy scammed Howard was dishonest and unfair. But the case could easily be made that the way he had treated them had also been dishonest (Jimmy) and unfair (Kim).

I'm not sure there are "civilians" in BB who caused anywhere close to the same kind of damage to the main characters that Chuck and Howard did to Kim and Jimmy.

when that line is crossed (as in "Dead Freight") it has enormous consequences
I agree that that is how the show will have it. Also, the showrunners, and Patrick Fabian, seem to have a more sympathetic view of Howard than I do.
posted by torticat at 8:44 PM on May 28 [4 favorites]


As BCS is winding down, I've tried to start rewatching BB. I say tried, because it's hard going. For the same reasons, jouke and others describe, I can't get past the destruction these personas create. Walter White, from episode one, is a selfish a-hole. Which, fine. But then it gets extrapolated to literally destroying lives and casting them away (and all super quickly!). Which is what we see of course with Howard here. It's just sooo malicious in this careless self-centering privileged way. If I wasn't seeing this so much already out there in the world, this might be more of a fantasy to indulge in. But these days I just can't with it, I'm saturated.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:52 AM on May 29 [4 favorites]


I find the debate about whether Howard "deserves" the con that Jimmy and Kim to miss the point a little. Yes, Howard is by no means an arbiter of moral goodness, although we could quibble about how bad exactly his actions were to Jimmy and Kim.

The point is, and always has been, that its really not up to Jimmy and Kim to determine who deserves something or doesnt, and its very clear that their whole scheme wasn't done as a piece of cosmic justice, but a self serving adventure which gets them paid and allows them to enjoy a con together.

And thats why the death of Howard brings it all home. Yes, they could not possibly have forseen what happened, but their meddling led to Howards death. And who knows how Howard would take it? Jimmy, after all, has the knowledge that the last person he took this kind of revenge on took his own life.

The funny thing is that they really hadnt considered fully how Howard might react. Before his untimely death he was threatening to make it his lives work to undo the two, and he may well have succeeded; after all, while his rep had taken a blow, Howard's reason for success was his ability to connect with others.

But rather than those consequences, they have some much more serious ones... I really cant wait to see how it plays out
posted by Cannon Fodder at 2:18 PM on May 29 [7 favorites]


The point is, and always has been, that its really not up to Jimmy and Kim to determine who deserves something or doesnt

Exactly. I have known people who were far worse morally than Howard, but I didn't come up with a scheme to drug them and ruin their reputations because that crosses a very clear moral line for me. A moral line Jimmy and Kim don't have, or at least lose over time, which is kind of the whole point of this show.

Anyway, if Jimmy and Kim *did* consider themselves the arbiters of who morally deserves punishment... there would be a long list of people they know who deserve it much more than Howard.

And thats why the death of Howard brings it all home.

Yep. Two things about Howard's death that people keep forgetting here:

- The vet directly told Jimmy that the drug could cause serious problems if someone had poor caffeine tolerance. Howard drinks herbal tea and they know nothing of his medical history. And there was no way to predict if Howard would crash his car or run into traffic while on the drug.

- Jimmy works for drug dealers and dangerous people. Doing ANYTHING with Howard could expose him to those people. Jimmy might be too naive to understand this, but Kim definitely understands-- and she knows Lalo is alive.

The fact is, they went into this knowing there was a risk to Howard's life. They either were in denial about that or didn't care. Now they'll have to face it.

The funny thing is that they really hadnt considered fully how Howard might react. Before his untimely death he was threatening to make it his lives work to undo the two, and he may well have succeeded; after all, while his rep had taken a blow, Howard's reason for success was his ability to connect with others.

The worst thing about Howard's death is that now we won't get a spinoff show where Howard is the main character and we watch him gradually "break bad" and lose his career and reputation as he tries scheme after scheme to destroy Jimmy and Kim...
posted by mmoncur at 5:00 PM on May 29 [6 favorites]


The worst thing about Howard's death is that now we won't get a spinoff show where Howard is the main character and we watch him gradually "break bad" as he tries scheme after scheme to destroy Jimmy and Kim...

At least, not until they launch the multiverse.
posted by mikepop at 5:08 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]


The point is, and always has been, that its really not up to Jimmy and Kim to determine who deserves something or doesn't

At school, I remember collaborating with some classmates to advertise a disliked teacher's car on sale in the local paper (at a very keen price). At the time it felt like a delightful act of revenge, now I feel shitty about all the trouble we caused the guy; so it is with growing up. Cons and practical jokes are often the stuff of childhood because adults know a person whose chair is whipped away can fracture their skull or that somebody we drive to their limits of frustration can die from a heart attack. Kim and Jimmy's scheme for Howard was immaculately planned within its own terms - but it was too exciting to them both for them to think of boring old stuff like repercussions!

Contrast all this to the cartel world: the Lalo, Mike and Gus also work their meticulously thought out schemes: but the real-world consequences are something we would actually shield kids from because people get terrorised and tortured and executed. We know that Jimmy is going to emerge as a clown somehow surviving in a world of very serious criminals. I am hoping the final episodes show us exactly how that comes to pass.
posted by rongorongo at 6:54 AM on May 30 [3 favorites]


Cons and practical jokes are often the stuff of childhood because adults know a person whose chair is whipped away can fracture their skull or that somebody we drive to their limits of frustration can die from a heart attack.

An interesting comparison is a scene in the show Barry, where Sally recoils in horror at Barry's sociopathic pitch to gaslight and psychologically torture an obnoxious network exec.

Sally has no love lost for the network exec, but she recognizes that being made to think you are losing your mind could be horrifying for the victim.
posted by ishmael at 9:32 AM on May 30 [2 favorites]


I think Better Call Saul recognizes this as well, it's interesting how the characters lives inflect how they view scams and psyop schemes.
posted by ishmael at 9:35 AM on May 30 [2 favorites]


My family's watching Voyager, and Patrick Fabian popped up in "Favorite Son."
posted by kirkaracha at 7:34 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


i really went from rooting for saul and kim to actively wanting their downfall
posted by lalochezia at 6:48 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


Well, you would, wouldn't you, LALOchezia...?
posted by GrammarMoses at 3:21 AM on June 4 [8 favorites]


at how many people are super-angry that Howard died...

Because even when a character annoys us, we become attached. (I gave up on Game of Thrones for that reason, among others. I grew tired of liking even unlikable characters, only for them to be killed off.) And Howard, furthermore, has not "broken bad". He's been weak, he's shown us many failings. But we never see him do what so many characters in this universe do - slide/tumble/fall/leap into "bad". (For anyone who has seen Dexter, this death reminds me a little bit of a certain wife's. Collateral damage, as they say.) Howard, like that wife, is never "in the game". And so, if my own reaction is any indication of the wider sentiment regarding his death, we are upset because Howard did not deserve it.

I never could feel what Kim and Jimmy did/do to Howard was/is justified, not after Howard extended his olive branch at the restaurant (previous season). The man tried. It was Jimmy/Saul who didn't give two effs at that point. However, he was content to let the matter drop after the bowling balls and hookers. It was Kim who bayed for more blood. She just didn't realize it would be literal.

Although, as another commentator said, their picking on Howard was not actually the cause of his death... or was it? Culpable, not culpable - I would love to hear some real lawyers weigh in on that, as what comes to my mind is a law in which, when someone dies during the course of a felony, the criminal is held responsible for that death - if a hostage dies of a heart attack while tied up on the floor as the robbers are busy raiding the bank vault, still the robbers will (or ought to) be charged with that hostage's death.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 10:47 AM on June 5 [3 favorites]


Will HHM and the rest of Howard's people/family/colleagues even realize Howard is dead by the end of the series? Presumably Lalo and/or Jimmy will expertly cover up the murder, and it might be presumed Howard just drove off into the sunset somewhere in a continuing downward spiral. I think there are enough bread crumbs dropped for Cliff Main to possibly investigate (the PI switch is a verifiable event involving other reliable HHM employees as witness) but unless Howard's body turns up he might reasonably believe that Howard was both set up by Jimmy AND is also addicted to drugs and has just ran off somewhere.

If there was more time left I could see another arc where an investigation threatens to lead back to Jimmy and Kim, but I think with so little show left the focus will be elsewhere (and we know ultimately nothing happens that prevents Saul from continuing his law practice into the BB timeline).
posted by mikepop at 8:40 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


it might be presumed Howard just drove off into the sunset somewhere in a continuing downward spiral

I doubt that the show will cover this, but wouldn't that be a huge problem for his wife? She's clearly been contemplating a divorce, so she needs to know ASAP whether she's been abandoned or whether she's been widowed.

Speaking very practically, she has a huge financial incentive for him to be declared dead. And since she was already ready for the marriage to end, I doubt that she'd be willing to just wait around for years and years holding out hope that Howard will come back on his own.

I doubt it would occur to her that Howard was murdered by a drug kingpin at Jimmy's apartment, none of that makes any sense. But she has such a huge incentive to track him down that I'd think that she would go to the cops and demand an investigation right away.
posted by rue72 at 9:27 AM on June 9


I agree, a huge problem for his wife and no doubt HHM stakeholders as well. I wouldn't expect an investigation to happen quickly without any evidence of foul play, but then again those demanding it would be wealthy and well-connected so it would certainly be feasible if the show played it that way. Probably the wife (and HHM) would get PIs involved as well.
posted by mikepop at 10:43 AM on June 9


I had a feeling that Lalo's first in-person stop would be at Jimmy and Kim's. The devil coming to collect his due, complete with warning candles. I don't think he intends to kill them, at least not right away... But Howard winds up the schlmozzl in the room, exactly NOT landing on his feet.

Poor naive Howard: flailing to understand J&K's actions and utterly oblivious to the fact that a) he has nowhere left to go in his life and that b) the guy that just entered the room is as they say 100 percent a wrong guy. All that education but no depth of understanding. Had he kept his mouth shut at the mediation table and pieced together the situation in private, all would have been well, but his privilege blinds him to the likelihood that no one will believe him and so he starts blurting.

The Hitchcock callbacks and references have become fast and furious. Leopold and Loeb, anyone? (True story that Hitchcock used to create "Rope.") Like Hitchcock was, Gilligan is a practicing Catholic, and the shows he creates are serious attempts to understand and point to how evil manifests in the world.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 12:41 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]




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