ByZach Lisabeth/April 21, 2020 11:05 am EST
Contains spoilers for the season 5 finale of Better Call Saul
Talk about epic cliffhangers.
Over the course of the 90-minute season 5 finale of AMC's good-lawyer-gone-bad origin story seriesBetter Call Saul, plenty happened, but little was resolved. Compared to the events of the preceding episodes, the season-ender was a relatively quiet affair for Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) and his new wife Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn). All the action was happening south of the border inside the Salamanca compound, where a reluctant Nacho Varga (Michael Mando) staged his attempted execution of newly liberated cartel capitán Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton). While Varga placed his life on the line to infiltrate the Salamancas, Jimmy and Kim enjoyed a tense but otherwise pleasant couple's weekend at a nice hotel three blocks down from the county courthouse. That's not to say that nothing transpired back in New Mexico, of course.
The gripping morality play that is Better Call Saul has always been more about subtle turns of character than frenetic scenes of unvarnished brutality. In that regard, Jimmy and Kim's story on episode 10 — entitled "Something Unforgivable" — was overflowing with important developments. Creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould managed to pack a lot of punch into season 5's final 90 minutes, so let's take some time to break down exactly what happened.
As an added warning, major spoilers are ahead.
It's Kim Wexler's turn to break bad
Rattled by the fallout from their tense confrontation with Lalo, Jimmy and Kim decide to lam it for a couple days at a local hotel. After their first night hiding out, Jimmy makes his first of several half-hearted appeals to Kim, urging her to leave him. They're hiding out as the result of Jimmy's involvement with the Salamanca Cartel, and though Jimmy claims it's the last time he'll make the mistake of getting involved with organized crime, you can see it on his face that he knows it's not true.
Despite Jimmy's overtures, Kim heads out in the morning to work, where she's accosted by her former boss Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian). Hamlin tells Kim about the bowling balls Jimmy used to destroy his car and the prostitutes he sent to disrupt a business lunch — all a prelude to a "he's not good for you" speech. Kim laughs in Hamlin's face –obviously not the reaction the buttoned-up Hamlin, Hamlin & McGillpartner was expecting. Hamlin counters Kim's mockery by suggesting that Jimmy's influence has already hurt her. Why else would Kim ditch her corporate law job to take on a stack of pro-bono work? This crosses the line. Kim tells Hamlin in no uncertain terms that she's a grown woman who makes her own decisions, then promptly storms out of the courthouse.
Kim has a new plan to get paid for an old case
Back in the hotel, Kim rebuffs another of Jimmy's attempts to send her away. The two engage in a room service montage that includes cheeseburgers, red wine, and ice cream sundaes. During dinner, their conversation devolves into a sadistic game wherein the two newlyweds spar back and forth with increasingly elaborate plots to punk Howard Hamlin. This game follows them into bed, where Kim takes things to the next level.
She proposes setting Hamlin up for some kind misconduct that might result in his disbarment or imprisonment, forcing HHM to settle Sandpiper in haste. Viewers will remember that Sandpiper is the massive class action lawsuit that Jimmy initiated on the first season ofBetter Call Saul and passed off to HHM for a referral fee. Once that case settles or reaches a verdict, Jimmy is entitled to 20 percent of the attorney's fees. By Jimmy's back-of-the-envelope calculation, that could add up to at least $2 million. It's a credit to both Seehorn and Odenkirk's performances that we can really feel the moment the discussion turns from a flirtatious game into an actual solicitation to engage in a criminal conspiracy.
In the morning, Jimmy attempts to be the voice of reason for once. "This isn't you," he tells Kim, who responds with smoking finger guns before jumping in the shower. Five seasons ago, it certainly wasn't her — but maybe it is now.
Since the very first season of Better Call Saul, Kim's journey has always been a tug-of-war between Jimmy and Hamlin. They're like the metaphorical devil and angel on her shoulders, though reasonable minds can differ which is which. While Kim has been drifting toward Jimmy all along, before season 5, she always kept one cautious foot in Hamlin's world. When she quit Schweikart & Cokely, it was like Kim cut the last bond to that previous life. Now, she's all in on Slippin' Jimmy McGill — for better or worse. What better way to close the circle on this conflict than to bring it all back to Sandpiper? Gilligan is truly the master of long-form storytelling.
Additionally, Gilligan and Gould made the battle for Kim's soul explicit by linking Jimmy and Hamlin with a subtle visual nod. On the season 5 finale, Jimmy's extra-dark tan has rendered him the same shade as his nemesis Howard Hamlin. While Jimmy's tan was earned the old-fashioned way in the harsh New Mexico sun, Hamlin's spray tan is as contrived and artificial as the man himself.
Lalo Salamanca lives, and he's got a new score to settle
The more action-packed half of theBetter Call Saul season 5 finale takes place in Mexico, where Nacho Varga has been primed to help execute Lalo Salamanca in his own home. Varga spends most of the episode pretending that he wants to join the Salamanca Cartel. Lalo seems eager enough to take the young New Mexican under his wing. He even introduces him to the big chefe, who ultimately approves of the new recruit. Varga's face throughout all of this build-up is as inscrutable as ever: he's either having some serious second thoughts about taking out Lalo, or on the verge of throwing up from the pressure.
Varga has only one job: leave the back door to the Salamanca compound ajar so that Gus Fring's (Giancarlo Esposito) outlaw SWAT team can get inside to assassinate Lalo. He manages to get to the door in time and escape, but the SWAT team bungles the hit. Lalo escapes through a secret tunnel under his bathroom, then circles back to pick off the hitmen who infiltrated his home.
Nacho Varga may have escaped, but Lalo Salamanca lives, and he knows exactly who wants him dead enough to violate the sanctity of his home. Fring, Jimmy, and Varga all better be on notice — except, how will they ever know?
About that final scene of Better Call Saul season 5
In the final scene of Better Call Saulseason 5, Lalo stands over the last living assassin inside his compound. The man is obviously mortally wounded, but Lalo keeps him alive and orders him to call his boss and confirm that the hit was done. Why would Lalo want Fring to think that the hit went off without a hitch? Because revenge is headed to New Mexico, and Lalo doesn't want anyone to see it coming. A meaningful glance at the half-full glasses of tequila that he once shared in false friendship with Nacho Varga confirms that Lalo realizes he was betrayed.
Jimmy and Kim are operating under the assumption that they are safe because hitman Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) assured Jimmy that Lalo was being handled. Once Jimmy gets the false confirmation that the Lalo hit went through, he's going to rest even easier. That's going to render the newlyweds sitting ducks when Lalo inevitably returns and the Salamancas bring war to Gus Fring. Since Better Call Saul is a prequel to Breaking Bad, we know Jimmy has to survive, but we're guessing this is pretty bad news for Kim. The finale opts for the cliffhanger ending, but we can all anticipate what's ahead.
Better Call Saul is already renewed for a sixth season, which should return to AMC sometime in 2021.