In the “Better Call Saul” recap, Jimmy goes to battle with Mesa Verde and Mike receives a visit from Gus Fring…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
One of the reasons why “Better Call Saul” has served as the perfect prequel to “Breaking Bad” is seeing how each of the related characters evolves into the person we meet after Walter White become the meth kingpin of the southwest.
At first introduction, Saul Goodman is a slick, fast talking strip mall attorney with highly flexible morals and while he ultimately serves as a consigliere to Walt and Jesse Pinkman, there aren’t too many layers pulled back on him through the seasons where he appears on the show.
Seeing Jimmy McGill as a former con artist turned attorney helps color in Saul’s background and we’re starting to learn how he became the lawyer that eventually got connected to Walt, Jesse and even Gus Fring for that matter.
The same can be said for Mike Ehrmantraut, who was introduced as a menacing enforcer for Gus during his time on “Breaking Bad.” The episode where Mike went out of his way to care for Jesse as he struggled with his own addictions was probably the closest version to the character we’ve seen on “Better Call Saul” for the past four seasons.
Over the course of the past few episodes, Mike has been truly struggling to straddle the line between mild-mannered fixer and a cold-blooded killer. He never minded crossing the law to get the job done but Mike never wanted to pull the trigger on an innocent man like Werner Ziegler and it’s tormented him ever since.
Now Mike stands at a crossroads — will he return to odd jobs working in toll booths and protecting goofball half-witted drug dealers like he did a couple of seasons ago or will he finally concede to his darker nature and become a button man for Gus Fring. Thanks to “Breaking Bad” we already know the answer but because “Better Call Saul” exists, there are still plenty more questions that have to be asked about how he gets there.
And with the rest of season 5 and season 6 still to come, we’ll have plenty of time to figure it all out.
With that said, let’s get to our recap of the latest episode of “Better Call Saul” titled “Dedicado A Max”…
Last week saw Kim try and fail to force her clients at Mesa Verde to forgo a demolition plan, which would kick a man out of the house he’s been living in for more than 30 years, so the bank can expand with a new call center. Ever since Kim landed her dream job at a prestigious law firm with a profitable bank as her main client, she’s been battling her own conscience at the same time.
Kim thought doing pro-bono work with less fortunate clients would clear her moral slate but again and again, she’s forced to do Mesa Verde’s bidding and if the financial crash of 2008 taught us anything, banks are only in it for the money. So with options limited, Kim decides to put her boyfriend Jimmy on Everett Acker’s case to help protect his home from the big bad bank that wants to take it from him.
And Jimmy — as Saul Goodman — puts many of his classic cons to work to slow down the demolition team sent to tear down Mr. Acker’s home.
From changing the address to the house (a trick he previously pulled to steal the Mesa Verde account from his brother Chuck and return it to Kim) to sprinkling radioactive battery dust from fire alarms on the ground outside to spray painting a misshapen Jesus on the fence posts to attract a bus full of bible thumpers, Jimmy has enough tricks up his sleeve to put the bank far behind schedule.
The frustration is felt at Mesa Verde but even as Kim offers to recuse herself from the case due to Jimmy’s involvement, her boss still sees her as the killer that he hired in the first place. He refuses to back down from letting Kim do her worst to kick Mr. Acker off the property so construction can begin on the call center.
Kim focusing on the greater good while practicing less than ethical means to get it done is exactly what she learned from Jimmy a long time ago. In fact as we’ve seen throughout this series, Kim is unbelievable conflicted with the struggle between good and evil but she never gets quite as much of a rush as when she transforms into “Slippin’ Kimmy” and schemes alongside her less than reputable boyfriend.
The same thing happens after Jimmy shuts down Mesa Verde’s construction project as Kim offers up her best impression of a frustrated Kevin Wachtell — a notorious side-sitter — venting about his bank not being able to demolish Mr. Acker’s home and the celebration over their con-job leads to some steamy shower sex.
As much as Kim believed this would eventually break Kevin’s will, he’s more determined than ever to send Mr. Acker packing. Kim still isn’t ready to relent so she asks Jimmy to take the next step to bring Mesa Verde down. That’s going to involve calling in a fixer to investigate Kevin personally and even Jimmy tries to talk Kim back from that ledge.
Unfortunately, she’s not listening.
So Jimmy reaches out to his top fixer but sadly for him Mike Ehrmantraut is recovering in a bed somewhere in the middle of Mexico after suffering a stab wound. When Mike answers the call, he seems less than interested in the job — Jonathan Banks’ delivering the line “I’m in a tunnel” when Jimmy is struggling to hear him is just too perfect for this odd couple — and he eventually hangs up.
Jimmy is then forced to search for another fixer through the veterinarian, who sends him a guy named “Mister X,” who should probably look familiar to savvy viewers of “Better Call Saul”.
Played by Steven Ogg (The Walking Dead), Mister X originally appeared on “Better Call Saul” a few seasons ago when he was hired as one of the bodyguards to help the half-witted drug dealer looking for protection after he started selling prescription medication as a side hustle. When Mike arrived, he dispatched the other two bodyguards so he could take the full share of the payment that was originally supposed to be split three ways.
Well Mister X is back and this time he’s working as a private investigator for Jimmy but he arrives with some bad news.
After digging into every facet of Kevin Wachtell’s life, he finds that this upstanding executive is actually a remarkably clean and boring executive. He’s faithful to his wife. He cares for his kids. He has no skeletons in his closet.
Jimmy can’t believe that Kevin isn’t hiding something but Mister X sadly informs him that this Mesa Verde executive doesn’t have anything that could be used as blackmail against him. When Mister X offers to get two more guys to help pick up Kevin and put a bag over his head for a trip into the desert, Jimmy realizes that this meeting isn’t going to product the results he wanted.
He believes the plan to stop Mesa Verde has come to a close but Kim has other ideas after rifling through photos of Kevin’s house that were taken by Mister X. She spots a painting inside Kevin’s house that seems to intimate that perhaps this squeaky clean bank executive has some dirty edges after all.
Back at work the next day as Kim investigates the photo even further, she gets a visit from her boss Rich, who informs her that he’s taking over as lead counsel for Mesa Verde.
Despite her best efforts to make Jimmy’s interference look like one big coincidence, Rich has seen through the veil of lies. He knows Kim is trying to save Mr. Acker’s home and because he’s well acquainted with Jimmy McGill, Rich also understands the tactics that are being used to stop the construction of the call center.
Rather than firing Kim from her job, Rich offers to give her a second chance by putting her onto new cases so he can salvage the relationship with Mesa Verde.
That’s when Kim explodes in a very public tirade to ensure Mesa Verde remains her client. Kim fought hard to win back this account after Howard Hamlin and Chuck McGill took it away from her and as much as her conscience says that the bank is actually the big bad wolf, she’s not willing to give it up.
With each passing week it seems evident that Kim’s internal strife will ultimately be her undoing and the same can probably be said for her relationship with Jimmy.
Soldier of War
The downward spiral of Mike Ehrmantraut ended last week after he got drunk and antagonized some street thugs into a fight he never intended on winning. A knife to the gut put an end to the struggle but when Mike woke up, he had a bandage covering his wound and he was at an undisclosed mesa somewhere in Mexico.
As soon as he realizes his location, Mike figures out that this must be the work of Gus Fring, who tried to give him a retainer to stay an employee after killing Werner Ziegler but the former Philadelphia cop rebuffed that offer with extreme prejudice.
So defiant as ever, Mike tries to walk home only to find out he’s miles away from any semblance of a town and when the wound in his stomach opens up, he’s out of options.
Soon after, Dr. Barry Goodman arrives to help Mike back to the home where he was recovering while stitching back up his stab wound. Dr. Goodman first appeared in “Breaking Bad” when he helped Gus recover from poisoning and patched up a gunshot wound for Mike after they took out Don Eladio and his Mexican cartel.
Dr. Goodman can’t offer Mike any advice on Gus Fring’s involvement but he can promise that the wound will heal quicker with less movement so he should probably stay put for at least a week.
During his time at the mesa, Gus wants to reach out to Gus so he begins MacGyvering a cell phone charger out of random electronic parts from around the home. The look on Mike’s face when the woman taking care of him delivers the actual charger for his phone is priceless.
When he finally decides to allow his body to heal, Mike ends up helping the woman repair a leaky window that pours water into the house whenever it rains. The next morning as Mike finishes building a new window ledge, he hears the familiar voice belonging to Gus Fring out in the courtyard.
It turns out that this place was built in memory of Gus’ former partner Max, who was murdered by Hector Salamanca during a meeting with Don Eladio. The title of the episode “Dedicado A Max” is the same inscription on the water fountain that sits in the middle of the courtyard.
Gus tells Mike that nobody here knows he’s the mysterious benefactor paying for everything — they only see him as the doctor’s friend, who comes to visit occasionally. Mike wonders if this is Gus’ attempt to show him another side — a counterbalance to the ruthless drug dealer who had him cut down an innocent man, who was just trying to see his wife.
Gus promises that he’s never going to hide his true nature and he didn’t show Mike this place trying to convince him that he’s actually a criminal with a heart of gold. Instead, Gus is helping Mike to recover and showing him all that’s left of his former partner Max, who was cut down by the Salamancas.
Right now, Gus knows that Mike is at a crossroads in his life and he now has to decide which way to turn. In the middle of a war, Gus needs a soldier and Mike is the one he wants to task to help him bring down the Salamancas.
Gus hopes that a common goal will bring Mike back into the fold. It’s not a greater good and it’s not some false sense of charity thanks to this living tribute built for his fallen partner — Gus wants revenge and nobody understands that better than Mike Ehrmantraut.
“Better Call Saul” returns next Monday night at 9 p.m. ET with a brand new episode on AMC.