The slow burn of season four of Better Call Saul is slowly heating up, and in the latest episode, “Piñata,” we see several arcs heading towards their natural conclusion, making for both interesting character development and an almost tragic sense of foreboding, as the impending doom of the world of Breaking Bad slowly approaches. The previous episode began with a teaser that could generously be called “Saul Goodman’s last stand,” AKA his final moments in Albuquerque before disappearing. ”Piñata” opens with what could rightly be considered the conception of Jimmy McGill’s (Bob Odenkirk) desire to become a lawyer. In this scene, he is with future girlfriend Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), who at this time is still a law student, while Jimmy is still somewhat aimless in his job as a mailroom clerk. They watch as Jimmy’s brother Chuck (Michael McKeon) is praised for having won a very difficult case, which impresses Wexler. Jimmy watches as she introduces herself to Chuck, who was impressed by her knowledge of case law, and when Jimmy tries to join the conversation, Chuck blows him off. It’s heartbreaking to watch Jimmy slink off, humiliated and hurt, yet the final scene find him stopping at the entrance of the law library, which he enters slowly. In a series and a season that is dedicated to emotion, disappointment, and heartbreak, it is a very powerful moment––if not the defining moment a young Jimmy McGill’s adventurous life.
The rest of the episode it Is very much a middle season episode in that it doesn’t offer so much in terms of suspenseful action as it does character and plot development. The episode’s most important plot line is also extremely depressing, as we can clearly see that Kim Wexler and Jimmy are drifting apart. Jimmy, who holds fast strong to the notion that he and Kim will open a law firm together, has so far been unaware Kim is having second thoughts about her own career path. In the previous episode we saw Kim turning her back on sole client Mesa Verde, and in this episode we see that she is ready to give it up completely. When she solidifies a deal with a firm she previously had a job offer with, she calls Jimmy up to meet at their favorite restaurant, and when she tells him of her news he’s absolutely crestfallen. The heartbreak is palpable; while he superficially offers her full support, it’s obvious that’s not how he really feels. To Jimmy, it’s just another dream lost.
This sadness and heartbreak only accelerates the creation of Saul Goodman, though. Jimmy has been working on his burgeoning hustle of selling untraceable cell phones to the criminal elements of Albuquerque, and the shocking final scene of the episode cements Goodman’s dark personality. While the scene is played for laughs and offers a comeuppance to the bad guys in last week’s episode, it definitely shows McGill has changed for the worse. This is not the actions of a likable character, even if there is schadenfreude involved.
As far as the criminal element of the show, we see Mike (Jonathan Banks) spearheading the settings for the crew that will build the underground chemical laboratory that will feature prominently in breaking bad. Of the German construction crew, a future problem is forming between Mike and a belligerent, hardheaded German worker named Kai. Meanwhile, Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) rushes to sit with a potentially dying Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis). While visiting with the comatose Salamanca, Fring tells a story that offers a rare glimpse into his impoverished childhood in rural Mexico, but the tale has to do with his resolve and his patience when it comes to dealing with his foes. It is insightful at the time, but after watching the episode, the point of the story only grows more disturbing.
Shortly before we met Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad, Jesse Pinkman explains to Walter White that their situation (where Jesse’s good friend Badger has been busted for possession) doesn’t require a criminal lawyer, but requires a criminallawyer. It is in the final scene in ”Piñata” where we see Jimmy McGill becoming Saul Goodman becoming that person, and though we know it is coming, it is still not easy to watch a once-beloved character turning into a heartless monster. This is television at its finest, and it is a shame it is going to end soon.