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[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Better Call Saul Season 6 Episode 1, “Wine and Roses.”]
When last we left our heroes (as far as heroes exist on Better Call Saul), Nacho was fleeing the scene of Lalo’s attempted assassination in Mexico — which Lalo had the bad manners and quick wit to avoid, meaning that as the season begins he’s still alive, on his own, and determined to bring those who tried to have him killed to his own sort of justice.
Nacho, meanwhile, has only a tenuous lifeline to help in escaping Mexico himself, making his way on foot from Lalo’s compound to hide out in a seemingly deserted motel to wait for instructions; his fate is just one of many that Gus seems to hold in his hand at the moment, showing no inclination to rush into a move.
Meanwhile, Kim and Jimmy are creeping back to their old lives after the scare which led them to hide in one of Albuquerque’s nicer hotels. But while Kim’s throwing herself simultaneously into the public defending game which has become a real calling for her, she’s also simultaneously pushing Jimmy into not just fully exploring his Saul Goodman persona, but pursuing their own illicit actions against Howard Hamlin. It’s clearly a long game the two of them are playing, but as cautious as Kim might seem at this moment, bigger danger looms.
Achievements in Cinematography
D.P. Marshall Adams not only brought it on a whole new level with the sumptuously photographed opening sequence (so many details, so many tiny stories being told with no words as we shift from black and white to color), but also delivered perhaps the episode’s standout shot: The intense zoom out from the ant on a dead man’s fingertip to the wider tableau of chaos surrounding him.
It’s the sort of shot choice which says so much, with so little — in that moment, we see how one dead man is an entire universe from the right perspective, a whole new perspective on the aftermath of Lalo’s violence. It’s the sort of hyper-focused attention to detail that is fundamentally why this show operates on a whole other level beyond other crime dramas.
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The Least Legal Move
Murder is never kosher, and while we might not have seen the bodies left behind by Lalo’s breakfast-time visit to one of the small homesteads within Salamanca territory, there’s no doubt that the nice couple he imposes upon is no longer alive afterwards.
Why did Lalo target them in particular? Well, aside from a change of clothes and presumably whatever cash they had in the house, the fact that Lalo encourages Mateo (the name of the “mountain man”) to shave off his beard to match Lalo’s own facial hair might hint that Lalo wants to use Mateo’s papers for himself. (Or, potentially, leave behind Mateo’s body as yet another decoy.) Whatever his motivations, it’s a reminder that Lalo never acts rashly, is always on the move, and is always a few steps ahead.
Oh, That’s Right, It’s a Period Piece
What’s so cool about so much of this series is that it takes effort to remember its pinnings in (now) the year 2004, with perhaps the clearest reminder of its time period being the reliance on non-smart phones. (Which could just be mixed up with burner phones, in this day and age.)
Remembering What Hasn’t Happened Yet (The “Breaking Bad” Tie-In)
“Wine and Roses” opens with all of Saul Goodman’s glitz and glamour being packaged up by a large team of workers, seemingly ambivalent about the “finery” they’re dumping into cardboard boxes. Mixed in with all the refinements of Saul Goodman at his peak — the pocket squares and ties, the literal gold toilet — are a few remnants of the past, like some remaining prizes from Jimmy McGill’s bingo days.
But otherwise, the tableau as presented is a very Saul-only world, complete with the lurid pink thong draped over the gilded bathroom fixtures. It’s a sharp slap to remind us just what sort of a man Jimmy McGill’s leading up to becoming, followed by the most heartbreaking moment of the season to date: falling out of a cabinet, abandoned, is the Zafiro Añejo tequila bottle topper which has been one of the touchstones of Jimmy and Kim’s relationship this whole series…
On The Journey From Jimmy to Saul
The season premiere is very much an ensemble piece, with Jimmy smoothly talking his way out of needing to present himself and Lalo for an urgent hearing regarding Lalo’s bail (although he does slip at one point and call Lalo Lalo while talking to the authorities, which is never a good sign). Jimmy also goes pure Saul at the golf club, leaning into the bombast to manipulate his way into the locker room (and plant the fake cocaine in Howard’s locker).
But the real agent of change when it comes to Jimmy’s progression down that slippery slope is Kim, who has some big ideas for Jimmy’s alter ego. Why does Kim feel the need to emphasize all the things that “Saul Goodman” should have? Because we’re seeing Kim compartmentalize Jimmy’s (and her own) misbehavior in real-time, and while her feeling like she has some ownership over this new persona speaks well for her plans to stick with Jimmy long-term, it’s still a bit nebulous.
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And Now, 173 Words About Why Kim Threw Away the 2nd Best Travel Mug
There is probably going to be a post-mortem interview with Rhea Seehorn somewhere about her thoughts as to why Kim threw away the World’s 2nd Best Lawyer (Again) mug she originally gave to Jimmy McGill in Season 5’s “Magic Man” — itself a successor to the mug she gave Jimmy in Season 2’s “Cobbler.”
Both times she gave the mugs to Jimmy to commemorate him making a play towards the straight-and-narrow: getting the job with Davis & Mann in Season 2, returning from the suspension of his license in Season 5.
But now, the bullet-riddled mug represents Jimmy lying to her about his desert adventure with Mike… and as we see later, Kim maybe no longer thinks of him as being “World’s 2nd Best Lawyer” material. The casual way she alley-oops the mug into the trash can (we’ll choose to buy into the movie magic which leads us to believe she sank that basket in one) indicates an end of an era, even if neither person involved seems to recognize that.
“A cathedral of justice.”
— Kim (Rhea Seehorn)
Kim anoints the future law offices of Saul Goodman, Esq. with some very Saul-esque flair (a few moments before, she full-on whips out some jazz hands), using a turn of phrase I literally googled five times in various conjunctions to see if I could find an instance of when Saul himself might have said it, in past seasons (or Breaking Bad).
Nothing turned up, but that doesn’t really matter, as we continue to witness Kim being a part of Jimmy’s descent — and perhaps even an active part of it, the one twist we might never have seen coming, when those two former colleagues shared a cigarette together in a dark parking garage, all the way back when.
In Conclusion, Your Honor
With only 13 episodes left of Better Call Saul, one might anticipate that the momentum of this final season would be nothing short of breakneck, but instead things are as deliberate as ever. The endgame, though, is pretty front of mind, and with a whole other episode following this one to continue revving up the stakes, all that’s certain is nothing is. Who lives at the end of this show is one question — a bigger question is becoming “who survives it?”
Better Call Saul airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on AMC.