Spoiler alert: this recap is for people watching Better Call Saul season six, which airs on Netflix in the UK. Do not read on unless you have watched episodes one to six.
“It happens today.” With those words, and a big screeching U-turn on the highway, Kim prepared to meet her fate. At least, it feels that way – as though we are finally about to get answers to all the questions that have hung over Jimmy’s partner for so many series.
The reason why I fear that the twist in Kim’s story is about to be played out is twofold. First, Peter Gould, the showrunner, teased that there would be a big cliffhanger at the end of next week’s episode, the last of the first half of the final season.
There is something a little too reckless about Kim’s commitment to seeing through the Sandpiper scam, and not just because she thinks it’s cool to pull a U-ey across a central reservation. In turning home for D-Day, Kim is presumably ditching her meeting with the Jackson Mercer Foundation in Santa Fe; she is rejecting the opportunity to secure a dream job, a combination of vocation and prestige she has always looked for in her work. Given how far that work has gone in defining who Kim Wexler is, it feels like a rejection of herself – all in one turn of a steering wheel.
Second, there was the cold open, in which we got a taste of the dynamic between childhood Kim and her dysfunctional mother, something that has been shown only in small glimpses. Here we watched as the pair scammed a department store out of cheap jewellery. The sparkle in her mum’s eyes afterwards is surely significant.
Philip Larkin observed what parents tend to do to their children in This Be the Verse. The poem ends: “Man hands on misery to man. / It deepens like a coastal shelf. / Get out as early as you can, / And don’t have any kids yourself.” Kim appears to have observed Larkin’s instructions, having fled Nebraska and shown no inclination to become a mother. Quite how deep she has internalised the lessons taken from her mother is hidden from us. But if Kim’s U-turn is inspired by something as deep-set as her relationship with her mother, this could end up anywhere.
(NB: this dramatic action was performed in the service of trying to help Jimmy solve the problem of not being able to properly impersonate someone because the guy has his arm in a cast. It is a sweet note of absurdity typical of Kim’s husband and the show as a whole.)
Cocktail-hour Lalo continues his odyssey through Germany. He is looking to pin down information on Gus Fring’s involvement in the assassination attempt on him, and pin it down he does by way of an axe to the leg, as Lalo finds Werner Ziegler’s old protege, Casper, and brutalises him in the woods.
Lalo’s arrival is fitting for an unstoppable villain. He parks far from Casper’s peaceful home and is detectable only at a distance, in silhouette. Casper has time to prepare for Lalo’s advance, but is clearly spooked by their brief exchange and dashes off to hide in a barn. Classic shadowy hide-and-seek ensues, only to go off script when Casper whacks Lalo with the blunt side of his woodchopper. Salamanca is down and, if we are to judge by his expression, perhaps fatefully so.
What a twist in the tale. To make it worse, Lalo effectively starts begging Casper for help – for any info that can help him nail Fring. At this moment, I expected peace, a deal agreed between the two – after all, we had met a vulnerable Lalo the previous week in his encounter with Margarethe.
But just as that portrayal was a lie, so is this, with sick wickle Lalo playing rope-a-dope to lure Casper in. One slash of a concealed blade, one swipe of the axe and Lalo is offering the German a tourniquet and suggesting they have a chat.
Lalo back in Albuquerque for the halfway finale? Won’t be ruling it out.
I have always struggled to see Howard Hamlin as a baddie, as there is something a bit too ridiculous about him to take seriously. After finally being allowed inside his domestic life, it is possible even to feel sympathetic towards him.
It appears that Howard, just like Gus, has a two-home situation. Except that he is living in the guest house attached to his main home, complete with a clothes rail stuffed with smart shirts and a shoe-polishing machine that looks as if it has been stolen from a hotel.
We had hints of Howard’s marital strife during his recent therapy session, and now we finally meet Mrs Hamlin. The couple share a brief moment over a rushed breakfast that shows how estranged they are. Howard makes his wife a coffee, foam art and all, which she pours unceremoniously into a vacuum flask. He suggests joining her at a social event, which she isn’t into, either. He is all ordered and buttoned up, she a bit frayed and chaotic. Both seem to be living the consequences of putting work before their relationship.
The encounter ends with stiff good wishes for the day ahead; Howard is left alone with his burned-bean drink. Next up: a day of reckoning with Kim and Jimmy’s plot. What will happen to the square-jawed blond? Will he be heading for Best Quality Vacuum with the rest of them?