Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 6 – ‘Wexler v. Goodman’

This episode marks a massive turn in Jimmy and Kim’s relationship; a settlement for the Mesa Verde case is proposed; Mike plans to incriminate Lalo; and Nacho meets Mike as Gus prepares for the cartel war.

The core of this week’s instalment is in the Mesa Verde settlement which Saul dominates and dumbfounds both for the people on the show and us watching it. This is a massive turn for Jimmy with his alias Saul Goodman. We are getting greater glimpses of the Saul we know from Breaking Bad. But this is a dangerous play by Jimmy which leads to a grave, close encounter.

In ‘Dedicado a Max’ we saw Gus recruit Mike in anticipation for a drug war. And from this, we see Gus’ utilisation of Mike’s “special skill set” which is rarely exhibited on the show. After this task, we see Nacho reintroduced to Mike as Gus organises the meet to converse with Nacho on Lalo’s activities.

The action and storylines this season are moving at a greater pace in comparison to previous ones. I believe it’s a lead up to a profound climax come the season’s end and its reverberations for future episodes will most certainly have the same effect.

Overview

Saul rallies his filming crew of college student for a fraudulent endeavour. We see him studying an old Mesa Verde commercial. Although mysterious, this is classic Jimmy whose plans unfold at the very last minute in a dramatic fashion. The commercial depicts Kevin Weikart’s father in a country setting as he looks upon a man on a horse with his son (actor likely). The shape/silhouette of the horse became the logo for the company. Jimmy wishes to recreate the commercial within a day or so, but the filming crew estimate at least a week to do so. They figure out that a green screen would take a shorter amount of time, so they proceed with it. Saul gathers around twenty actors in a single room (in the nail salon) and shoots. He’s director and is very particular with the expressions and appearance of the actors. It’s a mystery as to why he is doing this which is unraveled as the story develops.

Kim and Jimmy meet outside the salon during the shoot and after Kim’s finished work. Saul is taken aback when Kim mentions the settlement with Acker and Mesa Verde. Kim proposes a $75k payment and notes that she’ll be making up part of the sum to which Jimmy reluctantly and eventually agrees to.

A meeting is set up between Mesa Verde, composing of Kevin, a few of his staff, Schweikart and Kim. Saul Goodman then arrives with a bravado about him. He greets them. Kevin is desperate to clear the settlement and tells Saul to name his figure. Next, Goodman firmly declares that he is looking for a $4 million settlement to which everyone in the room is shocked especially a most bewildered Kim. Kim is angered and begins to deny Saul the right to claim this sum with her genuinely being caught off guard.

He proceeds with the reason for the fee lying in the commercial shoot he made earlier in the episode. Meanwhile, Kim is trying to pacify the atmosphere with Kevin enraged at Saul’s slander. Before uproar erupts, Saul plays the video in an orchestrated motion. The commercial is a parody of Kevin’s father’s piece and mocks the original footage of him. As this plays, we see a slideshow of faked complaints launched by the actors from the shoot and the green screen as Goodman advertises his services. Saul adds insult to injury when he displays the professional photograph of the horse and horse rider from the original commercial which the bank’s logo consists of. He tells them that their logo is a copyright infringement and he explains why as they sustain their shocked visage.

It’s a large scale defamation and blackmail stunt as Saul leaves with the tape which he says there are copies of and threatens to expose the copyright claim. Kim implores Kevin stay in the room after Jimmy leaves, but he manages to get out. He meets Jimmy in the parking lot, and they mull over the decision until Kevin gives in.

We join Mike at a library as he waits at the reception for a librarian. She happens to be a witness to a crime committed by Lalo Salamanca. Mike poses as a private investigator for the inflicted family who claim closure in finding the offender. He asks her if she remembers the car he drove. He lays out an image of the distinctive 70s Monte Carlo Lalo drives. She is reminded of the vehicle and confirms its presence. Mike asks her to lodge a complaint to the police via call specifically implicating the car to which she agrees.

The next time we see Mike is when he impersonates a police detective who berates a young employee who left a bunch of police reports on a coffee cart carelessly. We realise Mike perfectly timed the incident as we see a file beside the cart, supposedly dropped by the employee, which is picked up. These files were distributed among detectives, one of which was on the originally unsolved case, and the report matched the call in identification of the same Monte Carlo.

This issues a reopened investigation and Mike finds the car and uses a police scanner to call him in. Lalo is tracked down and surrounded with his nearby gun rendered impaired by the number of cop cars. The last we see of him is through an incredibly unique camera shot as the driver’s window is opened and his keys are dangling out as the camera angle points upwards from the ground directly beneath the keys.

Nacho is in an enormous and deserted warehouse of sort as Gus and Mike arrive to discuss business. Nacho spills on Lalo’s affairs as he was ordered to by Fring. Mike appears to Nacho’s bemusement as Gus explains his role in proceedings. Gus leaves and Nacho walks up to Mike to talk about his newfound employment in Gus’ gang. He warns him about the evil and precariousness of Gus and his dealings. Mike replies with prior acknowledgement and brings up the case where he hired Mike for a hit on Gus. Nacho says that his father’s life was on the line and Mike gains understanding.

The final scenes of the episode have a seriously tense atmosphere. Jimmy’s at home while Kim arrives from work. Jimmy is happy about the settlement, but Kim is outraged with him given his nerve. He attempts to justify his reasoning by saying he did it so in order for her to evoke genuine anger. Kim is unimpressed and curses him. As she retorts, she tells Jimmy that she is always being used and deceived by him. Jimmy says that it is for the good of the client at the end of the day, but Kim claims that it’s also a boost for personal happiness to which he confesses. The argument continues until Kim asks Jimmy to promise that he will stop misleading her. Jimmy cannot profess, so Kim proceeds to assert that they must go separate ways and break up or, and she pauses and stutters, get married.

Highlight

Jimmy leaves the courtroom with two clients who are reckless and distinctively dressed prostitutes. He asks them how much it is for an hour of their time to which we are shocked until the reason unfolds. Howard Hamlin is meeting an esteemed colleague/friend for lunch and Jimmy sends in these two women to have an argument in the restaurant about a fake outstanding payment. This is such a funny scene as Howard insists he doesn’t know them. It’s very embarrassing for him given the whole restaurant’s attention is garnered by the women.

Final Thoughts

There is so much entertainment value when Jimmy does this type of thing. Recently, it’s Howard’s ridicule that keeps him happy and engaged. It’s an odd hobby of his which breaks up the episode’s intense nature. Again, the show incorporates this comedy and it’s spot on once again.

This episode dropped a number of revelations. The acting was most impressive in this episode out of the entire season. I loved the way in which Jonathan Banks portrayed these two differing different characters in such a convincing way. He is an amazing actor who always manages to outdo himself in the role of the wise Mike Ehrmantraut. The genius of Gus Fring might I add for the orchestration of ratting out Lalo is another example of his image as a masterful tactician. I see him as one of the greatest tacticians in television history up there with Omar Little (The Wire 2002-2008) and Al Swearagen (Deadwood 2002-2004).

I’ve referred to Jimmy as Saul in his dealings with the commercial and Mesa Verde as this is his preferred moniker while at home when his façade is down as Jimmy.

The transition to Saul Goodman is in full motion now given his immense implementing of blackmail. This was a great shock and a bit unsettling given the sharp contrast with Kim’s largely orthodox and legal methods. I guess that’s why the episode is called ‘Wexler v. Goodman’. The title is interesting, and I expected a great rift between the two before the episode aired. This is what was given and in such a clever way which brought out the conniving nature of Saul which Kim detests. We see this dislike for Jimmy’s alter-ego at the start of the show as they meet as the nail salon. Rhea Seehorn puts in a brilliant performance in portraying this passive hatred which has been building up all season. This hatred erupted during her argument at the end of the episode. I commend the way that she depicted Kim’s frustration and split mindset with the stuttering at the end exemplifying this.

The cliff hangers this season have been gripping and this one is probably the most. I thoroughly enjoyed the episode and it’s probably the best of the season up there with the premiere.

Therefore, I’d rate it a 9.5/10.

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