Season 6, Episode 12: ‘Waterworks’
After years of blending in and keeping it low in Omaha, Gene Takavic, aka Saul Goodman, is about to cripple it. In the closing moments of this episode, he is ridiculed for good by a terrified but determined Marion, who has discovered the truth about her overly helpful boyfriend. All it took was a computer, Ask Jeeves, and a few key words: “Con man” and “Albuquerque.”
We still don’t know why Gene went from a skittish schmo with no profile to a high-risk house intruder. It was assumed that there was clues to be drawn from the conversation he had with Kim in the previous episode, but in this one we hear that conversation and nothing says, “This guy needs a lot of money, stat.” Scammers may have to scam Jimmy/Saul isn’t alive unless he’s cheating on someone and breaking the law. Maybe this isn’t a story about a man who needs money. It is a story about a man who cannot change.
If so, a strong distinction is made between Jimmy/Saul and Kim. We find her in Titusville, Florida, where she lives a completely pedestrian life and designs brochures for a sprinkler wholesaler. She seems quite happy with her handsome boyfriend and their suburban barbecue life. The justice-seeking lawyer in her has been destroyed, and we only get a brief glimpse into her former self when Kim flies to Albuquerque and visits the courthouse, where she looks jealously at a public defender. At a glance she sees the life she’s given up, the calling that attracted her so much that she devised a very vicious plan – to turn Howard Hamlin into a drug addict – to finance it.
Kim has returned to New Mexico to correct a mistake. She confesses everything in an affidavit, which she presents to both the prosecutors and Cheryl, Howard’s widow. It’s all there. Every little twist in the plot that buried Howard, including his murder by Lalo Salamanca. This drastic act happens right after that phone call from Jimmy/Saul in the previous episode.
“I’m still getting away with it,” says Jimmy/Saul.
“You have to turn yourself in,” Kim replies, after an awkward silence.
The Return of ‘Better Call Saul’
The Breaking Bad prequel ends this year.
“Why don’t you turn yourself in, since you’re the one with the guilty conscience,” says Jimmy/Saul. “What stops you?”
He then lists the people, all dead, who might be able to help get Kim involved. It reminds us that she could tell the authorities the whole truth, and without bodies and witnesses it might not matter.
It’s a point Kim herself makes when Cheryl asks if this conscience-cleansing statement poses any authentic legal danger. The truth is that Kim can get away with it too, even if she wants to be punished. Maybe that’s why she cries during the rental car ride. The carefree life is not available to her. It’s a predicament worthy of Dostoevsky, and it’s a particularly horrific fate considering that she was the one who conceived and pushed the plot against Howard. There was a time – it started at the end of season 5, to be exact – when Kim was the worst of this duo.
Not that Kim has become a saint. Note that she tells Cheryl one whopper – that Jimmy power being dead. (To be legal and specific, Kim says there are no living witnesses to events described in the affidavit, other than her ex-husband, “assuming he’s still alive.”) She knows he’s alive. She just spoke to him. Kim was always the better liar in this pair, and that’s still true.
But with her job and boyfriend in Florida, Kim ventured into a dull and law-abiding life. At first, it seemed hard to comprehend that she had managed to become an office worker whose life revolved around writing vivid descriptions of plastic pipes. It seems far removed from the valiant efforts she made for poor customers. Keep in mind, though, that Kim’s Crusade incarnation was relatively new. She worked for years as an associate at a law firm, then delved deeply into the intricacies of banking regulation as an advisor to Mesa Verde, a local bank with regional dreams. She’s done the boring office work before.
Whether she can maintain her mundane existence is a question that is no longer her only one to answer. Her affidavit also incriminates Jimmy, and he will at least have to run from the law. If he’s caught, the show could end with an episode where Kim goes up against Jimmy, back in Albuquerque, perhaps in a process that draws national attention. (“Consigliere of Dead Meth Baron involved with ex-wife!”)
Kim would be the only witness who could send Jimmy away. And it’s getting easier and easier to get a jail sentence for this man, isn’t it? In the last few episodes, the writers have put their collective and heavy thumbs on the scale by turning Saul/Gene into a monster. In this week’s episode, he appeared to be about to strangle Marion with a string, and before that, he seemed just as ready to peck a man cold with the urn containing his dog’s ashes.
This is a nerve-wracking turn of events. The show has ditched the idea that this is a story about love. The show will, it seems, culminate in asking questions of fairness and justice and perhaps mercy. Will Cheryl forgive Kim or sue her? Will Kim testify against Jimmy or spare him?
What ending does Saul Goodman deserve?
Odds and Ends
It’s great to see Jesse Pinkman return for yet another scene, one that takes place before he talks to Saul about releasing his friend Badger from prison, an event from the “Breaking Bad” timeline. His dialogue sounds completely organic. (“It’s crazy, like bananas, all that rain. I thought we were in a desert, you know?”)
But this feels a bit like stunt casting because it’s hard to see how his presence advances the story. The scene ends with Kim saying that Saul was a good lawyer when she knew him, underscoring the idea that the man she married no longer exists. That’s a point that could have been made without Jesse, and a point that’s pretty clear during the signing of the divorce papers moments earlier, when Saul feigns indifference as they rummage through the paperwork. It would have been great to learn something about Saul that we wouldn’t have known unless Jesse showed up. Or even something new about Jesse.
Fun fact: Kim represented Combo after he stole a daycare center.
Wait, another scene where Kim brushes her teeth?
Jeff’s panic and car accident seem unlikely, even to Jeff.
Saul/Gene uses the name Viktor St. Clair as a pseudonym when he mentions Kim, which she seems to recognize right away. Sounds familiar? It’s the name he used (“Viktor, with a K”) when he and Kim performed their first con together, on the foul-mouthed stockbroker Ken, back in the season 2 premiere (with help from a spiky bottle of Zafiro Añejo).
During that phone call, we learn that Kim has not taken the settlement money from Sandpiper Crossing. Her conscience has been tormenting her for a while.
Perhaps the best part of this episode is the way the writer and director, Vince Gilligan, has captured office life with such uncanny veracity. The birthday cakes, the Miracle Whip lunch talk, the ritualized passing of perforators from one employee to another – it’s all so dead. Offices like Palm Coast Sprinklers have been a part of television for a long time, but this is perhaps the most accurate representation Your Faithful Recapper has ever seen.
The next episode is the last. The end of an era! Feel free to make predictions in the comments section.