Season 6, Episode 12: ‘Waterworks’
After years of blending in and keeping low in Omaha, Gene Takavic, a.k.a. Saul Goodman, is about to lam it. In the closing moments of this episode, he is outed for good by a terrified but determined Marion, who has discovered the truth about her overly helpful pal. All it took was a computer, Ask Jeeves and a few key words: “Con man” and “Albuquerque.”
We still don’t know why Gene changed from a skittish, no-profile schmo into a risk-addled home invader. One assumed that there were clues to be gleaned from the conversation he had with Kim in the previous episode, but in this one, we hear that conversation and nothing about it says, “This guy needs a lot of cash, stat.” It might be that swindlers need to swindle, that Jimmy/Saul isn’t alive unless he is ripping someone off and skirting the law. Perhaps this isn’t a story about a man who needs money. It’s a story about a man who can’t change.
If so, it sets up a stark distinction between Jimmy/Saul and Kim. We find her in Titusville, Fla., living an utterly pedestrian life designing brochures for a sprinkler wholesaler. She seems reasonably happy with her hunky boyfriend and their suburban, backyard-barbeque life. The justice-seeking lawyer in her has been quashed, and we get only the briefest peek at her former self when Kim flies to Albuquerque and visits the courthouse, where she looks enviously at a public defender. In a glance, she sees the life she has abandoned, the calling that drew her with such force that she hatched a very nasty scheme — to frame Howard Hamlin as a drug addict — in order to fund it.
Kim has returned to New Mexico to right a wrong. She confesses everything in an affidavit, which she presents both to prosecutors and to Cheryl, Howard’s widow. It’s all there. Every petty twist in the plot that buried Howard, including his murder at hands of Lalo Salamanca. This drastic act happens right after that call from Jimmy/Saul in the previous episode.
“I’m still getting away with it,” Jimmy/Saul says.
“You should turn yourself in,” Kim replies, after a painful silence.
The Return of ‘Better Call Saul’
The “Breaking Bad” prequel is ending this year.
“Why don’t you turn yourself in, seeing as you’re the one with the guilty conscience,” Jimmy/Saul says. “What is stopping you?”
He then lists the people, all dead, who could possibly help implicate Kim. It’s a reminder that she could tell the authorities the whole truth, and without any bodies and any witnesses, it might not matter.
It’s a point that Kim herself makes when Cheryl asks whether this conscience-cleansing affidavit comes with any authentic legal peril. The truth is that Kim can keep getting away with it, too, even if she wants to be punished. Maybe that’s why she cries during the ride on the rental car bus. The unburdened life is unavailable to her. It’s a predicament worthy of Dostoyevsky, and it’s an especially gruesome fate given that she was the one who conceived and pushed for the scheme against Howard. There was a time — it started at the end of Season 5, to be precise — when Kim was the more wicked of this duo.
Not that Kim has become a saint. Note that she tells Cheryl one whopper — that Jimmy might be dead. (To be lawyerly and specific about it, Kim says that 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 couple, and that is still true.
But with her job and boyfriend in Florida, Kim was taking a stab at a dull and law-abiding life. At first, it seemed hard to fathom that she had managed to become an office worker whose life revolved around writing vivid descriptions of plastic tubing. It seems a long way from the valiant efforts she made on behalf of indigent clients. Remember though, that the crusading incarnation of Kim was relatively new. She worked for years as an associate at a law firm, and then she burrowed deep into the intricacies of banking regulations as counsel to Mesa Verde, a local bank with regional dreams. She’s done the office drudgery thing before.
Whether she can keep her quotidian existence is a question that is no longer hers alone to answer. Her affidavit incriminates Jimmy, too, and at minimum, he is going to need to run from the law. If he is caught, the show could end with an episode that pits Kim against Jimmy, back in Albuquerque, perhaps in a trial that garners national attention. (“Consigliere of Dead Meth Baron Implicated by Ex-Wife!”)
Kim would be the only witness who could send Jimmy away. And it’s getting easier to root for some jail time for this guy, is it not? 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’ episode, he appeared to be on the verge of strangling Marion with a cord, and earlier he seemed every bit as ready to cold-cock a man with the urn containing the ashes of his dog.
This is a nervy turn of events. The show has ditched the idea that this is a narrative about love. The show will culminate, it seems, by posing questions about fairness and justice and maybe 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 occurs before he goes to speak to Saul about springing his friend Badger out of jail, an event from the “Breaking Bad” timeline. His dialogue sounds utterly organic. (“It’s crazy, like bananas, all this rain. I thought we were, like, in a desert, you know?”)
But this feels a bit like stunt casting because it’s hard to see how his presence moves the story forward. The scene ends with Kim saying that Saul was a good lawyer back when she knew him, underscoring the notion that the man she married no longer exists. That’s a point that could have been made without Jesse, and one that is pretty obvious during the signing of the divorce papers, moments earlier, when Saul feigns indifference as they muddle through the paperwork. It would have been great to learn something about Saul we could not have known unless Jesse showed up. Or even something new about Jesse.
Fun fact: Kim represented Combo after he stole a creche.
Wait, another scene of Kim brushing her teeth?
Jeff’s freak out and car wreck seem implausible, even for Jeff.
Saul/Gene uses the name Viktor St. Clair as a pseudonym when he calls Kim, which she appears to recognize immediately. Sound familiar? It’s the name he used (“Viktor, with a K”) when he and Kim ran their first con together, on the foul-mouthed stockbroker Ken, back in the Season 2 premiere (with help from a spiky-topped bottle of Zafiro Añejo).
We learn during that phone conversation that Kim did not take the Sandpiper Crossing settlement money. Her conscience has been plaguing her for a while.
Perhaps the best part of this episode is the way that its writer and director, Vince Gilligan, captured office life with such uncanny verisimilitude. The birthday cakes, the Miracle Whip lunch talk, the ritualized passing of hole punchers from one employee to another — it’s all so dead on. Offices like that of Palm Coast Sprinklers have been a part of television for a long time, but this might be the most accurate depiction of it 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.