Monday, May 9, 2022

REVIEW: 'Better Call Saul' - Life Is Pure Agony as Everyone Waits for Inevitable Confrontations to Occur in 'Black and Blue'

AMC's Better Call Saul - Episode 6.05 "Black and Blue"

While business booms for Jimmy, the vise tightens on the cat-and-mouse game between Gus and Lalo.

"Black and Blue" was written by Alison Tatlock and directed by Melissa Bernstein

It's agonizing to wait for some big dramatic moment or confrontation to happen. And yet, that emotional response is created because of knowledge of the overall picture. Both the characters and the audience understand the inevitable confrontations that are about to occur. The viewer also has the gift of knowing which characters survive to continue their stories in Breaking Bad. The power in this particular moment is the terror of not being able to do something productive. These characters are smart and capable. They can achieve so much. When uncertainty lingers over their worlds, they fear what will happen if they aren't too careful. They can prepare for so much. As time passes, it's agonizing to worry over all that may not occur. They can prepare for so many possibilities. They are left guessing as to when something will happen that will dramatically shake up their lives. Until then, they just have to wait and hope they can handle whatever comes their way. These characters can recognize the actions of one another. However, plenty of them have no clue that the other exists. That's a result of the various worlds largely being kept separate. That makes it easy to cheer whenever the narratives collide in a significant way - like Mike and Kim's first meeting in the previous episode. So many themes are carried across this narrative. Howard has the luxury of confronting Jimmy even while knowing it probably won't get him to change whatsoever. Gus doesn't have that privilege. As such, he is losing control due to his paranoia. He could be vulnerable during any aspect of his life. Howard feels entitled to strike back. Jimmy goes along with the boxing match out of guilt. At least that's how Kim explains it. Jimmy knows what's coming next. Howard has no clue. He doesn't approach this situation naively. He knows Jimmy won't stop going after him. It's the action he must take in order to restore some sense of dignity. He believes the world can still operate with some decorum. Jimmy should respect that mentality. He doesn't. Again, it highlights the insular way Howard views the world. Everything happening to him is a result of Jimmy's antics. He wants to dismiss Kim as an innocent bystander being pulled into the drama. She created the scheme. She may be lying awake at night in fear of Lalo returning to seek vengeance. However, she is the true mastermind. She is the one aware of the stakes in every possible avenue. She protects Jimmy to a certain extent. That may only be her self-preservation instincts kicking in to ensure Jimmy doesn't get distracted from his new legal work or the plot against Howard. That is equally plausible on Kim's part. She wants control. It's terrifying when she can't have it no matter how hard she tries.

Jimmy and Kim aren't worried about Howard catching on to them. In fact, they may have already factored that into their plan. They too may respect his wisdom and insight into their behavior. This isn't the first time Jimmy has used prostitutes or Kim to try to harm Howard. It may be the most effective plan so far simply because Kim designed it and it's the final season. Howard laughs off the accusations when Cliff raises them. He has total clarity while Cliff is worried for his friend. Every charismatic move of legal brilliance may forever be shrouded by the high of addiction. Cliff can see those warning signs when everyone else has concerns about the Sandpiper case. Howard can steer everything effectively. The boxing match is still a play to his ego. He wants to punch back at the person causing so much disruption. He wants to know everything Jimmy does throughout his day. That may not be enough. He simply can't prepare for how Jimmy and Kim are now using the law and perception of reality against him. They are the psychological predators waiting to catch their prey in the most opportune moment. Gus feels similarly. He wants to pounce against Lalo. He wants to take down this one remaining threat to his operation. He has endured so much disruption already. He can't complete his plans for an underground lab. That entire project has been put on hold. Lalo was responsible for that. He could see Gus making his moves against the cartel. As seen in Breaking Bad, Gus pulls off this deception without anyone becoming aware. That sets a certain expectation for this conflict. But it's also fueled by Gus not being able to carry out basic tasks. He is erratic everywhere. He projects a calm sense of strength. The cracks are more visible now than ever before. He knows Lalo is alive. He can't let his guard down. He also sees the inevitability that this conflict will end in the unfinished lab. That's the only place that narratively makes sense. Gus can lead knowing that certainty. It's the only thing he may have control over. The audience gets a reprieve mostly by becoming aware of where Lalo is. He has traveled to Germany to look for any clues from Werner's wife. He can charm her way into her life. It doesn't end with him killing her. However, he finds the prize that makes this whole quest for vengeance worth it. The action pointed out the pivotal clue to the audience right away by depicting how this ruler was encased. It holds sentimental value. Lalo sees opportunity. What he aspires to do with it remains completely unknown. And so, the dread and agony continue. The show carries these emotional responses with care and consideration. It also leaves the expectation of a very climatic conclusion. The buildup has been tedious. The payoff has to be immaculate - which it more than likely will be given the attention to detail present across the entire run of the show.