Monday, August 1, 2022

REVIEW: 'Better Call Saul' - Gene Reverts to His Former Self to Deflect From the Emotional Damage He Caused in 'Breaking Bad'

AMC's Better Call Saul - Episode 6.11 "Breaking Bad"

The partners escalate their enterprise to new levels.

"Breaking bad" was written by Thomas Schnauz and directed by Thomas Schnauz

Jimmy McGill has embodied three distinct identities over the course of the series. They have all been true and practical in their own ways. However, they each serve as a projection for what he believes he needs to be in order to survive. They are coping mechanisms for his inability to handle the emotional ramifications of his actions. So much is informed by his inherent need to take risks in pursuit of financial reward. That's what drives him forward despite the danger it always brings to his world. It's the same pattern that has played out over and over again. He makes the same mistakes because he can't fundamentally help himself. He can live peacefully and quietly for a little while. When faced with the weight of what he's done though, he needs to deflect. He has to focus his attention elsewhere in order to avoid handling the truly momentous thing happening in his life. Kim escaped this world entirely after Howard and Lalo's deaths. It probably wasn't easy. She has likely had slip-ups from time to time too. She still made the active decision to end things with Jimmy and stop being a lawyer. Those were absolutely devastating choices. It was done to avoid the toxic pursuits that those qualities brought out of her. Working at a sprinkler company in Florida may not be the fate anyone wanted for Kim. It's the life she currently enjoys while Gene is hiding out in Omaha. She escaped to a world that wasn't full of murders and criminal schemes. Meanwhile, Jimmy and Gene are continually chasing the high that only Saul Goodman can seemingly profound. It's absolutely pivotal to witness Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul playing Walter White and Jesse Pinkman again. They are more than pointless cameos as well. The storytelling doesn't reveal some new conflict that once dominated Saul's working relationship with the meth dealers. Instead, it enhances how Saul actively chose to become a part of their lives. He knows what it's like to plead for his life. He still falls back into the pattern of believing Lalo has risen from the dead to finish the job. The situation he actually finds himself in is still deadly. The bag is removed from his head to reveal a grave dug for him. He can't escape that fate even though he infers the situation isn't that serious. He can form a bond with these guys. Saul Goodman sees an easy mark. One that won't be alive long enough to further spoil the riches Saul has accumulated. And yet, so much goes awry in that one year. That damage lingers on Gene to the point where he can't help himself. He projects his feelings onto others. Plenty get caught up in his schemes. Many more are left to deal with the consequences.

The mall heist was mostly harmless in the grand scheme of things. Gene conducted it all for a distinct purpose. He needed to ensure Jeff would never tell anyone about his presence in Omaha. He could continue living the life he built for himself. That was a threat he could handle. He didn't need the expertise of anyone else. Gene is devastated upon learning the feds found every account of money he had tucked away. Francesca can offer him no hope. He maintained this connection in Albuquerque believing it could restore all that was lost. Instead, he's greeted with Francesca who has very little patience for him and mostly just wants to collect the money waiting for her in the desert. She does act with compassion in the end though. She offers a few updates to characters still alive at the conclusion of Breaking Bad and El Camino. Skylar got a deal with the feds. Huell made it back to New Orleans without facing any legal jeopardy. Those are so impersonal to Gene. It doesn't even matter that Saul Goodman and Jesse Pinkman remain at the top of the most wanted list. Instead, Gene only sees the glimpse of his former life as Jimmy when Kim reached out in the aftermath of this destruction. She checked in on Francesca after the arrests and murders. That could have been a massive trigger for her. It carries that impact on Gene. He sees it as a path towards potential reconciliation. They could reunite and have fun together as a couple once more. That's not destined to be. The audience doesn't hear the phone conversation they share. It all plays out in Gene's immediate actions. He's enraged. He destroys the phone booth in several ways. All of this spurs him on to take new action. Everything that once mattered to him is gone. He could live a contained life as Gene Takavoc for awhile. It never seems like it could have lasted. The lines were always going to blur for him once more. That too shows such inspiration within the directing. The black-and-white format of Gene's world was always meant to show how void of life this was for him. As such, it's powerful to see it intercut with the vivid colors of Saul's adventures during the Breaking Bad timeline. Beyond that color scheming though, Gene's actions resemble what Saul embodied. Now, he's trying to hurt people in order to enjoy it. He must inflict that harm as retribution for the emotional void within him. It's right back to the life he embraced fully after Kim left. Her latest rejection causes him to act even more recklessly.

All of this is a sudden reversal of Gene's last conversation with Jeff and Buddy. He warned them of their destruction should they ever speak of the heist they did together. A conspiracy would doom them all. And now, Gene shows up at Marion's house once more eager to cook up a new scheme. He sees this as a resource he can control. He is in charge. He may hopefully get to regain some of the money he lost because he underestimated Walter White. Saul was advised not to seek out an ongoing relationship with the infamous Heisenberg. He ignored that because he saw potential without the same trauma inflicted on him by Lalo. Even Mike fails to heed his own warning. Wars broke out in Albuquerque because Walter also liked being the drug kingpin. No one could have expected that. Saul Goodman escaped. He took on a new identity. He could embrace the tactics of his past once more to help him out of dangerous situations. But now, he's actively courting that attention and drama. He's risking it all just to feel something again. Of course, nothing can ease his suffering. He simply knows how to be a conman. He picks lonely and obnoxious men out of bars for the distinct purpose of stealing their identities and draining their accounts before they realize anything is wrong. Again, it's fun to see the montage of how this scheme comes together. Sure, it seems like a huge risk for Buddy to bring his dog along with him on the jobs. That also speaks to how seriously the crew drugs their victims. They are completely unsuspecting. They are vulnerable to exploitation. And then, Gene runs into a guy who happens to have cancer. In that moment, all rational concerns leave the chat. Instead, Gene projects all his frustrations towards Walter White onto this unassuming guy who works in finance. Him having cancer means absolutely nothing. It shouldn't change anyone's actions. It's the moment where people realize the damage being done. None of this could ever be seen as having fun. The seriousness of the schemes radiates from the very beginning. Gene assumes the Viktor identity once more. However, it lacks the flair that was once evident with Jimmy as Viktor and Kim as Giselle. Now, it's just sad and depressing. It's still lucrative. It also leaves Gene breaking into a house and leaving a trail of evidence. That's what he must do to flex his own stability. He's nothing of the sort. He's unsteady and willing to cause more destruction. That was the consequence of his past. He refused to escape this world. He probably couldn't even if he wanted to. That's the heartbreaking realization amongst all of this. The pattern simply repeats as Saul Goodman emerges in full form once more.