Monday, August 8, 2022

REVIEW: 'Better Call Saul' - A Phone Call Between Saul and Kim Awakens Something New in Both of Them in 'Waterworks'

AMC's Better Call Saul - Episode 6.12 "Waterworks"

The stakes are raised when a discovery is made.

"Waterworks" was written by Vince Gilligan and directed by Vince Gilligan

Marion is not okay. A wanted fugitive is standing in her kitchen. His name is Saul Goodman. Gene wanted to embrace that persona again. As such, it's not shocking when someone recognizes him. Marion only has to search for Albuquerque conman on her new computer. She essentially gets lost in the realization that this man has scammed his way into her life and gotten her son into so much trouble. Jeff was suppose to be safe in Omaha as he was away from these mischievous influences. Danger can truly lurk anywhere in this world. No place is especially safe. It's all a matter of personal interactions. It's an understanding of how far one person will go to achieve their desired outcome. A phone call between Saul and Kim is all it takes to completely awaken something new within each of them. Saul is the main instigator though. It's not like he went into the phone booth as Gene and came out as Saul. He was purely in survival mode. He saw the potential for Kim's love again. Instead, he was greeted by almost complete indifference. As such, he needed to go bigger with his proclamations. He needed to brag about still being alive while the FBI has no clue where he is. He got away with all of it. It's a sad projection. Francesca just told him the feds discovered all of his secret accounts. He's not actively running any scams either. This is simply how Saul Goodman behaves with the woman he once loved. That love no longer mattered. They were bad for each other. A lot of parallels can be made between the life Gene has in Omaha and what Kim has built in central Florida. However, a key distinction is also apparent. This is a life forced onto Gene to avoid criminal punishment while Kim actively created this world free of temptation. It's purposefully bland and lifeless. It's a sad reality. She is punishing herself for the destruction she caused in Albuquerque. Howard's legacy is as a drug addict. That came entirely from Jimmy and Kim's lies. They wanted him to suffer. Kim has never been able to forget about what happened with Lalo. However, she has found a comfortable life where it's no longer at the forefront of her mind. Instead, that space is given over to a bland dude she's dating and the small collection of friends she has at home and at work. She still commits herself to the job at the sprinkler company. That aspect of Kim's personality never changed. And yet, the physicality in which she carries herself and presents herself to the world is remarkably different. She no longer operates with confidence because those quick decisions led to so much destruction. By the end of her time with Jimmy, she was driving the con more than he ever could. She still says he was a good lawyer when she knew him. But again, what does that matter at the end of all of this?

The phone conversation is instigated by Saul. He's the one who behaves in such an obnoxious and over-the-top way. The audience has seen his side of the conversation where he takes out his frustration and anger. The action here is squarely placed on Kim. This is a blast from her past. It's an aspect of her world that was once so meaningful. It's encouraging to know she survived the events of Breaking Bad. She emerged on the other side of the timeline. She's also serious when she tells Saul to turn himself in. He believes she's joking. He then plays up the schtick. It's absolutely hypocritical. Kim accepts that and then does something about it. They both essentially return to their roots. For Kim, that means physically being in Albuquerque once more. For Saul, it's all about embracing the tactics that once brought him so much notoriety. He understands that he can never go to certain places again. He has to be careful with every single action. He can't walk into a police precinct. The odds are high that someone will recognize him. That potential always lurks. He can never control what someone else will do or say. He would love to operate with that authority. There is no reason why Buddy shouldn't rob the cancer patient just like he has done with so many prior marks. It's absolutely tense as Saul walks through that apartment. He witnesses an entire life of a man passed out on the floor below. The owner is completely oblivious to the threat that lurks right behind him. Saul is a terrifying figure. He is more than capable of threatening others to get what he wants. He ultimately doesn't have to follow through on that action. The mark conveniently falls back asleep while Saul can't compel himself to kill Marion. Something overcomes him in each moment. In the apartment, he's more than willing to kill. That's because this is a reaction to his time with Walter White. That relationship proved to be more costly than anything else. It's what Saul blames for his current predicament. And yet, the narrative has been very keen on pointing out that Saul was capable of destructive actions long before he met Heisenberg. In fact, the moment they met their lives were transformed. They achieved a new level of notoriety. They were engaging in criminal behavior before that interaction occurred. As such, they felt the freedom to indulge in more. That is the essence of this story. Saul simply can't walk away. Everything was an escalation. Kim left. And yet, the journey still takes her right back to the courthouse. She makes an official confession and then shares it with Cheryl. She details what truly happened to Howard.

Do consequences carry anything significant in this world though? Kim notes the district attorney may not criminally charge her because of a lack of physical evidence. The only person who can corroborate her story is a wanted fugitive. Kim knows Saul is still alive. She doesn't know if he will ever get caught. He may never cooperate with what Kim is now trying to do. She simply owns up to her part. She was still cold and cruel in the aftermath of Howard's murder. She twisted the knife in even deeper. Leaving Jimmy was seen as the action that changed her life. It was still an embrace of freedom. It came at the expense of so many. Plenty of figures from her former life are now dead. Saul wields those names with so much power. He hopes to make this story of the past completely irrelevant. All that matters is what happens now. People have changed. New hairstyles and wardrobes can only cover up so much. Gene is immediately recognizable as Saul Goodman. People just need that awareness to look. Marion grows suspicious solely because of the trouble Jeff is in. Gene believes he can create any lie that Marion will believe. She simply can't reckon with the fact that Jeff called him from prison instead of her. Her world is destroyed. That's apparently the fate for anyone who becomes involved with Saul. And now, he's running for his life all over again. The manhunt for his arrest is reignited once more. The feds have their first sighting in years. Gene can no longer hide out in this life. He simply got greedy and needed more. He could only deflect for so long. There is so much for him to be held accountable for as well. It's more than just the crimes Walter White and Jesse Pinkman committed. Saul was more than a passenger in their endeavors. He inspired so much. The only true question left is how much he is willing to let others suffer along the way. His downfall is imminent. He has been exposed. It's cathartic for Kim as she can finally realize all these pent-up emotions from her time in Albuquerque. Her breakdown at the airport is so visceral and impressive given what Rhea Seehorn has already accomplished on this show. Saul could easily destroy Kim's world all over again. She couldn't warn others of that potential. She had to make a clean break from this world. That may not have been the smartest thing she could have done. It was the choice she made to preserve herself. That was healthy for a little while. It's still devastating to see her deny such a significant part of what she's good at. Walking in that world again is comforting because she sees others willing to do the good work. Saul is simply dangerous enough to throw all of this into chaos at least one more time.