CERT: 15 | STARRING: BOB ODENKIRK, RHEA SEEHORN, JONATHAN BANKS, GIANCARLO ESPOSITO | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Season Four of the exemplary Breaking Bad sequel sees oily wannabe lawyer Jimmy McGill (Odenkirk) – suspended from practising for pretty much the duration of the series - starting to properly embrace his ‘Saul Goodman’ persona as the show edges closer to the timeline of the series that spawned the character. Better Call Saul sails under most people’s radars, but it remains one of the best, most breath-takingly produced series on television. It’s a series put together with utter devotion to the world it inhabits and now, as it starts to drift within sight of Breaking Bad, a determination to reconcile the worlds of both series and satisfy those fans who adored the exploits of Walter White and co and have stayed true to Jimmy/Saul on his journey towards the ultimate fate we know is in store for him.
We pick up in the immediate aftermath of the death of Jimmy’s tortured brother Chuck (Michael McKean who cameos in a couple of timely flashbacks in this run) and, appallingly, Jimmy’s guilt and grief are assuaged the moment his brother’s former law partner Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) appears to admit his part in the process which led to Chuck’s apparent suicide. Jimmy takes this opportunity to absolve himself of any responsibility and sets about crafting a new life and career for himself as he waits for the chance to become reinstated as a lawyer. His partner Kim (the always brilliant Rhea Seehorn) is struggling as a sole practitioner and eventually finds herself drawn back to the dark side of Jimmy’s scams and cons. Meanwhile, Mike Ehrmantraut (Banks) is drawn deeper into the world of the urbane Gus Pring (Esposito) as he plans to set up the infamous crystal meth superlab which was to feature so heavily in Breaking Bad while simultaneously dominating and sabotaging the gangland activities of the hospitalised Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis). It’s heady, absorbing stuff but, as ever, it’s not for an impatient audience; Better Call Saul moves at its own pace and is more concerned with character colour, nuance, detail and atmosphere than action and spectacle. The writing across all ten episodes here is astonishing, the performances sublime, and the series is easily the best-photographed show on TV, its use of music and montage often helping to tell its story with an audacious economy.
There’s much to enjoy and admire in the show’s second-string plotlines, but Better Call Saul really comes alive when Jimmy and Kim are on screen, and it’s their storyline which is the most compelling and most intriguing. Season Four sees their relationship slowly crumble due to their inability or unwillingness to communicate with one another, but they finally pick up the pieces when Kim finds Jimmy’s dodgy dealings more alluring than her own mundane career. And yet, the pair seem set to split apart for good in the wake of the events of the last episode in which Kim helps Jimmy appeal against the practising board’s decision, in the previous episode, to refuse to return his licence. In an episode as engrossing as anything you’re likely to see on television this year and which also sees Mike forced into crossing a line to protect the secret of Gus’s lab, the very last scene – and the last line of dialogue – will send a shiver along the spine of any fan, leaving you gasping for Season Five.
Effortlessly brilliant, Better Call Saul Season Four is nearly-flawless stuff, sagging only occasionally and briefly when the focus moves from Jimmy and Kim and this superb box set (HD was made for long-form television as well-crafted as this) is a reminder of the glory days of physical media, with commentaries for every episode and a string of well-considered featurettes.