Last week, we talked about how Better Call Saul had for all intents and purposes split into two separate but equally compelling shows: Jimmy's story is the emotional punch to the gut dressed up like a law procedural, while Mike's story is the perpetual b-plot that is basically really good Breaking Bad prequel fanfic. But for the first time in a long while, Jimmy and Mike's stories crossed paths in last night's episode "Witness." And while Jimmy's biblical feud with his brother provided the most devastating moments of the episode, there's no way we can get this started without addressing the chicken-sized elephant in the room: the return of the ABQ's favorite fried chicken (and meth) purveyor, Gustavo Fring.
What is the inverse of a spoiler? That's what the return of Gus Fring has been for Saul. The show announced his return in January with an official Q&A with actor Giancarlo Esposito, then plastered his face on some of the major key art for the new season. Creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould used the season two episode titles to not-so-secretly announce, FRING'S BACK (even though they hadn't actually worked out a deal with Esposito yet). Hell, AMC even erected some very popular Los Pollos Hermanos pop-ups to celebrate.
So there was nothing truly surprising about Gus's return. What was tantalizing was the way in which the show used the audience's expectations to tease out the return, to play with our knowledge vs. Jimmy's limited information, and to wrack up the tension in a few Breaking Bad-worthy moments. The two best scenes: when the camera pulls back from Mike's stakeout to reveal the Hermanos sign (complete with horror movie scoring), and the near-silent scene in Hermanos which climaxes with Gus out of focus in the background while Jimmy concentrates on the dead drop guy.
It was also a clever way of having a close encounter between Jimmy and Gus without rewriting history—if you'll recall, Saul Goodman didn't know Fring's real identity when he first got together with Walt (Saul was also hurt when he realized Mike had been working for Gus the whole time). How these relationships develop, especially between Mike and Gus, will be pretty fun to watch in the coming weeks. Esposito will be a major part of the new season, as he explained to EW:
“He completely knows what Jimmy is doing and is just relaxed and calm about it, because before anyone even walks in the door, Gus sees what’s going on,” Esposito tells EW. “It’s not really worry about Jimmy. Gus is smart enough to know that Jimmy has just brought someone else here. … That scene establishes Gus’ tentacles and what he knows. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he knew that they were coming before they came. His awareness that something is about to happen — because he’s been having his guys track Mike for a while — is clear, so in a way the audience is catching up, after Gus made certain moves already. We haven’t seen the moves that Gus has made to be able to research what Mike is doing and who he is, but he’s had time to suss that out. And I like the fact that they throw back in the feeling of Breaking Bad, Gus knowing, thus complicating the story, especially for Saul Goodman. You know [Gus] is going to meet Mike, and you know that’s going to have to happen soon, but how will he next meet Saul Goodman is the interesting question.”
And for those of you looking for some sort of surprise, there were two big ones. First, there was the unannounced return of Victor, aka the Fring associate who Gus killed in Breaking Bad's season four premiere by slicing his neck open with a box cutter. Then there was the origin of Francesca, the future secretary for The Offices of Saul Goodman & Associates. "She seems like this wonderful, hopeful young woman who has her whole life ahead of her," Gilligan told EW about her at this early stage of the story, six years before the events of Breaking Bad. "She’s this dewy-eyed naïf who seems happy to be there, and seems like a wonderful assistant. Obviously, Saul Goodman is going to crush the life out of her for years to come."
But the best scene in the entire episode (see above clip) has nothing to do with Breaking Bad and everything to do with the present mess that Jimmy and Chuck are in. It comes at the very end, as Chuck's plan to entrap Jimmy works like a charm (poor Ernie took the bait after all and told Kim about the tape). Jimmy is devastated to learn that his brother taped his confession, and his resignation curdles into fury, leading to the final confrontation in front of Howard and the private investigator.
We've never seen Jimmy this angry before, bringing up everything he can to hurt his brother (that includes making a reference to Rebecca leaving Chuck). His rage blinds him to the trap he's just fallen into: "For this, you've destroyed our family? Are you happy now? For what? For nothing!" And like that, Jimmy will now get to know the criminal justice system in a whole new way.
The Honorary Huell Babineaux 'What The Huell Else' Section:
- I mean, they even included footage from this very episode in a behind-the-scenes teaser from before the new season aired! Did anyone in the world NOT know Gus was coming back at this point?
The start of the episode sets up a nice symmetry between Chuck waiting for Jimmy to come over to destroy the tape, and Mike patiently tracking the people tracking him.
- It's hard to keep track of where Kim is at emotionally right now (is she fully supporting Jimmy, or is her resentment over his carelessness and their business/personal arrangement metastasizing?). I hope we get a few spotlight episodes on her soon, considering how fantastic Rhea Seehorn was last season.
- Classic Jimmy: "Hey, who's got your back? Me, that's who."
- The new logo at Jimmy and Kim's office really does look like a stock market crash.
- And here's the preview for next week's episode, "Sunk Costs."