NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Better Call Saul” are present in this review
Better Call Saul seemed to be building a keen sense of momentum during last week’s episode, but surprisingly, that didn’t seem to totally stick this week. “Something Beautiful” managed to have enough going on to keep viewers engaged, but it’s also tough to deny that it sometimes slowed the pacing way down once again, not paying quite as many story dividends as last week either. Fortunately though, Breaking Bad fans got to reunite with another familiar face later in the episode, even if not much is done with him at this point.
This week’s episode of Better Call Saul at least starts off pretty engaging, as we see a lengthy and detailed sequence of how Nacho, Victor and Tyrus stage a faked death scenario for Arturo, in order to draw suspicion away from Gus. The three men make it appear as if Arturo died in a mysterious drive-by shooting in the middle of the desert, before Victor and Tyrus put two bullets in Nacho in turn, saying, “It has to look real.” Gus certainly isn’t pulling any punches with Nacho, and one has to wonder if this near-death experience that Gus is indirectly forcing upon Nacho is just another way to keep him in line. It was just sadistic enough to be effectively menacing, even without Gus being physically present at the staged crime scene.
Nacho does manage to call for help before passing out, thankfully, and this leads Marco and Leonel to him, in turn racing him to Caldera. Caldera happened to be coincidentally seeing Jimmy about another job around the same time, and this was a neat way to tease these future Breaking Bad connections, even before Jimmy becomes formally connected to these criminals in the near future. For now though, Caldera simply had to hastily fix up Nacho, just barely saving his life. There was a legitimate sense of dread as Nacho’s life hung in the balance, with an uncomfortable sense that he may or may not survive his injuries, and this played well with the general expectation of viewers that Nacho must somehow meet his end before the events of Breaking Bad begin. For now though, Nacho is living to fight another day, even if he does seem to have a bullet permanently stuck in his shoulder.
Even Jimmy got into some criminal dealings this week in fact, when he summons Mike to the local diner to try and talk him into swiping one of the Hummel figurines from the office he walked out on, which is apparently very valuable, and very difficult to discern from another, less valuable variant. Mike doesn’t want the job though, and that was it for the reunion between Jimmy and Mike after all this time. Oh come on, really? The show was keeping the two characters highly separate for a while, so having this be the end of their reunion is pretty unsatisfying, especially when Mike doesn’t even show up at all for the rest of the episode.
Jimmy does however manage to make contact with Caldera, and convinces him to enlist a criminal assistant, Ira, who manages to swap the figurines, but is surprised to see that Mr. Neff, the owner of the copier office, is sleeping there, having been kicked out by his wife. This presents another interesting situation of Jimmy having to go down and bail out Ira, which is kind of tense at times, and does have a couple of hair-raising moments, especially when Neff is more difficult to distract than previously suggested. Ultimately though, not much was done with this sequence, and it did feel like it was merely drawn-out so that Jimmy had something noteworthy to do this week. I get that the show is trying to nudge Jimmy closer to his criminal future, but so far, he just doesn’t seem to be in deep enough to fully engage viewers. Hopefully, he starts encountering more resistance soon.
The true highlight of the episode, which Breaking Bad fans will most notably enjoy, is the return of another familiar face from that former series. After Gus is warned of the staged attack on Arturo (oh, the irony), he learns that the Mexican drug trade may be disrupted, seemingly laying more crucial groundwork for the future events of Breaking Bad. In response to this issue then, Gus pays a visit to the local university and meets with none other than Gale Boetticher, his future would-be Walter White successor! This made for some really entertaining foreshadowing for the future events of Breaking Bad, as Gale talks about being able to make truly pure meth, since the samples that Gus has provided are very sub-par. Of course, Breaking Bad fans would know that Walter White will eventually create nearly perfectly pure meth, but this is nonetheless a great tease for things to come (albeit in another show), especially when Gus very unambiguously tells Gale that he is destined for, “Great things.” Again, if you’ve seen Breaking Bad, you’ll know that there’s a layer of ominousness underneath that seeming vote of confidence!
It’s really unfortunate that Jimmy’s core story arc fell a bit flat this week though, not really amounting to much beyond a slow-paced figurine heist that currently hasn’t gone anywhere. The episode does end with Kim seemingly emotionally falling apart after Jimmy reacts with apathy at Chuck’s letter, but again, nothing comes of this for now. Admittedly, there is a small aftertaste of, “Beautiful Things” feeling like a filler episode for Better Call Saul, though granted, much of this feeling comes purely from Jimmy’s end. The criminal storylines remained fairly strong this week, especially when the show continues to flirt with the idea of Nacho’s seemingly inevitable doom. It could be further indication of how engaging last week’s episode was though, since this week’s episode felt noticeably slower and a bit less rewarding. It’s still early in the season though, so there’s plenty of time for Jimmy’s storyline in particular to pick up, especially when Kim’s buried emotional discord is bound to start spilling out any minute.