NOTE: Spoilers from throughout the fourth season of, “Better Call Saul” are present in this review
Better Call Saul appears to be heading into its final couple of seasons now, despite AMC still not really firmly declaring when the show is set to end yet. Nonetheless, the end does seem to be near for Better Call Saul, especially when Season Four delivered the most ambitious Breaking Bad tie-ins to date, namely since it finally ends with Jimmy McGill re-instated as a lawyer, and finally ready to practice law under his iconic Saul Goodman identity. The show is starting to come full circle, with the tragic story of the birth of Saul Goodman clearly entering its final stretch, as the series timeline begins to rapidly catch up with the events of Breaking Bad by the end of this latest season, no doubt spelling trouble for several of the Better Call Saul personalities that we know are obviously not around by the time Breaking Bad begins.
The season immediately begins with a pretty big shake-up to much of the show’s lead ensemble as well, since Jimmy’s brother, Chuck did indeed successfully commit suicide after the cliffhanger conclusion of Season Three, and his death has a profound effect on Jimmy’s circles. Now free of his brother’s influence, Jimmy’s morality and dedication to his ideals with the law are no longer constantly being put to the test, though at the same time, the loss of Chuck now leaves Jimmy completely without a moral tether. Jimmy certainly did run wild at several points this season too, creating an illicit criminal privacy business out of a temporary job at a dead-end cellphone store, and committing law-bending figurine swaps that saw him make a tidy profit from jobs that he previously turned down, among other questionable practices.
It was very engaging and fulfilling to see Jimmy constantly feel less encumbered and less honest throughout Season Four of Better Call Saul, now that Chuck is gone, allowing us to best appreciate just what exactly Chuck brought to the show’s dynamic, back when he was alive. We also see the loss of Chuck have a knock-on effect with Jimmy’s better half, Kim Wexler to boot, as Kim also sees several dramatic shifts that eventually place her in her own precarious position with Jimmy. The season’s utilization of a time jump just over the halfway point served Kim best of all, as she settles into a prestigious new job at Schweikart & Cokely, only to later grow distant and dissatisfied with Jimmy, until some legal trouble with Huell once again has her embracing her own dishonest side. The pathological desire for dishonesty and beating the system feels like something that’s as eccentrically romantic as it is genuinely destructive for both Jimmy and Kim, but even Kim seeming shocked and appalled at Jimmy’s gusto with which he embraces his Saul Goodman identity at the end of the season should tell you something about this twisted hobby between the two of them soon going several steps too far. Considering that Kim is not around during the events of Breaking Bad, something very bad is no doubt about to happen here.
Jimmy really was the star of the show during the season’s latter half (and that’s certainly appropriate), though the first half of Season Four felt like it definitely best served the criminal storylines, namely from the perspectives of Mike and Gus. Mike settling into his new job as Madrigal Electromotive’s ‘security consultant’ by the start of Season Four already started tying together the last remaining connective tissue for his story arc between Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad, but Mike’s real draw this season came from supervising the construction of Gus’ meth superlab in the laundry facility, which will eventually be used by Walt and Jesse during the events of Breaking Bad. Mike hiring and subsequently befriending Werner Ziegler, the head of an industrious team of German engineers that are tasked with building the lab, carries its own mix of so-close-yet-so-far moral struggle, as Mike finds his way back to some semblance of human contact outside of family, only to have to put Werner down on Gus’ orders at the end of the season, when Werner escapes the highly secretive construction site to sneak off to his wife. Thus erodes the last of Mike’s professional humanity, filling in an essential hole as to why Mike’s story arc goes to the inhuman places that it does during the events of Breaking Bad. Mike’s interactions with Jimmy may have been disappointingly non-existent in Season Four, outside of one failed attempt by Jimmy to court Mike for that lucrative figurine swap, but it’s tough to complain when Mike’s storyline went to some of its most interesting places yet during this past season of Better Call Saul.
Gus, likewise, is very slowly taking shape into arguably Breaking Bad’s best and most beloved villain, and that’s especially true after he coerces Nacho into successfully disabling Hector at the end of Season Three. With his assertion over Salamanca territory complete, Gus became a specter of fear and dominance, not just over Nacho, but over Mike too, throughout Better Call Saul’s fourth season. Thanks to the prequel events of Better Call Saul, Giancarlo Esposito has a second chance to menace this universe in a way that no one else has quite managed to do, even having no direct interaction with Jimmy or his circles at this point. Gus certainly spent much of Season Four in the power position, being arguably one of the biggest masterminds of the criminal subplots. Even then however, not even Gus completely escapes scrutiny by the end of the season, when Salamanca agent, Lalo starts probing his operation, and ensuring that Hector finds the renewed conviction to strike back at Gus, which, as Breaking Bad fans know, eventually leads to very deadly consequences for both of them!
There were definitely no shortage of engaging story developments for all parties throughout Better Call Saul’s fourth season, which soared in terms of both conception and execution of the character drama on pretty much every count. The only noticeable weak link this season was Nacho, and not because his storylines didn’t work. For some strange reason, Nacho barely appeared this season, and when he did, he was mostly under the thumb of other characters like Gus and Lalo. Seeing Nacho find his way to an affluent lifestyle, at the cost of giving up his own agency and power in the criminal underworld, was still pretty interesting, but considering that Michael Mando has always been one of the most standout personalities on Better Call Saul, it was disappointing to see Nacho take such a back seat this season, as if the show is intentionally benching him before it can explore his seemingly inevitable doom, likely soon before the events of Breaking Bad actually begin. Nacho is another personality that isn’t around at all during the events of Breaking Bad, and considering that just about every criminal party now has him under a microscope, it’s looking extremely doubtful that things are going to end well for him by the time Better Call Saul reaches its end.
As much as it could have used more Nacho however, the fourth season of Better Call Saul nonetheless stands as another home run for AMC’s much-loved drama spin-off, especially now that the show is moving very quickly towards fully setting the stage for Breaking Bad by this point. By the end of the season, Jimmy has fully become Saul Goodman at last, and Gus Fring’s meth operation appears to be fully taking off, even as Hector finds renewed resolve to bring him down in the future. Like I said, it doesn’t seem like there’s much more story left to tell in Better Call Saul, since the events of Breaking Bad are now clearly right around the corner, but I suppose that’s up to AMC. It would feel pretty fitting to have Better Call Saul reach the same five-season run that Breaking Bad ultimately got, especially since Better Call Saul was already renewed for a fifth season before the fourth season had even concluded, but perhaps there are still a few more interesting snags in Jimmy’s past left to explore, before he finally has his fateful meeting with Walt and Jesse. Either way, Jimmy McGill’s story remains just as compelling and darkly fulfilling as the saga of Walter White was before it (or after it, depending on your perspective), and the sad tale of his personal destruction continues to be among the most dramatically and intelligently crafted stories that modern television currently has to offer!
Better Call Saul's fourth season is another standout gem for the AMC catalogue, particularly as it ties the show more deeply into Breaking Bad than ever before!
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THE GOOD STUFF
Jimmy breaking away from Chuck's legacy and fully becoming Saul Goodman
Mike sacrificing the last of his human decency for the job
Especially hefty and inspired connections to Breaking Bad
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
Nacho is entirely missing for many of the episodes