NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Better Call Saul” are present in this review
Better Call Saul soared to an especially great high point last week, leaving Jimmy and Mike stranded in the desert, while Kim has her first meeting with Lalo. That episode was a consistently riveting and uncertain trek through madness, one that was only mildly disturbed by the knowledge that Jimmy and Mike will both inevitably survive their ordeal, considering that both characters are alive and well upon the start of Breaking Bad’s events. Now, more than ever though, I’m nostalgic for last week’s offering, because, “Bad Choice Road” feels like a much slower, less rewarding episode of Better Call Saul in comparison.
To be clear, this isn’t a truly bad episode of Better Call Saul. It’s just too drawn-out and dull, functioning more as a bridging chapter between last week’s standout, “Bagman”, and next week’s season finale. Making matters worse is that this is another super-sized episode of Better Call Saul, one that runs nearly 90 minutes in length, including commercials! This means that events drag themselves out as much as possible, and in the end, very little is ultimately accomplished in terms of this week’s storytelling. This is why it’s a bit of a problem when an entire extended episode of Better Call Saul is built around foreshadowing; It demands a lot of patience, with no current payoff.
Fortunately, the show’s storyline still moves forward to some degree this week, just not as much as it probably should have for much of the runtime. Despite Jimmy and Mike finally making it back to civilization at the start of this week’s events for example, and successfully presenting the bail money for Lalo, complete with Jimmy’s cut being conveniently included, it’s Kim that easily ends up being this episode’s MVP. Where many of Better Call Saul’s other major character arcs stalled this week, Kim kept the drama going strong, beginning with her elated reaction to finally hearing Jimmy on the phone, and continuing later when she calls in sick just to take care of a dehydrated and banged-up Jimmy in their home. It’s another fantastic look at Kim’s outstanding compassion and humanity, the one thing that seems to outpace Kim’s passionate desire to defend the law, even when she’s routinely forced to bend it, and follow the example of her husband.
Even while continuing to steal the episode through her efforts to care for Jimmy as well, something that ultimately ends in vain when Jimmy insists on returning to work to help one of his own clients anyway, Kim’s strides in the narrative also help to push forward an otherwise sluggish episode. After Jimmy’s recent trauma leads to him giving an embarrassingly bad defense of the client he tried to help, Kim ends up quitting Schweikart & Cokely, and abandoning Mesa Verde on a whim. This is a huge, shocking decision that’s bound to have massive ramifications on Kim’s future, compounding the seemingly bad choice she made last week, wherein she directly confronted Lalo over Jimmy’s disappearance. Speaking of that, Kim even managed to steal this episode’s tense climax to boot, specifically when Lalo barges into Jimmy’s and Kim’s apartment, after finding Jimmy’s car in the ditch he and Mike pushed it into, and learning that Jimmy lied to try and cover up the Colombian gang attack.
Yes, a Colombian gang was apparently behind that attack on Jimmy, one apparently hired by Juan Bolsa, as we seemingly learn from a conversation between Mike and Fring. Fring still barely factored into this week’s Better Call Saul episode though, disappointingly, leaving Mike to simply serve as a plot device through which to bail Jimmy out of trouble, again, while Mike also tries and fails to help get Nacho out of the game. Nacho, meanwhile, was left to do nothing but bumble around with Lalo, a character who is simply catching up with events that audiences already know about this week. Granted, the heated confrontation between Lalo, Jimmy and Kim in the climax is still great though, with Kim ultimately being the one to talk Lalo down, before Lalo decides to go somewhere in Mexico with Nacho in the closing seconds of this episode. Mike having a sniper rifle trained on Lalo the whole time is also wonderfully intense, though again, the knowledge that Lalo is seemingly still alive during the events of Breaking Bad (albeit never actually seen), did somewhat hurt this otherwise cool story scenario.
That’s really all that happened this week too. While it’s got some dramatic impact to see Better Call Saul’s lead characters making some bad choices that are bound to really hurt them down the line, that’s not noteworthy, because this entire series is structured around the bad choices that these characters make! This leaves, “Bad Choice Road” feeling like an unfortunate low point for Better Call Saul’s fifth season, even if it does at least foreshadow more interesting events to occur later, namely during next week’s season finale. Kim, like I said, is an exception, being a huge episode highlight with her own major decisions, confrontations and life changes, while the other characters’ arcs appeared to chug in comparison. Even Jimmy’s return from the desert so far feels disappointingly unrewarding, despite Jimmy supposedly being traumatized and off his legal game. I’m sure that Better Call Saul will recover from this speed bump next week though, when the season is set to end. I truly hope it does, especially when the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to have virtually all syndicated and cable television shows indefinitely postponed at this point, with so precious few exceptions.
- Kim unexpectedly leaving both Mesa Verde and Schweikart & Cokely
- Kim bluntly provoking and belittling Lalo
- Mike's tense sniper sequence during the climax
- Jimmy's return from the desert is disappointingly unrewarding (for now)
- Lalo and Fring don't accomplish anything useful
- Needlessly sluggish pacing and drawn-out length