Better Call Saul season six, part two review – the camerawork is as intricate as a Vermeer painting

The final batch of episodes kicks off with a virtuoso Vince Gilligan-directed instalment, that’s all beguilingly complicated visual techniques and gun-toting, tense plotlines

“How does a chichifo like you land a girl like that, huh? asks the diabolical drug thug Lalo Salamanca, smiling oleaginously below his unspeakable moustache. Kim has just driven off from her and Saul’s condo, gun and camera in the glove compartment, on a mission they don’t prepare you for in law school. She will whack upstart drug baron Gustavo Fring and return with a photograph of his corpse – else Lalo will terminate her husband, who he’s holding hostage.

Or maybe she will just speed off into the desert, like Jesse Pinkman at the end of Breaking Bad, leaving Saul to eat Lalo’s bullets. Either way, Kim has an hour. The clock is ticking.

Lalo asks a great question, the homophobic slur notwithstanding (chichifo is Mexican slang for a gay male hustler), that goes to the heart of Better Call Saul’s drama. How does a schlemiel snag a standup babe? Why do people make such apparently disastrous life choices? And why would anybody have a vanity plate on their Jag reading Namast3 if they didn’t wish to be thought quite the tool?

How come, in general, so many heterosexual men are punching above their weight with women who are sartorially, aesthetically and, most of all, morally much, much better than them? How come, in particular, lawyer Kim Wexler, her superb curly pony tail symbolising her integrity and efficiency, has fallen for a disgraced legal scammer who rebranded himself Saul Goodman and whose floppy fringe gives me the creeps?

In earlier episodes there was some backstory about Kim’s light-fingered mum – and that may have contributed to her attraction to Saul, the man who gives her the thrill of breaking the law she’s professionally bound to uphold. Most recently she has taken perverse pleasure in joining Saul to destroy Howard – a mission to do with Saul’s ambition not just to ruin his legal nemesis but to, superficially, become him, right down to copying those horrid shirt collars and fancy-schmancy tie pins.

And, there’s another reason for Kim standing by her man. Saul, counterintuitively, is a good man. At least to Kim. Her love for him makes Saul a better man, right down to the possibility he is sacrificing his life for her freedom in choosing to remain Lalo’s captive.

The episode is called Point and Shoot. What you do with a gun as much as with a camera seems so very simple – but only if you’re not paying attention. “You point and shoot and you keep on shooting until it’s empty,” says Lalo, explaining to Kim and Saul how to kill Gus. But to kill thus requires Kim to have not just a steady hand but become a completely different person.

Similarly, what looks simple in terms of camerawork in Better Call Saul is beguilingly complicated. There are lots of flourishes in this episode that testify to this – such as the moment when Lalo swings a chair under a cuffed Saul to sit him down and the camera swings in sync. The opening shot pans across a beach to the sea where a formal shoe bobs, meaning we realise not only that it belongs to dead dandy lawyer Howard Hamlin – casually slaughtered by Lalo in the previous episode – but that it has been placed there to make the cops think he killed himself. Towards the end, there is a particularly virtuoso camera sequence involving a deep-focus shot through room after room seen from Saul’s perspective, which makes the space open up like the doors of Bluebeard’s castle, or a 17th-century Dutch painting of a domestic interior, with the ingenious twist that the shot is then reversed so you get the henchman’s view of Saul.

This Vince Gilligan-directed episode loves such symmetries and reversals, most tellingly one involving guns. Lalo tells Saul and Kim to keep pulling the trigger on Gus until there is nothing left to shoot. Near the episode’s showdown between Gus and Lalo, this instruction gets ironically reversed: Gus keeps pulling the trigger on his nemesis long after he has fired his last shot.

But it’s not the gun, rather the camera that gets the best shot and the last word. Under the laundry in the desert is a big hole that Gustavo’s German engineers spent months excavating to create, possibly, the world’s biggest meth lab. And, now, under that, Mike has directed Gus’s henchmen to dig another hole. In it are placed two corpses. The camera lingers on them: as if this were the most cursed of forced marriages, this mismatched couple will lie together for all eternity.

As Tyrus fills in the grave with the backhoe, we realise something more. These two corpses, like human sacrifices to the God of Illicit Pharmaceuticals, are destined to become part of the foundations of the lab where, in Breaking Bad, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman will make industrial quantities of high-grade crystal meth.


Stuart Jeffries

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Better Call Saul recap: season six, episode three – Nacho’s reckoning
Things came to a heartstopping, twisty climax for Lalo’s betrayer, while the scam against Howard cranked up a gear and the DA started digging into Jimmy … sorry, Saul

Paul MacInnes

26, Apr, 2022 @1:56 PM

Article image
Better Call Saul recap: season six, episode 12 – the greatest episode of all time?
This emotionally wrenching penultimate episode was suspenseful, visually beautiful and made it very clear that we’re on track for a definitive ending. Bring on the finale

Paul MacInnes

09, Aug, 2022 @6:00 PM

Article image
Better Call Saul review: it’s touching to watch Jimmy in the pool become Saul in the mall
The first episode of season two promises lots of natural life left in the saga of the good(ish) lawyer breaking bad

Sam Wollaston

17, Feb, 2016 @7:01 AM

Article image
Better Call Saul recap: season six, episode 11 – it’s the episode we’ve all been waiting for!
Finally, Walt and Jesse are back. But with two episodes to go, the ending still feels a long way off

Paul MacInnes

02, Aug, 2022 @6:00 PM

Article image
Better Call Saul recap: season six, episode five – Jimmy’s fists do the talking
A late-night visit to a moneyed client sees Saul end up in the ring, while a missing friend reappears as a super-smooth romancer of German widows

Paul MacInnes

10, May, 2022 @6:00 PM

Article image
Better Call Saul recap: season six, episode six – Kim’s fate now feels certain
The hotshot public defender feels as though she’s en route to the event we’ve been waiting six seasons for, while Lalo duped everyone into believing he was beaten by a German engineer

Paul MacInnes

17, May, 2022 @6:00 PM

Article image
Better Call Saul recap: season six, episode four – Kim knows the terrifying truth
Jimmy’s partner in crime has her world rocked by a revelation. Meanwhile, Gus takes severe anti-Salamanca precautions almost as methodical as his clothes storage system

Paul MacInnes

03, May, 2022 @6:00 PM

Article image
Better Call Saul recap: season six, episode seven – the midseason finale throws up a shocking twist
The climax of Kim and Jimmy’s Sandpiper scam was always going to end badly for someone. But no one expected to end that badly

Paul MacInnes

24, May, 2022 @6:00 PM

Article image
Better Call Saul recap: season six, episodes one and two – watch out Howard! Jimmy is back
Will the Sandpiper scam work? What will happen to Kim? And how much more of the Kettlemans do we have to watch? It’s all to play for in the final season of the Breaking Bad spin-off

Paul MacInnes

19, Apr, 2022 @11:28 AM

Article image
Is Kim a secret crime kingpin? The various ways Better Call Saul might finish
The miniature season finale of Netflix’s Breaking Bad prequel is upon us, and we’re expecting drama. What will happen to Kim? And what does Jimmy really deserve?This article contains spoilers for season six of Better Call Saul

Stuart Heritage

20, May, 2022 @9:31 AM