Title: Better Call Saul, Season 5 Episode 9 – “Bad Choice Road”
Release Date: April 13th, 2020
Genre: Crime Drama
In a world of John Wicks and Jason Bournes, it’s a testament to Better Call Saul that tension needn’t be conveyed through no-holds-barred action. The very presence of a character in a scene is enough to create tension that far outweighs the exploits of the action, as mentioned above, heroes. Indeed, by this episode’s end, you’ll be feeling that and more thanks to Lalo Salamanca.
But let’s back up a bit, shall we? In the last episode, the Mexican druglord tasked the newly-christened Saul Goodman with retrieving his bail money from his cousins in the New Mexico desert. After a run-in with unknown assailants upon getting the cash, Jimmy is forced to team up with Mike to get out of the desert alive – and thankfully, he does so early in this episode, with the cash intact. And, just like that, with the bail money in his possession, Lalo is out of jail and determined to flee past the South Border before the authorities cop on to the fact that he was using a false name.
And while Nacho drives his boss to the border, Mike tries to release Nacho from his own boss’s razor-tight talons. He reasons that Nacho has done all he has been asked to do – there’s no need for him anymore. But Gus isn’t ready to let go of Nacho just yet – there’s an advantage to having a double-agent on the enemy’s playing field, after all. Mike visibly disapproves, and it’s unknown how long Gus is going to keep Nacho in the game.
Mike himself is the wiseman of Better Call Saul and always tells it like it is. When a miserable, rundown Jimmy, still profoundly affected by the near-death experiences of the previous day, bemoans his entanglement with the cartel, Mike gives a memorable speech on how his choices are what led him to this moment. His choices led him down this road, he emphasizes – and it’s a speech so hard and true that Jimmy himself clumsily repeats the same mantra to Kim much later in the episode. The lesson being taught here aside, it’s another win for the show when we see Mike so human and empathetic towards both Jimmy and Nacho. It’s as though he sees them both as sons that remind him of his real late son from ages ago.
But the sentimentality of fatherhood aside, the titular ‘Bad Choice Road’ makes itself loudly known to Jimmy in the form of Lalo Salamanca. Lalo finds himself unconvinced of Jimmy’s story – that his car broke down and he walked to a gas station, then caught a taxi from there back – and orders Nacho to turn back from the South Border so he can investigate Jimmy’s meeting point. He finds the car lying in a ditch on the side, angrily prompting him to return to Albuquerque to confront the tortured attorney about his lies.
What occurs is a powerfully tense scene that is up there with the series’ greats. Tony Dalton brings an intensity to Lalo that he conveys merely through smiles and simple movements. Even when Lalo is smiling politely and casually making himself at home on Jimmy’s couch, you can sense how ticked off he is an, more importantly, how much he’s really capable of should Jimmy cross the line. Dalton brings a charm to Lalo that is absent from the other Salamancas but makes him truly deadly. It is, perhaps, this passive-aggressive charm that makes the future Saul Goodman apologize so feverishly when he thinks that Lalo has kidnapped him in Breaking Bad. You see the fear in Jimmy’s eyes even in this very scene.
But it’s his wife, Kim, who ultimately comes to his rescue and attempts to make Lalo realize that Jimmy has gone the extra mile for his client. There aren’t many who would make such an obviously guilty client a free man, she reasons, and Llao should, therefore, realize how lucky he is. This forward rant is what makes the Mexican druglord leave, and Kim becomes Jimmy’s heroine.
But it’s not the first time that Kim has put her life on the line for Jimmy in Better Call Saul – not even the first time in this episode, in fact. Earlier in the episode, she cuts ties with Mesa Verde and decides to focus entirely on her pro bono clients. It’s unclear as to why she made this decision, but the feeling of almost losing her husband appears to play some role. Watching Jimmy disappointed due to this news is nice to see, given that it shows some of the character’s slowly-fading humanity and that, in some small way perhaps, he cares for his new wife. Kim insists that it’s her decision and that when Jimmy decided to become Saul Goodman, she didn’t understand it, but she supported him nonetheless. Jimmy says that it’s different – that he was leaving failure for success. But even he cannot convince himself that this is really the case.
Verdict: The penultimate episode of the fifth season of Better Call Saul gives us some of the most intense scenes in the series to date. Will Lalo let this go? Are Jimmy and Kim in danger? Or will Gus Fring get to Lalo first? Can Nacho escape his fate? So many questions and so much look forward to for the final episode that airs on Monday. Altogether, a fantastic episode.
- The ending scene with Jimmy, Kim, and Lalo is tense and terrific. Truly fantastic acting from the cast
- Seeing Jimmy struggle with what happened in the desert creates some interesting human moments for the character
- Nacho doesn't seem to have much to do now.
- Gus is great but he doesn't have too much to do this episode