Better Call Saul Weekly Rundown: The Colors, Characters and Season 4’s Darker Tone
Season Four: Episode One
It’s been more than a year since season three of Better Call Saul aired. As a prequel, we know where everything is headed and if you’ve seen Breaking Bad, well, things don’t end well for a lot of people.
Better Call Saul humanizes some of the villains from Breaking Bad. I’ve found myself rooting for Gus Fring and thinking of Mike as lovable with his attention to detail and snarky, introverted side-eye directed at anyone not towing the line. Meanwhile, Nacho is the criminal with a heart of gold (if you overlook attempted murder). Knowing that Kim isn’t in Breaking Bad means something happens, whether she dies in some dramatic fashion or chooses to remove herself from Jimmy’s life, we’re not sure (but I’m holding my breath because Kim is awesome).
Assuming you’re all caught up, let’s dive into the first episode of season four!
The teaser is a film noir masterpiece.
I wouldn’t mind if the entire show was filmed in black and white. Breaking Bad has developed its own universe, especially with color. Jimmy McGill turns into Saul Goodman by way of tacky bright suits and shirts. But in present-day Omaha where Saul works at a Cinnabon, everything is black and white.
He’s just passed out and needs an ambulance. As he goes to the hospital there are two things to worry about: his health and his real identity being discovered.
Turns out - it was just a panic attack. They never say that but the doc tells him everything else looks good. As “Gene” (as he’s now called) leaves the ER, he’s called back to get some more personal info for the insurance claim. He very clearly gives his social security number: 514-008-714.
Numbers, colors, and names always mean things in the Breaking Bad universe (remember season two of Better Call Saul when the first letter of each episode spelled out Fring Is Back? Or the episode of Breaking Bad called Felina which breaks down chemically as Fe for iron, Li for lithium and Na for sodium which are the main components of blood, meth, and tears?).
514 is the area code for Nebraska where the opening black and white scenes are set. But what about 008? An agent from the Bond films? A reference to the Italian film 008: Operation Exterminate? Could it be something to look for in the 8th episode? In the periodic table of the elements, 8 is Oxygen (in case it all comes back to Walter White and chemistry). The last three digits, 714, are a California area code. Will he end up in the Golden State? We need one of those FBI cork boards with photos and pieces of string that connect the dots, stat!
Lastly, is Saul just being paranoid, or did the taxi driver with the Albuquerque air freshener recognize him? He just had a panic attack so he’s an unreliable narrator at the moment. Is he unraveling?
Note: Kim’s “meth blue” strap
Cut to: The prequel timeline and a jazzy montage, like when Walt and Jesse would cook meth in the good old days. Here, Jimmy makes coffee. Fish tanks are a thing for him, at the nail salon where he had his office and also now at home. “We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year.” It feels a bit foreboding.
Jimmy finds out his brother Chuck has died in a house fire, which we saw last season was intentionally set - a suicide. Again, this is filmed like a high-art indie or some classic gangster film from the 1970s and really unlike any other episodic show out there at the moment. The sound is muted, there’s a quiet anguish like Jimmy is having an out-of-body experience. And yellow, yellow, yellow.
Remember colors in the Breaking Bad universe are specific and intentional. Jimmy and Kim show up at Chuck’s burned house in grey shirts - neutral, emotionless, nothingness (Jimmy’s is an American Samoa University shirt, where he received his law degree). Jimmy arrives in his yellow car, to firefighters in yellow hats and jackets with yellow tape. Kim’s broken arm is held by a blue strap and later in the show, she is wearing all blue. A sign that her injuries are a result of where all of this is heading? Down a road leading to blue meth and death? (As blue symbolizes meth in Breaking Bad). Just like the neutrality of their shirts, neither are crying at Chuck’s death.
Someone else has been taken off in an ambulance in this episode - Hector Salamanca. Gus Fring and Nacho Varga watch as he’s carted away, not knowing if he will survive (but we know he does from his appearance in Breaking Bad and that he will be wheelchair bound). Nacho steps into an underworld of high-level crime with guys snapping their fingers at him instead of using words, with Gus and others dressed like 1940s gangsters in suits. Gus wears a stylish purple tie even though he’s usually associated with yellow in Breaking Bad (and he wins Best Dressed for the series, always pulling out the latest and greatest in men’s wear. He could be the fashion consultant on Queer Eye).
As Nacho dumps the real pills that he switched for fake ones (causing Hector to have a stroke) over a bridge, creepy Victor watches from afar. Sorry, but I laughed out loud. Is it necessary that Victor sees this? Does he even know or can see what Nacho threw over the bridge? What a stalker. But the big question is - will Nacho become an ally of Gus? Or does Gus eventually kill him the way he killed Victor with a box cutter in Breaking Bad?
The music is different this season. In this first episode of season four there’s either a lack of it or an ominous, repetitive tone that comes in, raising the tension and giving the show an eerie quality, moving it out of the realm of lawyers and the law and into the darker world of Breaking Bad, where Better Call Saul is going to naturally end.
And then there’s Mike, who can’t just sit at home and receive a nice laundered paycheck in the mail and be happy about it. He has to show everyone up by stealing someone’s security badge and finding all the security weaknesses at the Madrigal warehouse - all while being annoyed at water cooler conversation. Classic Mike! Notice his granddaughter was planting yellow and purple flowers. The yellow of Jimmy’s world and the now purple of Gus Fring’s world meeting in the middle with Mike, who’s a part of both.
Interesting there was also a kid on a bike which gave me a flashback to season five of Breaking Bad and the boy on a bike that Todd shot and killed. Luckily this one survived last night.
To close out the episode, Jimmy and Kim are at Chuck’s funeral. Later, Howard tells Jimmy that he thinks he might have sent Chuck over the edge because of their disagreement about the insurance.
Jimmy barely even said a word this entire episode. But then he says to Howard, with an air of relief: “Well Howard, I guess that’s your cross to bear.”
It seemed it was Jimmy’s cross to bear until Howard told him how Chuck’s death made him feel.
And Then Jimmy gets up to make coffee, just like he did at the beginning of the episode. Kim reacts to this change in tone. She astutely notices every nuance of his personality. Are we seeing a changeover from Jimmy into Saul? End of show.
Did you notice the colors in the episode? What do you think about the darker tone? What will happen to Kim and Nacho? What do you think the social security numbers mean? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!