Get caught up and read each of our Better Call Saul episode recaps.
Photo: When Gus Fring isn’t being a murderous drug kingpin running an illegal operation big enough to be listed on the NASDAQ, he hides in plain sight sweeping up trash with his red-handled broom (red=death) and blue handled dustbin (blue=meth).
We’re back into the fourth season of Better Call Saul and as we saw with the first episode of the season from last week, it’s darker in tone. The second episode was just as heavy with the beginning of Breaking Bad on the horizon. It was also directed by Michelle MacLaren, a frequent Breaking Bad director. It’s a full-circle moment to have her back at the helm with the return of the twins (she directed the Emmy-nominated episode of Breaking Bad when Hank gets shot and almost dies at the hands of the cousins). This week was a reminder of how unforgiving Gus Fring is and that there is no hope for Jimmy as he turns into Saul Goodman. And it wouldn’t be a Breaking Bad prequel without the specific and meaningful colors. Let’s take a look.
The Beatles have the White Album. This chapter could be called the Yellow Episode. Starting with a blue and yellow IV drip for Hector Salamanca who is still unconscious in the hospital, the episode is narrowing in on yellow and heightened key colors from the Breaking Bad universe. The heart monitor is blue and yellow with a little purple.
Later, Nacho’s father drives a bright yellow car and when Jimmy goes to his first job interview, he parks his yellow car amidst a parking garage with bright yellow columns and a couple blue cars.
Meanwhile, Kim still has the “meth blue” strap for her broken arm as she shows up to finalize Chuck’s estate on Jimmy’s behalf in a blue dress. The amount of blue Kim has already been wearing worries me. If blue represents the blue meth that Walter White manufactures later in the original series - and everything it represents - Kim doesn’t have a chance of leaving this situation unscathed. How complicit will she be in Jimmy turning into Saul and leading a criminal life?
When Jimmy leaves the sales job interview, where he conned them into offering him a job only to then berate them for making a decision so quickly (“Are you out of your mind? I could be a serial killer!”), the business lettering on the windows represent the primary colors of this series and Breaking Bad: Pink (Jesse Pinkman, also the pink of baby Holly or Mike’s granddaughter), Yellow (Saul Goodman and Gus Fring when he’s hiding behind Los Pollos), Blue (meth), Grey (neutrality, or Walter White’s original Grey Matter business), Red (death), Purple (Marie or Gus when he’s dressed as a badass drug kingpin).
I can’t say for sure because I don’t know all the mountain ranges of New Mexico and at a distance, it’s hard to tell exactly what range or area this is, but it looks like there’s a painting of the Sandia Mountains on the wall behind Lydia when Mike meets up with her. Jimmy had also painted the Sandia Mountains on the wall of the office he shared with Kim. That business failed, and we know Madrigal crumbles later on in Breaking Bad. I may be grasping at straws or trying to conflate the meaning but the beauty of this show is the way everything, including the wardrobe, the lighting, and the set design, is so interconnected. Meaning is in everything, and after all, the devil is in the details.
I think a shot like this is worth noting. The trim is meth blue, with the red light switch and just a swatch of yellow in the background (and the doctor is wearing a red shirt which reminds me of the news reporter who talked about the prison deaths in Breaking Bad - she wore a red shirt while talking about death). We know Hector Salamanca survives (this time), so perhaps the red shirt is an overall foreboding feeling that everyone in that room represents death.
Can we take a moment to appreciate how Gus Fring was basically made into The Godfather in this episode? From keeping Hector Salamanca alive by getting a special doctor from Johns Hopkins just so he can kill him later, to killing Arturo at the end of the episode, we’re reminded of how serious and how cruel he can be. David Segal of The New York Times calls Gus a management genius. This moment as he looks over Salamanca’s health records in the sunlight was pure artistry.
Jimmy and Kim rarely show any passion or physical affection for each other. Is this the first time we’ve ever seen them kiss? But then what do we get out of the corner of the shot? That damn glowing blue fish tank! Its presence in the fourth season is becoming eerie. The blue water is reminiscent of the glowing blue pool in Breaking Bad.
Also, note the glowing blue bins during the standoff between Gus Fring’s men and Salamanca’s men. The blue meth of Breaking Bad is always present.
Really driving the point home that Gus Fring is cold-hearted and calculated, we see him in full 1930s gangster-style suit as he murders Arturo with a plastic bag. The episode is called Breathe, which now makes sense. He says to Nacho “I know what you’ve done. The Salamancas do not. From now on, you are mine.” The crazy thing is that they both want the same thing - for Hector Salamanca to die. But Gus wants to do it his way, on his terms, and no one will get in his way.
Right before this, Jimmy asks Kim what movie she wants to watch: White Heat or Jaws 3D. “Cagney wins this one,” she says. White Heat, a film noir from 1949 is considered one of the best gangster films of all time. As Jimmy decides to enlist the help of Mike to steal a Bavarian doll for the money instead of working, I think it’s safe to say “Cagney” always wins in this series.
What did you think of the colors? Will Kim become an accomplice to Jimmy as he becomes Saul Goodman? What’s Nacho’s fate?