Season 4 Episode 4 is as smart and savvy as usual, but when it comes to the characters it doesn’t make a huge impact.
[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for “Better Call Saul” Season 4 Episode 4, “Talk.”]
It feels like it’s all about moving on, to some degree, in this episode — as if talking really can make anything of a difference. But everyone seems like they’re just trying to reach a better level, whether it be Jimmy taking a job that’s clearly beneath him, but definitely honest work, or Mike continuing to go to group therapy despite knowing at least one liar lies within their mix.
Nacho just wants safe haven, which isn’t easy when you’re at the center of a maelstrom surrounding multiple deaths in a drug war. But while Kim looks for inspiration in her chosen profession — Jimmy starts off the episode with a new job and ends it by quitting spectacularly, telling his Bavarian Boy partner in crime that “we’re going to do this again.”
Because here’s the thing: these characters might be trying to make better lives for themselves, but they can’t escape their fates in the end. (For the record, the way that Nacho’s father says “mio” is forever heartbreaking.) And whatever’s to come next week, with Mike asking for Gus to explain the job in wait, is likely to be proof of that.
The Least Legal Move
A lot of this episode focuses on the illegal activities surrounding the Albuquerque drug trade — especially as the Salamancas figure out what should be the correct response to Nacho’s supposed attack (which was, of course, a fiction created by Gus Fring’s men) and clear out rival dealers the Espinonsas. This leads to yet another instance, in Season 4, of serious gunshots being fired — and this time, it’s not for show, as the Salamanca cousins tear through a compound that Nacho blames for the faked attack on him and Arturo. (Nacho is still visibly struggling from his wounds from that faked attack, but is otherwise surviving.)
Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television
Oh, That’s Right, It’s a Period Piece
Technically, cell phone shopping shouldn’t be all that period-specific, since many people still get their smartphones from similar retail outlets. But it does speak to an older way of looking at the world, not to mention far older models.
On The Journey From Jimmy to Saul
The fact that Jimmy initially turns down the straight job at a cell phone store, then accepts it after Kim confronts him with the idea that maybe he needs therapy, is notable as a sign of him legitimately wanting to go straight following last week’s events. “10 months from now — poof! I’m a lawyer again,” he says, as if it’s as simple as that. But his frustration and boredom, coupled with Kim’s own uncertainty, makes it clear that this simply won’t last — and that’s before he graffitis the storefront he’s been trusted with.
Guest Star Shoutouts
“Saul” never lacks for great actors, but there are two notable appearances here worth celebrating — Ethan Phillips is probably most memorable to “Star Trek” fans as Neelix from “Voyager,” though said fans might only recognize him after closing their eyes (because Phillips wore a lot of make-up when playing that role). Meanwhile, Marc Evan Jackson plays who he usually does — an entitled white guy — but one who finally gets called on his shit, thanks to Mike’s ever-watchful eye.
What’s Up With Mike?
Mike has a lovely little arc in this episode, tied to his lady friend Anita — one of the most terrifying things about this character is how he tends to be, as a rule, the smartest dude in the room, and he shows it off here when it comes to taking down Henry, played by Jackson.
“You wanted me to talk — I talked.”
This sort of statement always feels like a trap, and in this case definitely was, though given the way it was teased out as a flashforward at the beginning of the episode, you’d have expected it to have more of an impact. The lesson remains important, though: If you get Mike’s attention, you might not like the results.
In Conclusion, Your Honor
It’s rare that an episode of “Saul” feels like it’s treading water, and while there are some fascinating moments in this installment, it’s definitely laying groundwork for the future, rather than offering its own momentum.
So it’s not that “Talk” is a disappointment, but rather one of those episodes that is essential but also just simply happens. The fact it does so while also happening to rack up quite the body count speaks to what really drives the narrative thrust of this show: the characters, not the story. And that’s notable because unlike its predecessor “Breaking Bad,” “Better Call Saul” has never indulged heavily in gunfights or other violence; its most suspenseful sequences have been far more mundane. That’s why we stay tuned, and that’s why we stay hooked, even after quieter moments like this.