Let the breakdowns begin. With only three episodes left until Better Call Saul’s midseason finale, the tension is higher, the stakes are higher, and the characters are finding themselves deeply entangled in the growing messes they make for themselves. Paranoia has been a constant theme this season, and “Black & Blue” proves that perhaps the characters should be trusting these thoughts and not brushing them off as delusions. The fear that all of these characters have about the idea of Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton) reappearing isn’t crazy but something they actually should be scared about. Kim (Rhea Seehorn) and Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) are doing their best not to show it, but the knowledge that the DA is building a case against Jimmy is concerning to them, and it’s starting to seem like peril is hiding behind every corner. Plus, the long-awaited (by me, at least) return of Lalo means that at any time he could show up in Albuquerque and turn everything upside down.
Kim and Jimmy’s strikes against Howard (Patrick Fabian) have been fun to watch, but their confidence in getting away with the scams has come to bite them in the ass. The consequences of their actions are starting to reveal themselves, and while Jimmy has no issue lying to defend himself, Howard has an even easier time seeing right through those lies, although Howard isn’t quite realizing how involved Kim actually is in all of this. It’ll be interesting to see how the dynamic between the three of them plays out now that they all know what’s going on, but I can’t imagine that a few threats (or punches in this case) from Howard is going to get them to stop.
It’s also never hard to appreciate the beauty of this show, and while she isn’t included in the ranking, Better Call Saul‘s director Melissa Bernstein, who directed Season 5’s “JMM”, did another amazing job with this episode. As per usual, the opening sequence didn’t make a lot of sense until the end of the episode but was hypnotizing to watch.
First Place: Lalo Salamanca/ Jorge de Guzman/ Ben
He’s back! After going nearly four episodes without even a minute of screentime, Lalo has made his grand return and jumped to the top of the ranking. It’s been a mystery to both us and the characters where Lalo has been all this time. Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) and Mike (Jonathan Banks) believe that he’s been planning to return to Albuquerque for some kind of a surprise attack. Still, neither of them have any idea of when that would happen. It’s possible Lalo will appear in New Mexico, but right now he’s at a safe distance in Germany. It isn’t clear what Lalo’s plan is, but we know now that it involves Werner Ziegler’s (Rainer Bock) widow. It’s been a season since the death of Werner, so this plot seems a little out of the blue, but if Lalo’s goal is to turn the cartel against Gus, following the Werner Ziegler trail back to Gus’ “Super Lab” is a good start. Lalo also deserves this top spot just because he somehow, as a known felon and alleged dead man, made it from Mexico to Germany with what appears to be no complications.
Second Place: Francesca Liddy
Francesca (Tina Parker) is maybe not the most well-known character from the Breaking Bad universe, but I still found myself cheering when she showed up. She hasn’t been around Jimmy these last two seasons, so when he calls her up to work for him at his new firm, she’s shocked not only by the pivot from elder law to criminal defense but by the fact that Jimmy and Kim are now married! Oh, and Jimmy now goes by Saul. She’s rightfully concerned by the lack of Kim’s presence in this new endeavor, but at the end of the day, she manages to get a hefty signing bonus and an increase in payout of Jimmy.
Third Place: Howard “Mr. Ward” Hamlin
Howard really beat his way to the top half of this list, pun intended. The last few episodes have been rough for Howard, with Jimmy and Kim running around town putting full effort into ruining his reputation without him even being aware. However, after a meeting at Sandpiper, Cliff (Ed Begley Jr.) decides to confront Howard about what he believes to be a crippling drug and prostitute addiction. Howard immediately recognizes the work of Jimmy Mcgill and denies everything. It’s impressive that Howard caught on so quickly, but an unfortunate side effect is that he sounds slightly deranged, not a great look for someone trying to prove they aren’t a drug user. Howard decides to take matters into his own hands and invites Jimmy to a boxing ring under the guise of being a potential client named Mr. Ward. Howard proposes that the two of them “box it out” and while Jimmy laughs it off at first claiming that Howard simply wants to “beat him up, legally”, he eventually gives in. The fight is short and Howard successfully knocks Jimmy out. There is one thing that could go wrong for Howard however, as we know that Mike is trailing Jimmy. If Howard becomes a visible threat to Jimmy, could something happen to him?
Fourth Place: Jimmy/Saul McGill/Goodman
Other than getting punched in the face by Howard, Jimmy had a reasonably successful time this episode, at least in the context of the rest of the season. Jimmy, for now at least, is the only character unaware that Lalo isn’t actually dead, and while he confides in Kim about still being anxious after their Season 5 showdown, he is relieved by the fact that Lalo is gone. Jimmy is moving on up in his world, opening a new office that we know and love from Breaking Bad, and has a growing client list and a new secretary. Jimmy is also not concerned by the fact that Howard knows what he’s up to, but this confidence could be to his detriment. Kim and Jimmy seem to be fine with Howard knowing, but if this episode’s boxing ring showdown told us anything, it’s that maybe Jimmy shouldn’t be so confident he can guess Howard’s next moves.
Fifth Place: Kim Wexler
Kim is getting worried. Last episode she found out that Lalo is still alive, and it’s beginning to mess with her. She’s waking up in the middle of the night chain-smoking, checking locks, peering out windows, and using chairs as an extra defense barrier, all in case Salamanca shows up. She hasn’t yet told Jimmy that Lalo is alive, and whether she’s keeping the secret to avoid him worrying or because she wants him to save his time and energy for their Howard scam is unknown. Either way, it’s a big difference from the Kim of previous seasons, where her insistence that they don’t keep secrets from each other almost led to the demise of Kim and Jimmy’s relationship. This show loves hinting at things, and the scene where Kim meets with Viola (Keiko Agena), her formal paralegal, is seemingly positive. Still, the song playing is titled “The Beginning of the End,” and it’s not hard to see that this is the beginning of the end for her.
Sixth Place: It’s a tie! Gus Fring and Mike Ehrmentraut
“Black & Blue” didn’t have a ton for Gus and Mike to do, but their restlessness and growing anxieties about Lalo are becoming more evident than ever. Gus showing any signs of anxiety or stress is always shocking to see, primarily because of his cool-headedness throughout all of Breaking Bad, and although he’s growing paranoid, he still seems to be on top of everything. We see him visit the underground lab with Mike, where he hides a gun. He obviously believes that Lalo will try and find him there, and seeing as Lalo is seeking out information about Werner and the team that built the lab, it’s probably a reasonable belief to have. Mike is mainly engaging in damage control right now, working with Gus to monitor their surroundings, and they don’t have much to do but wait. Gus has always had a good sense of when danger is near, and it’s funny to see Better Call Saul double down on Gus’ ability just somehow to know when something is off. While working at Los Pollos Hermanos and serving a customer, he seems to feel as though something is off, and while he was wrong this time, it felt very similar to the moment in Breaking Bad where he is able to sniff out that Walter was attempting to assassinate him. This skill will most likely come in handy, but for now, he’s still in the dark.
Honorable Mention: Margarethe Ziegler
Margarethe Ziegler (Andrea Sooch) may have lost her husband while he was working for Mike and Gus, but in this episode, she doesn’t do too poorly. She gets to go on a nice date with an attractive American tourist named Ben (aka Lalo, who once again has a new name he’s going by), has a romantic doorstep conversation, and doesn’t get killed! Lalo breaking into her house and not killing her is a shocking turn of events because really, when has this guy ever not just killed someone because he can.