'Better Call Saul' season four premiere recap: 'Smoke'

Better Call Saul

RIP Chuck.

The third season of Better Call Saul ended with what we presumed to be Chuck’s (Michael McKean) death. Maybe we hoped it wasn’t true at the time — that he somehow changed his mind and made it out of the burning building — but that’s just not the case. Season four of Better Call Saul opens with a confirmation of Chuck’s death, as we see his body taken away by a coroner.

Actually, before that happens, we first see a flash-forward of Jimmy/Saul (Bob Odenkirk) working in the Cinnabon Bakery at the mall.

For those who haven’t been keeping up with Better Call Saul, these black-and-white scenes — which are usually only placed at the beginning and end of each season — all take place after the events of Breaking Bad, when Saul is on-the-run and trying to keep a low profile.

Better Call Saul
credit: YouTube

Jimmy’s managed to keep his identity secret so far but, after some kind of medical emergency that brings him into the hospital, he’s suddenly at risk.

He gets the treatment he needs of course and he has some fake documents, but Jimmy is smart enough to know that he can’t stay here. Sooner or later, they’re going to figure out he isn’t who he says he is.

There’s a really intense scene towards the end of this, crafted masterfully by Vince Gilligan, where the secretary asks for Jimmy’s documents. He hesitates, but then hands them over and, not surprisingly, they don’t go through on the computer.

Jimmy waits to say something as the secretary tries again, approaching it in a friendly matter that Jimmy knows won’t last. Just as it looks like he’s going to have to make a run for it, the nurse laughs and goes ‘silly me, I was trying an O instead of a zero.’

Better Call Saul
credit: YouTube

It’s a great moment that shows some of the lingering effects of Breaking Bad — Saul, who really isn’t all that bad of a guy as we realize with every passing season, has to be on guard at all times. He can’t even have access to public rights like a hospital. How is he ever supposed to get by when he’s older and actually needs those services?

Questions to be addressed later, I suppose, as we then return back to the main storyline in Better Call Saul.

Jimmy is staying with Kim (Rhea Seehorn) when they get the phone-call about Chuck. They rush out to the house, only to find it completely destroyed and for Howard (Patrick Fabian) to be in just as much shock as Jimmy is in.

Better Call Saul
credit: YouTube

It’s the way that each of them handle it that’s really interesting. Jimmy is pretty silent throughout the whole episode, as he’s not quite sure how to process this whole thing. The last time he and Chuck talked was less than pleasant, as they basically made the decision to cut each other out of their lives right then and there.

Howard, on the other hand, feels completely guilty. He knows that the house burning wasn’t an accident and that he’s probably the one to blame since he shoved Chuck out of the company.

That leads to a whole bunch of awkward tension whenever Howard and Jimmy are interacting. Howard calls Jimmy up late at night to read him Chuck’s obituary, only for Jimmy to put down the phone and walk over to the couch in the middle of it.

The funeral, also, plays out awkward as everyone gives their condolences to Jimmy — which he hardly even acknowledges — while Howard is really feeling the weight of the whole thing.

Better Call Saul
credit: YouTube

More on them later, but there’s some unfinished business regarding Nacho (Michael Mando) in this episode as well. Now that his plan to poison Hector (Mark Margolis) miraculously wound up working, the Salamanca territory is open for the taking.

Or at least, it should be. Upon hearing the news, Juan Bolsa (Javier Grajedga) immediately calls a meeting with all the appropriate members to tell them that they are still in charge of the Salamanca territory even while Hector is in the hospital, and if anyone tries to cross them they’ll be sorry.

Something tells me someone is definitely going to make a play for it, but, for now, Nacho agrees and leaves the meeting to dispose of the rest of Hector’s pills.

Meanwhile, Mike (Jonathan Banks) is keeping busy too. Now that he’s Gus Fring’s (Giancarlo Esposito) new right-hand-man, he’s ready to get to work as a security consultant.

Better Call Saul
credit: YouTube

Mike comes up with a highly elaborate plan to get into Madrigal Inc. — which he does by stealing an employee’s ID, disguising himself as an upper-level manager in the warehouse and then meeting with the real manager to point out all the flaws in their security system.

Not entirely sure why Mike was infiltrating this company in the first place, but I’m sure it’ll come back into the story somehow and it’s always cool to watch Mike at work.

We end the episode with Howard, Jimmy and Kim again, as the three of them get the chance to sit down after Chuck’s funeral. Howard simply can’t take it anymore — the weight is too great on his soul and he has to confess to Jimmy that he feels responsible.

It’s Jimmy’s response that raises all kinds of red flags. After Howard tells him all this, Jimmy lays down a cold as ice response: “Well Howard, I guess that’s your cross to bear.”

He then cheerfully gets up, feeds the fish with a smile on his face and starts to make coffee while whistling a tune to himself. Cut to black.

Better Call Saul
credit: YouTube

Jimmy, for all we know, might be dead inside. This might have been the final straw that turns him into the man we know as Saul Goodman, as he clearly couldn’t care less about Howard’s misfortune. While Howard has always kind of been an awful person throughout Better Call Saul, the real pain is thinking about what this is going to do to his relationship with Kim.

We’ll find out soon enough, though, as we’ve got a whole season of Better Call Saul to cover here. Tune in to AMC tonight to catch the newest Better Call Saul episode.


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Brandon Schreur

The fella over there with the hella good hair. Movies and TV are my jam, and the fact that I get to write about them on a regular basis is the bees knees.