“I decide what he deserves. No one else,” says Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) in a darkened hospital parking lot. He’s referring to Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis), who’d suffered a stroke brought on by his associate, Nacho (Michael Mando). We know from Gus’s extensive backstory chronicled throughout Breaking Bad’s fourth season why he hates Hector. But Better Call Saul’s fourth season is showing us just how deep his hatred runs, and the lengths he’ll go to guarantee Hector’s fate is ultimately his to decide.
This has been Gus’s driving motivation, even before he first showed up in Better Call Saul last season. It was Mike’s (Jonathan Banks) plan to assassinate Hector that drew him into the fold, and he’s willing to fly in a specialist from Johns Hopkins to make sure Hector gets the best care possible.
Like Mike, Nacho is looking to protect his family from Hector’s ruthlessness. While Gus brought Mike onto his payroll, he does not have the same plans for Nacho. After purposefully rigging a planned drug deal, Gus and his men surprise Nacho, with Gus wrapping a plastic bag around Arturo’s (Vincent Fuentes) head, forcing Nacho to watch him slowly suffocate.
It’s as shocking a move as we’ve seen from Gus in Better Call Saul, and rivals his two most striking moments in Breaking Bad. This is the man who survived two decades serving the Mexican cartel, but still years away from exacting the revenge he’s plotting. Now, of course, he has leverage on Nacho to help him do so.
Speaking of Mike, he’s ruffled some feathers with Lydia (Laura Fraser) after his security check on a Madrigal location in last week’s episode. “You have Gus Fring’s respect. I’d aim to keep it,” she tells him, clearly not amused with what she sees as a dangerous and unnecessary stunt. She even brings it to Gus, who couldn’t care less, all considering.
What’s most interesting here is that his curt response to Lydia’s complaints about Mike are the closest we’ve seen Gus to seeming frustrated (outside of when he’s threatening to murder people’s entire family, that is.) Despite running crystal meth through his multi-state trafficking network, Gus still shows up at dawn, clad in his yellow dress shirt, calmly doing his job managing Pollos Hermanos.
Finally, Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) is definitely coping with his brother’s death — and Howard’s revelation — in some unusual ways. Compulsively going on job interviews, selling himself in a way only the man who would be Saul Goodman could, only to eviscerate their choice to hire him in the first place. On the surface, it’s a fascinating parade of self-destructive behavior, but Jimmy tends to play the longest of long cons, so this could be part of some grand scheme of his.
Or, it could just be him breaking down, desperate for anyone’s approval, then lashing out when he gets it. If this is the case, it’s the most emotionally fragile we’ve seen Jimmy. A last gasp of humanity, perhaps, before his transformation into the moralistic void that is Saul Goodman.
While settling Chuck’s will with Howard (Patrick Fabian) at Hamlin-Hamlin McGill, Kim (Rhea Seahorn) takes Jimmy’s token $5,000 inheritance in stride. Just before she lays into Howard for his confession about his role in Chuck’s death. Cornered by Kim’s (rather surprising) wrath, Howard asks how he can try and make things right before Kim simply tells him to stay away.
Despite her being taken aback by Jimmy’s brushing off of Howard’s confession in last week’s episode, “Smoke,” she’s rallied to his side, and is taken a lot of pent up frustration out on her former boss. Who, in all fairness, really did seem like he was trying to do the right thing.
Jesus, I can’t believe I’m defending Howard Hamlin here.