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Better Call Saul S6E7: “Plan and Execution” Is Both Shocking and Inevitable

Howard Hamlin looks disheveled as he stands in Jimmy and Kim's apartment
Photo Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

The following article contains spoilers for Better Call Saul S6E7 (“Plan and Execution”), written and directed by Thomas Schnauz.

Well, we knew the midseason finale was going to pack a punch, but I don’t think any of us expected that ending. And yet, once we got there and got over the shock of what happened, a part of it seemed almost inevitable. It made such horrible sense while also being surprising, which is something the Better Call Saul writers do so well. You leave “Plan and Execution” thinking both “I can’t believe that just happened” and “of course that’s what happened,” and holding these conflicting views just adds to the sense of unease and foreboding about what could possibly come next. With Season 6, the Better Call Saul team has shown us that the gloves are off. Anything not fixed by the Breaking Bad universe can happen, and that is absolutely terrifying.

This week’s episode opens with Lalo back in Albuquerque, which sets the tone early that some sort of confrontation is imminent (even if it’s not the one we think it will be). After his little chat with Casper (who I assume didn’t make it out of their conversation alive), we find that Lalo has made his way back to ABQ. He’s holed up in the sewers, only emerging late at night to shower at a truck stop and grab an hour of shut-eye in his car. We know that Lalo doesn’t require much sleep to stay sharp—he told Nacho as much in “Something Unforgivable” (S5E10)—and he does his best thinking at night while everyone else is asleep. He returns to his hidey-hole after his nap, and we see that he’s camped out under a sewer grate across the street from Gus’s laundry operation. It would seem that Casper gave him the proof he’s been searching for since the beginning of the season, and now Lalo is just observing and waiting for the right moment to strike.

Lalo Salamanca looks through binoculars in a sewer grate in Better Call Saul S6E7

After the wrench thrown into the Hamlin plan at the end of last week’s episode and Kim’s decision that the show must go on, Jimmy is running around frantically trying to gather the troops back up to take new photos that show Judge Casimiro with his broken arm. His first stop is Lenny, his Casimiro lookalike. Lenny is running lines for Angels in America as he works his job gathering carts in a grocery store parking lot, and because nothing the Better Call Saul writers do is an accident, it’s worth examining the lines Thomas Schnauz has chosen to include here:

ROY COHN: I’m not afraid of death. What can death bring that I haven’t faced? I’ve lived; life is the worst. Listen to me, I’m a philosopher. Joe, you must do this. You must must must. Love, that’s a trap. Responsibility, that’s a trap, too. Like a father to a son, I tell you this: life is full of horror; nobody escapes, nobody. Save yourself. Whatever pulls on you, whatever needs from you, threatens you. Don’t be afraid; people are so afraid; don’t be afraid to live in the raw wind, naked, alone… Learn at least this: what you are capable of. Let nothing stand in your way.
– Tony Kushner, Angels in America 

The lines included in “Plan and Execution” stop at “Love, that’s a trap,” but the full quote is worth looking at because it contains a lot of themes that are relevant to Jimmy and Kim’s current situation (and are prescient about what is to come). The concept of love being a trap is applicable to Jimmy and Kim’s relationship in its current state, because their love for one another is one of the things propelling them into the terrible choices they are making. Sure, they do it because they like it, and they’re good at it, and it makes them feel alive (sound familiar?), but that’s not the whole story: Jimmy is going along with it because he loves Kim and it makes her happy, and Kim is doing it (at least partially) because she loves Jimmy and running scams is the thing that brings him to life. After his traumatizing experience in the desert, Kim believed that Jimmy needed to feel alive again after experiencing what he believed was almost certain death. Their love is beautiful, but the way it manifests is also a trap that keeps them on the bad choice road no matter how many times other choices present themselves.

The last half of that quote is significant, too, because the idea that life is full of horror which no one can escape is salient to the experience of the characters in both Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad. None of our main characters escape this universe without suffering (and some don’t escape at all). The lesson that Roy is trying to impart here—to save yourself, be unafraid to live alone and for yourself, and not let anything stand in your way once you realize what you’re capable of—just screams Saul Goodman. Once Jimmy goes full Saul in Breaking Bad, he is a man who is just out for himself and doing whatever it takes to save his own ass. By the end, once his transformation into Gene is complete, I think he’s just about reached the point where he no longer fears death—where he’s experienced enough of life’s horrors that death can’t bring him anything he hasn’t faced. It’s all there in the fact that he made the decision not to get disappeared again in “Magic Man” (S5E1) and to fix the problem himself after he discovers he’s been made. He doesn’t have another transformation in him, and if that means he has to finally face death instead of running, then that’s what he’s going to do. With no season-opening Gene scene in Season 6, the writers are obviously making us wait for the culmination of Gene’s story, and I think that choice makes sense. In order for Gene’s ending to have the full impact, we need to know every terrible thing that Jimmy has experienced.

“Plan and Execution” gives us a bit of levity as Jimmy collects his film crew students on campus. We find cameraman Joey Dixon in a classroom lecturing students on how they are not worthy of the good equipment (and no one takes the equipment more seriously than he does). Makeup Girl is pulled from rehearsals and dressed in full costume as Kira the Gelfling from The Dark Crystal. While it’s all done for comedic effect—as the scenes with the film students always are—I find myself thinking more and more that it’s pretty scummy of Jimmy to use these young kids the way that he does. The legality and plausible deniability of their part in things is up for debate, but Jimmy continually brings them into his scams, and being in close proximity to Jimmy’s mess is not exactly a safe place to be.

Lenny sits in a chair surrounded by Jimmy and the film students
Photo Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Having decided to fully commit to the Hamlin scam instead of going to her meeting in Santa Fe, Kim arrives with the materials to make the cast and sling for Lenny’s Casimiro (which makes sense given that she’s the resident broken-arm specialist). Jimmy tries to get her to get it done quick and rush back to Santa Fe (an interesting choice considering the last time she sped off to a meeting it didn’t end well for her), but Kim has decided that this is where she needs to be and where she wants to be. She’s made her choice, and it’s the wrong choice, but it is hers to make so Jimmy doesn’t push it.

Once everything is all set up for the reshoot, Kim takes on the role of director, which is fitting considering that she’s been directing this plan the entire time. She’s completely in control at this point, and she’s determined not to let anything stand in her way. Once the photoshoot is complete, we get a scene in the darkroom with Joey developing the photos, which is bathed in red light—a notorious sign of danger in the BCS/BrBa universe. We learn how they plan to use the drug they procured from the vet when they apply it to the surface of the developed photos, so it will be absorbed through the skin when they inevitably end up in Howard’s hands. And the last piece of the puzzle comes together when we see Jimmy deliver the envelope with the photos to Howard’s PI, who it turns out is not actually working for Howard but for Jimmy and Kim.

Jimmy and Kim lean over a table of developed photos in a darkroom bathed in red light

And so the trap is set. Jimmy and Kim’s part in things is complete and there’s nothing left to do but wait for Howard to receive the photos and for the mediation meeting to begin. At HHM, Howard is making some last-minute checks to the conference room (where, of course, they have danish), and a young new employee named Cary comes in to restock the fridge. Startled by Howard’s presence, Cary drops some of the sodas and Howard takes the opportunity to teach him a little trick on how to release pressure from the cans so they don’t explode. I’m not willing to test it out to see if it actually works, but its effectiveness is less important than its source: it’s a trick he learned from Chuck, and as a large portrait of Chuck looms large and looks out over the conference room, Howard says that it was “his way of being prepared for anything, accidental or otherwise.”

Now, Chuck absolutely started doing this out of habit because Jimmy used to shake up his sodas. I refuse to believe that there is any other explanation for this and I will die on this hill. It gave me a chuckle to think about, but that was short-lived because when Cary tells Howard that he doesn’t know who the man in the portrait is, Howard gets in his feelings a little about Chuck—nothing that would be noticeable to Cary, of course, but as viewers knowing the history, we can see it clearly. He tells Cary that Chuck was the greatest legal mind he ever knew, and when Cary replies that he hopes someone says that about him someday, Howard tells him, “Maybe there are more important things.”

Howard stands in front of a portrait of Chuck in the HHM conference room

It’s just a brief moment, but it contains a lot given Chuck and Howard’s history. Chuck dedicated his entire life to the law, but in the end it all meant nothing. He died miserable and alone, his professional reputation sullied by his single-minded focus and insistence on bringing Jimmy to justice no matter the cost. In the end, it cost him everything, and while I would be remiss not to point out the significant role that his mental illness played in his fate, in this context it’s more about what Howard is seeing when he looks at that portrait: a reflection of himself. Howard, too, is a man whose entire sense of self-worth is currently dependent on his job performance. He’s on his way to being divorced (like Chuck), I don’t think he has children or any real friends outside the legal community, and he’s been struggling with his own mental health issues. At this point in his life, Chuck is a cautionary tale for him, and I think he’s trying to remind himself here that there is a bigger picture—there’s more to life than the law, and he needs to find that for himself. Given how this episode ends, this scene can be viewed as some horrible foreshadowing, but more on that later.

The final piece of the plan falls into place as “Howard’s” PI delivers him the new photos, which successfully deliver the drug to Howard’s system through his skin. He notices, of course, but the PI tells him the photos are just fresh from the bath. Howard has no reason to doubt the man, and he’s far more interested in the content of the photos which show Jimmy delivering an envelope full of cash to an unknown man. The PI gives Howard only a tiny bit of information about the man’s car but claims not to have any additional info on his identity. Howard tells him to do “whatever needs to be done” to get it, which echoes his promise to his wife in last week’s episode that he’ll take care of the Jimmy problem “whatever it takes.” 

Howard sits at his desk looking at photographs in Better Call Saul S6E7
Photo Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Just when I’m starting to really feel bad for Howard, “Plan and Execution” gives me just a small reminder of what I don’t like about him. Irene Landry is in a waiting area with Cliff Main, relaying what sounds like a delightful recipe for potato leek soup and as one would expect, Cliff is kind to her without being patronizing. Cliff feels very sincere while Howard is kind on the surface but there’s no sincerity behind it. He’s got a job to do, and that job is to get Irene into the mindset that the case is not about to be settled anytime soon. He has Julie get Irene some tea, and the fact that he knows exactly how she takes it seems more like he’s handling her than actually caring about her. But Irene has no intention of making the decision to settle anyway. After being burned by Jimmy when he tried to get her to take the money in “Lantern” (S3E10), Irene is happy just to let the lawyers tell her what’s best. 

Now, I won’t let Cliff totally off the hook here because, from a business standpoint, he wants the exact same thing that Howard wants: to wait out Sandpiper and get the most money possible even if it doesn’t financially benefit the clients in any significant way. That said, Howard is being incredibly manipulative here; he’s actually employing Jimmy-esque tactics when he urges Irene to use a wheelchair when she is perfectly capable of walking. Howard wants her to look frail to try and subconsciously sway the mediator to their side, and it’s honestly pretty gross to force an able-bodied elderly woman into a wheelchair just for show. It’s something Saul Goodman would do, so seeing it from Howard is a reminder that he too is willing to do some questionable things to win a case. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not even remotely putting Howard on the same level as Saul, but it serves as a small reminder that, even though our sympathies for Howard are at an all-time high, we can’t forget that there’s a reason people think he’s an asshole.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Patrick Fabian gives a good summation of who Howard is at this point in the series:

In the end, I think Howard worked through his guilt. Tip of the hat to the writers, Howard went to therapy, and he embraced something that a man in his position normally wouldn’t. And he did it wholeheartedly. So he came out the other side better for it, but he’s still the guy that has to put “namaste” on his Jag, which is Howard in a nutshell. He was a mess in season four, and then he’s not a mess. But his answer was to advertise it on his Jag. So that’s Howard Hamlin.

So, yes. We feel for Howard at this point. We know that what Jimmy and Kim are doing is 100% wrong and that he doesn’t deserve it, but there is always that part of Howard Hamlin that we can’t help but cringe at. There’s the surface stuff, like the Namaste Jag and the trademarked Hamlindigo blue, but there’s also the small ways that he belittles people and uses his power and position to make others feel small. I think he’s worked on himself enough over the course of the series that he’s no longer the guy who would put Kim in doc review, but he’s still the guy who puts an elderly woman in a wheelchair she doesn’t need to give his firm an advantage.

Howard kneels to speak to Irene Landry as Cliff sits next to her on the couch at the HHM offices

Howard is starting to feel the physical effects of the drug as he wheels Irene towards the conference room but he doesn’t let his discomfort show once he’s in the room. Howard has always been good at appearances, but his ability to keep his composure wanes once Judge Casimiro enters the room and he realizes that he’s the man from the pictures. Casimiro begins his introductory spiel about mediation being a form of compromise and Howard interrupts him to accuse the man himself of being compromised. Meanwhile, Jimmy and Kim are in Saul’s office listening to the meeting, absolutely delighted that it’s all gone to plan. They take great pleasure in listening to Howard completely humiliate himself as he lobs accusations at Casimiro while exhibiting signs of being under the influence of drugs. Cliff sees it coming when it first begins but slowly everyone else in the room—Rich Schweikart and his team included—see that Howard is acting completely unhinged and that there is clearly something wrong with him. Erin Brill even points out how blown his pupils are. There’s absolutely no coming back from this even before Julie retrieves the pictures from Howard’s office and they are a different set than the ones Howard saw earlier, but that really seals the deal.

A close-up of Howard with dilated pupils in the HHM conference room with Rich Schwiekart standing in the background in Better Call Saul S6E7

Cliff takes Howard aside and tries to get him to take a breath and go back in and apologize but he’s like a dog with a bone, determined to prove that he’s totally in the right and that Jimmy has orchestrated this entire thing. He runs off before Cliff can get him calm and the real Casimiro leaves, effectively ending the mediation. Cliff knows it’s all over even before Rich approaches him and tells him they’ve reduced the settlement and it’s going to go down a million a day. Schweikart and Cokely have the upper hand now and everyone knows it. The only thing left to do is accept the reduced settlement ASAP. Cliff goes up to Howard’s office and he’s still rattling off conspiracy theories—except they aren’t conspiracy theories because everything he’s saying is completely true. It doesn’t matter, though. Cliff may or may not believe him, but as far as the case goes, they have no choice but to settle now. Howard pushes back hard until Cliff reminds him that this is about their clients, and the only reason that Howard is able to accept defeat is because he knows that it’s the right thing to do. Howard is willing to take the L for the sake of the clients; he saw what happened when Chuck refused to admit defeat.

Howard’s breakdown has striking parallels to Chuck’s in “Chicanery” (S3E5), and it’s worth taking a look at what went down during that infamous bar hearing that was the beginning of the end of Chuck McGill. Before the hearing, Howard himself tries to convince Chuck not to testify but Chuck refuses to sit it out for the sake of PR. Howard tells him, “What Jimmy did is unconscionable, yes, but one of my jobs is to safeguard the firm’s reputation,” to which Chuck replies, “This is about what’s right and what’s wrong… Let justice be done though the heaven’s fall.”

And fall they did. Chuck’s stubborn insistence on facing off with Jimmy, on proving in front of everyone that he was not just perfectly sane and an incredible legal mind but also the smartest guy in the room, is what got him in the end. Jimmy and Kim put his mental health on trial and they orchestrated his complete public breakdown—exactly what they would do to Howard later, only they had to fabricate a reason for his behavior (i.e. drug addiction) instead of exploiting an existing condition. When Chuck broke down on the stand, every single thing he said was 100% true but he still appeared completely unhinged, which is exactly what happens to Howard on D-Day. Jimmy and Kim know their Hamlin plan is going to work because they’ve already done it.

What’s interesting to note is that Kim actually felt bad for what they did to Chuck. In “Expenses” (S3E7), where Paige is the one delighting in the details of the downfall of Chuck McGill, Kim is visibly uncomfortable and later tells her, “as far as I’m concerned, all we did was tear down a sick man.” With Howard, though, she is the one who is giddy. Is the difference that Chuck was a mentally ill man who she feels they took advantage of while Howard is someone she believes will bounce back? Or is the difference Kim herself? I think a little bit of both, but more so the latter. Back in Season 3, Kim was still trying to play it mostly straight and taking Chuck down was about both helping Jimmy, and getting Mesa Verde and keeping her solo practice alive. Her desire to take Howard down is different. She can no longer claim it’s because of the money to start her pro bono practice because she actively chose to skip the meeting where she would have been given the opportunity without needing the Sandpiper money. No, Kim is taking Howard down because it’s personal and it’s fun. She feels no guilt about it, she has no remorse, but she will…

Jimmy and Kim sit at a table in Saul's office listening to the mediation meeting on speaker

While Jimmy and Kim celebrate their victory, Lalo is still stalking his prey and planning for his own. Down in the sewers, he records a video for Don Eladio telling him about Gus’s secret operation at the laundry. We learn that Lalo plans to break in that night to get evidence of the superlab that he can deliver to Don Eladio in the hope that proof of Gus’s betrayal will overshadow the fact that he’s a good earner and that Eladio will take the Salamancas’ side. The more I think about it, the more I think that even with evidence that Gus has done all the things that Lalo says he has, Don Eladio might still choose his earning power over the Salamancas’ desire for justice. Seeing the superlab and thinking about the possibilities there may just whet his appetite. Of course, that would make enemies of the Salamancas, which is a dangerous thing to do.

After he’s done vlogging from the sewer, Lalo calls Hector at Casa Tranquila, but he soon realizes that was a mistake because he hears clicking while he’s on hold and figures out that Gus has the phones tapped. Lalo doesn’t make mistakes often, but this one is huge, and I think it’s because his emotional connection to Hector is his only real weakness. Did Lalo really believe that everyone except Hector—including Gus—believed he was dead? His comments about the Chicken Man being clever sort of point to this, but it still surprises me since Lalo is the type to plan for any eventuality. As usual, though, Lalo is quick to come up with a Plan B: he calls Hector back and lies to him, telling him that he was unable to find any proof and he’s just going to go straight after Gus. Hector aggressively dings his disapproval of this plan as Lalo signs off with an “I love you” that gave me flashbacks to Nacho’s final call to his father in “Rock and Hard Place” (S6E3). Will this be the last time that Lalo and Hector speak?

Only moments after his call to Hector, Lalo sees Gus’s men (Mike included) scrambling across the street at the laundry. There are far more men there than he could ever hope to take out on his own, even with some of them leaving to go guard Gus. So if he can’t get into the laundry for the proof he needs, what is there to do next? As a cockroach skitters by, Lalo finds his answer. This was one of those moments which was not exactly subtle if you remember that Lalo literally told Kim that Saul was like a cockroach in “Bagman” (S5E8), but while watching this episode the first time it was more just a feeling I had instead of a certainty. It’s a visual gag that would actually be funny if what came out of it wasn’t so horrible.

Lalo sits across from Kim in a prison jumpsuit with the caption "Your man, he's, um... He's like la cucaracha, you know?"

Within 20 minutes, Mike is playing Gus a recording of Lalo’s phone call and telling him he has to cut short his charity photoshoot with some kids at a school and calmly make his way back home. Gus doesn’t seem to believe that Lalo would attack him in a place with civilians and children but Mike isn’t about to take that chance. I think it’s interesting that Gus would believe that Lalo would not attack him at the school when he’s been strapped at work at Pollos, which is filled with civilians. Are we meant to believe that Gus believes that Lalo has some sort of code when it comes to killing kids? We know he has no problem offing civilians. Perhaps it was less about the children and more about the fact that it’s less of a controlled environment. Mike certainly thinks so and wants to get Gus back to the safe house so they can lure Lalo there and get him thinking that Gus is alone. Mike tells Gus that he’s pulled all the men off the low priority targets—all except for the laundry, where Tyrus and his team are still holding it down.

Between the cockroach and the fact that the writers explicitly told us that Jimmy and Kim no longer had protection, I should have known. I really should have, and yet they still managed to shock me. I think part of that is because they made us wait for it and gave Patrick Fabian’s Howard Hamlin a meaty final scene, which was so captivating it distracted me from what (and who) I should have known was coming. 

Kim and Jimmy are celebrating their victory on the couch, drinking wine and watching Born Yesterday (the original, of course) by candlelight. When they hear a knock on the door, they know exactly who it is. Jimmy says they don’t have to get it but Kim tells him they should just get it over with, and I have to believe the both of them (but especially Kim) will be thinking about that very small but critical decision for the rest of their lives. Because Kim wants to see Howard in all his humiliation and defeat; she wants to gloat. Howard is disheveled and drunk when he arrives, but he’s not hammered; he needs to be lucid enough to tell them off. He comes bearing a gift: a bottle of Macallan, the same thing he and Chuck used to drink when they won a big case. It’s fitting because Jimmy and Kim have now been victorious over both Chuck and Howard. The two of them play dumb at first, but they know they aren’t fooling Howard. The three of them have a long history and they all know each other well enough to know exactly what the score is.

Howard is there because he wants to know why. He knows the how (or at least the broad strokes), but as he pours himself a drink, he runs through a list of reasons why the two of them decided to take him down: he’s an asshole, he sided with Chuck over Jimmy too many times, he took Kim’s office and put her in doc review. He goes even deeper, though, acknowledging that his privilege afforded him opportunities easily that Jimmy and Kim had to struggle for, and says in a mocking tone, “Howie has so much and we have so little, let’s take him down a peg or two.” While this is much closer to Kim’s actual motivations, it’s still not the crux of it.

Jimmy all but admits the truth, telling Howard that he’ll be fine and he always lands on his feet, and Kim is almost smiling as Howard discusses his professional humiliation. But Howard demonstrates a lot of grit here, telling them that he’s worked his way through worse—debt, depression, and his marriage falling apart. A quick glance at each other tells us that Jimmy and Kim were not aware of Howard’s marital problems, but I doubt that would have changed anything for them. Howard shows strength when he says that he will land on his feet, he will be OK in the end, and then he really goes in on Jimmy and Kim and demonstrates that he—more than anyone else—has a real understanding of who they are as a couple.

You two are soulless. Jimmy, you can’t help yourself. Chuck knew it. You were born that way. But you? One of the smartest and most promising human beings I’ve ever known, and this is the life you choose… You’re perfect for each other. You have a piece missing. I thought you did it for the money, but now it’s so clear. Screw the money. You did it for fun. You get off on it. You’re like Leopold and Loeb. Two sociopaths.

Now, this is understandably a bit harsh, and Howard is wrong about a few things: they are not soulless and they are not sociopaths. But what he gets right, he gets really right. He has a fundamental understanding of the dynamic of their relationship and the toxic aspects of it that Jimmy and Kim themselves don’t even seem to see—that mutual self-delusion folie à deux they get when they’re wrapped up in a scam together. While they are not violent criminals like Leopold and Loeb, the analogy is apt in that the two of them are shown time and time again getting off on the intellectual superiority of committing the perfect crime and doing so for the sheer rush of it. The motivations are not the point; the pleasure is the point.

I have to wonder if Howard had just left it there and walked out on that high note if things would have turned out differently. It may have given him just enough time to get out of the apartment. But no, he had to continue and go the Chuck route, telling them, “I”m going to make it clear to everyone, because I’m going to dedicate my life to making sure that everybody knows the truth.” Chuck, too, could not accept defeat, and everyone (including and especially Howard) knows how that ended. The desire to expose Jimmy at all costs—to let justice be done though the heavens fall—is what set Chuck on the path to his terrible end, and it does the same thing here for Howard. Just as he’s delivering his threat to Jimmy and Kim, the candle flickers again (signalling that the door has opened), and in walks Lalo Salamanca just as Howard says, “You can’t hide who you really are forever.” He has no idea how true that statement is, because who Jimmy and Kim really are—proof of how deep they are in the game—just walked through the door.

Lalo stands behind Howard in Jimmy and Kim's apartment in Better Call Saul S6E7
Photo Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

When Jimmy sees Lalo, he’s seeing a ghost because he still believes that Lalo is dead. In an interview with AMC, Bob Odenkirk stated that, “For [Jimmy], Lalo is like a specter out there. He’ll never believe Lalo’s dead, even if he goes to the funeral. Lalo is like this creature that’s just going to always be hovering in the background, a shadow of fear.” At this point, the question of how Jimmy and Kim’s relationship will progress when he discovers that she let him believe Lalo was dead when she knew he wasn’t isn’t a pressing concern because the stakes are much higher than that, but it is something I think they are going to have to contend with in the back half of Season 6. For now, it’s enough that Lalo is hovering in the background behind Howard, and only Jimmy and Kim know how truly dangerous the situation is.

There is a brief moment before Howard realizes that there’s someone else in the room when he is looking at the terror on Jimmy and Kim’s faces as they huddle together and he thinks that it’s because of him—that they are truly afraid that he will expose them. He thinks, at that moment, that he’s finally the one in control, that he holds the power, and he’s got a sort of smug smile on his face. It’s short-lived, though, because he soon realizes that there is only one person in that room that holds the power, only one person to be feared.

Howard looks victorious as the shadow of Lalo looms in the background in Better Call Saul S6E7

Howard calls Jimmy and Kim soulless sociopaths, but he has no conception of what those words actually mean. The real soulless sociopath is right behind him, attaching a silencer to his gun. By the time Howard realizes that something is very very wrong in this apartment, it’s too late. It was too late the second Lalo walked through the door and saw that there was a third person in that apartment, and even though we as the audience know that, it’s still a horrible shock when we see Lalo shoot Howard in the head. So much of Lalo’s violence has taken place off-screen, and we were lulled into a false sense of security by his treatment of Margarethe Ziegler, but here we see the real Lalo Salamanca: a cold-blooded killer who doesn’t hesitate to put a bullet in the brain of a civilian in his path.

It was one thing to see the close-up self-inflicted gunshot to the head during Nacho’s death scene—Nacho was fully in the game and up to his ears in violence throughout the series. There was always a sense that Nacho was going to die a violent death at some point; it was only ever a question of how it would happen. But Howard Hamlin has never once touched the cartel side of things. He was so far outside of that world, solidly on the law and order side of the Better Call Saul universe—and one would think that never the twain shall meet. This is why his death is so incredibly visceral and shocking, because this was not supposed to happen, and the only reason it did happen is because of Jimmy and Kim. Right before he is shot, Howard says, “I think I’m in the middle of something,” and he is more right than he knows. He’s found himself literally caught in the middle of the cartel world and the law world, and Jimmy and Kim represent the point where those two worlds converge. 

One could argue wrong place wrong time or that it’s Lalo who killed Howard not Jimmy and Kim, but it’s almost impossible not to place the lion’s share of the blame on Jimmy and Kim. They are certainly going to blame themselves (and if they don’t maybe Howard was right to call them soulless sociopaths). The fact that Howard hits his head on the coffee table on the way down just like Chuck did in the copy shop in “Nailed” (S2E9) is an almost cruel addition by the writers, reminding us that Jimmy and Kim’s machinations have now killed (or brought about the death of, if you’d prefer that phrasing) two innocent people in close proximity to them. This is where I can’t help but think of the episode title—”Plan and Execution”—and how Jimmy and Kim’s plans are always perfect but the execution of said plan has unintended consequences. It happened with Chuck and Mesa Verde, and it happened again here with Howard. Two plans were executed perfectly, and two innocent men died. It begs the question: when is it enough? How many plans have to end in disaster before Jimmy and Kim realize that their actions have consequences far more serious than they can even fathom?  

I don’t know how they come back from this. I don’t think that they do. While I am hesitant to make any predictions regarding how their relationship plays out and what Kim’s fate will ultimately be, it’s not looking great. One thing I will posit is that I think they have no choice here but to make it look like a suicide. It would track with Howard’s supposed breakdown, his history of depression, the state of his marriage, how things ended with Chuck—the story would make sense and let Jimmy and Kim off the hook. I have to think they’ll go in that direction, but as always with Better Call Saul, it’s best not to make assumptions. No one is better at keeping the audience on its toes than these writers, and I am both terrified and excited to see what the final six episodes of the series bring. For now, I’m happy to have a bit of a break during this hiatus in order to mentally prepare myself for whatever new horrors await when the show returns in July.

See you all then!

Written by Alison Morretta

In addition to her position as Senior Editor and Writer for TVObs, Ali is a freelance editorial consultant and author of numerous nonfiction reference books for middle school and high school students. In her spare time, she enjoys obsessing over various television shows, especially Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. When not overanalyzing TV shows, she is wrangling her hyperactive Corgi, who is inarguably the cutest dog that has ever existed.


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  1. First, your recaps of this show are the best. Second, I felt real disgust during Kim and Jimmy’s “celebration” during the phone call. They had just destroyed a man maliciously and deceptively and this is their reaction. I feel that their actions here are evil. Third, with all the money they’ve thrown at making their scam work, couldn’t they have paid that private investigator to check out the judge before D-Day? Then they would have known about the broken arm well in advance. I can’t believe they wouldn’t have done this even if just to verify he still had the mustache.

  2. This is an excellent recap/analysis as always. I just want to mention something that I think is another bit of foreshadowing. Chuck’s downfall was significantly due to his hubris and obsession (to wreck Jimmy’s career). Howard’s death was to at least some extent because of his hubris and obsession (to expose Jimmy’s dirty tricks).Now, Jimmy and Kim’s terrible situation is her fault due to her own hubris and obsession to get revenge on Howard. She believed and acted on Mike’s assessment that she is “made of sterner stuff” than Jimmy and so therefore she (but not Jimmy) could handle knowing Lalo was alive. Kim should have told Jimmy about Lalo, and she really should have listened to Jimmy when he suggested they postpone taking down Howard and that she should go to the meeting that would give her what she supposedly really wants (backing for her pro-bono project). Had Kim done that, Howard would still be alive and Kim would start using her incisive intellect for good. Until now, I thought Kim was a better person than Jimmy, but now I know that she is not.

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