(spoilers for season 6, episode 8)
It’s been seven long weeks since that devastating midseason finale, but it’s hard to forget the look of terror on Jimmy and Kim’s faces as they’re confronted by their greatest nightmare. Is there anything sadder than that Jaguar sitting on that beach? Possibly the knowledge that there’s nothing in the world left of poor Howard Hamlin except for a pair of waterlogged shoes and a leather wallet with a lonely gold wedding band resting on top. It’s more than likely that the police will readily accept the scenario of a drug-addicted lawyer taking his life; Kim and Jimmy did a masterful job of smearing Howard’s good name, after all. But before they can even begin to process their role in his death and the many implications this will have for their careers and marriage, they first have to figure out how to survive the night.
Episode eight picks up right where seven left off, with Kim and Jimmy gasping in horror at the casual execution that just took place in the middle of their living room. Once they’ve made their way to the sofa, warily stepping over Howard’s body on the way there, Lalo reveals his intentions: as punishment for what he believes to be Jimmy’s betrayal—Nacho Varga, rest in peace, was the one who let the team of mercenaries into his compound, and since Nacho is the one who introduced Lalo to Jimmy, ipso facto Jimmy must have known about the raid—he is now giving Jimmy the task of killing Gus Fring. The plan is straightforward enough, as all it requires is for Jimmy to knock on Gus’ door, shoot him, and take a picture (Lalo even drew a map of the neighborhood, for heaven’s sake) to confirm the kill. Kim, meanwhile, will remain in the apartment with Lalo as collateral. However, it’s almost certain Lalo will kill her simply out of spite and convenience. Jimmy (and likely Kim as well) knows this, which spurs him to do what he does best, which is to get his legendary mouth to spin a litany of reasons to convince Lalo to send Kim instead.
Lalo was prepared for an elaborate song and dance, but Jimmy’s argument is impossible to deny. Few people would open a door at night to a strange man, whereas a pretty blonde woman in distress would find few doors closed to her. The plot to kill Gus is only a smokescreen to access the lab, but if there’s a chance it can actually be successful (either way Gus’ security would dispatch her), why not kill two birds with one stone? As sad as the reveal of the “NAMAST3” license plate at the top of the episode is, the look Jimmy gives Kim as she heads to the door, pausing just long enough to put on the shoes Lalo had to remind her to wear, is heart-wrenching. He doesn’t expect to see her again, but as long as she’s the one who survives, it’s an acceptable trade.
What Lalo didn’t plan for was the fact that one Mike Ehrmantraut has already made the acquaintance of Kim Wexler, which means that instead of killing her with no questions asked, Mike recognized and promptly intercepted her. Once she explains what happened, Mike takes advantage of the regrettable situation by sending himself and his team to kill Lalo at last, not realizing that pulling his men away from the laundromat is exactly what Lalo planned. While Mike and his team surveil the condo, Lalo—long gone from there, leaving Jimmy securely tied up— makes his way inside the laundromat and downwards towards the newly built lab space to film it as proof of Gus’ deceit to Don Eladio.
Gus, meanwhile, has developed a sneaking suspicion regarding Lalo’s plan. He proceeds to leave the safe house with a few of his remaining men to the laundromat. Gus has just enough time to realize they’re not alone when Lalo emerges from the shadows, killing all of his men. Now Lalo not only gets the satisfaction of presenting Don Eladio a lab, he also gets the pleasure of killing his nemesis in the process. Unfortunately, Lalo, for all of his cleverness, falls into the classic supervillain blunder: he lets his adversary talk instead of immediately killing them. Because while Gus delivers his lengthy monologue, he walks further to his right, in the direction of the gun he planted back in episode five. At just the right moment, after a final parting retort, of course, Gus kicks out the electric cord on the ground, plunging the room into darkness long enough for him to race for the gun. Once the brief firefight is over, it’s Gus who’s left standing, thanks to an extremely lucky shot. Gus gets to enjoy a brief moment of satisfaction from looming over a now-dead Salamanca before he collapses from his own gunshot wound (body armor can only do so much), only to be found by Mike shortly thereafter and returned back to the safe house to receive medical care.
Back at the condo, Jimmy and Kim are finally reunited, though the moment is cut short by the wholly unexpected arrival of a refrigerator. What better way to remove a body from an apartment building? As his men go to work on the fridge, Mike coaches Jimmy and Kim on the next steps, including living through the day as though nothing ever happened (“Today you’re Meryl Streep and Laurence Olivier”). Kim and Jimmy agree, but I think we know better. You don’t spend more than an hour on the floor staring straight into the vacant eyes of your now-deceased former colleague and come out of it OK. As for Kim, something irreparable has happened inside of her. Jimmy, even before his Saul evolution, has long developed a knack for shielding himself from painful past events. Kim, on the other hand, isn’t particularly skilled at letting things go. Had she been, she wouldn’t have made that fateful u-turn, and Howard would almost certainly be alive instead of being buried alongside the man who killed him.
With the mortal danger now past, Jimmy and Kim now have to figure out how to live with themselves. They have to go on with something worse than survivor’s guilt: the knowledge that they were directly responsible for Howard’s death. There’s no pretending “this never happened.” Their momentous Sandpiper victory, their crown jewel of a con they were joyfully celebrating less than twenty-four hours earlier, has turned to ashes in their mouths. With the matter of Lalo (Tony Dalton, you will be greatly missed) out of the way, it seems likely that the remaining five episodes will primarily revolve around the dissolution of their marriage, along with the full emergence of Saul Goodman, criminal lawyer. Of course, there is also the matter of Gene Takovic to resolve, as well as whether or not there’s any sign of Kim in Gene’s future.
Kaleena Rivera is the TV Editor for Pajiba. When she isn’t arguing that whatever dear Los Pollos Hermanos assistant manager Lyle (played by Harrison Thomas) is making isn’t enough, she can be found on Twitter here.