Rock and Hard Place
An elaborate scene is shown in desert-like conditions as episode 3 of Better Call Saul Season 6 begins. A blue flower blooms alone. Amidst the pattering rain, we see vegetation and a piece of glass lying on the ground.
Nacho has made it far enough to get some distance between him and the Salamancas. He spots an abandoned tanker nearby and takes shelter there. As he watches the cousins arrive, he contemplates his safety. He notices one of them walking towards the tanker.
Thinking quick on his feet, he takes a dip in the thick, viscous oil at the deeper end. The cousins and the men leave and Nacho survives to live another day.
He makes his way out to a mechanic’s shop where he phones his father. It seems like a final goodbye for Nacho, although his father does not understand. He then phones Mike (in the second episode’s ending) and gives himself up to save Gustav’s name but asks Mike to ensure his father’s safety and well-being.
Jimmy and Kim’s plans for Howard continue. They plan a “valet scam” to get access to his car. Kim is warned by Suzanne Ericsen about Lalo. She reveals that the prosecution now knows about his true identity and asks for Jimmy’s help by incriminating Lalo. Kim thinks it over.
Huell’s valet scam goes perfectly; just as Jimmy and he planned it. As he gives Kim the good news, she asks him to choose: be a friend of the cartel, or be a rat. Caught in the crosshairs, Jimmy thinks over his choices.
Nacho is told by Mike and Gustavo what to do the next day. They plan the manner in which he will be taken down. To their surprise, Nacho abandons the plan and instead takes matters into his own hands.
He uses a glass piece, frees himself from the handcuff, takes Bolsa hostage using his gun, and then shoots himself. This is the spot that was shown in the first sequence.
The Episode Review
Is this how sad you usually feel when a character in a television show dies? Does the pain last this long after you have seen it happen?
Probably yes, when the show in question starts with “Created by: Vince Gilligan” and the character is a gold-hearted purist like Nacho.
In some ways with its quietness and detached camera, this episode felt like a respectful mourning of what happened to him. Gilligan has just reminded us what true heartbreak feels like.
It was strange to get through the episode without wincing at how unfair life can be. There cannot be a single person who can without hesitation say that Nacho deserved this cruel death. His innate goodness offset the chequered image he had when the show started.
Gradually, we saw him more as a victim of his circumstance rather than a merciless thug. Against all odds, Nacho survived to live another day.
His relentlessness and loyalty made him the perfect man to trust your life with. And that is probably why there’s a resigned look on Mike’s face throughout the runtime.
The commonalities of their qualities and mutual admiration for each other are mostly tacit. There are no loudspeakers blaring the obvious.
But both the actors – Michael Mando and Jonathan Banks – make subtlety their ally in determining their relationship. Seeing Mike walk away after Hector Salamanca gets his way with Nacho’s mortal remains is the truest form of courage and professionalism.
There isn’t much that happens to the characters, story-wise. And it is understandable. Nacho’s send-off is commensurate to the stark realities of ‘Better Call Saul’s cinematic universe.
It is Gilligan’s way of explaining to his audience that this is how the cartels handle their enemies. This is how the powerful always manage to remain in power and those working for them are the first to go.
The beautiful opening shot finally makes some sense to me. The metaphor for the continuity of life is as strong in this sequence as they come.
It is not about who gets to live the longest or what kind of power one can amass. In the end, all that is left is the purity of one’s intentions and how that can sustain the lives of the people they love and care about. Goodbye, Nacho.