Better Call Saul series finale spoilers follow.
After six seasons and 63 episodes, Better Call Saul came to an end with a heartbreaking finale. Entitled ‘Saul Gone’, the finale not only wrapped up the storyline of our favourite con man/lawyer/fugitive but also neatly tied in plot threads from the show it was originally spun from, Breaking Bad.
Viewed by many fans as even better than its predecessor, Better Call Saul was arguably at its best in its final season. It’s been winning awards for the cast and creators, including a recent triple win for star Bob Odenkirk, supporting actor Giancarlo Esposito and the series itself (Best Drama Series) at the Critics’ Choice Awards.
In his speech, Odenkirk thanked creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, as well as the cast, including Rhea Seehorn as Kim.
“I was surrounded by the greatest writers and the greatest cast ever,” he said. “When you see me acting, okay, you’re not watching talent. You’re watching only elbow grease. That’s all you’re watching, is sweat and elbow grease. And then standing around me is talent and that makes you look good.”
Odenkirk has been playing the role of morally ambiguous Saul Goodman since 2009, when we first met the lawyer in season two of Breaking Bad. Better Call Saul revealed that Saul began life as Jimmy McGill, a struggling lawyer living in the shadow of his highly accomplished brother Chuck (Michael McKean).
The series also showed us just what happened to Saul/Jimmy after his association with Walter White (Bryan Cranston): He fled to Omaha under a new identity (Gene) and worked as a baker at a shopping-mall Cinnabon.
This final episode brings all three of his personae together as Jimmy, Gene and Saul’s worlds collide.
The penultimate episode ended with feisty Marion (Carol Burnett) discovering Gene’s true identity. (She used her medical-alert alarm to notify the police.) ‘Saul Gone’ doesn’t immediately pick up from there, though.
Instead, it begins with a flashback of Mike (Jonathan Banks) and Saul out in the desert, stranded (as they were in the season five episode ‘Bagman’) with $7 million in canvas bags.
As they sit in the baking sun, Saul asks Mike where he would go if he could use the money to build a time machine to go back in time. Mike immediately picks a date he regrets — when he took his first bribe as a co — as a moment he could go back and change, while Saul’s choice just involves a way of making money.
It’s one of a handful of flashback moments in the episode that serves as testimony to Saul/Jimmy’s character. There’s also one with Walter and one with Chuck (keep your eyes peeled for the book he is reading in that one).
By this point in time, was he really so far gone from his true self that money was all that mattered?
We’re then whipped back to the present. Saul/Gene is running away from Marion’s house in an attempt to evade the police, his small shoebox of treasures (some cash, a few diamonds and that useful Ed’s vacuum repair phone number that would lead to another new identity and location for our fugitive) under his arm.
There’s no escape this time, however, and the cops find Saul hiding in a dumpster and arrest him. “This is how they get you,” mutters Saul in his cell.
He then hatches a plan that involves hiring his old legal nemesis, former Albuquerque DA Bill Oakley, as his lawyer to negotiate a deal with the various authorities.
The FBI, police, and DEA all want to send him away forever for crimes including money laundering and being an accessory to murder after the fact. (Those murders were the ones Walter was responsible for, including the death of cops Hank Schrader and Steve Gomez).
In a surprising twist, Hank’s widow Marie (Betsy Brandt, welcome back!) is there for Saul’s plea bargain, determined to finally see some justice for her husband.
But Saul delivers a speech about Walter and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) kidnapping him and forcing him to work for them. The prosecutors realise this could place seeds of doubt in jurors’ minds and destroy their case, so Saul is offered a deal of just 85 to 90 months in prison.
To show he has the upper hand — having already demanded to be sent to a cushy prison that has its own golf course — Saul offers information on lawyer Howard Hamlin’s death. He’s surprised to learn that his ex-wife, Kim, has already been to the police and confessed her involvement, opening herself up to prosecution.
Then, there’s another flashback — this time to Walter and Saul in the underground bunker where they were held before Ed (the late Robert Forster) in Breaking Bad gave them new identities and lives. (It happens in season five’s ‘Granite Slate’, if you want another look).
Again, the subject of the time machine and regrets are touched on, with Saul’s regret simply being how he pulled off a con that left him injured.
“So you were always like this,” Walter comments after hearing the story.
It certainly appears that way, although we viewers know that the time Saul (when he was still Jimmy) spent with Kim was probably the one time when he was closest to being the better man he wanted to be.
This scene actually says as much about Walt as it does about Saul. First, he rages about being cheated by Gray Matter Technologies, showing he hasn’t really learned anything at all, but there’s a hint of regret in a moment that’s easily missed.
When Saul asks Walter about what he regrets, he glances at his watch. It’s the Tag Heuer Monaco watch that Jesse gave him for his birthday. Could this mean that Walt — who never seems to show regret for the treatment of his wife or poor, dead Hank — really does have a smidgen of guilt for the way he treated his one-time drug-making partner?
Meanwhile, it seems all roads for Jimmy/Gene/Saul were destined to lead to a courtroom. We return to the present to see Jimmy walking into court in his shiny Saul suit, ready to sign the deal that will give him a (relatively minor) seven-year sentence.
Kim — whose own way of dealing with her role in Howard’s death has been to confess to his widow and take on a volunteer job in a legal aid firm in Florida — is present to hear Saul’s well-rehearsed speech about being abducted by Walter and Jesse.
However, this time he delivers it with a new ending. He reveals that, while they did kidnap him, he also saw an opportunity and worked for Walt willingly, making millions in the process.
“Walter White couldn’t have done it without me,” he tells the court, while the courtroom exit sign glows meaningfully above his head.
For Kim’s benefit, Saul then reveals his part in his brother’s death: He had Chuck’s law licence revoked for malpractice, which lead to Chuck’s death by suicide. “And I’ll live with that,” he adds.
When the judge asks him to take his seat, referring to him as Mr Goodman, he replies, “I’m James McGill.”
If the exit sign wasn’t a clue, then the episode title sums up this moment: Saul Has Gone.
Of course, although Jimmy’s confession absolves Kim, it ruins his sweetheart deal. Instead of heading off to the spa-like prison, he’s shackled in a bus heading to Montrose — a prison Jimmy had previously described as ‘the Alcatraz of the Rockies’ — to live out a sentence of 86 years.
It may not be all bad, however, as his fellow prisoners recognise him, chanting ‘Better Call Saul’ in appreciation. He also gets a job in the prison bakery that doesn’t look much different to his old Gene job at Cinnabon.
Despite his wish to be referred to as ‘Jimmy’, as evidenced by the courtroom scene, he will live with his pseudonym until he dies (most likely in prison). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. Saul’s fellow prisoners respect him deeply — he probably helped half of them avoid harsher sentences at some point in their criminal careers — and they clearly have his back.
Later, while he’s working, he’s told that his attorney is there for a visit. But when he reaches the visitors’ room, it isn’t Bill waiting there for him — it’s Kim.
“Hi, Jimmy,” she says as she walks into the room, showing that not everyone is ignoring his chosen identity.
Kim will always see him as Jimmy, as will we. Ironic that a show called Better Call Saul hardly featured Saul at all.
While Kim’s no longer a practising lawyer, she still has her New Mexico Bar card, which she tells him has no expiration date, so she was able to pretend to be his counsel.
In an echo of the scene from Better Call Saul’s very first episode, ‘Uno’, where they shared a cigarette in the parking garage of law firm HHM, Jimmy and Kim lean against the wall of the prison visiting room and smoke together.
They then say goodbye, on opposite sides of the prison fence, maybe forever. Or, if you’re searching for any hint of a happy ending (and, despite Jimmy/Saul’s devious ways, you probably can’t help but want one), perhaps Kim’s comment that her lawyer card has no expiration date means that one day she will come and visit Jimmy again.
“It was hotly debated and something I struggled with was whether we wanted the two of them leaning against the wall to be the end of the series,” Gould told The Hollywood Reporter.
“It felt like I wanted to see the two of them part. I didn’t want to end with them together. I thought that maybe it didn’t feel quite right to end with them together, because they’re not together in that way.”
“So it felt right to have them part and also deal with the truth that he’s in prison and he’s gonna be for quite a while. Whether or not it’s the full sentence? We can all fantasise and think about what might happen next, but he’s definitely there for now.”