Consider Saul Called: Better Call Saul’s Appropriately Low-Key Finale 

Redemption Is The Long Game In Jimmy’s Final Fight For Survival 

After 14 years, two ground-breaking series, and one movie no one knew we actually needed, the Breaking Bad universe has finally come to an end. And what a glorious end it was. 

Like most Breaking Bad fans, I watched the pilot (simply titled Uno) of Better Call Saul the night it premiered. From runtime to genre, countless rumors involving all aspects of production circled the internet, spawning a legion of fan theories about what the show would be about. Questions arose about how much the new show would resemble its predecessor. And once the premiere hit the air, the inevitable comparisons to Breaking Bad took the world by storm. Uno had everything a die-hard fan could ask for. Cameos of beloved and established characters, intriguing introductions to characters we would grow to love (or hate), and the tricky balance of humor and thrill that we had come to love about Breaking Bad. And while it didn’t instantly set itself apart from its original show, there was enough for all kinds of fans to bite into. 

But then something interesting happened. 

The show broke boring (sorry, I couldn’t resist), slowing down to a staggering halt by replacing the criminal antics of Walter White with the more nuanced manipulations of Jimmy McGill. Stunning twists such as wheelchair bombs and ricin poisoning were replaced with class-action lawsuits and document fraud. But where most showrunners would have faltered at the challenge of making this subject matter compelling, Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould instilled their whimsical yet deep-rooted sense of character to elevate this material over other legal dramas. It was this respect for the more mundane aspects of life that gave Better Call Saul such distinct personality. This was a show that zeroed in on the trivialities of the law and did so with honor and respect. 

While Breaking Bad juggled both a break-neck pace with strokes of character drama, Better Call Saul focused more on character, opting for a slow-burn TV drama. A risky move when the rest of the TV landscape featured dragons, KGB spies, and dystopian futures. But it worked because the characters were so well-drawn, oozing personality with clear faults, weaknesses, and motivations. These were people we didn’t mind spending so much time with on trivial moments because they were just so damn interesting. And as the series progressed, more and more texture was added to these people. Alliances shifted, roles became reversed, and dynamics were turned upside down. The show relished in the journey, not so much the ultimate destination, allowing itself time in the sun to grow in countless directions. It was a prequel that fought tooth and nail to prove its worth, and boy did it succeed. 

But alas, all things must come to an end, even those that we cherish most. 

Sunday’s finale, morbidly titled Saul Gone, diverted from the present, black-and-white narrative with a flashback to the events of Bagman back in season five. Still wandering the desert, Jimmy and Mike (in Jonathan Banks’ swan song) come across a water hole and stop to rest. During this downtime, Jimmy (jokingly?) proposes taking the money for themselves, splitting it 50/50. Always the pragmatist, Mike shoots the idea down, citing the danger of the people the money belongs to. Jimmy then proposes the theoretical idea of a time machine, setting up a central theme throughout the episode. Mike answers honorably, at first considering going back to the date his son was murdered but then ultimately deciding on the date it all started for our favorite cartel fixer: the day he took his first bribe. 

This ongoing hypothetical is presented to the three most influential men in Jimmy’s life (an intriguing gender reversal from Mad Men‘s Person to Person): first with Mike, then Walter, and finally Chuck. 

*Technically, Chuck wasn’t asked this question in the finale, but the book on his kitchen counter implies Jimmy and him have had the conversation before, so I’m counting it*

Each character responds to this theoretical question in their own distinct way. Walter, at the height of his downfall but still high off his own ego, ridicules Saul for the preposterous scenario, snidely commenting that he’s truly asking about regrets. Even with his skepticism, Walt plays along, telling Saul for the first time about his past with Gray Matter and the role he played in its creation. It’s here that the show seems to double down on the fan belief that Walter is, in fact, a bad person with a rotten soul, as he only mocks Saul when the criminal lawyer suggests that the two of them could have gotten Walter back into Gray Matter. Doubling down on insult, Walter insults Saul even further when the latter reveals the past regret he would like to change. 

“So you were always like this,” Walt says, confirming what a certain McGill claimed years before. 

Speaking of Jimmy’s domineering older brother, it wouldn’t be a Better Call Saul finale without Chuck, right? The eldest McGill makes a short but very effective cameo midway through the episode. Placed before the fallout of Chicanery or Lantern, the scene depicts a subtle sparring of wills between the two brothers as Chuck passive-aggressively undermines Jimmy for not sharing the same humanistic views as he does. It’s a short scene but the perfect showcase for these brothers’ relationship. Jimmy, always looking up to his older brother as he stocks Chuck’s cooler with groceries, trying his best not to engage in the fight his brother is setting up. And Chuck, overly showing his moral superiority to his “inferior” little brother. In a series of low points, this one especially hurts because of the inevitable future that looms over this pair, one that neither can prevent nor can even imagine possible. 

These flashbacks are interspersed throughout the main narrative, the bulk of which finds Jimmy back in the courtroom, defending himself and the new life (if you can even call it that) he’s created as Gene. Gould succeeds in having Jimmy captured within the episode’s first ten minutes, jumping right into the thick of everything to come. It’s an interesting direction for a show acclaimed for its slow burn, but it’s one that’s proven worthwhile as the rest of the episode is entirely devoted to wrapping up not just the show itself but the entire universe. 

It doesn’t take Gene long to slip back into his Saul Goodman charisma, quickly bargaining his way to a seven-year sentence compared to the eight-plus life sentences he initially faced. Here we find Jimmy, fully embodying Saul at this point, at his most despicable as he’s, quite literally, face to face with the consequences of his wicked actions (supported by a brilliant cameo from Betsy Brandt). As always, Jimmy walks across a tightrope as he tries to sell his story as just another victim of Walter White, seamlessly balancing his lies with his truth. And just as his brother always assured, Jimmy’s able to talk himself out of the situation with nothing more than a slap on the back. It’s these scenes featuring a faux-Jimmy that sells Bob Odenkirk’s performance as brilliant, and the finale is no exception (talking to you, Emmy voters). Over the past seven years and six seasons, Odenkirk has proven time and time again that he is an actor capable of elevating even the driest of material. The way he subdues emotion to sell the scams that his alter ego is selling is nothing short of breathtaking, forming a fleshed-out conman that’s both worth rooting for and looked down upon. With a background in comedy, Odenkirk invokes a sense of levity into his performance, allowing Jimmy time to shine in even the most mundane scenes. And boy does our leading actor show that in this scene. Even when it seems that all the chips are against him, Jimmy pushes forward, exuding confidence and diligence, as if a man who cannot lose. Everything is looking good for slippin’ Jimmy. 

All up until his final card to play is obliterated. 

Due to Kim’s confession to Howard Hamlin’s widow, Cheryl, in the previous episode, Jimmy’s information about the prestigious lawyer’s untimely demise is rendered useless, leaving the disgraced lawyer out of options and stuck with the seven years of incarceration. It’s this swift change in dynamics that we see Saul (who is he at this point? Jimmy? Gene?) scrambling for the first time since his arrest. Without the Howard information, what’s left to give? 

Turns out, nothing, but at the same time, everything. 

While being transported from Nebraska to what is assumed to be Albuquerque, Jimmy claims to have more information on Howard’s death, information that’s implied to implicate Kim even further in the innocent lawyer’s meaningless death. Like most devoted fans of the show, I was readied to write off Jimmy/Saul/Gene for good if he were to throw Kim under the bus. But what happened next not only alleviated all previous concerns but deepened my love for these unlikely, star-crossed lovers. 

In a universe dictated by the universal principle that actions have consequences, there’s little room for ultimate redemption. Hell, knowing how Breaking Bad ended, I put my money (and lost it) on Jimmy finding himself six feet under with a bullet to the back of the head. Fortunately, Gould and co had different plans. 

Where Walter White had no chance of atoning for his sins, Jimmy took the chance to come forward and rightfully admit to his faults. Whether Gilligan and Gould recognized this dichotomy between Walter and Jimmy’s arc beforehand or not, it’s a successful decision to end these two characters in entirely different ways. Even though they both spawn from the same universe, Walter and Jimmy prove themselves as two vastly different protagonists, both sharing the similarity of breaking bad, only in exceedingly different ways. Walter’s descent into evil was rooted in morality, with stakes of life and death, whereas Jimmy’s fall from grace was much more ethical, grounded in everyday conflict that the ordinary citizen would face, not some genius chemist who turned to cooking meth for fiance. It was here that Better Call Saul was able to break from the structure that Breaking Bad forced upon it. For the first time since we met him in Uno, Jimmy was who he was born as: a flawed but well-meaning man. Just when we think he’ll take the easy way out, Jimmy spills it all, confessing to everything he’s ever done, crime or not. This involves all of Saul’s actions in Breaking Bad, as well as every scheme Jimmy (and, to a point, Kim) concocted in Better Call Saul, including the harm put upon his beloved but antagonistic brother. It’s a moment that not only defines Jimmy’s future but him as a whole, as he fully admits to all of his crimes of his own free will. 

Choice is often presented in prestigious television as a decisive factor of goodwill or strong mortality. Tony Soprano made the choice to whack the fan-adored Adrianna. Don Draper made the choice to fire his friend, the undeniably loveable Lane Pryce. Walter White made the choice to poison the young Brock, an innocent player in the fucked-up world of drug trafficking. It’s within these crucial decisions that we come to understand these characters, come to understand their true weakness: the inability to accept defeat. And even as he weasels himself out of situation to situation, Jimmy McGill proves himself best among this unconventional collection of antiheroes. While Tony, Don, and Walter relished on the defined line between likable and hateful, Jimmy took a different direction. This was a man who wasn’t despicable and never wanted to seem like it. He wasn’t a mobster. He wasn’t a prolific womanizer. He wasn’t an egomaniac. Jimmy was just a man who couldn’t help himself. And this in itself made him worth rooting for. 

Once Jimmy admits to his crimes to redeem himself, the episode follows the typical tropes of any series finale. We’re granted the obligatory wrap-up with Jimmy and Kim settled into their new normal. All seems wrapped up nice and neatly.*

*I, for one, truly believed the show ended when it cut to black after the shot of Kim locking eyes with Jimmy after his climactic confession. Thank fucking God Gould had more to give*

After Jimmy’s storm of redemption in the courtroom, the finale takes us to Jimmy’s bus ride to what will likely be his final resting place. As the wheels on the bus go round and round, other prisoners start to recognize Jimmy as Saul Goodman, ultimately forming an impromptu acapella group to serenade the newly incarcerated lawyer with improvised tunes based on his commercials. Now fully redeemed, Jimmy tries his best to shove off his other, much darker persona, only to be met with passive obliviousness. It’s an interesting dynamic that makes you question the show’s protagonist in his entirety, asking if a man such as Jimmy McGill truly deserves to walk away free from his past sins. And yet, that’s where Better Call Saul grew apart from Breaking Bad.

Jimmy McGill, from the start, deserved some sort of happy ending. Whether that be the ending we got or some hypothetical where Kim and Jimmy drive away happily ever after, somehow avoiding all the trouble Walter White conjured up (even in all its absurdity, I would have eaten this up). And with Gould at the helm alongside Gilligan, our tragic hero reached the happiest possible outcome without ever undermining the logic of the universe he lives in. This is a world where actions dictate consequences, where characters are unable to escape the choices they’ve made. And Jimmy’s outcome, while vastly different, was much aligned with that of both Walter’s and Jessie’s. The only difference lies within the severity of punishment the three receive for these past wrongdoings. While Jessie and Walter pay different variations of atonement for their misdeeds (a full year of slavery for the young meth dealer with a heart of gold and death for his ego-driven mentor), Jimmy’s cost for salvation is much more nuanced, aligned more with the values of the law that the show holds. This was a man born with innate deviousness that fights tooth and nail to be seen as a legitimate lawyer, only to fall victim to the very thing everyone warned him about: himself. And in the end, the punishment fit the crime. Even as he finds new strives in his newly-appointed environment, Jimmy will live out the rest of his natural life as just another disgraced lawyer who finds themselves on the wrong side of the visiting glass. 

It’s been a hell of a ride following these characters in this fucked-up little world of theirs. A ride that will never be forgotten. Fourteen years of death, calculated retaliation, and brightly original cons have finally come to an end with this beautifully crafted finale. 

On behalf of all fans worldwide, thank you for the journey. I’ll never forget it.  

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