The long-winding desert road paved with bills, blood, and drugs finally comes to a bittersweet, yet satisfying end for Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) aka “Saul Goodman” and “Gene Takavic”, whose 14-year journey has reached a point where the New Mexico con-man’s life has forever changed. With his loved ones, associates, and enemies gone, Jimmy has certainly struggled to regain what confidence and strategy he has left up his sleeves and slip away from his past lifetimes. However, all good and bad things come to an end and Better Call Saul‘s final season proves that life of Jimmy McGill is the anti-Heisenberg story.
Better Call Saul‘s sixth and final season continues the two opposing storylines of Jimmy McGill and Kim Wexler’s (Rhea Seehorn) mission to humiliate Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) and the ever-intensifying cold war between Gustavo Fring’s (Giancarlo Esposito) drug empire and the Salamanca cartel. However, with Lalo Salamanca’s (Tony Dalton) invisible hand looming over the lives of these characters, these stories ultimately intertwine in a culminating wrap-up that forever changes the destinies of these characters. With no chance to return to his past life, Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman now lives his life in hiding, those this has posed a more dangerous risk for himself.After the conclusion of the seven-year run of Better Call Saul, there’s really nothing more to be said about this series other than what everyone else has said. That being said, however, this season has actually revealed more about the character of Jimmy McGill than what we’ve known before. This season doesn’t just show the transition between Jimmy McGill to Saul Goodman, but it also creates a character whose role in the Breaking Bad universe is to be that underdog who proves everyone wrong. Under the direction of Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, the character of Jimmy McGill had the potential to be transformed from his first appearance in Better Call Saul (the episode) into a more nuanced and conflicted character and this season takes full charge of this potential.
While this season takes charge of transforming Gene/Saul back to Jimmy by the end of the show, it does feel like your usual Better Call Saul season in the beginning episodes. However, by this point, the tension between the Jim-Kim duo and Howard Hamlin has been gradually building up to a point where it’s driven Howard to his breaking point. From tricking Cliff (Ed Begley Jr.) with a Howard disguise in “Hit and Run” to replacing keys and fake photos as seen in “Rock and Hard Place” and “Plan and Execution,” Jimmy and Kim’s elaborate plan to setup Howard as the villain eventually works, but in an unexpected way. As for the cartel plot, Nacho’s (Michael Mando) actions between Gus’ syndicate and the Salamanca family eventually force their hands to remain enemies, though Lalo still remains on his own mission to hunt down those involved in this conspiracy against the Salamanca cartel.The season does take advantage of utilizing its somewhat wacky ‘lawyer business’ storyline to counteract the more grimy, extreme ‘cartel cold war’ plot as it manages to both use characters already tied with each other like Jimmy and Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) in a way that naturally flows in between these opposing plots. During the first half of the season, the callbacks and references to previous seasons, such as the Kettleman couple, tie back in to contribute to the developing climax all while making sure that the main cast continue that slow and sure development that’s helped build these characters from the beginning of the show. However, by the second half of the season, all this potential ultimately slowly crumbles in a way that made me sympathize with its main cast as their actions throughout the show leave lasting consequences that play into the plot of Breaking Bad.
Speaking about Breaking Bad, yes, we did indeed see the return of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) in these last few episodes. Fortunately, their presence didn’t feel as overbearing as I thought they would be and actually provided more context for the transition from Jimmy into Saul after following the death of Howard Hamlin at Lalo’s hands. In the time that Jimmy took up the alias of Saul, it’s clear that the character is still coming to terms with his actions even if he does try to hide it from others by keeping up small talk. In these previous episodes, the version of Jimmy we’ve come to know as Saul Goodman clearly still has those repressed thoughts and feelings and by cheating, tricking and lying to others, it looked like Jimmy had no chance to prove his brother Chuck (Michael McKean) wrong.However, everything for Jimmy changes after he takes up a new alias and moves to Omaha in hiding. While we’ve only seen the brief flashes of Jimmy’s new life in the introductions of the previous seasons, this season actually brings ‘Gene’ into the light, albeit in a duller world. It’s heavily made clear that Jimmy wants others to forget his old life as he tries to move on, but unfortunately, he’s thrown back into the criminal world thanks to Jeff (Pat Healy) and Buddy (Max Bickelhaup) who seek to use Saul/Gene to steal goods for themselves. Meanwhile, Kim has made a life for herself in Florida even if it’s as dull as it could be, though Jim and Kim ultimately find their ways back together one last time.
Starting from “Nippy,” the post-Breaking Bad episodes actually have a bigger effect on the development Jimmy has had over his entire life in this world. Over these shows, he’s tried to maintain a façade in which he comes out on top even if he does have sympathy for others like Kim unlike Walter, whose greed and temptation forces him to continue his way as a drug lord. However, he is unable to pull himself to commit these crimes because he’s grown this urge to prove everyone else wrong in a way that he feels is best for everyone. He’s developed the emotional processes of Jimmy McGill, the confidence and inspiration of Saul Goodman, and the reliability of Gene Takavic and these foundations come together to create a excruciatingly earnest representation of change and perspective in both people and the world. Eventually, in the end, Jimmy actually does come out on top: he’s able to change his path, proving his brother wrong, and redeem himself, albeit in prison.And that’s just it: Jimmy’s journey in this season, and throughout the show, finishes his quest to become the anti-Heisenberg. Jimmy’s objective throughout this show, and in the Breaking Bad universe, was never really to make millions of dollars or bring people down even if those were his motivations to continue on. He never truly continued to follow the same path of criminality that led Walter White to become Heisenberg even if he did contribute to Walter’s growing drug empire. Jimmy wanted to step away from the world that made him Saul Goodman because he knew that if he continued, he wouldn’t be able to have his redemption that made him a better man in the finale. In the end, Jimmy is able to speak the honest truth about his actions in front of his former friends and enemies and entirely leave Saul Goodman behind.
Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s story throughout these two shows had that emotional and intellectual depth to all of these characters even if some of it felt a bit slow or filler-ish for my taste. However, each and every character in these two shows were wonderfully casted and acted as each performance made me fall in love with these characters (even if the memes did impact my views at first.) The cinematography of this season did a great job reflecting the life and soul of Jimmy/Saul’s world and the bleak, simplistic reality of Gene’s present, utilizing not only the filters, but the symbolism and blockings as well. Each and every episode kept up the suspense and mystery at a high level, using the actions of the characters and environment (as seen in “Waterworks”) to show Jimmy’s downward spiral and vindication. The music was also a highlight, even if some of the choices, depending on the song or timings, felt just a bit comedic to me in those moments, but luckily the show keeps these moments to a minimum while using the environmental ambience to engage viewers.Overall, Better Call Saul‘s final season is an astounding conclusion that carefully weaves the development Jimmy has gotten throughout this show into a cycle that frees Jimmy from the bonds of Saul Goodman. The show utilizes each and every character to not only tell a closely-tied story, but also as pieces to the evolutionary puzzle of Jimmy McGill throughout each and every episode. Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould did a wonderful job with making Saul Goodman from a comedic act to an actual character and after witnessing the events that have unfolded to bring back Jimmy, I can say that the seven-year run was worth it for such a show like this and hopefully these two creatives could return in the future!
Final Rating: 90%