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Editorial: Better Call Saul Cemented Its Legacy in TV History with Final Season

Better Call Saul Finale
Photo Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Seven years ago, the AMC series Better Call Saul premiered with a whole lot of hype and a fair amount of hesitation. After all, as a prequel and spinoff to Breaking Bad, one of the greatest television dramas of the modern era, if not of all time, the bar was abnormally high. Was it possible to make magic yet again from a show revolving around sleazy criminal lawyer Saul Goodman, a mostly comic relief character from the original series?

Thanks to creators/showrunners Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould as well as an incredible cast headed by leading man Bob Odenkirk, Saul has more than lived up to its predecessor. And now after six amazing seasons, the riveting story of its title character has sadly now come to an end. But in the ultimate compliment yours truly can give, we can now place it side-by-side next to Breaking Bad as a monumental achievement for the medium.

Better Call Saul’s expanded final season was split into two halves, and despite some viewers being annoyed at the format, it ultimately proved to be the right move. The first half mostly wrapped up the various story arcs for the supporting characters while the most recent second half was all about our protagonist. The compelling journey of struggling yet shady upstart attorney Jimmy McGill reached the inevitable point of no return, his full metamorphosis into Albuquerque’s infamous “server of justice”. But these final episodes also spent plenty of time with Saul Goodman’s post-Breaking Bad life on the run under the alias of Gene Takovic, the manager of a local shopping mall Cinnabon in Omaha, Nebraska.

Despite the show’s use of various flashbacks and non-linear storytelling during this episode stretch, massive credit is due to Odenkirk himself for weaving between his character’s different personae near flawlessly in his performance. The veteran actor and comedian has consistently brought nuance and pathos to Jimmy that none of us could have ever expected. From the effects of his tragically deteriorated relationship with his late brother Chuck (Michael McKean) to his own ethics being tested by his impulsive need to constantly bend the rules. All of this has now led to the emergence of Saul, and the character’s transition is in sync with Odenkirk’s brilliant maturation as a serious actor. Not to mention this final season spends significant time with our central character in his post-Breaking Bad life as Gene, complete with black-and-white tint to emphasize his mundane colorless lifestyle. But it’s the impulsive nature of his “Slippin’ Jimmy” con man ways that ultimately leads to the Fall of Saul.

As previously mentioned, the early half of season six concludes the story arcs for many of the show’s supporting characters. Bad enthusiasts are aware of the eventual fates of former dirty cop/fixer Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) and fried chicken restauranter/drug dealer Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). While both actors are as stellar as they’ve always been, it’s refreshing to see some of Saul’s other cast members flex their talented muscles. Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) initially appeared as no more than a smarmy, elitist golden boy running Albuquerque’s biggest law firm alongside Chuck. And yet this final season painted him as much more sympathetic as the target of Jimmy’s scheme, as well as a tragic victim of circumstance.

Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton), a later addition to Better Call Saul, established himself early on as a great villain, oozing charm and menace in every scene. And in this final season, his pursuit and vendetta towards Gus and exposing his secret underground meth lab project came to a very tense climax against his nemesis. Ignacio “Nacho” Varga (Michael Mando), a mid-level soldier of the Salamanca drug cartel, had been a long-suffering pawn in the underlying war between his criminal family and Gus, who had been forcing him to work as a double agent of sorts. Mando deserves enormous praise for his final appearances here as a young man regretting way too late his life’s choices. Doing great acting and more so emoting through his eyes and facial expressions, that final goodbye phone call scene to his father was excellent.

And then of course, there’s Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), Jimmy’s wife and courthouse public defender. Recent seasons have shown some flashbacks of young Kim’s life being raised by a hard-drinking, shoplifting mother, so it’s become apparent why her attraction to fellow scrapper Jimmy (as well as his occasional partner-in-crime) is clear. Even as she’s often tried to be her husband’s moral compass and steer him on the right path, she’s often shown no hesitation in dabbling in the swindling game. Kim is even the one who proposes to Jimmy the idea to scam and bring down Howard, her former boss, to collect their share of a huge settlement case at the end of the previous season. But when their plan inadvertently leads to an innocent man’s undeserved death, Kim bravely walks away from her toxic and destructive relationship with the soon-to-be Saul Goodman.

 It can’t be said enough, but major props and awards recognition are overdue for Rhea Seehorn for her performance as Kim these past seven years. Often being less showy than her costars, Seehorn has always done amazing work and this season alone has been the pinnacle of her character’s development and all the layers underneath. Living her own flavorless lifestyle working for a small-town Florida sprinkler company, Kim’s existence in Saul’s black-and-white clad portion of the story plays an important part once Gene gets arrested and brought to justice.

Her appearance in court at Saul’s arraignment prompts him to purposefully forfeit his self-arranged cushy sentence at a white-collar resort prison. Announcing his rightful name as Jimmy McGill in the courtroom and repenting of his criminal activities, as well as lamenting his role in his brother Chuck’s downfall, Kim then sees the man she had always secretly hoped Jimmy could be albeit far too late. And that wonderful final scene when Kim visits him in lockup where they share one last cigarette together was absolute perfection.

With the conclusion of Better Call Saul, Vince Gilligan and Co. have greatly enriched the Breaking Bad canon more than anyone could have expected. Tack on the standalone TV film El Camino, which showed us Jesse Pinkman’s (Aaron Paul) fate, and we fans have been treated to a decade and a half of top notch acting, storytelling and entertainment as a whole. But perhaps most surprising and unexpected with Saul was it being an ultimate performing showcase for Bob Odenkirk. Just like Bryan Cranston turned his role of Walter White into an unquestioned icon and the trademark role of his career, Odenkirk can rightfully say the same thing now about Saul Goodman. Forgive the corny pun (that would probably come from the man’s mouth itself) but parting is such sweet sorrow…sweeter than a freshly baked cinnamon roll, in fact. And while us fans are sad that Better Call Saul has come to an end, we can always reflect and smile with a double finger gun pop. Why? Because “S’all good, man!”

Better Call Saul is now streaming on AMC+ and Netfix.


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