Better Call Saul has come to a close. As a prequel to Breaking Bad, one of the most successful television shows in history, this series had very big shoes to fill from the start. Would a series about a side character — albeit a hilarious and memorable one — be able to succeed in a universe without the help of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman? The answer to that question is a resounding “yes,” and its series finale wraps up the story beautifully.
On the Run Again
When we were last in Omaha, we saw Marion alert the authorities via her Life Alert pendant that fugitive Saul Goodman was in her kitchen. This week’s episode picks up in the same place, with Gene running out of her kitchen in a hurry while Marion looks on from her window. When he gets to his apartment, Gene retrieves his shoebox filled with the cache of items from his old life (or lives, really), including an unboxed burner phone and a Band-Aid tin filled with diamonds. He hears his vehicle information being broadcast on a police scanner, and he sees police pull up outside. Knowing he is out of time, Gene sneaks out of the back of his apartment and walks away, trying to appear not to be in the biggest hurry of his life. More and more cops arrive in all directions though, so when he hears a chopper overhead, he hightails it into a tunnel and avoids being seen.
When the coast seems clear, Gene walks out of the tunnel and down a long alley. But a cop cruiser pulls up at one end of the alley, so Gene does the only thing he can do: he jumps into a trash dumpster to hide. While hiding, he tries to contact The Disappearer — the vacuum salesman who will get you a new identity and place to live for the low, low price of several hundred thousand dollars. But while he attempts to open the burner phone packaging to make the call, he drops everything into the bottom of the dumpster, which is nothing but thick liquid. The phone is ruined, and the diamonds scatter everywhere, impossible to recover. And the noise Gene makes dropping everything is enough to help the cops who have swarmed the alley locate him.
On the Inside Again
At the jail, Saul is waiting for a holding cell while the cops watch his old commercials on their computers. Eventually, Saul gets his one phone call, and he uses it to call his workplace and direct one of the employees to call Corporate and let them know that his store will be needing a new general manager immediately. After who knows how much time has passed in his holding cell, Saul demands another phone call and gets it. This time, he calls Bill Oakley, the prosecutor he worked with (and against) for years in the Albuquerque justice system. Now Albuquerque’s go-to defense attorney, Bill is understandably shocked that he’s received a phone call from Saul and threatens to hang up so he can report the call to the police. But Saul tells him that the police are probably listening in right now from the other room since he’s in jail.
Next, we see Saul flanked by prison guards being walked down a long hall toward a conference room, where the federal government will officially read the charges they’re bringing against him. Bill is walking next to him since he is now acting as Saul’s advisory counsel. On his way to the meeting though, Saul sees a familiar face peer out to him from another room: it’s Marie Schrader, Hank Schrader’s widow, and Skyler White’s sister. She is here to listen in on the meeting. Inside the conference room, the feds list out all of Saul’s crimes, including conspiracy to manufacture and distribute a controlled substance and accessory after the fact to multiple murders, including those of Schrader and Steve Gomez. All told, Saul is facing life plus 190 years, but the feds are willing to offer a deal for him that would cost him only 30 years — if he keeps his nose clean.
But Saul isn’t concerned about that. He spends his time staring at the one-way mirror, paying very little attention to the feds. When they’re done listing Saul’s offenses, Saul requests that Marie Schrader, who is obviously behind the mirror, be brought into the room, because he has some things he needs to get off his chest. Both sides agree to this, and Marie enters.
Playing the Part of Slippin’ Jimmy Again
After she is seated, Marie lays into Saul with a searing speech about what she and Steve Gomez’s widow Blanca have suffered because of Saul’s actions. The cops finding him in the garbage dumpster is a fitting end for him, she says. No matter what happens to him now, no matter the sentence he receives for his actions, nothing will ever be enough to repair the damage he has caused. Hank and Steve were the good guys; they were shot and dumped in the middle of a desert, and “you helped the two-faced poisonous bastard behind it all.”
After acknowledging Marie’s hurt and agreeing that what he’s done is unforgivable, Saul then tells his side of the story. It starts with his being kidnapped by two masked men who drive him out to the middle of nowhere and drop him off at an open grave and a gun pointed at his head. “That was my introduction to Walter White. From that moment on, there hasn’t been a minute that I wasn’t afraid,” he says. He tries to convince everyone in the room that his motivation wasn’t money, but rather fear. While Walter White might be dead, Jesse Pinkman and the others aren’t, and he spends his entire life looking over his shoulder. He has lost his freedom, his family, and his career. He has nothing.
And while his speech is good, no one buys it. The lead federal prosecutor, George Castellano, laughs at Saul’s words and tells him that no jury will believe him. But Saul reminds him that he needs only one person on a jury to believe him. He then reminds Castellano of his perfect prosecutorial record — he has never lost a case — and asks him if he is willing to put up that record against Saul’s gift for gab.
We then hear the feds listing out all of Saul’s demands that they’ve agreed to, including sending him to a relatively cushy prison in North Carolina that has a golf program. They even agree to get him Blue Bell mint chocolate chip ice cream every Friday of his sentence. All told, Saul has worked them down to a plea deal that will put him behind bars for only seven years.
But even this isn’t enough for Saul. When the feds get up from the table to end the meeting, Saul demands one more thing, in exchange for information about a felony homicide involving prominent Albuquerque attorney Howard Hamlin. The feds laugh at him and tell him that he must not be in communication with his ex-wife, who came clean about Hamlin’s death last month.
Saul has nothing left to sell. The deal is made.
Kim Wexler Suffers Again
Saul is on a plane flanked by a U.S. Marshal headed to New Mexico. He asks Bill for more information about Kim and what will happen to her. Bill explains that, because there are no witnesses or physical evidence to corroborate her affidavit, it is very likely that no charges will ever be brought against her. When Saul seems relieved, Bill points out that Kim also gave a copy of her affidavit to Howard Hamlin’s widow Cheryl, who is currently lawyer shopping to sue Kim in a civil court. Confusingly, Saul then tells Bill to notify the feds that he does have more information to give them concerning Howard’s murder. Bill tells him that anything he offers that involves Kim will only hurt her. Saul responds, “You don’t understand. It’s really good ice cream.” Bill agrees to notify the feds that Saul has more information he’s willing to share.
In Florida, Kim is still working her boring job at Palm Coast Sprinkler, still eating those boring tuna fish sandwiches for lunch, still never answering even the most benign questions definitively. It looks like nothing has changed for her since she came clean to Cheryl Hamlin and the Albuquerque justice system about what she took part in. But one day, seemingly on a whim, Kim gets up from her desk and leaves work early. She drives over to the Central Florida Legal Aid office and asks if she can volunteer there. They immediately put her to work answering phone calls and filing paperwork. Though she isn’t a lawyer here, she is able to indirectly help indigent folks with their legal woes, almost like old times.
This is the first time Kim has seemed really alive and thriving since we’ve seen her life in Florida. But one night, while she’s filing away that day’s records, Kim gets a phone from Albuquerque Assistant D.A. Suzanne Ericson. After making it very clear to Kim that the phone call is very much off the record, Suzanne gives Kim a heads up about Saul’s plan to bring information about Howard’s murder to light, in exchange for lesser sentencing. And the information involves Kim, beyond what she shared in her affidavit. Kim almost collapses under the weight of this news.
A Trip Through Time
This episode started out with a trip back in time to season five’s eighth episode, “Bagman,” where Jimmy and Mike carry Lalo Salamanca’s $7 million bail money through the desert and almost die numerous times. In this scene, we see Mike and Jimmy take a break from their hike after finding some water. To pass the time, Jimmy asks Mike what he would do if he had a time machine. Mike thinks about it and then tells him that he would go back to the year 2001. But Mike then changes his answer to the moment he took his first on-the-job bribe, in 1984. (Mike’s son was killed in 2001 by dirty cops that Mike considered to be friends, and he knows taking that first bribe was the moment that ultimately lead to his son’s murder.) When he asks Jimmy where he would go, he says he would go to 1965, when Warren Buffett took over Berkshire Hathaway. He would invest his money in the company and then come back to the present to collect his billions.
“That’s it?” Mike asks. “Money? Nothing you’d change?” Saul doesn’t respond.
In another scene, we travel to the Breaking Bad penultimate episode “Granite State,” where Walter White and Saul are waiting in The Disappearer’s basement to be sent off to their respective new lives. Walter is being driven crazy by a clicking sound coming from the hot water heater, and he is creating so much noise while fixing it that Saul can’t sleep. So to pass the time, Saul asks Walter what he would do if he had a time machine. After arguing that time travel is scientifically impossible and what Saul is really asking about is regrets, Walter tells him about wishing he had stayed on with the business he formed with Elliott and Gretchen Schwartz called Gray Matter. It was meant to commercialize Walter’s scientific discoveries, but he left early in its development, and today that company is very successful. When he asks Saul for his regrets, he talks about a slip-and-fall he pulled back in his 20s outside of a Chicago department store. But there was so much ice on the ground that he actually ended up really slipping and injuring himself, and to this day, he has knee trouble because of it.
“A ‘slip-and-fall’?” Walter asks incredulously. “So you were always like this.” Saul doesn’t respond.
Finally, we travel back in time to a moment that happened before the Better Call Saul series began. Chuck McGill is holed up in his house, using only lanterns to light his way. He believes he suffers from electromagnetic hypersensitivity and has absolutely no electricity running in his house. His brother Jimmy brings him groceries and anything he needs from the outside world because Chuck is too frightened to leave the safety of his home. While Jimmy is refilling Chuck’s cooler with food and ice, Chuck asks Jimmy why he does all this work on his behalf. Jimmy says that Chuck would do the same for him because they’re brothers. Chuck then asks Jimmy to stay around so they can talk and hang out. Jimmy refuses and says he doesn’t want to bore him with his client’s affairs, and that Chuck probably just wants to tell him what he is doing wrong. Chuck says he doesn’t want to do that and then tells Jimmy, “If you don’t like where you’re heading, there’s no shame in going back and changing your path.”
His words fall on deaf ears, and Jimmy tells him that he’ll be back tomorrow with more supplies. “We always end up having the same conversation, don’t we?” Chuck asks. Jimmy leaves, and Chuck returns to his living room, lantern and H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine in hand.
Saul Goodman Changes His Path
Saul Goodman is in court to be sentenced. Marie is there, and so is Kim Wexler. Once the judge enters the courtroom, we learn that Saul wants to represent himself. The judge asks prosecutor Castellano why in the world should someone being charged with multiple accounts of money laundering, RICO offenses, and accessory after the fact to the murders of federal officers be sentenced to only seven years. Saul then requests that the judge allow him to explain why this deal was made. She reluctantly agrees to let him have the floor.
When Saul gets to the microphone, he starts telling the same story he told in the prison conference room in front of Marie and the feds — that he was kidnapped and taken to an open grave in the middle of the desert. “That was my introduction to Walter White.” But everything he says after that is different because it’s the truth. He says that he was motivated by money and that he worked for Walter White for his own personal gain. He didn’t cook or sell the meth himself, nor did he witness any murders, but he was aware of everything that happened and was more than a willing participant. He goes on to share his grief over Howard Hamlin’s death and even his grief over his brother’s demise, claiming that he should have tried harder to help him. But instead, he took away his ability to practice law, and that lead to his death.
He then tells the court that he lied to the feds about having more information that implicates Kim Wexler. He just wanted her in court to hear what he had to say.
Amongst all the commotion of Bill Oakley trying to get Saul’s comments struck from the record and the feds trying to make sure that doesn’t happen, the judge instructs Mr. Goodman to sit down and stay seated.
“The name’s McGill,” he responds. “I’m James McGill.”
Wexler and McGill, One Last Time
Surprising no one, Jimmy lost his deal with the feds. He is to spend the rest of his days at ADX Montrose, a facility that Jimmy has referred to as “the Alcatraz of the Rockies.” We see Jimmy utilizing the skills he learned at Cinnabon and making bread in the prison kitchen. The other inmates call him “Saul”; everyone knows of the defense attorney who defends anyone against any charge. So Jimmy is somewhat of a celebrity in his new home.
One day, a guard tells Jimmy that his lawyer is there to meet him. When Jimmy is taken to the meeting room, Kim Wexler is waiting for him. She explains to him that her New Mexico Bar card has no expiration date, so she can see him as his legal counsel. She then gives him a cigarette and lights it for him. While they share a smoke, like they used to do so many years ago, Kim remarks with awe that Jimmy had talked the feds down to seven years but received 86 years instead. “But with good behavior, who knows?” Jimmy responds, chuckling.
As Kim exits the prison and heads to her car, she sees Jimmy in the outside courtyard watching her through the high chain fence. She stops to look at him. He has a slight smile on his face and he gives her a double-finger gun draw to let her know that he’s going to be okay. This seems to be enough for her, and she leaves. Perhaps Kim is going to be okay, too.