Spoiler Warning! The following contains plot details for the final episode of “Better Call Saul”.
After seven years, spanning over six seasons and totaling 63 episodes, acclaimed AMC television show “Better Call Saul” finally called it quits late Monday night.
The series finale was 70 minutes long, and featured guest stars in the form of Bryan Cranston as Walter White (of “Breaking Bad”) and Michael McKean as Chuck McGill.
The road to the end was boldly executed by series co-creator Vince Gilligan, but this episode was actually written and directed by his “Better Call Saul” cofounder Peter Gould.
As far as resolution goes, the plot was circuitous; indeed, the series ended in much the same way that it started. Small-town lawyer and criminal Jimmy McGill (played to the absolute possible potential by the incomparable Bob Odenkirk) finally stopped trying to be someone he wasn’t, and accepted his rightful place in society.
Jimmy never really felt at home in a fancy suit amongst the highly paid lawyers of the city of Albuquerque. For those who have been following the final season, there were hopes that Saul Goodman would escape justice once again, and outsmart the big bad government agencies in the process.
Well, for the most part, in this final episode, Saul does just that. Even though he is charged with loads of RICO predicates, including accessory after the fact charges to the murders of two federal agents, Saul uses his testimony and legal acumen to wither down a would-be 160 year sentence to just over seven years.
This lasts for the first part of the episode, until he hears that his estranged ex-wife, Kimberly Wexler, played skillfully by the enamoring Rhea Seehorn, is also giving the state of New Mexico testimony in the case.
Realizing this may be his last opportunity to see the woman he loved for years, and the same woman he hasn’t seen in just as many years, Saul changes horses midstream.
In a truly landmark scene for the series, Saul Goodman takes the stand for and against himself in an open court of law. After luring Kim to the same courtroom by feeding the government false information about her involvement in the tragic death of local attorney Howard Hamlin, he takes the opportunity to confess all of his crimes in open court.
Saul starts by telling the judge he lied about Kim’s involvement in the murder. He even comes clean about his role in the suicide of his brother, Charles, a man who never accepted him for a true family member and who belittled him and his desire to be a litigator at every turn.
He continues, describing his actions as cowardly, and coolly letting the court know that what he regrets most is not being there for Kim when she needed him the most. As Saul turns his head, hoping to God that Kim meets his gaze, they share a watershed locking of the eyes as the only two people in the courtroom who truly know each other.
As the proceedings erupt in uproar, and the government rescinds their cushy deal in favor of a new 86 year sentence, the judge asks Saul if he has anything left to say. He turns to her, and says, “It’s McGill. I’m Jimmy McGill.”
The character arc of Saul Goodman has finally come full circle; he has stepped back down into the soul of a man he always knew he was. An unimpressive, deeply ambitious, but overall good man, Jimmy McGill traded it all for one last connection with the woman he loved, and perhaps the only meaningful relationship he ever had in his whole life.
When Jimmy finally makes it to ADX Montrose, the “Alcatraz of the Rockies,” a maximum security penitentiary in the mountains of Colorado, he finds that the inmates there revere and accept him for who he is: a really good criminal.
In another powerful scene, Jimmy is recognized on the prison transport bus as he stares blankly out of the window. An inmate turns to him knowingly and asks, “Better Call Saul?”
Jimmy at first scoffs at the recognition of his once famous trademark phrase and simply replies, “I’m McGill.” He keeps a straight face until the other inmates make the same realization and begin pounding their feet against the floor of the bus, all chanting in unison “Better Call Saul!” A sly smile creeps along Jimmy’s face, accepting his role in creating that legend.
While Jimmy gets special treatment from the inmates and finally fits in, he chooses to ultimately accept himself as an unremarkable, balding and basically normal guy he always was.
One day a guard knocks on his door and tells him his lawyer is here to see him. Confused, Jimmy makes his way to the cold, dank interrogation room to find none other than Kim Wexler, former attorney and his own true love, waiting for him.
Here, the series gives a callback to the love story between these two as they share a cigarette and Kim expresses her gratitude to Jimmy for finally being real with himself.
However, his contrite nature is over with. His posture has changed. No longer does he need to pose as a big shot lawyer. He relaxes his shoulders and casually snatches the cigarette from her hands and passes it back to her. The two share a sweet moment like we have seen so many times before, but this time there is no guilt to complicate their feelings.
As Kim leaves through the high barbed wire gates of the prison she turns around for one last look at the man who gave it all up just to show her his true feelings. She stops and stares, and just as the guard turns away, Jimmy faces her in his ADX Montrose-emblazoned hoodie and gives her one last “smoking gun” routine, an inside joke between the two from many years ago.
As Jimmy places the imaginary guns back into his equally imaginary holsters, Kim nods a farewell, and the two go their separate ways for one final time.
This final season did so much to sew up the loose ends of the story. It wasn’t necessarily the show’s most dynamic season; indeed, previous seasons had cleverer plot points and scenes but this final season showed us what we really needed: resolution.
Gould and Gilligan did it in such a way that it felt gentle and encouraging. After all, the diehard fans of “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” have lived with this series for over 14 years by this point.
The character returned to his original form, but there was a hint of the saucy Saul that we know and love, even in the end of this episode. The way Saul firmly states that Walter White couldn’t have done it without him and pounds on the table with his fist during his deposition leads into the prisoners pounding their feet on the bus while chanting “better call Saul!,” and his facial expression at the end of both scenes is Saul’s classic smug smirk.
While the show came to a natural conclusion, how it got there was rewarding for fans to watch. Walter White came back for a scene in this final episode and debated quantum mechanics with Saul in the underground bunker they shared together before they both got new identities back in 2009.
And remember that cigarette thing? Well, after signing her divorce papers from Saul in what is presumably 2007, we even got a flashback from the penultimate episode showing none other than Jesse Pinkman (played by the now legendary Aaron Paul) sharing a smoke with Kim Wexler herself.
These crossovers and callbacks were essential in letting this massive fanbase down easy. It could never be so simple for this group of television junkies. While the finale of “Breaking Bad” taught us crime doesn’t pay, the ending of “Better Call Saul” is much more nuanced than that.
It speaks about identity, love and the strange and intertwined relationship between these two central things. Jimmy couldn’t be himself while he lived in the shadow of his brother, so he facilitated his downfall.
When his ambitions got too big and he ultimately started to push his wife Kim away, he reached his lowest point. This is ironic considering that Saul was a man who literally changed his name for success.
The final scene the show lands on shows us what’s more important than all of these life goals and glow-ups: knowing yourself. Jimmy finally acquiesces to the knowledge that he isn’t special, but he also gets the gift of ultimately realizing that there is nothing wrong with that.
When we see the final minutes of the episode, the audience is sad too, they now know Jimmy will likely be alone for the rest of his natural life, even surrounded by men who revere him.
That is, until we see Kim Wexler waiting in the wings of the prison to make just one more connection with him.
There is even hope that this might not even be her last visit. Just as Jimmy realizes it was all worth it, just to see her again, the audience too can turn off their television sets with the hope that Kim will return again someday and their love will come full-circle just like the story of this riveting legal drama finally has.
Episode Rating: 9/10.