By Cole Parkinson
If you would have told me during Breaking Bad’s incredible fifth season that a spin-off around Saul Goodman was on its way and be just as good, I wouldn’t have believed you. When Better Call Saul was announced, I was never worried that it would be bad with both Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould at the helm, but when are prequels or sequel TV series good or even on par with the original? It seems like the vast majority are a shell of the series they stem from, but I wouldn’t argue with you if you thought Saul was better.
The series was character-driven and a great look at what made Jimmy McGill become the Saul Goodman that everyone knew during Breaking Bad. And while it may feature plenty of Breaking Bad alums throughout the series, I never felt like it was Breaking Bad 2.
Both shows are vastly different — Vince Gilligan describes Breaking Bad as being about turning “Mr. Chips into Scarface” but Saul, on the other hand, was a lawyer-driven story that shows what happens when you make the wrong choice over and over again, and don’t learn from your mistakes. Saul is much slower and dialogue-driven compared to some of the frantic episodes of BrBa, but that’s exactly what this show needed.
So, with the finale airing on Aug. 15, I was never worried about the creative team dropping the ball. Finales can definitely be hit and miss across the great TV shows, but I can confidently say Better Call Saul’s finale was perfect. I don’t know if it’s my favourite episode of the show (it’s close), and it gave payoff to absolutely everything that’s been built up since Season 1.
While Walter White died at the end of Breaking Bad and Jesse Pinkman escaped to Alaska at the end of El Camino, Saul Goodman finds himself behind bars with an 86-year sentence. Jimmy finally owned up to all of the bad stuff he did and it was a fantastic payoff after spending time with Gene Takovic, who seemed to be the worst iteration of Jimmy McGill.
I do think the final season is Saul’s best and seeing story conclusions for Lalo Salamanca, Nacho Varga, Howard Hamlin, and of course, Kim Wexler and Jimmy McGill were all earned and memorable. Seeing Walter White and Jesse Pinkman again was also incredibly memorable, and while some complained about Aaron Paul portraying a teenage Pinkman while being over 40 — you have to suspend belief across the entirety of Better Call Saul.
Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, and Giancarlo Esposito also all played younger versions of their characters despite being older, so I really never understood why fans were complaining. Seeing these characters for the final time was more than satisfying enough for me, and to bring them in to provide even more depth to Saul was a joy to watch.
On the other hand, if you would have told me Bryan Cranston filmed his scenes during the initial Breaking Bad run, I may have believed you. I can’t believe how easily he stepped back into the role and seeing that stubborn asshole Walter White once again brought a huge smile to my face. While I also loved his scene in El Camino, the bald cap was a bit distracting during the first viewing — it’s much better in Better Call Saul though.
Seeing Walt, Jesse, and Saul interact for the final time was such a joy and I’m still smiling just thinking about it. It may have not moved the plot along that much in the grand scheme of things, but it was a great flashback to all three’s first meeting.
Even cooler though was seeing Jesse interacting with Kim. The shot outside Saul’s office slowly revealing Jesse was perfect and I’m sure tons of fans knew what was coming when you saw Pinkman’s partner Emilio enter Goodman’s office — nonetheless, it was a very cool experience.
And speaking of flashbacks, seeing Chuck McGill played by Michael McKean was also very surprising. McKean was fantastic in his three seasons as Jimmy’s brother and seeing the two interact again was a perfect way to bring closure to the series. He was a dominant force in the first three seasons and the finale wouldn’t have felt the same without one last interaction between the two McGill brothers.
You can’t talk about this show without talking about the performances by Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn — both of which are some of the best on TV. They were the heartbeat of the show and the show truly was based around their relationship over the years before Breaking Bad. It may have been more negative than positive, but they truly did love each other. It’s just too bad they could never learn their lesson and instead, it ends after a run-in with Lalo Salamanca that provides one of the best TV episodes of all time.
I’m truly going to miss seeing Jimmy and Kim on my TV every Monday, but all good things must come to an end. Just like Breaking Bad, I’d much rather the creators end the show on their own terms than drag it out year after year with declining quality. It may have been a bitter-sweet ending with Jimmy in jail and Kim leaving the prison after a possible final meeting, but it was also oddly positive.
Both Jimmy and Kim atoned for their wrongdoings and are paying different sentences. Kim is getting back into law by volunteering while Jimmy is respected and loved in prison considering what he did as Saul Goodman. While he may be locked in prison for the next several decades, it definitely won’t be a hell hole like it could have been. I also believe Kim would go visit Jimmy every now and then — I really don’t think this was their final meeting because there’s still a spark there.
What Gould and Gilligan were able to do with the final season was nothing short of magical. Not only did they wrap up several storylines, but they were also able to provide tons of callbacks and flesh out these characters even further. It’s no easy feat to wrap up a show, but Gilligan has now done it twice and I’m excited to see what both him and Gould come up with post-Breaking Bad and Saul. I can’t recommend these shows enough and having both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul now, along with El Camino, I truly believe this is the best story ever told. It will continue to be discussed well past their airing dates and I for one can’t wait to dive back in over and over again.
These are one of those shows that I truly think will be just as good if not better on a second, third, or fourth watch. The amount of foreshadowing, Easter eggs, and small details are easily missed on the first viewing. There’s plenty of reasons to rewatch both and the movie, and if you haven’t checked them out yet, I highly recommend you do.