Better Call Saul ended its penultimate season with the best run of episodes in the show’s history. While the prequel/spin-off to Breaking Bad was good from the outset, each progressive season has improved on the last, and its fifth was some of the best television in years. The series is drawing ever closer to Breaking Bad in terms of timeline, plot and tone, but has done so without losing what makes Better Call Saul unique. While maybe not hitting the same heights, I think Better Call Saul is a more consistent and accomplished show than its predecessor. After 50 episodes, the criminal and lawyer storylines have become irrevocably entangled, and just one season – with an extended 13-episode run – remains to bring these characters and stories up to when we first encountered them in Breaking Bad over a decade ago. So, just how will Better Call Saul come to an end?
For five seasons, the show has been Jimmy’s Better Call Saul, but the end of the latest season seems to indicate that it’s also Kim’s Breaking Bad. The once prim, proper and law-abiding lawyer whose actions were always honest and noble has continually been infected by that ‘Slipping Jimmy’ spirit. It’s a delicious twist that I would have never seen coming at the start of the season but one that makes perfect sense in hindsight. After the season 4 finale, I would have counted on Kim distancing herself from Jimmy’s increasingly shady dealings and personality change but, even after a professional betrayal, she can’t leave him and instead doubles down on the idea of Saul Goodman. Kim’s marriage to Jimmy, his near-death desert odyssey and her encounter with Lalo sets her on a path that even has Jimmy concerned and, in a brilliant moment, she replies only with the finger guns he once gave her when he decided to practice as Saul Goodman. It’s fantastic character development but, in the cold light of day, will she follow through on her bitter quest to discredit Howard?
I think she will, or it’d be a pretty disappointing setup if not. Jimmy and Kim will likely frame Howard and use the Sandpiper money to buy the strip mall lawyer’s office we see in Breaking Bad, but I wouldn’t be surprised if such actions weigh heavily on her. I think that’s the difference between Kim and Jimmy. She’ll push to do something unforgivable but feel guilty afterwards while Jimmy will resist such action but be able to get over it much easier, especially considering his reaction to Chuck’s death. But how does Kim’s story end? Both her and Jimmy are on the wrong side of Lalo’s vengeance but, while I like seeing the lawyer world of the show mix with the criminal, I think it would feel wrong for her to die. While I’m sure the writers could execute such a plot point in a satisfying way, I think her fate should be the result of her own actions, acting as either a warning for Jimmy or maybe being the final push towards him being a criminal lawyer, with emphasis on the criminal.
And for Jimmy to fully transform into Saul, he needs to be just that: a criminal. While he’s always dabbled in petty crime and made some major steps in the fifth season, such as getting into bed with the cartel and helping free a murderer in front of the victim’s family, Jimmy’s not quite at Saul Goodman level yet. Breaking Bad saw him as much more of a criminal himself rather than just defending them. He was a money launderer and was not afraid to suggest murder to Walt, both when Hank and Jesse proved to be a threat. It’s a big ask for just thirteen episodes to get Jimmy/Saul to that point but a good place to start would be to expand his criminal clientele. Not every character or detail seen in Breaking Bad needs to be set up though. For example, I doubt we’ll see Jimmy make first contact with Ed ‘The Disappearer’ Galbraith, especially after Robert Forster’s death, and that’s okay. It’s the characters that need to reach where they were in Breaking Bad by the end of the series, not every plot point or small detail. Although I would like to see Bill Burr as Kuby again before the series ends.
With just one season of the show remaining, I’m beginning to wonder whether we will witness the same Saul Goodman as we saw in Breaking Bad or whether Jimmy will only fully take on that persona at the very end of the show. Yes, he’s already using the name, dresses gregariously and is beginning to support the criminal dealings of his clients, but he’s not quite the same character yet. He was much more of an outrageous, flamboyant and comedic figure in Breaking Bad. Sure, we almost always saw him with a client in that show and so he’s putting on a performance, whereas Better Call Saul presents us with the tragic man beneath the colourful shirts and bad hair, but there’s still a rung or two on that ladder yet to be climbed (or descended). Given the pace of the first five seasons, the sixth will likely have to be much faster to get Jimmy to this point. Breaking Bad had a much faster-paced final season, likewise with three more episodes than a normal season, barreling from plot point to character revelation maybe too quickly and I’m slightly concerned Better Call Saul will follow suit.
That faster final season of Breaking Bad left many pieces unexplored, mainly in the wake of Gus’s death, and I’d love Better Call Saul to explore them. For instance, the rival kingpin Declan just shows up in Breaking Bad more as a necessary plot point than a character, and I’d love to see him fleshed out a little more and witness what his relationship with Gus was like. The show has been doing this with Lydia and Madrigal – elements brought into Breaking Bad in the final season after Gus had died and, therefore, we couldn’t explore his relationship with them. While Gus still has to complete his meth lab, all of the payoff surrounding his secret lab and the war with the cartel happens in Breaking Bad and therefore there’ll need to be some other plot involving Gus that can resolve in Better Call Saul in order to give the prequel series at least a sense of an ending.
Of course, Gus has Lalo to deal with. True to his wildcard nature, I have no idea what Lalo is going to do when he returns to Albuquerque after watching his family die by Gus’s hand. Tony Dalton’s performance is electric and Lalo is truly one of the franchise’s best villains. He has the manic energy of Tuco but the intelligence and impulse control of Gus; a truly terrifying combination. In the fourth season of Breaking Bad, Gus states that the Salamanca name dies with Hector so there’s little doubt that Lalo will die in the upcoming season, but how and by whose hand is a mystery. It’s not just Gus and Mike that Lalo is plotting against but pretty much every major character in show, and I’m sure his path for revenge will further merge the two very different sides of the series. After five seasons, Kim still hasn’t met Mike and Lalo may very well be the impetus for their first meeting. But I imagine that Nacho will be first on Lalo’s hit list.
From the one brief mention of both Ignacio (Nacho) and Lalo we get in Breaking Bad, it sounds like Saul and Nacho will work together somehow to bring down Lalo. At the time it was written, that reference to those two characters meant absolutely nothing, but the final season of Better Call Saul will now have the difficult task to imbue it with greater meaning. For the entire series we’ve seen Nacho be under someone’s thumb and by rebelling he just becomes controlled by someone else, whether it be Tuco, Hector, Lalo or Gus. I think he’ll turn against both Lalo and Gus during the final episodes and even though death is maybe too clean a way to end his story and explain his lack of appearance in Breaking Bad, I think it’s the likely outcome. Maybe his father is killed and he unleashes hell on those who have controlled and manipulated his life. Or maybe his friendly chat with Don Eladio in the fifth season finale will pay off. Nacho is surprisingly honest with Eladio and admits he wants control over his own life and rise in stature in the drug business. Maybe he doesn’t die and instead finally gets what he wants: to be free of the Fring and Salamanca feud and is sent away to Mexico or elsewhere to run his own enterprise for Eladio.
While the fifth season of Better Call Saul was airing, I was also rewatching Breaking Bad and it was fascinating to see the differences in the characters the two series share. It highlights the character progression the final season needs to achieve in order for the shows to link up, and no character needs more development than Mike. In Better Call Saul he’s currently a glorified bodyguard and PI for Gus but in Breaking Bad he’s able to setup and run Walt’s meth empire using his contacts and experience from when he worked for Fring. Mike needs to get further entrenched in Gus’s operation while also getting more comfortable with murder. The fifth season began this journey by having Gus bring him out of his depressive stupor after he was forced to kill Werner, and we saw him gun down several cartel members, but he’s still got a way to go. In Breaking Bad he’s a cold-hearted killer and jumps at the chance to murder Lydia. Mike needs an extra push to get him to this point and no doubt Lalo’s return will act as just that. Although, he still needs to spend time with the inconsistently-aged Kaylee. I also hope the show further explains his motivation for helping Gus. We presume Gus told Mike about his past and Max’s death offscreen but I feel we need more information.
For years fans have been wondering whether the timeline of Better Call Saul will reach and converge with the events of Breaking Bad, and I think I’m currently coming down on the side of that not happening. There’s just so much plot left to tell and characters to evolve in a mere 13-episodes that I think reaching that point is unlikely. We still have the major question surrounding Kim’s fate considering she never appeared in Breaking Bad, although it’s always possible she was just unseen rather than dead or someplace else. Maybe we will see some of the events of that earlier series through the eyes of Saul, and while he’s working with Walt he’s also still involved with Kim. It would be cool for the final season to overlap with the first season of Breaking Bad – which Saul wasn’t in – and we could hear details from the other series but not witness them. Maybe Gus becomes aware of blue meth appearing in the city and we hear of Tuco’s death. I wouldn’t be surprised if the primary timeline of the series ends with Walt, dressed like DB Cooper, walking into Saul’s office for the first time. But I think that would be the end of the penultimate episode rather than the finale.
While Jimmy still has to take his final steps into becoming Saul, Saul has already become Gene in the post-Breaking Bad scenes that begin every season. I doubt we’ll get just one scene at the beginning of the season to wrap up Gene’s storyline but rather that the entire finale will focus on Jimmy’s moustachioed Cinnabon manager identity. After being recognised by a former Albuquerque resident as Saul, Gene states that he’ll fix the problem himself rather than flee again with the help of vacuum cleaner salesman Ed. I don’t think this means he’ll kill the guy to maintain his cover but rather that Gene will turn himself in to the police. He’s tired of hiding and living in black-and-white, and after years of subtly blending into a boring new life he’ll explode in a full-blown technicolour display of Saul Goodman vibrancy, getting himself arrested. He’ll get the justice he deserves and who does he call as his lawyer? Kim, of course. In a bittersweet ending he gives up his miserable freedom to be reunited with Kim, shedding his Gene and Saul personas in the process, once again becoming Jimmy McGill.
What do you think will happen in Better Call Saul’s final season? Let me know in the comments and be sure to geek out with me about TV, movies and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.
Soon, hopefully. ?