Last night I watched the Better Call Saul finale, almost 24 hours after most fans Stateside watched it. After watching such a sublime finale wrap up this entire TV universe that’s been created, it is worth taking time to celebrate brilliance.
Oh, there will be Better Call Saul finale SPOILERS in this discussion!
Therefore If you were just clicking to see what someone thought before you watch the finale yourself? For me, Better Call Saul nailed the landing once again, just like Breaking Bad and it cements the entire story as the greatest TV show of all time. That’s praise enough, and avoids any SPOILERS. For anyone who wants to dive a bit deeper, read on.
Better Call Saul Finale – The Story So Far
Better Call Saul at heart is the story of two individuals and their relationship with one another. Those individuals being Jimmy McGill and Kim Wexler. The finale gives us a satisfying resolution, and closure to the character arcs we have seen develop over the many seasons of the show.
However what is truly remarkable is that when the idea was first dreamed up by creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, that Kim didn’t really exist. That’s staggering, and yet it shows us the real genius behind the writers of this show. One throwaway line in Breaking Bad where Saul refers to his wife. That line caused the writers a lot of hassle, but instead of waving things away like Hollywood normally would, they dove deeper and Kim Wexler took shape. Now , looking back, there is no Better Call Saul without Kim Wexler.
It’s worth noting that even outside of these two lead characters Better Call Saul also informed us so much more on the stories being told within Breaking Bad. Just thinking about how much more we know now about Mike, Gus, Don Eladio, the Salamanca’s and many other supporting players from Breaking Bad is crazy. I now can’t imagine Breaking Bad without knowing all the extra context that lines up with that story.
Whilst all that is great, Better Call Saul at it’s core is about Jimmy and Kim. A couple that clearly love one another, and at times can inspire one another to chase their dreams. However there’s also a destructive side that always seems to come to the fore.
The Set Up
This final season of BCS has been all about what happened after the death of Howard and how that changed Jimmy and Kim as people. Kim loved Jimmy but she realized how bad they were together because there was no one to reign them in. They were brilliant, but dangerous. Ultimately that spark between them resulted in the death of Howard Hamlin, a good man who actually cared for them both.
Jimmy and Kim handle this very differently. Kim unable to be punished (she thinks) appropriately, spends years punishing herself. She moves away to a dead end job she hates, she refuses to make any decisions or show her intelligence. Kim makes do with any relationship she can because she doesn’t feel she deserves to be happy after Howard’s death.
Meanwhile Jimmy reacts badly, however also the same way he always does. Just like his brother Chuck, Jimmy runs away from his regrets, he can’t face them. Where Chuck psychologically created a mysterious illness after losing Rebecca, Jimmy creates Saul Goodman and dives headfirst into that life after losing Kim. Some might argue that Saul is what Jimmy always was heading towards. That’s what Chuck thought of him, and that’s what Jimmy expects everyone else to think of him. However Kim knew another side of Jimmy. Remember it was Jimmy who wanted to stop the pranks on Howard. In the end and it was Kim who refused to quit. Ironically, Jimmy went with it to make Kim happy and yet that’s exactly what caused him to lose her.
Jimmy spends years as Saul pretending he doesn’t care about anything but money and proving how smart he is. But you can tell in his heart his one regret remains Kim, (and maybe doing a better job of looking after his brother).
That’s what makes the finale so memorable when it all comes together.
Nailing the Landing….Again
The entire premise of what the Better Call Saul finale becomes all starts from one phone call. The first time Jimmy and Kim has spoken since they signed their divorce papers. Together they were brilliant, but frightening. However apart, they are both flying blind and living hollow, unfulfilled lives. Reconnecting is ultimately what saves both of their souls.
At one point we think Saul has played his final greatest game by using his intellect and instinct to end up with a deal to spend only 7 years in prison for all his crimes. Even the way that small aspect is told is genius. Saul (Jimmy) is told that his prosecutor has never lost a case. His official lawyer Bill Oakley thinks that’s scary. However Saul see’s the truth. If he’s never lost a case, then that means he’s willing to make deals to save it. When the chips are high, he’ll fold rather than go all in. Saul uses that information as any good con-man would, to his advantage.
However when Saul finds out that Kim has already confessed to everything that happened with Howard he is faced with a choice. He can do 7 years as Saul Goodman and be out back on the game again in no time. He’d go back to scams and eventually he’d end up alone, scared and on the run again. Or, he can face a much longer sentence as Jimmy McGill. Jimmy can reconnect with Kim, and that’s ultimately what he chooses.
By all their crimes being out there, Kim has learned to live with her guilt and now so has Jimmy. The final scene between the pair, shot in black and white is genius. As the pair share a cigarette, just like when they first met, we see the flame on the cig in full color. (See image above).
For me this symbolizes first that Jimmy and Kim still have that flame for one another. There’s still love between them. Yet, that love has, and always would have it’s costs. For a start they are breaking the rules together again right now by smoking inside a prison cell. Secondly cigarettes are not healthy for anyone and will eventually kill you. That’s the point. The flame still burns when these two are together, but they cannot be together properly any longer. They can however try to keep in touch and be positive influences on one another from a safe distance. For both Jimmy and Kim, this is far superior than the lives they were leading.
Saul Goodman and self-punished Kim Wexler are gone. What is left is Jimmy McGill and a Kim Wexler more like her old self when all is said and done. Kim has finally gone back to law, and Jimmy is a superstar in prison who can probably use his knowledge to help those inside who have a chance of getting out one day, unlike he does. It’s a kind of ‘Saulshank Redemption’ for want of a better term.
Simply fabulous writing. Also, by that I mean script writing, because the visual side of this universe has always been so unique and at times tells the audience a different story from the words they are hearing characters use on screen. Together Jimmy and Kim are an unstoppable force, but if left long enough, that unstoppable force starts to mow down everything in it’s path. Now there is a very big safety net called the Dept. of Corrections preventing escalation.
Which Was Better – Better Call Saul or Breaking Bad?
This is the question a lot of fans will start debating and already I see a lot of media outlets discussing. For me though, it’s an unfair question.
If you watched Better Call Saul, without having seen Breaking Bad then you are simply not getting the full experience. Especially given that some of the secondary characters stories are played out and concluded across both shows.
What I’m saying is that this is ultimately the same show, the same story being told. I can no longer imagine one without the other and that’s highly unusual for a prequel story.
If Gus Fring had Mike point a gun at my head and force me to choose one…. I think I’d choose Better Call Saul. The craft has just evolved over the course of Breaking Bad. Ergo, Better Call Saul was the beneficiary of years of prior experience.
However, I really would never want to choose between them because they are two halves of the same cake, along with a small slice that was the El Camino movie. Overall, though it’s definitely subjective, for me, the entire cake is the greatest cake ever made. It will be a long time before something consistently matches this quality again. It’s funny now to remember back in BCS Season 1, when fans were debating whether this show was even needed? Whether it would actually diminish the story of BB? Ha, how wrong we were.
If you’ve never jumped in yet, I implore you to do so, and give it time. I honestly took till Season 2 of Breaking Bad to start getting hooked. It takes time to understand how this story is being told and appreciate the genius at work. So start with Breaking Bad, then El Camino and finally begin Better Call Saul. I guarantee you’ll be as impressed as I am when you get to the Better Call Saul finale.
We have just witnessed something very special and fans will be talking about this show for years. There are so many details I could applaud here that I simply don’t have time for. Likely I’ll be discussing the minutiae with fellow fans for many years to come.
What did you think of the Better Call Saul finale. Is there a TV show out there with so much content that was consistently this brilliant and nailed the ending perfectly twice? As always, feel free to leave your thoughts below.