Blasts from the past and one final twist mark Better Call Saul’s conclusion.
“Saul Gone,” the series finale, is an incredibly rewarding send-off.
During a Tribeca Festival panel in June, Bob Odenkirk responded with two words when asked to give a hint about how Better Call Saul might conclude: “second life.” The truth about that clue was prettier and more accurate than anyone could have possibly imagined. And it was sort of the ideal conclusion—a new chapter for Jimmy McGill.
Jimmy made way for Saul, who in turn made way for Gene Takovic for a little period before making way once more for Saul, who redeemed himself as Jimmy. To demonstrate that, contrary to what Walter White, Mike Ehrmantraut, and his brother Chuck had claimed, he wasn’t only about slick, Slippin’ Jimmy deception, in the end, he exchanged a seven-year prison sentence for an 86-year one.
Busted Marion, the brave woman who used her LifeAlert to alert the police about Saul Goodman’s location and provided them with a car description and license plate number, did Gene in. After getting his bandage tin full of diamonds, he attempted to flee on foot, but while hiding in the garbage, the gems escaped Slippin’ Jimmy’s grasp, and Omaha police officers led him off to the hangman. Showrunner and episode writer and director Peter Gould’s storyline sent Saul to jail early in the finale, which amped the excitement about all that awaited us.
Saul’s attorney, or rather, “advisory counsel,” Bill Oakley, the former district attorney of Albuquerque, who has assumed Saul’s place on a bus bench and is announcing his new job as a defense attorney, made one of the episode’s biggest surprises cameos. When learning of Jimmy’s connection to the Salamancas, Bill was no longer in awe of his accomplishment, but he nevertheless accepted Saul’s call and agreed to represent Jimmy after the lawyer promised it would improve his reputation. And based on the basic vehicle he is driving, we infer that he could use the high-profile work. Saul isn’t helping Bill in any way, really. Bill is there to give Saul some local credibility and to help him pressure the government into giving him a very lenient seven-year sentence at the luxurious Club Fed prison (in Butner, North Carolina, where Bernie Madoff passed away), which includes golf privileges and a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream every week. Saul uses that final benefit to demonstrate that, despite the circumstances, he can prevail and outwit the prosecutor, who, according to reports, has never lost a case. Even when facing years in prison, he can completely dominate his opponent.
But there’s a catch: Kim had revealed that information as part of the bundle of confessions she gave to the Albuquerque D.A. and Howard Hamlin’s widow, Cheryl when Saul tries to play one more card and offers up what he believes to be new, juicy information concerning the death of Howard Hamlin. He’s surprised Kim followed his instructions during their tense recent phone discussion, spilling all about her role in the events leading up to Howard’s death.
At first glance, we assume Saul is irate that Kim defeated him and constrained what he might be able to obtain from the government. In front of a marshal escorting him to an Albuquerque courtroom, he tells Bill that he truly wants that weekly Blue Bell ice cream and that he knows Kim didn’t disclose one more piece of information that will be used against her and perhaps lead to a disastrous civil case by Cheryl Hamlin. This is something that Saul seems keen to do, and when Kim learns from Albuquerque associate district attorney Suzanne Ericsen that Saul intends to bring fresh testimony implicating her, Kim arrives in the courtroom to see for herself what he’s been up to lately.
Nevertheless, there’s still more—a twist that explains both Bob Odenkirk’s suggestion about the climax and its “Saul Gone” subtitle. Saul interrupts the proceedings to emphasize to the judge that Walter White’s criminal enterprise earned him millions of dollars and that without his legal maneuvers on Walt’s behalf, Walt would have ended up in jail in a month. This is done brilliantly with a shot of a courtroom exit sign brightly lit above Saul’s head. Saul becomes emotional as he tries to explain what happened to Howard, but when he notices Kim at the back of the room and realizes that she is actually paying attention to him, he finally confesses what he did to Chuck, ruining his ability to practice law, intentionally injuring him, and causing him to commit suicide. Saul responds, “And I’ll live with it. Saul corrects the judge when she urges Mr. Goodman to take a seat in order to make sure everyone is aware of what Kim discovered when he turned around and locked eyes with her. It’s called McGill. He introduces himself as James McGill while unbuttoning the jacket of his gleaming Saul suit and points to himself.
While Saul was channeling his inner Jimmy McGill and atoning for his transgressions with Kim, Bill the poor man was costing himself that lovely government deal. Saul, get out of the way and cut to Jimmy taking the bus to Montrose, the prison he previously referred to as “the Alcatraz of the Rockies,” not the Madoff prison. And he is expected to remain there for the ensuing 8.5 decades, which amounts to a life sentence even with credit for good behavior.
Fortunately, his other prisoners identify him as “Better Call Saul” during that bus ride, and they applaud their hero by stomping their feet and shouting his catchphrase. It is evident inside Montrose that he is ready to put his Saul back on in order to complete that statement as smoothly as possible. When we first see him operating a dough machine, his associates call him Saul, we assume we are back at the Cinnabon until we realize he is actually preparing bread in the jail kitchen.
Then his lawyer pays him a visit, but it’s not Bill. It’s Kim who goes to see her ex-husband using her old New Mexico bar card. In yet another gorgeously filmed scene, Kim and Jimmy (as she refers to him) smoke a cigarette she sneaked in for him while leaning up against the visiting room. They briefly resemble the couple from the first episode of the series, “Uno,” when they are smoking cigarettes back and forth in the HHM parking garage and radiating chemistry.
Jimmy stays in the yard as Kim leaves during this very emotional, though brief, reunion while he breathes on them and shoots finger guns. They are positioned on opposing sides of the fences that separate them, but Kim could return at any moment. She makes a point of telling Jimmy that she used the New Mexico bar card, which has no expiration date, to get in to visit him. Kim still enjoys somewhat flouting the rules, just like Jimmy does.
Which unexpected character from a flashback cameo did you enjoy watching the most: Bill Oakley (Peter Diseth), Mike (Jonathan Banks), Chuck (Michael McKean), Walter (Bryan Cranston), or the biggest surprise of all, Marie Schrader (Betsy Brandt), who is returning to try to ensure Saul is punished in order to obtain justice for her Hank? It was a joyful reunion of favorites that organically fit into Saul’s eventual road to prison.
Dumpster diving seeking information to support the Sandpiper residents’ lawsuit against the firm was Jimmy’s first big break. He dumped all those gems in another dumpster, ruining a chance to call Ed for another life on the run, and thus began his entire life in prison.
Jimmy tells Chuck about his legal profession and says the strangest thing you’ve ever heard about a craft store: “One of my clients, he got busted waving the weenie outside a Hobby Lobby.”
Jimmy was curiously obsessed with what they would do differently if they had access to time travel during his flashbacks with Mike (during their infamous journey through the desert in “Bagman”) and Walt (during their time together in Ed’s basement while they were waiting to be transported to their new lives). Walt argues that time travel is impossible before claiming that Saul only wants to talk about their regrets in his most conceited and condescending manner. Chuck had a paperback copy of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine on the kitchen counter later on in his flashback to the visit with Chuck.