Better Call Saul Series Finale Recap and Thoughts

I’m not gonna lie, I’m incredibly sad that today finally came. Since February of 2015, I’ve tuned in weekly (and waited patiently in between the long hiatuses) to Better Call Saul, arguably the best show on TV. I say that with confidence as there aren’t many shows that consistently hook you and/or play with your emotions quite like Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad prequel/sequel. Truly, this has been one hell of an adventure. We’ve seen Bob Odenkirk go from charming co-star to full-fledged leading man overnight and witnessed the birth of another star in Rhea Seehorn. Together, Jimmy and Kim made for perhaps the best dynamic duo this side of Walt and Jessie.

It’s been thrilling, sad, intense, emotional, fun, dark, hilarious, and thought-provoking. Everything a TV show should be. I’d wager, that there were times when Saul surpassed Walter White in terms of overall quality — a fact that would drive our mad chemist right up the wall. I doubt anyone from the show actually reads these recaps, by on the chance they do: thanks for all your amazing work these past seven years (or 14, if you count Breaking Bad). Better Call Saul has been an astonishing journey that will likely go down as one of the finest examples of TV ever conceived.

Here we are. The grand finale. Last week saw a very brunette Kim sacrifice her new life to do the right thing. She waltzed back to Albuquerque and practically turned herself in and even apologized to Cheryl — Howard’s wife — for everything she and Jimmy did to her husband, including his tragic death at the hands of Lalo.

One thing I didn’t think of during the last episode was that Kim faced Cheryl alone. She took on the emotional burden sans her partner when Jimmy probably should have been the one to step forward first. I find it interesting how both Saul and Walt would rather dig themselves deeper into the abyss than give up. Walt had a chance to end the chaos many times, but would not even entertain the idea of turning himself over to the authorities (probably because of Hank). And Jimmy seems content to go down with a bang than end up behind bars.

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I haven’t watched this episode yet — as always, these recaps present my first viewing experience — but I predict Kim saves Jimmy from Saul. Either she tricks him via a con — in a cruel twist of fate — or convinces Saul to turn himself in … he will end up behind bars. Alive, and probably a little bitter, but at least contained; saved from himself.

Then again, keeping Saul alive also keeps the franchise alive. Viewers will always imagine what if, which is why it’s typically easier to kill off your main characters. Of course, Jessie is still alive, so … we’ll see.

Anyways, enough stalling. Here it is at last: the series finale of Better Call Saul and the very last Breaking Bad episode ever.

What Happened in the Better Call Saul Finale

We open on shots of the desert. A familiar overturned car lying in a ditch. Jimmy enters the horizon carrying bags full of money. We’re back in Season 5 in the episode where Jimmy and Mike wandered through the desert for days on end with nothing to drink but urine. The pair happen upon a well. Jimmy dives in, but Mike tells him to slow down because drinking too fast after suffering so much dehydration will make him sick. (Bodies are weird.)

Saul suggests splitting the cash 50/50. “It’s not ours,” Mike says. “I know a lot of people who would have a problem with that.”

Jimmy’s anger flashes. “Them? Don’t worry about them,” he snarls.

“You feeling all right?” Mike asks. We’re quite a ways away from the days of these two beating each other up in Saul Goodman’s office. Mike seemed to like Jimmy but detested Saul.

Jimmy jokes that they should use the money to build a time machine to go back and kill the bad guys. The them. Mike frowns. “Where would you go first,” Jimmy asks.

“Oh, Christ,” Mike replies. “December 8, 2001 — no, March 17, 1984. Day I took my first bribe, and then I’d go forward. There’s some people I’d like to check on in five or six years. Make sure they’re doing okay.” Mike is a hard ass, but that tough demeanor masks a gooey center. He’s a man who genuinely cares about people. I’ve learned to love the guy, especially on my recent rewatch of Breaking Bad. The way he takes Jessie under his wing is admirable for a man of his, ah, stature.

Jimmy’s turn. “That’s easy. May 10, 1965,” he says. “That’s the day Warren Buffet took over at Berkshire Hathaway. I figure, I got a million left from building the time machine, so I’d take my half and just stick it into Berkshire.” We see Mike look away, almost in disgust. “Then I’d come back here,” Jimmy continues, “and I’m a billionaire.”

Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.

“Money,” Mike asks. “That’s it?”

“What else is there,” Jimmy says.

“Nothing you’d change?”

I assume Jimmy thinks long and hard about Chuck but then rises. “I’m rested.”

And that’s how we begin. Cue the titles — more of those amazing VHS graphics. So simple, but so effective at conveying a mood.

Back to the future, Saul makes a break for it following Marion’s betrayal. She describes the make of his vehicle and the direction he’s headed.

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Saul heads home, starts collecting money. We’ve been here before at the end of Breaking Bad, except this time Saul is on his own. He takes off on foot and ends up in a canal. A helicopter flies overhead. Yeah, this is serious shit. He heads inside a tunnel. Slips out of a fence. Rounds a corner and sees more cops. Sirens erupt all around our guy. He leaps head first into a garbage bin. Have we ever seen Jimmy, Saul or Gene so low?

Saul’s box contains the number of the vacuum guy. Here we go again, except he can’t get the damned cell phone out of its box. His attempts to open the impossibly sealed container result in the bag of diamonds spilling open. No matter. The cops have him. Saul peeks his head out of the trash bin and sees himself utterly surrounded. That was … surprisingly easy. Once again, not what I expected, but in a good way.

Saul sits in the police precinct as nearby cops check out his commercials on YouTube. He makes his one phone call — to the Cinnabon of all places. He has no one left, literally. Hilariously, he instructs the girl on the other end to rework the rotation and begin looking for a new manager.

Moments later, Saul paces in his cell. “This is how they get you,” he repeats over and over again. “Jesus, what were you thinking?” He slams his fist into the door — reminiscent of Walt smacking the paper towel dispenser — and collapses to the floor in pain. Looks up and sees a carving on the wall: “My lawyer will ream ur ass.” He laughs at the irony. “I need another phone call,” he shouts.

We see Bill Oakley step out of his car. His phone rings. Saul is on the other end. “You know I’m going to have to report you,” Bill says, dropping a load of files all over the asphalt out of pure shock.

“I’m in the middle of a police station as we speak,” Saul replies. “Listen this is your lucky day.” Bill is now Saul’s lawyer, a gig that will put him on the map. Of course, he needs to get to Omaha first, but Saul turns on the magical charm. “Bang, bang! That’s opportunity talking!”

“The DEA has a warehouse of evidence against you, I can’t even begin to imagine what the Feds are sitting on. Whoever your lawyer is, you are screwed. Where do you see this ending?” Bill asks.

“With me on top, like always,” Saul says.

After the break, Saul is hauled through the police precinct with Bill by his side. They pass a window and see — Marie, standing on the other side. She locks eyes with Saul. He turns away.

Now, we’re at a table full of lawyers — headed by AUSA George Castellano. They read off the list of charges. Visually, Bill and Saul are isolated together like a contemporary version of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid — two men against the world. I’m digging this.

“Life plus one hundred and ninety years” is the verdict, but George says he will allow a one-time offer of 30 years on good behavior. Saul looks disinterested. When pressed, he says, “You have Agent Schrader’s widow here” and asks to see her. The group agrees, not sure what Saul is getting at.

Marie appears (and once again we note how well Saul integrates characters from both shows, though we can’t tell if she’s wearing purple). She strikes first: “They told me they found you in a garbage dumpster. Well, that makes sense.” She then goes on to memorialize Hank, calling him kind, decent and strong. (Saul listens quietly.) She likewise discusses Steve Gomez. “They were shot dead and left in a hole in the desert. And you helped the poisonous bastard who did it,” she snaps. “And for what? Money … No matter how long they put you away, it won’t ever be enough.”

A beat. Then Saul jumps in. Apologizes for what happened to Hank. Compliments Hank. Then notes how Marie and Hank were victims before adding: “But so am I.”

Saul starts what appears to be a well-rehearsed tale. He says a few years ago a man named Mayhem entered his office and asked him to lie for one of his clients. Saul, naturally, declined. That same night, Saul was attacked by two hooded men who dragged him at gunpoint to a hole in the ground. “That was my introduction to Walter White.” Sure, Saul made a lot of money, but he only did it because he knew Walt would kill him.

Marie sits back, astonished at the audacity of this man. Even Bill is skeptical.

Saul digs deeper, explaining how Walt killed 10 prisoners and one of his colleagues, a lawyer named Daniel Wachsburger — “He was cooperating with the DEA … So, yeah, when it all blew up, I ran. Not from the police — from them.” Saul lost everything, he says. “I have nothing.” It’s quite a performance.

“And you think jurors are gonna buy that,” George asks.

“One,” Saul says, morphing back into character. “All I need is one.”

He then aims directly at George, who has apparently never lost a case. This causes some apprehension.

“You’re not going to negotiate with this man,” Marie snaps, but we can already see her words have no value. She leaves … alone and probably more broken than ever.

At the break, we learn that two new shows with Bob Odenkirk and Giancarlo Esposito are coming in 2023. Hell yeah!

Back to the show — a weary council reads the new verdict: 85-90 months in prison and a few fines. The camera pans over. Bill isn’t even paying attention. Saul has his hands behind his head. Too easy. He even dictates where he wants to be imprisoned. FCI Butner Low. Wing D. They have a great golf program, Saul exclaims. “And now we are done,” the head honcho says.

One more thing: ice cream, every Friday. What gives? Saul has a sweetener, or so he thinks: Howard’s murder. The lawyers scoff. “I guess you and your ex aren’t speaking regularly, huh?” They explain how she turned herself in, and spilled her guts.

Bill quickly makes the previously agreed upon deal, sans the ice cream. Saul looks gobsmacked. Kim betrayed him — again.

After the break, we’re back in Breaking Bad land during the final hurrah with Walter White. Walt is trying to fix a clicking sound occurring somewhere in the basement. (It’s amazing how easily Bryan Cranston slides back into Walt. Has he even aged?) His noises keep Saul awake. For fun, Saul asks, “What would you do if you had a time machine?”

Walt refuses to answer. The science doesn’t add up. “We’re talking about quantum mechanics,” he says. “Stay in your lane … the time travel you’re talking about is regrets. If you want to talk about regrets, just ask.” Remember when Walt was just a submissive, even humble middle-aged man living a very ordinary life?

“Okay, regrets,” Saul says.

Walt sits down and recounts the sad history of Gray Matter, the company he founded that (he thinks) pushed him out and stole his one chance at fortune and glory.

“Why didn’t you ever tell me about this,” Saul says excitedly. “I could’ve dug right into this!”

“You’d have been the last lawyer I would’ve gone to,” Walt says dryly. “What about you — regrets?”

Saul recounts a time he pulled a slip and fall, hurt his knee, and put himself through bartending school with the money received through the deception. Does he feel remorse for his actions and what they led him to become, or was he just throwing out the first con that entered his brain?

“So, you were always like this,” Walt says. Ouch.

And there you have it. The man difference between Walt and Saul. Walt fell into a life of crime when he was desperate, barely hanging on. Sure, he broke bad, but he never intended to. Saul was rotten to the core. A criminal hiding behind a smile. Maybe Chuck was right about Slippin’ Jimmy all along.

I continue to go back and forth about this because part of me thinks Jimmy was a good soul who just never had the right support around him. Last week, I noted that Jimmy is the type of person who needs strong, capable people willing to prop him up. Chuck was too weak to handle the responsibility. Kim tried but eventually succumbed to Jimmy’s behavior.

At this point, Jimmy/Saul needs someone who can keep him from jumping head first into the darkness.

After his conversation with Walt, we cut to future Saul sitting on a plane. Bill stops by and after some jostling with Saul’s personal U.S. Marshall, the pair discuss business. Saul asks about Kim and Bill responds by saying the DA will probably just sit on the case indefinitely — there’s not enough physical evidence. However, since she took her signed affidavit to Cheryl, Howard’s widow, she opened herself up to a Civil suit. Cheryl can sue her for everything she has and everything she will ever have — and Cheryl is out lawyer shopping. “Not that she bothered to call me,” Bill says.

The U.S. Marshall takes notes.

Saul ponders the information. Then, a bolt of lightning cracks his brain. When Bill returns from the restroom, Saul pulls him aside (again) and says he wants to tell the other side of the story. “I just remembered something that’ll make their toes curl,” he says.

Bill questions Saul’s motives, noting that anything he has will directly impact Kim. “What more do you want?”

“You don’t understand,” Saul replies, “it’s really good ice cream.” Hmmm.

A crossfade leads us back to the mundane life of Kim Wexler, currently sharing lunch with her chatty co-workers. She tries to fit in, but something’s changed. She grabs her purse and heads out early. Pulls up to a small legal firm and volunteers her services.

We cut to night. Kim is working long hours, probably just to take her mind off of … well, everything. Her phone rings. It’s Suzanne. She wants to let Kim know what’s happening on her side of the country. “You’ve seen the news? Your ex, Saul Goodman? He’s been arrested … He’s giving testimony that affects you personally.”

“What kind of testimony,” Kim asks.

We don’t hear the response, but we see Kim’s reaction.

After the break, Saul walks down the court corridor adorned in one of his jackets, flanked by his U.S. Marshall pal. Getting Goodfellas vibes, folks. No idea where this is going, but it’s fitting that Kim and Saul meet once more in a courtroom. “It’s showtime,” Saul says.

Kim nervously taps her foot. Marie scowls nearby.

It’s the United States versus Saul Goodman, the judge says.

The prosecution, headed by our boy George, announces its team of Cracker Jack lawyers, DEA agents, etc. Bill hilariously follows their intro up with, “William Oakley appearing as advisory counsel. Saul Goodman appearing on his own behalf.” Saul is representing himself, you see?

The judge notes the agreed-upon plea but has questions. Calls George to the mic and begins laying in, asking how a man wanted for, well, all the things Saul is wanted for can get away with just seven years in prison. (Bill scribbles on a notepad: don’t worry, this judge always follows through with recommended sentencing.) Before George can reply in full, Saul intervenes. (George smirks.)

“If I may say something that I think will help the court fully understand the situation,” Saul says.

Perplexed, the judge reminds Saul that he is the beneficiary of the most generous sentencing recommendation in the history of the world. Any statement he makes imperils that recommendation.

Saul understands. Heads to the mic, passing a very confused (and intrigued) looking Bill. “Two years ago, a man came into my office,” Saul begins. “He said his name was Mayhem.” He goes into the same story he delivered to George and Marie a few days before. Everyone groans. Then, Saul veers off course. Instead of referring to himself as a victim, he tells the truth: he saw an opportunity to make money and spent every waking moment trying to build Walter White’s empire.

Those in attendance, including Bill and George, are shocked. The judge urges Saul to consult with Bill. “I think the court is entitled to the whole truth,” Saul exclaims, drawing a look from Kim. “With all due respect, your honor, I think I know the law better than you.”

George urges the judge to let Saul continue. Bill tries to back out but is denied the opportunity.

Saul is sworn in. For once we believe he will stick to his word … maybe.

He turns to look at Kim and is almost shocked to see her. “Oh,” he says, “I lied to the government about Kim Wexler … I just wanted her to be here today, to hear this.” He turns back to the judge and explains that he knew what was happening with Walt’s business even if he never saw the murders or the drugs. “I was indispensable.” If it wasn’t for Saul, Walt would’ve been dead or behind bars within a month — and Hank, Gomez and a lot of other people would still be alive. Truth. Saul molded Walter White into Heisenberg.

“Walter White couldn’t have done it without me,” Saul says. “You got that,” he asks George.

Bill tries to intervene. No dice.

Kim and Saul share a look. Sadness.

Saul keeps going and actually tears up when talking about Howard while noting that Kim had the guts to start over. “She left town, but … I’m the one who ran away.” A beat. “And my brother Chuck — Charles McGill — you may have known him? He was an incredible lawyer. The most brilliant guy I ever met, but he was limited. I tried. I could’ve tried harder. I should have. Instead —”

Bill rises, intervenes again.

“Bill, please,” Saul says, “just let me get through this. Instead, when I saw a chance to hurt him, I took it. I got his malpractice insurance canceled. I took away the one thing he lived for — the law. After that, he killed himself. And I’ll live with that.”

With that, Saul turns and heads back to his seat.

“What was all that,” Bill asks. “That thing with your brother wasn’t even a crime.”

“Yeah, it was,” Saul says.

The judge orders him — Saul Goodman — to sit down and remain seated.

Saul points to himself. “The name’s McGill. James McGill.” I imagine a Morgan Freeman narration coming in at this point: “Saul Goodman died that day. Killed by the one thing he feared most: the law.”

Jimmy turns and looks at Kim. A look of remorse splashed across his face. After all this time, it’s weird to see Jimmy again. Good ole Jimmy. Kim stares back, a spark in her eyes.

I’m thinking all we need is one final scene with Chuck — holy shit, here it is!

Jimmy delivers some food to Chuck, who can’t figure out why his brother helps him out. “Because you’re my brother. You’d do the same for me.” Chuck doesn’t look so sure. He asks Jimmy about his cases, drawing surprise. “You want to talk about my cases,” Jimmy says before dishing out details on a few of his clients who are, ah, let’s just say, not up to Chuck’s typical standards.

Nonetheless, the former head honcho of HHM notes, “They deserve a vigorous defense just like every client.”

Saul shrugs off the heart-to-heart. “One of my clients got caught waving the weening outside a Hobby Lobby.” He heads for the door.

“Hold on,” Chuck says. “You got to reimburse yourself.”

“This one’s on me,” Jimmy says.

“Jimmy,” Chuck calls. “If you don’t like where you’re heading, there’s no shame in going back and changing your path.”

“When have you ever changed your path,” Jimmy fires back.

“We always end up having the same conversation, don’t we,” Chuck says.

Jimmy says he’ll see him tomorrow and leaves. Chuck grabs a copy of “The Time Machine” and wonders off into another room.

Back in the future, we’re now on a Prisoner Transport bus en route to Federal Prison ADX Montrose — or, the “Alcatraz of the Rockies,” as described by Jimmy earlier in the episode. (For a brief moment I think this will turn into The Fugitive.) Jimmy sits by a window, alone. He spots sweat dripping from the head of the man in front of him. The big guy turns around, “I know you?” Jimmy shakes his head. “Better Call Saul, right,” the man says.

“McGill,” Jimmy replies.

Word spreads. The prisoners know it’s Saul Goodman. They start chanting, “Better Call Saul” in unison.

Saul smirks, pleased with the recognition, but also a little disturbed.

We then see Saul working in a Cinnabon-like kitchen. Weird how prison life is akin to — never mind. A guard calls him over. “Your lawyer is here.” Jimmy makes his way out of the kitchen, knocking fists with several inmates as he walks by. He seems to own the place, or, at least, have the respect of his fellow prisoners.

He enters a room and we see Kim, pretending to be his lawyer, waiting for him. “Hi Jimmy,” she says. “Turns out my New Mexico bar card doesn’t have an expiration date.”

She heads to the door, looks outside. Goes back to her purse, and pulls out a cigarette. The pair share a smoke — the lighter brandishes an orange flame that sticks out in this black and white universe. Dave Porter’s music kicks in, playful, but also a little … mischievous.

“You had them down to seven years,” she says.

“Yeah, I did,” he says.

“86 years.”

“86 years,” he repeats. “But, with good behavior, who knows?”

We cut to a wide shot of the penitentiary. Kim heads outside, her emotions getting the better of her. She passes Saul on the way out. He fires his fingers like pistols. Another shot shows the wide gulf between the two former lovers. (Though, that flame may indicate there’s hope?) As she walks away, Jimmy disappears behind a wall.

The episode ends. Better Call Saul ends. Breaking Bad ends.

Final Thoughts on Better Call Saul Finale

Wow. What a season. What a show. Nothing happened the way I expected, but Saul ended the only way it could have. As I’ve said several times, Jimmy McGill didn’t deserve death. Maybe Saul Goodman did, but not Jimmy. Jimmy was a good guy who struggled to walk the straight and narrow. He did bad things but never hurt anyone. His antics were feeble and often resulted in the victim waking up with a lighter wallet and a hangover.

Saul was a cocky slime ball — the remnants of a man who survived a head-on collision with fate. When Lalo Salamanca shot Howard, Jimmy’s entire life turned upside down. Whatever soul he possessed flew out the window, leaving behind a broken man in search of a higher purpose. Money bandaged the wounds, but his soul never fully healed.

Saul’s last hurrah occurred in that meeting where he wiped the floor with the snotty lawyers he always despised in the final episode. Imagine if he had gotten the ice cream.

Except, for the second time in his life, fate intervened. This time, Jimmy listened. Upon hearing that Kim had turned herself in, thus sacrificing her newfound life and freedom, Saul crumbled and Jimmy returned — now with someone to hold onto. His big speech at the end wasn’t so much an admission of guilt as much as it was Jimmy finally confronting all the shit he had locked behind the grand facade of Saul Goodman. He just needed someone to show him how to unlock the door.

Yeah, Jimmy ends up in prison, but he wasn’t free in Omaha. In fact, he looks happier in the prison kitchen than he did at the Cinnabon.

Now, the eternal question: will she wait?

I’m not sure that matters. In fact, that final shot of Jimmy vanishing behind the wall was probably the last time she ever saw the man. We do get a glimpse of color returning to their darkened world via that cigarette, but it’ll take some time to spread and they’ll likely need to remain separated in order for that light to flourish. Too bad.

Imagine finding the love of your life only to discover they’re the worst thing for you.

At least, that’s how I saw it.

All in all, this was a great end to a great show. Like Breaking Bad, the finale was bittersweet but also perfect. Everyone got what they deserved. And while it wasn’t happily ever after, it’s probably the closest thing to a happy ending Jimmy had the right to obtain.

I’ll miss James McGill. I’ll miss the antics, the fun, the wry sense of humor. He was a good man who deserved better. Saul gave him the life he craved, but Kim gave him the life he needed — before and after he broke bad.


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