Tripwire Reviews The Final Episode Of Better Call Saul

Breaking Down

Tripwire’s senior editor Andrew Colman reviews episode thirteen of the sixth and final season of AMC’s Better Call Saul, which was on this week. Warning: spoilers ahead if people haven’t seen the final episode which was on this week…

Saul Gone
Director/ Writer: Peter Gould
Stars: Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn, Jonathan Banks

And so our protagonist’s journey comes to an end and a very decisive full stop, after six seasons of Jimmy McGill’s gradual morphing into his amoral alter ego Saul Goodman, along with his post-Breaking Bad iteration Gene Takavic. It took a long time to get to the denouement, with entire series devoted to events that had no direct impact on the Breaking Bad timeline, such as Jimmy’s fractious and ultimately terminal relationship with his brother Chuck and law firm HHM. Throughout the first four or five series Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould and their team drip fed fans over the granularly slow intersection between Saul’s odyssey and the parent show, with endless Easter eggs and foreshadowing. But eventually, after Gus, Lalo, Nacho, Hector, Don Eladio and the rest of the cartel hoved into focus, the show finally dovetailed with BB. Jimmy and Kim went their separate ways over the seismic and traumatizing death of former colleague and office rival Howard Hamlin, with the latter settling for drab, small-town penury while the former played out his inevitable co-option by his Saul persona, and consequent sealed fate.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this final series is how the myriad fan groups across the web more or less knew what the outcome would be, and how, for the most part, it wouldn’t be entirely satisfactory. The showrunners had fundamentally painted themselves into a corner regarding where Saul would end up – theories were logically and correctly based on the notion that there are no happy endings in the Breaking Bad universe, and that with Better Call Saul being a prequel, that certain characters would have to die, while others had the necessary plot armour to carry them through to the endgame sequence. The only wildcards were the fate of Howard, which certainly wasn’t expected, along with Kim’s situation. Never once mentioned or even hinted at in Breaking Bad (correct me if I’m wrong, fan obsessives) she was retrofitted into the narrative, and although Gilligan and company were clever enough to assign her sufficient ambivalence, if not enabling status, regarding Jimmy’s trajectory, she was enigmatic enough that we wouldn’t know until the last few episodes what had happened to her.

And indeed one could argue that when the pre-Breaking Bad events had all reached their conclusion, that that is where the series should’ve ended, with Kim being given her signed papers by a seemingly indifferent Saul. Back in Gene’s black and white timeline, the hitherto anonymous drone reverts to type and breaks bad once again, and it is at this point that the audience should know what the ending will be. After all, what is the point of Gene turning once again except to point out what the wages of sin are?

As it turns out, Better Call Saul may have been a subtler, slower-paced and almost benign affair compared to the kinetic and bloody hyperrealism of BB, but this sea change is all about Saul staring into the abyss, losing his identity and crossing a line that audiences would’ve found unacceptable. His decision to revive the grift with his cronies Jeff and Max in order to avoid detection by the FBI predictably backfires, and but for an epiphany (when Jeff’s mother Marion angrily states that she trusted him) could have had tragic repercussions. The point here is that this spin off is darker than Breaking Bad, the monochrome cinematography of the Gene timeline placing it in a timeless, claustrophobic netherworld that is deliberately at odds with Albuquerque’s gaudy palette. This is bleak television, brilliant perhaps but unlike BB not leavened with any humorous undertone. What we have at the end is a morality tale, albeit one with a redemptive component, pointing out that Saul has been complicit with far too much to walk away unscathed, as opposed to eternal victim Jesse’s successful escape.

So was Saul, or rather Jimmy’s decision to reverse matters by being brazenly honest in court logical, and the best way to end the series? I would say certainly, even if the options were limited. There was no way other than confession that Jimmy could exorcise himself of Saul, nor could he traduce his enemies one last time, considering that they too were lawyers – in any case he’d already beaten them at the negotiation table. And with Walter White’s victims’ families and the beleaguered Kim present there was simply nowhere to go. In the end, Jimmy chooses to grandstand while to the bafflement of the court (and viewer) accepts responsibility, not just for his criminal complicity but also for Chuck’s suicide, and in the process exonerates Kim. There were of course artistic benefits to this schematic closer – the clever way that Gene’s downfall is echoed by earlier scenes from the BB timeline (standing outside the science building where Walter White works, the sequences where he is shown to be shallow and opportunistic by Mike and Walt, Chuck’s ominous advice) – all these newly shot moments are breathtakingly good, and more importantly add a dimension to the character. What Gilligan avers here, after all, is that Jimmy was never really in control, and lacked the intelligence to see beyond his existential needs at any given time. That didn’t mean he was inherently evil, just that he lacked perception of other players’ motivations, and had little to no moral fibre. When Mike warns him to avoid Walter, we hear the voice of jaded experience from a man who has little left in him beyond his family, but that is ignored by Slippin’ Jimmy in favour of the grift and dollar signs. It’s remarkable he survived that long, while Mike went by the wayside – his one real talent, therefore, was for survival.

Overall series six was somewhat uneven, and despite its thirteen episodes does seem hurried in places, all too keen to wrap up the Lalo / Gus storyline with a pat ending that doesn’t quite work, with Lalo acting against type. It’s still very good, with both Tony Dalton and Giancarlo Esposito superb in their delineation of their roles – Lalo’s swaggering, overconfident psychosis defeated by Gus’s compulsive attention to detail and steely cool, but it had to be pushed aside to make way for the key plotline. Nevertheless, this series has not disappointed in terms of its art direction, script and the performances of all involved. Each episode is filmic to a very high level, with most of the impeccable cast exuding expertly calibrated nuance. It has been the best series on television for most of its run, a beguiling ride that started off as a separate entity to Breaking Bad that wasn’t afraid to opt for the low key and the implied, with its remit of showing rather than telling garnering the biggest fanbase of any programme on social media.

Yes, there were times when you couldn’t quite figure out the motivation of the two leads – did Kim’s descent into suburban purdah necessitate having a relationship with someone she couldn’t have possibly had anything in common with? Did Jimmy really need to descend so swiftly in order to experience release from working at the Cinnabon? Both were clearly, unconsciously or otherwise, still reeling from Howard’s murder, so therein, effectively, lies the reason. The irony that ribbons its way through the last episode, such as when Jimmy is on the prison bus, could lead one to think that Gilligan and Gould needed to curate the audience, ensuring that the most obvious of themes would not be missed. However, it’s not a major gripe – no series has been so referential without being self-indulgent. This is still great storytelling, the downbeat ending leaving you feeling satisfied yet a little cheated, but certainly wanting more of television’s favourite con man. Perhaps more than any other show in the golden age of American long form televisual drama, Better Call Saul will be missed the most.

Read about Peter Gould and Rhea Seehorn’s approach to the final episode here too

Rhea Seehorn On What Jimmy And Kim’s Final Moments Mean To Her In The Season Finale Of Better Call Saul

Co-Creator Peter Gould Breaks Down The Series Finale Of Better Call Saul

 

The post Tripwire Reviews The Final Episode Of Better Call Saul appeared first on TRIPWIRE MAGAZINE.

Breaking Down Tripwire’s senior editor Andrew Colman reviews episode thirteen of the sixth and final season of AMC’s Better Call Saul, which was on this week. Warning: spoilers ahead if people haven’t seen the final episode which was on this week… Saul Gone Director/ Writer: Peter Gould Stars: Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn, Jonathan Banks And
The post Tripwire Reviews The Final Episode Of Better Call Saul appeared first on TRIPWIRE MAGAZINE.Read MoreTRIPWIRE MAGAZINE

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