Better Call Saul: Saul Gone
August 15, 2022 4:31 PM - Season 6, Episode 13 - Subscribe

[series finale]

Figured this post can serve for live-commentary and post-finale reactions; for additional whole-series chat, check out my recent MeFi post!
posted by Rhaomi (129 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Huh. Peter & Vince are old softies, after all! Guess that should have been more predictable than it was.

Will have to rewatch & pay attention maybe to the color vs B&W and to figure out what was real and what was not. Or maybe just wait here for one of you to explain it to me.

I'm kinda assuming spoilers will not be welcome in the discussion on the blue, which is why I'm leaving this here.
posted by torticat at 7:22 PM on August 15 [1 favorite]


Wow. It's over.
posted by tiny frying pan at 7:46 PM on August 15 [1 favorite]


(Have a lot more to say tomorrow)
posted by tiny frying pan at 7:46 PM on August 15


It’s not clear to me what really caused the change of heart after negotiating down to 7 years. Or how he seemed to become but a simple baker, at peace with himself, so quickly. A little too pat,perhaps, but not a bad ending.
posted by snofoam at 8:11 PM on August 15 [1 favorite]


I don't know if everyone saw the thank-yous at the end, but it's a revelation to see the cast so relaxed and -- to a player, including Jonathan Banks -- speaking in a voice a full octave higher than while in character. It's like a huge weight lifted!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:12 PM on August 15 [6 favorites]


I guess I buy it. We got one more wacky + improbable courtroom scene, and Jimmy's motivation made sense I suppose. Final two scenes (the flashback + the reunion) felt a bit rushed.
posted by anhedonic at 8:12 PM on August 15 [1 favorite]


Fitting for Walt to glibly dismiss Saul like that: "So you've always been like this"

Given what we know about Saul, Walt is very wrong. So were people who thought Saul couldn't be redeemed. But it also highlights all the factors about Saul that suggest he really could throw Kim under the bus to get his ice cream.
posted by Hume at 8:15 PM on August 15 [9 favorites]


It’s not clear to me what really caused the change of heart after negotiating down to 7 years.

The change of heart is because he learned that Howard’s widow was likely to sue Kim in civil court and take everything she had left, indefinitely, and he couldn’t stand that idea. By revising his testimony, he could reframe things so that he was entirely to blame for everything. Ultimately, it was an ill-considered, rash, but meaningful act of love—Jimmy’s last gift to Kim.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:32 PM on August 15 [27 favorites]


Nice touch in the courtroom confession scene when Jimmy is talking about his brother to shift focus to the EXIT sign with its sinister electric hum.
posted by mikepop at 8:33 PM on August 15 [22 favorites]


For all the Gene-in-Omaha and Kim-in-Florida scenes, the black & white cinematography has seemed oppressive—like all hope has drained out of their lives. But when Kim and Jimmy were together in the prison, sharing a cigarette, for a brief moment it seemed glamorous, like Bogart and Bacall in Key Largo. I don’t know if it hit anyone else that way, but it was really striking.

But then came the long walk out and unrequited finger guns, and the black & white was dull and oppressive again.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:44 PM on August 15 [17 favorites]


The thank yous are amazing. What an amazing achievement. Thank you, team!
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:51 PM on August 15 [1 favorite]


Eh, I found that tedious. It was not a clip show but it sure had the self-indulgent retreading of past glories, with Saul's little tete-a-tetes with Mike, Walter, Chuck. I was prepared to turn the TV off if they had a flashback scene of Jimmy chatting with Howard.

OTOH I don't know what else they could have done with this final episode. They had to finish Saul's story and it was going to be something like this. I appreciated they got to indulge one more flashy lawyer game, him talking himself into the seven years. And then the redemption arc of his confession. To protect Kim, but also to show her he too could finally take responsibility for his actions and take responsibility for what he'd done. Kim did it properly with her affidavit. But Jimmy did it in true Saul courtroom style, sharkskin suit and all. I liked the flash of arrogance, his taking credit for Walter White's success. That all came together, I just wish it was more fun watching it happen.

Bringing Marie back was a nice unexpected turn.

The smoke break at the very end was also a good thematic loop. Just that touch of color on screen, the cherry on the cigarette.
posted by Nelson at 8:56 PM on August 15 [1 favorite]


By revising his testimony, he could reframe things so that he was entirely to blame for everything.

The change of heart does come after he hears about Kim’s confession, but in the show the testimony we see him change doesn’t exculpate Kim, and couldn’t undo her affidavit anyway. He decides he wants Kim to see him own up to what he did, but isn’t trying to protect her, as far as I could see. And I just am not seeing the full motivation for that.
posted by snofoam at 8:57 PM on August 15 [5 favorites]


...so what happened to Jeff?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:00 PM on August 15 [4 favorites]


Yeah, it felt like what he wanted most was Kim's respect. To prove to her that he was worth her respect. Facing consequences is what it took. We already know Kim is willing to face whatever may come her way.

I would presume he faces some serious danger in the pen. Even though it looks like he's kind of in his own element-king of the fools, of sorts. He isn't afraid of the consequences. Though he'll have a long time to chew on his little act of nobility. If he's lucky enough.

OTOH, the episode kind of felt a little like a fan service clip show. I'm not so sure those scenes were necessary. Still, I enjoyed them.

Poor Jeffy is never going to hear the end of it from Marion.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:28 PM on August 15 [3 favorites]


This episode felt a lot like the movie El Camino.
posted by skewed at 10:17 PM on August 15


Whatever else you want to say about this episode, the moment in the visiting room where Kim says "Hey, Jimmy" packed an emotional wallop. We had to spend those two episodes farting around Omaha so seeing them together again with the chemistry they had would feel to us like Jimmy felt finding that water trough in the desert. That reunion had to be earned.

Seehorn was completely spellbinding in her time on screen in this episode. She conveys so much with so little movement. Wow.

I get what people are saying about the "clip show" vibe of the episode, but at the same time, Jimmy/Saul/Gene evolved so much over the course of the show that I think there was value in marking the various stages in his development. Particularly the scene with Chuck. We were so far away from that Jimmy that it was worth reminding us that he existed.

Visually the moment that really stood out to me was when the AUDAs were arrayed across the table when Saul tried to trade the info about Howard's death. It felt a lot like a Shakespearean chorus, like a deleted scene from the recent Denzel Macbeth.

Also the scene on the prison bus where everyone recognizes Better Call Saul was a perfect bookend to the scene where Jeffy first recognizes him at the mall. That was the moment that set in motion the unravelling that led him to prison. But where that first recognition signalled he was in danger, everyone on the bus realizing who he was probably means his past will keep him safe there.
posted by dry white toast at 10:32 PM on August 15 [13 favorites]


I really liked it, and I wasn't sure I was going to. The clips of asking about time machines and regrets calling back to the HG Wells novel on Jimmy's nightstand in episode 1 of season six worked for me.

And I liked that this episode ultimately turned Better Call Saul into a love story.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:06 PM on August 15 [7 favorites]


Also this show has always been about timeline jumping, considering it's a prequel. So those bits didn't feel like fan-service to me, even though they were. I liked being reminded more viscerally of what a self-important asshole Walter White was, and how Jimmy and Chuck's relationship was always so fraught. Chuck trying to make a connection this one evening and Jimmy keeping him at arms length, reversing their normal dynamic but still not getting any closer to understanding one another.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:16 PM on August 15 [10 favorites]


I liked the time machine bit. What would you do?

Mike: Go back to when his son died. No, even further, to the first time he took a bribe.

Walt: Go back and get the success he so rightfully deserved. Nothing about crimes, just that.

Jimmy: Well, I broke my leg once.
Walt: Oh, you were always like this.

And then in the courtroom Jimmy finally does come up with some regrets.

I liked the ending. Jimmy got a tiny bit of redemption and I don't think he deserved a Walter White ending. But he definitely ended up where he belonged.

I hope Kim goes on to something colorful. As it is that cigarette with Jimmy was the only tiny spark of color (literally!) in her life.
posted by mmoncur at 12:33 AM on August 16 [6 favorites]


Also: Thanks everybody for the great discussions here, they really added to the show. I'll see you all again for the Kim Wexler: Florida Legal Aid show if there's any justice in the world.
posted by mmoncur at 12:39 AM on August 16 [9 favorites]


This interview with Gould in Variety is good. On the matter of Saul/Jimmy burning his own deal, we're told:

"When he hears what Kim has done in the previous episode, that she has copped to everything that she did, her whole part in what they did — which of course, is only a small sliver of what Saul Goodman did — I think it brings him up short. And suddenly this deal that he was kind of happy about, it kind of turns to ashes in his mouth. Suddenly everything feels wrong to him at that point. And he makes a decision, no matter what the cost is, he’s gonna come clean in court. He’s going to do what she did. If she can do it, he can do it. But he would really like her to be there. He wants her to see it. And who knows, maybe he doesn’t even trust that he has the courage to do it if she’s not there. So that’s why he tells a lie in order to get her into court. And then in court, he really hangs himself. He slits his own throat by confessing to everything. But in a weird way, it’s a moment of great showmanship. He may be the devil, but he’s the devil in the spotlight. And that’s as far as he’s planning to go. But then he sees the look on her face. And then he goes a little bit further."

Other parts of the Q&A are of interest, too.
posted by deeker at 1:45 AM on August 16 [17 favorites]


I thought that was beautiful. One small thing I liked was the fact that Jimmy used his (first) phone call to settle everything with the Cinnabon - he does have at least a scintilla of responsibility. It's also interesting that the job he settles into in prison is also baking, a richly symbolic act, much like Pinkman's boxes. Except with Jimmy, there's no commentary about it, it just is.

Kim's future isn't really for the writer's room gods to give her, it's for her to make, and what the writers have shown is that she's capable of doing it - when she goes in and offers to volunteer (and we maybe think she shares our assumptions about what her legal skills will offer her), she's told to answer phones and she just does it, no quibble, not even a moment of shock. Ultimately she has the strength of character to make of her life whatever she wants, and we have to trust her to do it.

Jimmy burning his deal... to a certain extent, I felt that it was like a fisherman - having made the big catch he throws the fish back, because it's the catching that's important, not the having, and I thought that might be Jimmy's revelation, after his scrabbling and grasping at the beginning of the episode, and the more he scrabbled and grasped the more he lost.
posted by Grangousier at 2:03 AM on August 16 [11 favorites]


The only thing I'd change is the episode title - I'd have called it Saul Over. But then I don't get to name episodes, and for good reason.
posted by Grangousier at 2:11 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]


Oh, and yes - the scene with Jimmy and Kim in the prison immediately made me think of film noir cinematography.
posted by Grangousier at 2:21 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


I'm satisfied!
posted by rhizome at 2:59 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


I absolutely got the Bogart/Bacall thing. It hit me hard and was beautiful. The light through the window, how the shadows made her hair very 40’s glam and the camera angles… beautiful shot.
posted by pearlybob at 4:36 AM on August 16 [3 favorites]




A thing that really strikes me about this show -- I think a thing that wasn't really intended initially, but came about organically -- is that people who are A Big Deal in their day just...fade out of memory fast. No one knows Lalo a few years after his death, but also the young lawyer Howard talks to on his last day alive has no idea who Chuck was, even though the place where he works is named after Chuck. Cheryl is upset that Howard's memory has been character assassinated, but who really even remembers Howard, six years later? HHM dissolves, causing barely a ripple as it goes. Everything is "Ozymandias," finally...except, apparently, for Saul, who isn't even allowed to stop being Saul, so much greater is the legend than the man. It's interesting.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:16 AM on August 16 [26 favorites]


Check out this bit of dialogue from Granite State, the last time we see Saul in Breaking Bad:
Saul Goodman: You mind if I give you a nickel's worth of advice, just for old time's sake? You're worried about your wife and kids? Don't leave. The way things are right now, some people - not me, mind you - but some people might say you're leaving her high and dry.

Walter White: Some people would be ignorant on the facts. Some people wouldn't know that as far as the police are concerned, Skyler is a blameless victim.

Walter White: No, no, no, go ahead. Get it off your chest. Go on.

Saul Goodman: The phone call was a smart move, kudos to you. Odds are, it was recorded, it's gonna play great for a jury, it might even buy her a mistrial. In a year and a half! Until then, if they don't have you, they're going after her.
Walter White: There's no point. She knows nothing.

Saul Goodman: Well, too bad for her then. She's got nothing to trade. I hate to be a downer here, but there are two DEA agents missing, presumed dead. You think the feds are gonna just let that go because you hit the ejector seat? First thing they're gonna do is they'll RICO your wife and kids out of the house. That condo is gone. Your bank account is frozen. Her picture's probably on TV right now next to yours. Who's gonna hire her?

Walter White: Money's no problem.

Saul Goodman: Well, I don't mean to contradict you, but getting it to her? Impossible. The feds are just prayin' that she'll make contact. The Internet, the phones, it's all tapped. Hey, Mike was no dummy. But every time he tried to get his nest egg to his granddaughter, it ended up in Uncle Sam's pockets.

Walter White: So you propose what?

Saul Goodman: Stay. Face the music. Hey, I mean how much time do you got left? You walk in with your head held high, you'll be the John Dillinger of the Metropolitan Detention Center. How bad is that?
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:26 AM on August 16 [25 favorites]


So I had a pet theory that the color went out of Jimmy's life when Kim left him ("I love you too, but so what"), and the little hint of color in the cigarette they shared in the prison visiting room showed that they had at least stirred up the embers of the life they used to have, even if they couldn't fully rekindle it. But then I checked, and the Saul Goodman scenes at the end of "Fun and Games" were also in color. Oh, well, I still enjoyed the finale.
posted by Zonker at 6:26 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]


I think the black and white was two things: they started doing it all the way back in season 1 as a visual signifier that we were watching Gene's timeline, and also it was useful for masking the fact that they were not in fact shooting in Nebraska in the winter. And then they just stuck to it. I don't think it was entirely successful, but I also don't know that I would have changed it.
posted by rhymedirective at 6:43 AM on August 16 [3 favorites]


Was pretty confused - didn’t remember Saul and Walt being together in a basement AT ALL so that was weird. Almost felt like a dream. Also somewhat annoyed - didn’t need another Walt scene, honestly, I really didn’t.

The change of heart is because he learned that Howard’s widow was likely to sue Kim in civil court and take everything she had left, indefinitely, and he couldn’t stand that idea. By revising his testimony, he could reframe things so that he was entirely to blame for everything. Ultimately, it was an ill-considered, rash, but meaningful act of love—Jimmy’s last gift to Kim.

I saw another layer to this. Remember Kim’s, “You don’t save me, *I* save me?” I think Jimmy always thought he had to be the white knight for Kim (which she NEVER needed), but two things - one, Howard’s widow is still going to file a civil suit against Kim - not sure why Jimmy saying more would stop that. Kim already signed her affidavit. And number two, I thought it was more a pathetic gesture - and in fact, hurt him more than it helped her. It was a weak flailing and grandstanding of a man at the end of his schemes and grandiose plans, and was somewhat grotesque.

But one thing came out of it that I really liked - his confession that by purposefully disrupting his brother Chuck’s malpractice insurance, he set in motion Chuck’s suicide. And that was something that no one knew - and ONLY Kim could fully appreciate as a real confession. He did that in front of her as part of a full accounting of his sins, and I thought it was beautiful to see Jimmy finally reckon with it. That was the only genuine part of the entire “confession,” I thought. And it hit Kim hard.

That they had a last cigarette together? It was sweet and something I didn’t expect. That was Kim’s last kindness to Jimmy. And she’ll never see him again.

I appreciated they got to indulge one more flashy lawyer game, him talking himself into the seven years.

He talked himself OUT of the 7 years he negotiated - into 86 years. His mouth got him more than he bargained for - literally, like always.

Marie made me gasp. I though the episode was unbalanced in a way - the emotional punch of Marie, and what she had to say - maybe that should have been a victim impact statement in court, closer to the end of the show. But I get it - the ending was going to be soft, no matter what - and I loved that he ended up alone in prison.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:59 AM on August 16 [4 favorites]


Oh but Jimmy talking himself out of the 7 years was on purpose, using the gift of his silver tongue. First he spins his tale at the plea bargain negotiation and convinces the prosecution to give him 7 years. Then he spins a variant of that same tale at the court hearing to torpedo that deal and get 86ed. It's quite deliberate both times, and the best thing about Jimmy as a character.

Thinking back on the long arc of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul I'm left with thinking the best version of Jimmy, for an audience member like me, was the original slick criminal lawyer from Breaking Bad. That was him at his Saul Goodman best, full of style and charm and swagger and more than a bit of a con man. I also enjoyed those first seasons of Better Call Saul showing his small time grifter past and how he grew into that rogue. Over time the show got more serious and Jimmy's actions start having more and more dire consequences for him and for Kim. And that's all appropriate for a drama like this, a moral tale. But it's kind of dour isn't it?

And that darkness comes to its head in this final black and white episode. It just wasn't much fun to watch! I miss the fun Saul! So that's why I love those two scenes where Jimmy gets himself a light sentence, then blows it all up in some grander plan. Both in a courtroom, both combining his carny skills with his legal expertise. That's what he's all about.
posted by Nelson at 7:13 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


I'm really glad all the predictions earlier that Kim wouldn't show up again were wrong. I think BCS was as much Kim's story as Saul's. And, as I'd hoped, Jimmy ended up going away for good and it was really Marion that set that in motion.

You don't bring in a heavy hitter like Carol Burnett just for the comic value. God, I loved seeing her here though. I have very few celebrities I'd like to meet - but she's at the top of my list.

I liked the time machine conceit. Nice nod to Chuck, and to the structure of the show.

Overall I thought it was a great finale for the series - but damn I'm sad there's no more to look forward to.
posted by jzb at 7:19 AM on August 16 [3 favorites]


One small thing I liked was the fact that Jimmy used his (first) phone call to settle everything with the Cinnabon - he does have at least a scintilla of responsibility.

Cinnabon/the mall also has the only other people in the world who might care about Gene. It's pretty sad he calls them.
posted by tiny frying pan at 7:27 AM on August 16 [6 favorites]


Oh but Jimmy talking himself out of the 7 years was on purpose, using the gift of his silver tongue. First he spins his tale at the plea bargain negotiation and convinces the prosecution to give him 7 years. Then he spins a variant of that same tale at the court hearing to torpedo that deal and get 86ed. It's quite deliberate both times, and the best thing about Jimmy as a character.

Oh, I agree it was on purpose - I simply thought that the show always uses these linguistic puns - "colorful past coming back to haunt him" in the reflection of his commercials in his eyeglasses, "talking himself into" to me was him doing it out loud, on purpose, yes, but not quite in control of himself, because he's never been quite that, not really. I agree with this:

And who knows, maybe he doesn’t even trust that he has the courage to do it if she’s not there. So that’s why he tells a lie in order to get her into court. And then in court, he really hangs himself. He slits his own throat by confessing to everything. But in a weird way, it’s a moment of great showmanship. He may be the devil, but he’s the devil in the spotlight.

The devil in the spotlight, indeed. His last hurrah. But we also see the tiny sliver of the real side, the regretful side. Masterfully done.

Got 86xed! Didn't even realize that, good catch.
posted by tiny frying pan at 7:34 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


What a weird, uneven, frustrating, masterful show. I can't think of another series I've seen whose last four episodes were quite this unpredictable, Twin Peaks excluded.

What a hell of a sophomore slump for Gilligan and Gould. And what an accomplishment on so many weird levels.

I got a little teary with that lit cigarette. And wished the show had ended on that shot, but that's the romantic in me. The show opened with resolute black-and-white mundanity and it ended there, too.
posted by Tom Hanks Cannot Be Trusted at 7:40 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]


A couple of other thoughts:
  • Oakley's "I'd like to petition to withdraw from this case" got a yelp-laugh out of me. Out of all the resolutions this show could have offered, one last Oakley hurrah was really the one that made me the happiest.
  • My dad and his wife have been watching Better Call Saul without having seen Breaking Bad; so far, it's really working for them, but I've got to imagine the extended Marie Schrader cameo will throw them for a loop. The Walt stuff maybe works, even if it's overlong out of context, but Marie is so ancillary here, since Hank hasn't been seen on the show since, what, season 2?
  • Relatedly, I'm a little bummed that Hank's death is mentioned, since it means watching BCS first alerts you to the best and most shocking moment in the original series.
The most disappointing thing, though, is of course that Marie showed up in a black-and-white scene and they didn't bother to keep her outfit purple. What, you have the budget to make a cigarette glow but not to do Marie's color schemes justice?!

☆☆☆☆★ will not be watching any future episodes
posted by Tom Hanks Cannot Be Trusted at 7:48 AM on August 16 [5 favorites]


I'm still working through my feelings about the finale, but I think a lot of my reaction to last night's episode mirrors how I've felt about this season generally. I won't be explaining these thoughts very well, but. Some of last night worked very well, because it spoke the visual language that the show has established--from the very first episode, the black-and-white suggests Saul's life has been drained out of him, but there in that prison cell, we see Kim and Jimmy perhaps as Jimmy always saw them--characters in the old movies they were so addicted to. If I'm remembering this correctly, Jimmy never watches an old movie when he's on his own in the present day, everything is maybe nature shows and infomercials? His life becomes the movie.

But the show seems to forget some of its other language, in favor of callbacks. I was struck by the cocobolo desk in the prior episode, how no attention was drawn to it, and how it apparently had no real point to being there other than, "Hey, remember that desk Jimmy made such a big deal about?" It was clever but not ultimately meaningful.

There's a particular shot the show used in the past several times, where Jimmy is about to make a decision that will be true to his character but will sabotage what we hope for him--he leaves a room, he approaches the camera, he pauses--we see him think, then he turns around and goes to make life worse for himself. I was surprised when last night's episode didn't do that. You sort of get this subconscious understanding of when he's about to do something really damaging to his prospects, and that was missing.

There's also the "Saul is up to something" sequence--he's doing something we don't understand at all (like when he's at the antique/second-hand store looking for something heavy, or when he's creating pottery shards in his kitchen), and it raises the suspense as we try to figure it out ahead of the show telling us...and that was missing, too. (There was a little of that in his wooing of the mall security guard, so clearly the show hadn't quite forgotten the trick!)

(I also need closure on what happened to the film crew. Are they still out there somewhere, making infomercials?)

I dunno. It certainly wasn't the worst episode of the season, I'll give it that! And parts packed an emotional punch! And thank GOD they didn't do anything to Kim--I would've hated the show forever. (I still haven't forgiven them for destroying Ignacio's storyline so purposelessly. Ugh!)
posted by mittens at 8:08 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


One could say the purple was her symbolism of her status - the wife of a prominent DEA agent, royalty. Seeing her in black and white was jarring and correct - all color has drained out of her life. Gave me a little thrill to see her.

I understand the backwards nature of it - it would be troubling for people who watch this one first instead of Breaking Bad first - but that most people have done it the opposite way, there was not much way around it (and there are lots of other spoilers too). I personally didn't predict she, of all people, would appear, and found it really effective. There needed to be an expression of the very real pain Saul helped manifest.
posted by tiny frying pan at 8:11 AM on August 16


Jimmy even confessed to something that wasn't even a crime, technically. Possibly the thing he feels most guilty of.
posted by Grangousier at 8:12 AM on August 16


Sorry, one more thought:

Saul is defined as someone who fundamentally does not trust the law. It's not that he feels the need to compulsively break it: it's more that he's a bullshitter, in the Harry Frankfurt sense that bullshit less false and more uncaring about truth.

Jimmy was perfectly willing to use the law, and even sometimes do good by it. But he never trusted it. What some people saw as addiction to cons sometimes struck me, instead, as proof of his inability to see the law as concrete. Yet the character he created, the person he tried to be, was a persona of someone who believed in the law the way that Chuck did, the way that Kim did, even the way that Clifford Main did. I think he made so many people believe—and convinced us so many times—because he was trying so powerfully to believe it himself. Which made the ease with which he shrugged all that off so utterly heartbreaking: because his abandoning that path never once felt like a struggle.

This ending feels fitting, because it's him finally surrendering himself to the law. It's him letting himself have a (literally!) fair trial. And it brings him where he ought to be.

I described Better Call Saul as the purgatory to Breaking Bad's flat-out damnation. And purgatory feels like an apt description of where Jimmy winds up. Not just the interminable lifetime of prison, not just the punishment part, but the part where he's able to make something of it on his own terms by accepting it. He's still baking bread, the way he was at Cinnabon, but now he's doing it openly and honestly; he's trapped in here, but he gets fist bumps from his fellow inmates. He might not be revered, but he's liked—and, Jimmy being Jimmy, I bet he takes every opportunity to charm and to negotiate and to embark on whatever schemes are possible in that place. Hell, he probably even goes out of his way to do some good.

The moment Kim left in "Fun and Games," we cut abruptly to Saul Goodman at the peak of his career, utterly successful and utterly heartless. Here, Kim leaves Jimmy—possibly forever—but in a way that leaves him at peace. Lifetime in prison might be a Sisyphean existence, but one must imagine Sisyphus happy.
posted by Tom Hanks Cannot Be Trusted at 8:55 AM on August 16 [15 favorites]


I was so crushed. I wanted Jimmy and Kim/Giselle to ride off into the sunset, planning new scams.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:10 AM on August 16


WRT Jimmy's confession: something that I think has been a theme throughout the show has been honesty and confession, which resonates hugely for Catholics; confession isn't just good for the soul, it is absolutely necessary for the soul. The Breaking Badverse doesn't deal a lot with religion explicitly (the only religious scene that I can remember is this one with the Cousins), but I think that it's likely that Jimmy had some exposure to the Church at least in his early years; his family is Irish in the Chicago area, and Chuck at least graduated from a Catholic high school. I was raised Catholic, and although I haven't been a believer for quite some time, I have to admit that the relief of confession--the simple unburdening of not having to maintain a lie, even if it's a lie of omission--was a big reason why working the twelve steps of AA, with its approach to telling the truth about one's addiction and atoning for past mistakes when possible, has worked for me.

And I think that it's finally what worked for Jimmy. I don't think that he was merely concerned for Kim, even though a successful lawsuit by Howard's widow would have ruined her new life; I think that he was envious of her, that she could just stop shoveling the bullshit and come clean. Mike thought that he could start over by coming to Albuquerque, but his past chased him there, and in the end, he wished that he could have simply stopped himself from taking that first bribe, because he knew that he could never be clean again. Walter could never get past his anger at having given his billion-dollar ideas away. Nacho couldn't escape the cartel alive. Some mistakes can't be escaped with a new name or change of location or even a call to the vacuum cleaner repair guy. They have to be admitted to, and the consequences faced.

Loved the good-bye, especially that tiny coal of color as they shared the cigarette. I think it's likely that Jimmy will work on his atonement with being a prison lawyer.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:13 AM on August 16 [16 favorites]


Came here to make a comment about this being a tremendously Catholic show and saw that Halloween Jack beat me to it (well done!) All I'll add is that the finale also called to mind this bit at the end of David Mamet's book Three Uses of the Knife. After writing at length about the end-of-the-play soliloquy and how it functions as a confession, Mamet turns to the ultimate function and purpose of drama:

"Much of our communal life seems to be a lying contest…If it is our nature, as a society, as human beings, men and women, your nature and mine, to lie, to love to lie, to lie to others, to lie to ourselves, and to lie about whether we lie—if this is our nature, where does the truth emerge?

"…We have created the opportunity to face our nature, to face our deeds, to face our lies in The Drama. For the subject of drama is The Lie…at the end of the drama THE TRUTH—which has been overlooked, disregarded, scorned, and denied—prevails. And that is how we know the Drama is done."
posted by reclusive_thousandaire at 9:39 AM on August 16 [6 favorites]


The show was very well done, and I enjoyed it -- but there are two major themes that I found hard to swallow.

It seems to me that Jimmy was a psychopath (though a non-violent one) for essentially his whole life. As Walt put it succinctly in this final episode, "So you were always like this?". Jimmy started as a small-time psychopath but then moved on to much bigger crimes. And yet, at the end, he completely turns it all around, confesses everything, and willingly submits to a lifetime in prison. It's all a bit implausible.

Kim's story arc is also unconvincing to me, but for the opposite reason. She seems like a good person, but she throws away a great job opportunity (when she makes a U-turn on her way to a job interview) so that she can do a horrible thing to Howard. Her unethical conduct seems wildly inconsistent with what we had previously been shown about her moral compass. And yes, she felt bad about it afterwards, but I don't think she would ever have gone down that path in the first place.

Finally, I find that my sympathies are with Chuck. He wasn't perfect, but I totally grasp why he didn't want his brother to be a practicing attorney, especially at HHM.

So, all in all, this was a very well-made show with a great deal of attention to detail. But I can't say that I consider it be some kind of masterpiece.
posted by alex1965 at 9:47 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


I have lots to say about Cinnabon, bread, and needing to rest (proof) before you come bake into your final form, but I used my lunch hour and then some watching.

I would have loved the romantic end of fading out on the shared cigarette, but we needed the bleak close for him, and resumption of Kim Wexler, legal aid.
posted by tilde at 9:47 AM on August 16 [3 favorites]


Jimmy started as a small-time psychopath but then moved on to much bigger crimes. And yet, at the end, he completely turns it all around, confesses everything, and willingly submits to a lifetime in prison. It's all a bit implausible.

Not if you factor in his need to be the carnival barker, the center of attention, to have gone out gloriously. That grandiose thing he does could be argued to be sociopathic.

I think the point with Kim (and all of the characters) is....IS she a good person? I would argue, mostly no. The fact that she finds some redemption in confessing (when it finally won't cause her any trouble) doesn't really negate her actions. That said, I, too, was disappointed that the writers didn't explore who Kim IS more than they did. I felt cheated on that front (I've said it before, and really did expect they would flesh out her PAST more than they did. We still don't really know her or her motivations except that she finds scheming "fun.")
posted by tiny frying pan at 9:56 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]


(I very much consider this show a masterpiece, however! So gorgeously shot, so cleverly written. Kept me guessing all the way to the end. Much better than Breaking Bad, for me.)
posted by tiny frying pan at 9:57 AM on August 16 [4 favorites]


I... I'm not mad!

Jimmy/Saul/Gene will be fine in jail. Well, maybe not Gene. I imagine he'll help lots of people with their cases.

I appreciated the flashbacks. With Chuck, it was a reminder of his caring, responsible side. A reminder of the tiny good bits of him. Jimmy is a natural con artist, scammer. A habitual line stepper. When he told his initial defense to the attorneys and the main attorney replied back scornfully about jurors falling for it. The way he replied "one". Ice cold!

I spent so much of this show wondering if Jimmy was bad or good or evil. Good guy who does bad things? Bad guy who does good things every once in a while? Thinking Kim was too good for him and wondering what she saw in him. It's usually more complicated than that. I understand everyone not liking the flashbacks. Some of them were tedious. But they gave the characters more depth. Who they are, where they came from, how they got to wherever. And I was really happy that Kim found her way back to what she loved. It's almost like she had to feel clean enough or worthy enough to do it. It could only happen after she confessed.

Did anyone else feel like there was so much more chemistry in the last shared cigarette scene? I rarely notice things like that but it was such an awesome scene to watch.

All in all Jimmy and Kim are two of the most interesting characters to me. I will miss this show.
posted by mokeydraws at 10:30 AM on August 16 [3 favorites]


it's the catching that's important, not the having, and I thought that might be Jimmy's revelation, after his scrabbling and grasping at the beginning of the episode, and the more he scrabbled and grasped the more he lost.

Jimmy's nadir in the episode is when he punches the cell door, after getting caught covered in eggs. After that, he was in control of his destiny. He decided how long his sentence was going to be, and where he would serve it. But the thing he only realized later is that he also had control over how his future would feel.

One of my favourite lines from any TV show ever is from Six Feet Under: Doing the right thing doesn't make life easy; it makes life possible. He had the choice of a cushy sentence, but knowing forever that Kim would detest him and what he became, or spending his life in prison knowing that he was the Jimmy that Kim loved. And the latter was the path that felt more possible, more livable for him.

I also really like the flashbacks making the point that unlike Walt and Mike (and Gus, though he didn't appear in the episode), whose paths to their ends were shaped by bad choices and/or bitterness at their treatment by others, Jimmy ended up where he did because, for better or worse, this is who he is, and he's fine with that. He doesn't regret where Saul Goodman took him, only that Kim thought less of him for it, and he found a way to repair that.
posted by dry white toast at 10:46 AM on August 16 [19 favorites]


Not to make it about Breaking Bad, but I don't think Walt was made into Heisenberg by circumstances; that seemed to be a thing that was easy for Walt to believe, but from the introduction of Gretchen and Elliott at the earliest, it was clear that Walt had always been kind of an asshole, and that was his real tragic flaw. Compare it to Mike first thinking the central tragedy of his life was his son's murder, only to think of it a moment and realize the central tragedy of his life was really when he sold out. I just think Jimmy has a much lower capacity for self-deception than Walt or Mike.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:59 AM on August 16 [7 favorites]


Right! And the central tragedy of Mike's selling out was really the cause of his son's death. What I loved about that moment was I thought when he said a date in the 80s, he was going back to the beginning of his son's life - but it was his first mistake, taking a bribe. Beautifully tragic.
posted by tiny frying pan at 11:08 AM on August 16


Something else I just thought of is how alone Jimmy was. He got locked up and his first call was to cinnabon. It almost felt like he had to call someone but had no one else to call. He spent a lot of time surrounded by people who didn't like him. The person he looked up to the most had serious contempt for him. Kim knew who he was and still loved him. He didn't have a lot of that throughout his life.
posted by mokeydraws at 11:18 AM on August 16 [3 favorites]


I did catch myself wondering if what Jimmy said--that Walter wouldn't have gotten nearly as far without him, that Hank and Gomie would probably still be alive--would have been true. I'm tempted to do a partial rewatch of BB, at least the Saul-containing parts, to see if that checks out; didn't Saul introduce Walter to Gus, or at least point him in Gus' direction?
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:22 AM on August 16


I kind of think it's true. Saul knew the guy who knew the guy (the ultimate guy being Fring). Walt needed Fring in order to get as big as he did. That said, Fring would have taken notice of Walt at some point? But maybe not before he got himself killed by local dealers over his amazing blue product.

And Saul taught him the whole money-laundering thing. Key in creating the kingpin Walt became.
posted by tiny frying pan at 11:26 AM on August 16 [3 favorites]


For fans of Kim:

She encapsulated what I felt in that moment very well (oh Bill, of course the Chuck part wasn’t a crime, that wasn’t the point.)
realizing like he’s going to confess not just to crimes but to these very real feelings that he’s had about Chuck and finally sort of letting his profound grief come to the surface. She knows that’s the real him.
Where does Kim end up after ‘Better Call Saul’? Rhea Seehorn reveals her theory
posted by tilde at 11:39 AM on August 16 [12 favorites]


Yes, certainly the thesis of Breaking Bad is that Walt was always this guy as well, but the point is that when he and Mike are asked directly, they can see choices they made that led them to their ends, and would do things differently. Jimmy doesn't wish he had made different choices. He didn't even really do anything to drive Kim away. Kim decided they were bad for each other, not that he was bad for her. The only regret he has is his part in Chuck's suicide. He is who he is because it's who he had to be to exist in the world.
posted by dry white toast at 12:51 PM on August 16 [2 favorites]


Tom Hanks Cannot Be Trusted
He's still baking bread, the way he was at Cinnabon

Anyone wonder whether the writers noticed the wordplay between breaking bad and baking bread? Probably just a coincidence.

I definitely think Gene's not worse off in prison (or, that kind of idealized vision of prison) than he was at Cinnabon. His "hell" turned out to be better, friendlier than his purgatory. Largely, in terms of his own self-acceptance, because he had come clean. But also because he'd been recognized by the other inmates as "Saul," and that worked out well for him in prison. So that's a bit of a mixed bag.

Which is okay with me.
posted by torticat at 1:50 PM on August 16 [7 favorites]


Well, not bad. Show endings are tricky; writers tend to get them more wrong than right. I think this one works.

I liked the flashbacks. I still have a difficult time with Chuck -- truly, I think both brothers would've been happiest deciding to never speak to each other again -- but I loved how they threaded Chuck's rare attempt to reach out to Jimmy with Saul's time travel question to Mike and Walt. I'm a little surprised Mike responded so openly -- but then, it was very hot. Something that struck me about Walt was that his grandstanding about Science reminded me of Chuck grandstanding about The Law. Now that we've spent several seasons getting to know Saul, it's kind of funny to realize he probably disliked Walt (even beyond the abduction at gunpoint).

Jimmy's choice to blow up his deal was dramatically satisfying. It's rough to think that Jimmy is just going to be in prison forever -- but then, both shows always made it clear that the hammer was going to come down hard on someone. And if Jimmy had kept to his original deal, he would've been out in 2017, which means he would've ended up scamming millions in some crypto scheme. So...I suppose this is the only just timeline.
posted by grandiloquiet at 1:57 PM on August 16 [10 favorites]


“It’s not clear to me what really caused the change of heart after negotiating down to 7 years.”

In the phone booth argument Jimmy yells at Kim to go first (with the confession). She does. When he finds this out, he realises that he has a choice to go down a different path, to change his timeline. He can't go back and change his big moment of regret (bailing on Chuck when he offers to help with his cases). But he can choose to be Jimmy again, ditching Saul forever.

There are 12 people in the courtroom. He only needs to convince the one. He confessses everything, including a piece that only he knows. That was for Kim.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:26 PM on August 16 [9 favorites]


Basically, he could spend 7 years and be free and alone. Or he could spend the rest of his time in prison, but finally validated by the one person who really saw him for who he was.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:28 PM on August 16 [8 favorites]


Also, the talking down to 7 years was just fuckery, because he could. He makes all the lawyers look like absolute asses in there and exposes the system for the sham that it is.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:34 PM on August 16 [9 favorites]


Much as Science! quickly became Walt's superpower, whether he deserved a power or not*, Jimmy is pretty much an antiheroic Atticus Finch at this point, and I feel confident that somehow he and Kim could get him out of prison if they wanted to; there will probably be a BCS movie in which this happens in like 2032, one that takes place in 2013, and in which everyone is ten years older than they should be and we just kinda deal with it.

*If the BB/BCSVerse agrees with Peter Parker's Uncle Ben that with great power comes great responsibility, it illustrates the point by showing countless examples of empowered players not living up to their responsibilities. The sense of betrayal Jesse felt toward Walt, the sense of betrayal Jimmy felt toward Chuck, even the sense of betrayal Gus felt toward Don Eladio, all mark crucial turning points in the larger narrative; and these are all examples of empowered people grievously failing the people who rely on them, less powerful people who come to them for love or respect, and mean no harm.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:58 PM on August 16 [3 favorites]


grandiloquiet I don't feel like I can reply to so many thoughtful comments above without making 20 consecutive comments, which would be annoying to everyone. But this...
I still have a difficult time with Chuck -- truly, I think both brothers would've been happiest deciding to never speak to each other again -- but I loved how they threaded Chuck's rare attempt to reach out to Jimmy with Saul's time travel question to Mike and Walt.

...if you don't mind, I'll use as a stand-in for several comments upthread that have to do with Chuck.

I still have a difficult time with Chuck too; and from your comment, I'd guess I'm less sympathetic to him than you are. Or than Jimmy is, for that matter. Or the show runners/writers!

I rewatched all of BCS in preparation for this last season. As can be seen from my earlier comments in BCS threads, I consider Chuck to be a sociopath--far more than Jimmy is. I honestly don't see anything in in previous BCS eps that would make that flashback convo in the finale seem plausible. (Which is why, in my first comment in this thread, I was trying to figure out which flashbacks were supposed to be real, and which ones in some kind of time machine alternate reality. I guess they were all supposed to be real.)

The Chuck that we knew before his death would never have had that kind of sympathetic conversation with Jimmy, asking him to sit down and talk about his cases. The Chuck we knew did not believe Jimmy should have been an attorney at all. Also, what had Jimmy done at that point, that Chuck could legitimately have said to him, "It's never too late to go back and change your path"? Jimmy was on his way up at that point--not to mention taking care of all of Chuck's needs, and not even questioning whether they were psychosomatic or not. Chuck was the one actively undermining Jimmy.

It could be argued that this flashback took place after Jimmy had altered the Mesa Verde documents ("It's never too late to go back and change your path")? That seems implausible to me, too, though. By that time, it was all-out war between Chuck and Jimmy, and no way would Chuck have been asking Jimmy to sit down and stay awhile.

I also think that Jimmy's assumed guilt over Chuck's death is misplaced. Yes, his visit to the insurance office was malicious. On the other hand--the way that Chuck responded to it--ultimately tearing apart his home from the inside out--kind of vindicated Jimmy? This was not a man who should be passing judgment on the worthiness of other attorneys, much less practicing law himself.
posted by torticat at 3:12 PM on August 16 [8 favorites]


The Chuck that we knew before his death would never have had that kind of sympathetic conversation with Jimmy, asking him to sit down and talk about his cases.

Right, not without an ulterior motive, which Jimmy knew and so dismissed the suggestion. It would have just been an opportunity for Chuck to judge Jimmy and lead to his actual point, which was what he later said: "It's never too late to go back and change your path" - sort of like, hey, you gave it a try, and I'm your big brother and I support you! But we both know you're worthless at this and should do something else.
posted by destructive cactus at 3:21 PM on August 16 [4 favorites]


The Chuck that we knew before his death….


That was Chuck before his death, but just after his sickness and leave. His wife has left him, Jimmy is doing $750 a head public defender work, and trying to help his brother. Chuck is still drinking real milk instead of soy, the Financial Times is hard to get, and he’s operating under the power of Chuck who could just pay a guy or gal from the office to do it until he’s back. He’s just cottoned on to the stolen ice bit, and by mutual agreement “okay, I won’t tell you” that bit of the subject is dropped.

By the time we meet him in the early days of BCS present / color (as opposed to kinda fuzzy / color Reforming Slippin Jimmy and post BB b&w- Gene) he’s been sick at least 18 months?
posted by tilde at 3:33 PM on August 16 [3 favorites]


So...the thing about H.G. Wells's The Time Machine is that, unlike almost every time travel story that came after it, it's not actually about going back into the past. No, in Wells's novel, the machine only takes the unnamed traveller forward, to futures progressively more and more fallen and doomed, as the worst tendencies of the past reach their logical end.

After all, going back in time, changing things...that's an impossibility, right? An absurd, impossible thing.

Prequels are that kind of time machine, too; they are about how the past ends up at the future, not about how the past might be changed. But they offer the illusion of returning to and rewriting the past, even though things are just gonna end up where they were.

And Jimmy's journey to the future for most of this episode, most of this series, has been that: the story of the guy who wound up, despite all, as exactly who he seemed to be that very first time he appeared in Breaking Bad. The levels of moral depravity he embraces in the last few episodes, up to and including gloatingly performing his skill in perverting justice before Marie Schraeder, seem very much like the guy we met there, whose only ambition was to be the Tom Hagen to Walter White's Vito Corleone.

And that guy? That guy is doomed to relive the arc of his own corruption and downfall, again and again. The hungry neophyte lawyer who was made by dumpster diving at the nursing home is undone by a failed attempt to hide in one. The guy who winced at Fred Whalen's family as he helped Lalo Salamanca trick justice becomes the guy who, like Lalo, sneers at Hank Schraeder's widow and pulls the stunt for himself.

And where does it get him? Exactly where he started. When Walter White tells Saul he'd have been the very last lawyer Walt would ever have turned to for legitimate help reclaiming his intellectual property, in that boiler room basement, Saul, for all his millions, for the empire-building he aided in so proudly, is Jimmy McGill, the guy that the Kettlemans called "the kind of lawyer guilt people hire," not the kind hired by people like them or like Walter White who are invested in their own delusions of decency and justification as they commit their crimes.

Saul Goodman is just Jimmy McGill, Esq., but much, much worse, moving along the same arc in faster and faster curves, further down the spiral. Jimmy McGill, Esq. lasted a few years before it all went to hell and he had to abandon that and become Saul to pretend he was starting over, getting a new shot. Saul lasted only 16 months, as documented in a court of law in this very episode. And Gene Takavic/Viktor St. Claire last just six or so months Omaha before he, too, winds up in the same kind of cramped little prison as boiler-room Jimmy the lawyer, as about-to-disappear Saul, hell, as Slippin' Jimmy back in a Season 2 flashback, one set before the series began when Chuck saves him from jail after his Chicago Sunroof incident.

The flashbacks with the time machine bit also play out this worsening spiral, in asynchronous order. First we have Mike reflecting on his genuine regrets, sadly knowing there ain't no way back, while Jimmy imagines a cheap payday. Second, we have Walter White, still delusionally claiming he was done dirty (when Breaking Bad makes it fairly clear his ego made him cast aside both a lover and a business), but still imagining an avenue to more legitimately feed his colossal ego....and Saul can only imagine doing a better job of it back as Slippin' Jimmy to dodge the physical aftereffects of a fake-out turned all too real.

And finally we get Chuck, where there's no actual time machine question, just the image of the book. And Chuck, even more than Walter, dishonestly tries to get Jimmy to "change his path" -- by which Chuck means stop being a lawyer, though he won't come clean to Jimmy -- even as Chuck momentarily tries to indulge his own desire to go back tot he way it was, with remarks whose subtext is his impossible to be the prominent lawyer with interesting cases with Jimmy safely in the mailroom, a mere staff employee of HHM.

And what does Jimmy say? "When did you ever change your path, Chuck?" Chuck's got no answer.

In this episode, Jimmy does find his answer. He breaks the loop. He finds his time machine, but it only works by going forward and accepting the logical consequences.

Naturally, in a show so in love with match shots and internal homages, the mocking, Jimmy comes clean shortly after we get to see a buzzing "Exit" sign like the one from Chuck's breakdown on the stand. There, Jimmy, aided by a clumsy objection from opposing counsel, provoked Chuck into confronting Chuck's own delusions, into finally being forced to see himself as he was.

Jimmy's exit here is of his own making: the clumsy objections are those of his hapless advisory counsel. And it's Jimmy who decides to finally take a look at himself. Where Chuck was laid bare to the eyes of a panel of Bar Association officials, Jimmy, here, looks not to the judge, and not regretfully, but to Kim, imploringly.

And Lalo's callous disregard for the family of his victim? Here, Jimmy sincerely gives the families the closure he would've denied them. Even his flash of prideful arrogance is, finally, an act of self-revelation: he speaks to his own motive.

So when he demands to be called Jimmy McGill, he also abandons all those false identities, all those new selves. Going to prison is not just losing his freedom, it's losing Saul Goodman's flashy suit and trappings; perversely, the cries of "Saul" on the bus and the name Sal in his bakery job in the prison also reflect the accountability Saul must face. The burial of Saul Goodman and of Goodman's blatant criminality in the anonymity of Gene Takavic is also a privilege Jimmy gives up.

But why?

2N2222 said: Yeah, it felt like what he wanted most was Kim's respect. To prove to her that he was worth her respect. Facing consequences is what it took. We already know Kim is willing to face whatever may come her way.

iamkimian said: Basically, he could spend 7 years and be free and alone. Or he could spend the rest of his time in prison, but finally validated by the one person who really saw him for who he was.

I mean, certainly, that's a big part of it. Jimmy's life has been one long demand for validation. dad igored him and kept giving cash away to grifters. Chuck would never see him as an equal, except for some sad and desperate moments where he could use Jimmy as a proxy for himself. The small-fry clients, the Salamancas and Frings, and the law firms always saw him as disreputable, at best an instrument, even when he was leveraging his "criminal lawyer" rep to make cash and live tackily large. Walter White's ego never let him so much as acknowledge Saul's organizational and money-laundering skills, the functional backbone of his imagined empire.

Kim? Kim never really let him down. The worst she ever did to him was to love him, love him enough to be honest with him, even if that hurt. Her validation is all that matters to him, in the end, but this is partly because his rejection of her and her willingness to stop are one more sin he must atone for and take the punishment for.

Tom Hanks Cannot Be Trusted said: I described Better Call Saul as the purgatory to Breaking Bad's flat-out damnation. And purgatory feels like an apt description of where Jimmy winds up. Not just the interminable lifetime of prison, not just the punishment part, but the part where he's able to make something of it on his own terms by accepting it.

[...]

Lifetime in prison might be a Sisyphean existence, but one must imagine Sisyphus happy.


And this is the fruit of that self-absolution: not just purgatory, but the willing acceptance of it, the understanding that there's much to make up for. Like Dante, Jimmy has his Beatrice in Kim, there to see him to the later parts of Purgatory where redemption through purgation and penance is just about visible, off in the far distance.

I mean, my take on this pretentious here; I don't actually think this is Dantean. But I think there's a progress out of repetition. Slippin' Jimmy and Saul Goodman are Sisyphus in Greek myth, not in Camus, the guy who thinks he's so clever so the gods stick him with repetition. It's less Dante's hell than Flann O'Brien's hell in The Third Policeman, where the damned are stuck with endless repetition that leads them back, again and again, to the scene of their damning offenses and from there back into the infinitely punishing loop. (O'Brien's original title was Hell Goes Round and Round.)

The Jimmy we see at the end, stripped of everything but himself and of every illusion, maybe that is indeed Camus's Sisyphus in the routines of prison, but the ABQ-verse is less a theatre of the absurd than it is relentlessly moral, less a scene where people invent their own meanings than one where a set of values -- acceptance, yes, but also honesty, empathy, and disciplined diligence -- are the unpleasant but ultimately better choice.

tiny frying pan said:
But one thing came out of it that I really liked - his confession that by purposefully disrupting his brother Chuck’s malpractice insurance, he set in motion Chuck’s suicide. And that was something that no one knew - and ONLY Kim could fully appreciate as a real confession.

And here is openness, empathy, and acceptance. For a long time, the question fans asked was "Is this the point at which Jimmy becomes Saul?" One of the leading answers was literalized: when he fakes tears for Chuck, gulling both the Bar Association panel and Kim, and then, cruelly and unthinkingly, mocks that performance in front of Kim and files to be known professionally as "Saul Goodman," to bury the McGill name in a gesture of spite and contempt.

Jimmy makes that right here, as well, and tries to get it on the record. He formalizes his return to Jimmy McGill's name, Jimmy McGill's bonds, and Jimmy McGill's past, and takes it all back on board.

This gesture is also, as the final shot of the episode reminds us, a gesture of setting Kim free. I mean, she'd done it herself on most accounts, but, Jimmy, here, frees her from their toxic bond, the knot of denial and rationalization and mutual guilt that entangled them to the point that she still had to tell one last lie to Cheryl Hamlin to protect him.

Whatever Cheryl does to Kim's finances, she walks away from the prison; he never will be. She's able to move forward, to change her path and take the step she could've before her U-turn into scamming with Jimmy -- another image of delusionally trying to move backwards for gain, to erase the source of regret or lost opportunity without making good.

I'm taken back, finally, to the first scene in the episode, as a parched Jimmy, in the desert, happens on a shining pool of water. He looks at it. At his own reflection? No. In ravenous thirst. He shoves his face into the water, almost drowning himself, wanting to gorge on it to the point of making himself sick. His face, breaking the water from above, rushes forward, distorted by the water. In his hunger, in his desperation, in his unthinking need, there's no cause for reflection; there's just plunging in.

Just prior to all of this, we've seen the ragged money, the desert, the space blanket, the props and accoutrements of Saul Goodman's cash run through the desert and the catalyst for so much that will follow. Not long after it, Jimmy mentions the time machine, and gets Mike's very honest answer.

And at the other end of the episode, in stark black and white, in the bare air, is the clear face of James McGill, in contemplation of where he is, how he got there, and what matters.
posted by kewb at 3:51 PM on August 16 [21 favorites]


hey, you gave it a try, and I'm your big brother and I support you! But we both know you're worthless at this and should do something else.

Yes, and with all empathy to folks IRL in alanon groups--I've personally been in a similar situation, but as the addict, not the family--I will just say that this is so destructive.

If the question underlying BB and BCS and Sopranos and and and is, "can a person change?"--my own answer is yes. And I guess that is the answer that BCS gives us in the end. I'm not sure why they also gave us a strange uncharacteristic flashback of Chuck, really unsupported by the rest of the show.

Chuck's vision of the law is opposite Kim's. Chuck is rigid and obsessed. Kim is concerned about people--or, as Tom Hanks Cannot Be Trusted said above, wrt Jimmy,
What some people saw as addiction to cons sometimes struck me, instead, as proof of his inability to see the law as concrete.

Neither Kim nor Jimmy ever saw the law as concrete. They were both willing to skirt around the edges... but generally in the interest of seeking justice for the underdog. When their "skirting around the edges" blew up in their faces and turned into the murder of a colleague and the devastation of his widow, their relationship blew up, too.

But I still don't see this as any kind of validation for Chuck, who pulled down his brother at every opportunity. You can ask whether Slippin' Jimmy ever really had a chance at changing. I think he did, and earlier than it actually happened in the show. Kim said she & Jimmy were toxic together, and they were. At the same time, Kim's approach to the law--helping people straighten their ties, get ready for an appearance before a judge, maybe leave behind the life that got them in that situation in the first place--was so different from Chuck's. Kim could have helped Jimmy, if Chuck hadn't been there at the same time, driving Jimmy's future path through trauma and guilt. Does anyone doubt that Chuck's suicide was, as Kim more or less said to Howard, "a final 'fuck you' from beyond the grave"?
posted by torticat at 4:02 PM on August 16 [6 favorites]


Jimmy's exit here is of his own making: the clumsy objections are those of his hapless advisory counsel. And it's Jimmy who decides to finally take a look at himself. Where Chuck was laid bare to the eyes of a panel of Bar Association officials, Jimmy, here, looks not to the judge, and not regretfully, but to Kim, imploringly.

This is similar to Nacho's exit from the show. He did not have a chance to give his father a last imploring look (that was only represented in that last phone call); and he never got the opportunity that Jimmy did to receive an understanding response. But Nacho did get the chance to shape his own ending.

Kim? Kim never really let him down. The worst she ever did to him was to love him, love him enough to be honest with him, even if that hurt. Her validation is all that matters to him, in the end, but this is partly because his rejection of her and her willingness to stop are one more sin he must atone for and take the punishment for.

Is the first part of this true? The second part definitely is. But Kim really dragged Jimmy through the final con that ended in the death of Howard and spelled the end of their relationship. Jimmy went through with it, yes, because as you say, "her validation is all that matters to him." But Kim started that whole con (against Jimmy's second-guessing) and saw it through (against Jimmy's objections).

Jimmy really had two lodestars in his existence. One was his older brother, who never gave him a chance to change. The other was Kim, who, deeply unfortunately, pushed him along a path that ended up with each of them in an untenable situation of guilt and isolation.

I'm not trying to exonerate Jimmy from his own responsibility... obviously, Saul went way past the line in BB, and Gene went possibly further, or at least contemplated it, in the last couple episodes of BCS. I am just pointing out that, when you are looking at a morally ambiguous character, it's helpful to look at the influences that drive him.

Or her... I still need to think about a similar analysis of Kim.
posted by torticat at 4:49 PM on August 16 [3 favorites]


One small thing I liked was the fact that Jimmy used his (first) phone call to settle everything with the Cinnabon - he does have at least a scintilla of responsibility.
---
Cinnabon/the mall also has the only other people in the world who might care about Gene. It's pretty sad he calls them.


Maybe this was a reference to Gene's pathetic, friendless life. I saw it more as a callback to Gus's call to Kyle at the chicken place, asking Kyle to handle opening and closing, as well as scheduling for the next week. Gus had just been shot by Lalo at the time and was awaiting the arrival of a doctor. Yet he called Kyle to make sure the scheduling got done because, he said, he liked to make sure the employees knew what to expect.

This is either some kind of reference to "at least they made the trains run on time," or a reference again to some kind of ambiguity, in which these characters really did care about the little guy.

(Gus was by far more of a cold-blooded killer than Jimmy/Gene/Saul ever was. On the other hand, Gus also had extreme trauma in his past, and, like Saul, was motivated by revenge in addition to acquisition of wealth.)
posted by torticat at 5:20 PM on August 16 [7 favorites]


I don't think Chuck was a bad guy to everyone, and I don't even think he was that bad to Jimmy -- until Jimmy dedicated his life to helping Chuck, and Chuck repaid him by quietly sabotaging Jimmy's prospects at HHM. Chuck judged his brother to be a bad guy when they were both still kids, and the world's most devoted martyr act would not have changed Chuck's mind. We even see his reaction to characters who like Jimmy -- Chuck thinks they're marks, that they've all been conned. That sucks. It doesn't make Jimmy any less responsible for his actions. I don't think Chuck deserved Jimmy's help -- Jimmy should've left him to rot in the prison of his own home -- but I'm not sure he deserved Jimmy's revenge.

I don't know. I understand a kill-or-be-killed horror film. I understand a scenario where a friend or family member betrays you so badly you decide to never see them again. I just don't get continuing a relationship that brings you pain until you break and try and destroy the other person.
posted by grandiloquiet at 5:54 PM on August 16


I don't know. I understand a kill-or-be-killed horror film. I understand a scenario where a friend or family member betrays you so badly you decide to never see them again. I just don't get continuing a relationship that brings you pain until you break and try and destroy the other person.

I think that Jimmy and Chuck's family is a dysfunctional alcoholic family, and their adult relationship is completely predicated on Chuck being the Good Kid and Jimmy being the Bad Kid, and acting that out into their middle ages. I know that I tend to analyze myself and others based on my own experiences with alcoholism and recovery, but it tracks. (Also, see the interview that tilde links to above with Rhea Seehorn, in which she (and her interviewer) talk about their own experiences in dysfunctional families, and how it affected Seehorn's life and work.) Chuck is the brilliant overachiever who's supposed to redeem his family's shortcomings, and Jimmy is therefore the ne'er-do-well who can be retroactively blamed for same. Some good therapy probably could have helped if Chuck really wanted to be helped, but he can't even face the fact that his "electromagnetic sensitivity" is bogus.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:08 PM on August 16 [3 favorites]


So I’m watching S6E1 (caved and bought on Amazon) and Jimmy has the vet’s book. Between Lalos money and the full take on Sandpiper, he could afford it.
posted by tilde at 6:10 PM on August 16


Some good therapy probably could have helped if Chuck really wanted to be helped, but he can't even face the fact that his "electromagnetic sensitivity" is bogus.

Hey, he did make a solid effort for a while there! Unfortunately he didn't listen to his doctor about pushing too far too fast - and definitely didn't do any talking we know about regarding family or interpersonal dynamics, which seemed warranted.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:24 PM on August 16 [3 favorites]


Was pretty confused - didn’t remember Saul and Walt being together in a basement AT ALL so that was weird. Almost felt like a dream. Also somewhat annoyed - didn’t need another Walt scene, honestly, I really didn’t.

That was the basement at the Vacuum Cleaner's place. Remember back in BB when Saul showed up there the Vacuum guy showed him Walter on the video screen in a basement room? Robert Forster, the guy who played the vacuum guy died after BB was finished and I'm glad they didn't try to CGI them in that scene.

Anyway, presumably they were stuck in that room together for a bit until they were able to be disappeared.

I was very satisfied with this episode. It ticked off all the boxes. For those complaining about fan service, the entire show was fan service. And it was wonderful.
posted by bondcliff at 6:48 PM on August 16 [9 favorites]


I don't think Chuck was a bad guy to everyone, and I don't even think he was that bad to Jimmy -- until Jimmy dedicated his life to helping Chuck, and Chuck repaid him by quietly sabotaging Jimmy's prospects at HHM.

grandiloquiet but this is the whole predicate for BCS. How can we say Chuck wasn't "that bad" to Jimmy until after Jimmy had dedicated his life to helping him? What would this mean about a person like Chuck--Who could do that kind of shit to his little brother? Say to him, "You never meant much to me"? To a brother, let's remember, who up until the point of Chuck's sabotage, had never really done anything worse than pranks... and had afterwards stepped up to get a degree that allowed him to become a lawyer?

Another (very minor) thing I felt the show kind of let pass... in later seasons/episodes, it seemed like it was taken for granted that Jimmy had stolen from his own father. Chuck made this accusation. In fact, what we had seen in flashbacks was that Jimmy had gone through coins and taken out those that were unusual, to use them for cons. Which is not good! --but also not in any way the same as what Chuck had said--that Jimmy had figured his dad was "soft," and therefore deserving of being ripped off. I don't think there was ever an indication that young Jimmy had stolen from their father in any significant way.

I'm not defending Jimmy's/Saul's cons. I just feel bad for the guy in the way that Kim obviously did, and in the way she sympathized with her clients (clearly based on her personal experience), and tried to offer them a legal defense and a chance to change.

It felt to me like the show never did hold Chuck responsible for his own destructive and self-destructive actions. Jimmy kind of ended up taking the blame for his own actions and for Chuck's too. Kim took responsibility for her own, which was in character. Jimmy/Saul was in no position, practically or morally, to help her, and that was appropriate both in the sense of character and in the sense of justice.
posted by torticat at 7:09 PM on August 16 [2 favorites]


That was the basement at the Vacuum Cleaner's place. Remember back in BB when Saul showed up there the Vacuum guy showed him Walter on the video screen in a basement room?

I was confused by this, too. But yeah, they were together in Vacuum Cleaner guy's basement, episode "Granite State" of BB, to be specific.
posted by torticat at 7:13 PM on August 16 [1 favorite]


That was the basement at the Vacuum Cleaner's place. Remember back in BB when Saul showed up there the Vacuum guy showed him Walter on the video screen in a basement room?

LOL, no, I am straining and I literally don't remember it at all. To be fair, that was like 2013 when I saw it, right? Several lifetimes ago.
posted by tiny frying pan at 7:15 PM on August 16 [3 favorites]


Same, tiny frying pan, but see Pater Aletheias's comment above.
posted by torticat at 7:23 PM on August 16 [1 favorite]


grandiloquiet but this is the whole predicate for BCS. How can we say Chuck wasn't "that bad" to Jimmy until after Jimmy had dedicated his life to helping him?

Because they had a terrible relationship, and I don't buy that either one owed the other anything. Chuck was probably a bad brother, but Jimmy didn't have to live down to Chuck's expectations. I don't know that Jimmy never did anything worse than "pranks" -- he was conning people, and it's hard to believe that every one of them deserved it. My judgment on this changes once Jimmy starts spending his days looking after Chuck; I don't know if Chuck owes him a place at HHM, but at minimum Chuck owes him the truth that Chuck is blocking his employment at HHM because he thinks his brother isn't worthy of it. Chuck might have earned his humiliation after that, but does he deserve to have his mental condition taken advantage of to destroy the only thing in his life that still matters to him? Maybe, but if I were Jimmy, I would have a hard time living with myself afterward.
posted by grandiloquiet at 7:36 PM on August 16 [3 favorites]


Yes, that is fair! I was thinking of the shitting through a sunroof kind of thing, and minor cons. But sure, even minor cons are not really just "pranks"; you're right.

does he deserve to have his mental condition taken advantage of to destroy the only thing in his life that still matters to him?

That's also a fair question. I guess I'd wonder whether Jimmy was actually taking advantage of Chuck, or just forcing him to be honest (as Howard also tried to do)? I think I always saw Chuck's actions as punching down (like, I despise you; you're worthless... ultimately he said that to Jimmy in almost as many words), and Jimmy's actions against Chuck--when he acted against him, as opposed to running to care for him!--as punching up. Or at worst, punching back.
posted by torticat at 8:00 PM on August 16 [3 favorites]


Chuck's defining moment, for me, was when he lied to Jimmy about their dying mother's last words.
posted by abraxasaxarba at 9:22 PM on August 16 [15 favorites]


Yes, could not really favorite that comment enough, abraxasaxarba. That was one of the worst things Chuck ever did, and he never came back to make it right. That one thing could have turned Jimmy's life around, and Chuck withheld it from him.Ugh! Chuck could have shared that in the letter he left to Jimmy upon his death. but he did not. We as viewers are left to hold that, but Jimmy will never know. Chuck was truly a toxic person.
posted by torticat at 9:38 PM on August 16 [2 favorites]


I’m bad at picking up on symbolism, so it has to be troweled on pretty thick before I see it. But in this finale (with flashbacks), Saul discusses regrets with Mike and Walt, who both have them, and, obliquely, with Chuck, who never considered changing his path. And then Saul has one last Saul fling by bargaining his sentence down to seven years, and then blows it all up in court, taking responsibility for his crimes, naming his regrets about his brother, and lays it all at Kim’s feet as a last gift as Jimmy McGill. He regretted what he did, he changed his path, and he earned Kim’s respect back.
Now if I can see it, as I said, it’s laid on thick. But it turned out to be a love story of sorts as mentioned earlier . And it worked for me. So many shows are stupid or get canceled or last too long or have terrible finales, I was bracing for disappointment. But this was good.
posted by Vatnesine at 9:58 PM on August 16 [3 favorites]


Sixty one episodes and the end of an era in terms of the show - and also these Fanfare posts. Having a resource of people who comment on each episode of what I believe will become a classic piece of TV as it was released is quite a thing (and I would recommend checking these on a re-watch). Thanks to everybody involved in the comments. We are, of course, not the only people providing analysis - so I'd like a shout out to the likes of Peter Peppers (Better Call Saul Season 6 Ending Explained) who have been producing well produced video essays about each episode within hours of their release.

There was lots of speculation that Jimmy/Saul/Gene would die in this episode - and for that reason I like the fact prison is depicted as a kind of paradise for him. Immediately after his arrest his first call -and last act as Gene - is to his Cinnabon branch colleague. We are reminded of the character's appetite/compulsive need to be working. In prison, of course he ends up in the bakery - but he seems to be churning out artisanal loaves in the company of friendly colleagues. In the end there is a great movie's worth of material of Jimmy's life behind bars - just as there is a great series that could follow Kim's return to legal work. I would prefer that the contents of those are left to play out in our imagination. For now, we are back in Kansas again.
posted by rongorongo at 10:56 PM on August 16 [2 favorites]


It was a great ending though I’m sad it’s over. I wouldn’t say no to something focusing on Kim though. Does Mr Yup know she used to be a lawyer? Does she start a double life with FL legal aid? Etc.
posted by jquinby at 3:43 AM on August 17


I think this last episode answers a long term question for us: "Should we recommend a newcomer to these shows to watch Breaking Bad first or Better Call Saul?" - normally we would expect people to watch a prequel first ,once it exists, then proceed chronologically. This episode, I think, shows that it is better to watch them in the order they were made. Several reasons why:
1. It prevents untimely exposure to the otherwise significant Breaking Bad timeline spoilers which emerge in this episode.
2. It fits with the whole "time machine" premise from this episode: in the end the show is designed to be better savoured out of sequence.
3. It allows viewers to savour the same anticipation of how the writers would join up the series, as we have done.
4. It is BCS rather than BB which contains the final events in the chronology.
5. Watching the show in the order made lets us see how the writers evolved and improved their technique over time.
6. Both shows were "made up as they went along" with the writers responding modifying their plans significantly on the basis of actor performance and even fan theories. Watching the shows in the order made shows how the writers were first gifted with Bob Odenkirk's Saul and then later by Rea Seehorn's Kim - and how they reacted to that.
posted by rongorongo at 4:49 AM on August 17 [11 favorites]


Jimmy/Saul/Gene calling Cinnabon from jail is a nice rhyme with Gus calling the Los Pollos Hermanos assistant manager guy while he's getting bandaged up after being shot. Gotta keep all the plates spinning.
posted by emelenjr at 5:27 AM on August 17 [5 favorites]


I just rewatched the end and the last lines spoken on the show are by Jimmy: "But... with good behavior, who knows?"

Beautifully done.
posted by rhymedirective at 7:14 AM on August 17 [4 favorites]


I think people miss the point with all these "oh ew fan service" complaints. The appearances of Walt and Jesse and the others literally helps to tie the two shows together. It helps to facilitate a plausible transition between the two. Just leaving them out would have been a disservice to both shows.

Also, I liked the ending. It makes me want to rewatch the show in full, now that I know how it all ties together. If the ending had been different - Jimmy callously turning on Kim to get ice cream - I would not want to watch it again. For a similar reason, I don't ever want to rewatch Breaking Bad, because Walt's treatment of Jesse is so very cruel. Yes, he gets Jesse (spoiler alert) out in the end. But all the cruelty in between, the ruthless use of Jesse by Walt, turns my stomach. I appreciate that BCS didn't hit me over the head with a brutal ending.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 9:12 AM on August 17 [7 favorites]


I rewatched the scene from S1E1 "Uno" of Jimmy and Kim smoking, and it is staged almost identically as in "Saul Gone" except for one thing: the lighting. In "Uno," the lighting beams down from Jimmy's side of the shot, presumably from a light in the parking deck. In "Saul Gone," the lighting beams down from Kim's side, from the prison window. In the sense of BCS being a love story between Jimmy and Kim, in "Uno" we saw the sun rising on their romance, and now in "Saul Gone" we see the sun setting on them. It makes the very final shot, of Jimmy disappearing behind a corner from Kim's POV as she walks away, all the more poignant.
posted by obliterati at 9:21 AM on August 17 [17 favorites]


The first watch has been a blast. The rewatch, unburdened by "what next what next?", will be even better. Thanks to all my fellow Fanfarers for one hell of a journey.
posted by whuppy at 9:24 AM on August 17 [4 favorites]


Actually, you know what I would watch? Leaving the ending where it is, I'd love something about Kim's 6 years prior to the day she got that phone call Jimmy. Did she head straight to the sprinkler company or wander a bit? How did she get from Kim in NM to denim skirts, bangs, and Yup?
posted by jquinby at 11:09 AM on August 17 [1 favorite]


I need to know how Mr Yup went his entire life without hearing about the existence of Miracle Whip.
posted by mittens at 11:28 AM on August 17 [7 favorites]


Jimmy talked his way into a prison where he could deal with life OK. He’s liked, heck, respected, and no one is gonna let anyone harm him. Contrast that with if he kept the plea deal. He gets out, it’s only a matter of time before he starts scamming again, going on benders of wrecking strangers’ lives. But the biggest part is that he would have Kim’s everlasting scorn, she’d never want anything to do with him. Now THAT is a prison Jimmy would never break free from, that would hold him in that emptiness for his entire life, even though he would be walking free. The second he confessed to everything in a way that everyone saw, especially Kim, he was free from that prison.
posted by azpenguin at 8:21 PM on August 17 [6 favorites]


The more I think about the inherent constraints of a prequel series, the more I feel like they really did a good job with the ending. I think many of the decisions leading them to the finale were also made long ago. Having the series include his life after BB is the biggest one, and it seems like the right choice. It would be hard to imagine a satisfying ending that takes place before or during BB. This also means that there basically has to be stuff away from Albuquerque, since he mostly can’t be there given the events of BB. Some of the other things, like flashbacks also kind of come from this. Like, if you want to have Mike at all in the final episodes, it has to be through flashbacks. These aren’t necessary from a narrative standpoint, but given his importance as a character, it is nice to be able to include him. Anyhow, being a prequel precludes many possible endings and makes many others unsatisfying, which makes it impressive that they did a good one.
posted by snofoam at 10:11 PM on August 17 [5 favorites]


I guess the most obvious way of of linking the two shows would have been to have ended Better Call Saul before the start of the Breaking Bad timeline - maybe just before. But, again, that would have been less satifying and interesting than what we got. Better Call Saul's opening scene in episode 1, establishes that it is both a prequel and a sequel - as you say - not easy to make work.

TheVivikKiwi has published a list of 40 or so hidden callbacks in this episode. - there was a great deal of clever inter-weaving going on.
posted by rongorongo at 11:00 PM on August 17 [4 favorites]


When reminiscing about his "slip and fall" scams to Walter White, Saul says "It's how I put myself through bartending school". Is this a joke or a euphemism I'm not quite getting?

You'd have expected him to say, "It's how I put myself through law school". I don't think there is such a thing as "bartending school", so is this a euphemism for "It's how I supported my drinking habit"? Or just a way of saying it didn't earn much? Or is "bartending school" some reference to the law bar exam?
posted by snarfois at 1:18 AM on August 18


I assume "bartending school" was one of many failed career paths Jimmy had before the law. I know there aren't schools but there are definitely training programs for bartenders.
posted by mmoncur at 2:50 AM on August 18


My take is that both his falls and bartending school are true AND euphemisms. He learned from his first real slip 'n fall how to support his skills development (bar-tending classes, etc.) AND he learned from all his subsequent fake slips how to scam people at the bar (heh) and elsewhere. Neat parallel with his 'bar trick' of the siphon tube (also see his other 'bar trick' of siphoning off 50+ years off his sentence).

Maybe a stretch, but holds water, eh?
posted by iamkimiam at 2:58 AM on August 18


I assume "bartending school" was one of many failed career paths Jimmy had before the law.
This is "Bar Tending School" as shown in the finale of Season 1. A reminder that the original "Saul Goodman" was something that grew out of Jimmy and Marco's days of scam running. In a sense Jimmy has served an apprenticeship in graft which rivals Chuck's in the law. And Marco was Jimmy's best friend, before Kim.
posted by rongorongo at 3:51 AM on August 18 [1 favorite]


So, sevenish years out, how did your predictions hold?
posted by tilde at 6:49 AM on August 18 [1 favorite]


The more I think about the inherent constraints of a prequel series, the more I feel like they really did a good job with the ending.

Yes, and I would go even further and say that they didn't just do a good (great, really) job within the constraint of being a prequel-cum-sequel, but that they actually utilized that constraint itself in a metatextual way to heighten the themes and story of BCS. Which is: can someone really change, and can they do it for the better after doing so much wrong? Knowing already what Jimmy becomes in BB sets us up, as the audience, to lean towards a certain fatalism - or at least it did for me. One of the constraints of a prequel is this kind of fated-ness, and the inevitability links up perfectly with one answer to the show's central question. At some point in the show, this effect got me agreeing with Chuck about Jimmy, and I still believe that Chuck was fundamentally correct about much of who Jimmy was as a person - until he wasn't. I don't think this means Chuck was retroactively wrong about Jimmy, just that he was right in a Schroedingerian kind of way - which in my experience is exactly the kind of way any of us are right-wrong about the people in our lives, including about ourselves.
posted by obliterati at 8:04 AM on August 18 [11 favorites]


So, sevenish years out, how did your predictions hold?

This is my first comment in a series thread; S2E1. (I was either a bit late getting into the series or late getting into FanFare; my first Trek post was late 2015.) And the last season did feature appearances by BB people, and did answer what happened to (at least some of) Saul's money, when he's talking to Francesca and finding out what the feds confiscated.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:22 AM on August 18 [1 favorite]


Mine wasn’t until season 3, when I thought he’d change his name to break from his brother in detente (which I spelled wrong) .
posted by tilde at 11:55 AM on August 18 [1 favorite]


I sure hope James McGill figures out that time machine in prison and rewinds to the point where he takes Chuck up on his offer to discuss cases. I've always been Team Jimmy Could Have Successfully Reformed Himself, but it took my wife to point out that that was, in fact, his actual time travel crossroads.

Also, I loved that Walter White of all people accused Saul of always being that way. The whole Gray Matter storyline served to underscore in no uncertain terms that White was always that way, and his story was as simple as "character is destiny."
posted by whuppy at 12:21 PM on August 18 [2 favorites]


My record on the specifics was a spotty as anyone's but I got the big picture from the get:

You knew the cockamamie scheme would fail, but no way did you anticipate how. So far, BCS has the BB magic in spades.
posted by whuppy at 12:24 PM on August 18


I rooted hard for a redemption arc for Chuck and took too long letting it go.
posted by whuppy at 12:36 PM on August 18 [1 favorite]




That’s better than mine, Whuppy. I figured she’d buy the vet’s book/business and use it to fund her free legal clinic.
posted by tilde at 12:48 PM on August 18


Well, tilde, I certainly enjoyed your prediction. I'll give you that.
posted by whuppy at 12:54 PM on August 18


I think people miss the point with all these "oh ew fan service" complaints. The appearances of Walt and Jesse and the others literally helps to tie the two shows together. It helps to facilitate a plausible transition between the two. Just leaving them out would have been a disservice to both shows.

Yes, I agree, Armed Only With Hubris. I also think that the folks who disliked Kim's encounter with Jesse miss the heartbreaking fact that Kim was getting out at that point, while Jesse was just getting in. I did not see that as fan service, but as a poignant link between the two shows.

Others in (non-fanfare) commentary have pointed out that, in another universe, Kim rather than Saul could have ended up defending Emilio at that point--after all, Jesse was super-enthused about how Kim had got off Combo "scot-free."

But Kim was too disillusioned at that point to engage, or even to properly warn Jesse against Saul. Her final comment had to do with her personal experience with Saul, not with empathy for people who still needed help. I think that was pretty telling with regard to what the next few years of her life would be. (this is NOT a criticism of Kim, who had been through plenty during the couple previous years to make her completely disillusioned, and ready to disengage.)
posted by torticat at 3:09 PM on August 18 [3 favorites]


At some point in the show, this effect got me agreeing with Chuck about Jimmy, and I still believe that Chuck was fundamentally correct about much of who Jimmy was as a person - until he wasn't.

In keeping with my thesis that Better Call Saul is defined by Jimmy's inability to believe in The Law, I think that Chuck serves as Jimmy's ultimate foil and nemesis. In a sense, he's a complete inversion of Kim, who is a fundamentally good-hearted person capable of breaking bad within limits. Chuck is The Law in its most implacable form: a substitution of the territory for the map, if you will.

All models are incomplete. That's as true of legal models as it is of scientific ones. And just as the scientific method fundamentally requires doubt, assumes doubt, the legal system fundamentally requires mercy. Both doubt and mercy are ways of acknowledging the limitations of the model: they are two-dimensional projections, literally Plato's shadow puppets attempting to do the world justice.

Doubt is a necessary corrective to avoid dogma, in matters of both science and faith; without it, your model stops being something you grow and feed and nourish, and starts being something crude and looming and oppressive. And mercy, which in the Christian faith is the defining trait of Christ, is that which supersedes justice—it is a high holiness, because it extends light to those crevices of someone's humanity that you yourself can't perceive. It's a renunciation of your belief that you are fit to judge someone, that you know them well enough to deliver a final verdict on their life; you can argue that it is the act of coming into possession of a higher judgment, one that reaches beyond the material human world and focuses instead on what we might become (and serves as proof that we can, in fact, become it).

Chuck is defined by a classic hubris: the belief that he can serve as a stand-in for God Justice. In his genius lies the conviction that, if you can only understand The Law perfectly, you can proclaim what people do and don't deserve. To be a brilliant lawyer is to deem what judgment ought to be, and to convince judge and jury that your perspective alone is correct. What's more, there is an underlying belief for Chuck that every sentencing is final: you have been weighed upon Justice's scales, and you have been shown your true form, assigned your true place. Jimmy's place, clearly, is the mailroom. Not just because he's Chuck's lesser, but because he has been tried, and this is his fate.

In one light, you can see his resentment of Jimmy's attempting to be a lawyer as his horror of Jimmy's attempting to defy fate. To his mind, Jimmy is the one committing hubris, by rejecting the gods Chuck worships. (Never mind that, in a sense, Chuck worships himself.) From another angle, what Jimmy's doing is worse: he's attempting to become one of these gods, one of these voices that gets to proclaim judgment. And Chuck can make a very plausible argument that Jimmy cannot be trusted in these judgments—look where Saul winds up!—but to my mind, that's just Chuck's brilliant-lawyer rhetoric papering over his real, unspoken belief. Hence what he says when he finally cracks, in "Chicanery," letting his real thoughts out when he can't help himself:
I saved him, and I shouldn't have. I took him into my own firm. What was I thinking?! He'll never change. Ever since he was 9, always the same. Couldn't keep his hands out of the cash drawer. But not our Jimmy. Couldn't be precious Jimmy! Stealing them blind. And he gets to be a lawyer?! What a sick joke! I should have stopped him when I had the chance!
Emphases mine. Because, first off, it's interesting how Chuck thinks of himself as offering salvation—as if even mailroom was too much of a kindness for Jimmy. (He literally did not take Jimmy "into his own firm" when Jimmy passed the bar.) And second, it's a demonstration that, to Chuck, Jimmy is still exactly who he was when he was 9. Chuck, in his youth, looked at his 9-year-old brother and decided: This is all he'll ever be. And he was so haughty about this, so convinced, that he shrugged off the yoke of family and brotherly love and decided that his sole duty was to bear judgment. Jimmy is his crimes. There is no before, there is no "therefore," there is merely a fate to be stamped and filed, a permanent record that cannot be altered.

We see that Jimmy's real story begins with his father. It all starts with family. Chuck's true duty to Jimmy, too, is rooted in family. Jimmy becomes who he becomes because of the family he's surrounded with. Another Chuck might have genuinely saved him—not just "saved" him. But Chuck is also a part of why Jimmy became Jimmy—and if you want to understand why Jimmy is so mistrustful of The Law, you have to start with Jimmy's recognition of what Chuck used The Law to do to him.

Because the one moment where it seems like Jimmy truly, inarguably could have been saved is the moment when he makes the bar. And the moment that, in season 1, leads to his first step down the dark path he never leaves... well, that would be Jimmy's recognition that Chuck not only denied him access to his firm but lied about it, masking his contempt. When Chuck is confronted about it, after having worked with Jimmy on a case, after having seen Jimmy's passion, Jimmy's willingness not to cut corners, Jimmy's ability to see something major through, his face nonetheless contorts immediately into that contemptuous, withdrawn judgment. The sneer that says: Who are you to question my judgment? To the extent that Chuck wears a look of compassion, it's a fraudulent, patronizing compassion: I hate to see you hurt by your refusal to accept your fate. A fate which, of course, Chuck unilaterally delivered, even against the protests of his partner at the firm.

(In a very direct way, Chuck is ultimately responsible for Harry's death. And his refusal to even entertain Harry's opinions, cutting off Harry's right to determine his own sense of justice, more-or-less symbolically kills him as a peer, as a lawyer, and as Chuck's idea of what a "true" person is. Because to Chuck's mind, everyone is beneath him, everyone is less human. Or maybe it's that everyone else is human, because to be human is to err... and Chuck, the inerrant, is inhuman and therefore truly divine.)

From that moment of revelation on, Jimmy's path is set. His time at Main & Davis is a shadow of his attempt to join HHM, one that sees him confronted by Chuck's sneering face again and again. He doesn't just lose interest in his work there because doing justice doesn't appeal to him: he loses interest because Jimmy's always desperate for love, desperate for connection, and because Chuck reminds him again and again that he will always be rejected. (There's the side bit with M&D getting angry at the commercial Jimmy makes, which points to yet another instance of Jimmy facing rejection for that which makes him the most human—and arguably the most valuable—but his tension with Chuck is partly what drives him to that point to begin with.) From there he sets out to sabotage Chuck, and that leads to Chuck's suicide, and from there... well, where else is there left for Jimmy to go?

And how does he sabotage Chuck? By undermining Chuck's reliability in the eyes of The Law. By removing Chuck's godhood. Just as, in the first season, he demonstrates his love for Chuck by not calling him irrational to his face, to the point of fighting medical professionals behind Chuck's back. He knows that Chuck craves this lofty godhood more than he craves anything, and he knows that Chuck's mental illness is why he's removed himself from HHM altogether: if he cannot be trusted, he cannot judge. So Jimmy, in his simple well-meaning way, takes the tack of: well, Chuck is completely sane. It's reality that's broken. And he sticks to this until he attempts to undermine Chuck in season 2, culminating in that courtroom scene I quoted earlier, where he publicly robs Chuck of his right to claim judgment once and for all.

That scene in "Chicanery" is really the pivotal moment of the show. Because up until then, Better Call Saul is a retelling of Cain and Abel with a twist: both brothers think they're Abel. Jimmy thinks that Chuck has set out to murder him; Chuck thinks that Jimmy's very existence destroys what he holds dear. Each is hellbent on annihilating the other, and each claims that he is the one at risk of annihilation.

(There's a bit of Jacob and Esau there too, obviously, but Cain is driven to kill Abel because Abel is favored by God. And just as Jimmy sees Chuck as the son for whom all lights are green, we get that scene with Jimmy visiting Chuck and Rebecca where it becomes clear: Chuck thinks that Jimmy received every gift worth having, and turned to The Law in part to gain that which could only be his. That which permits him to deny all the gifts he sees in Jimmy, to rise above them, to declare them moot.)

The two brothers fight, and one perishes. Jimmy might as well quote Walter White after that confrontation in "Chicanery:"

"I won."

Sure enough, Chuck is dead by the end of the season. And Jimmy is the murderer. With it, he murders Chuck's idea of the implacable Law, rejects the model of justice altogether, and devotes himself increasingly to defending the sorts of people who he knows The Law is unprepared to see as human—claiming that as his justification for a while, and then dropping the justification altogether.

Until the end, when he allows himself one more manipulation of the courts, one last hurrah, and then relinquishes his right to defy the law, and lets himself take the 86 years in prison that he's certainly earned. Not because of Chuck, at this point, but because of his own choices.

Because Chuck was wrong: Jimmy could be different, he could change. And the tragedy is that, on some level, Chuck was wrong but Jimmy believed him.

Maybe that's the danger of playing God. Not that people might doubt you, but that people might have faith.
posted by Tom Hanks Cannot Be Trusted at 6:58 AM on August 20 [11 favorites]


So now that this is all over, I've been doing a full rewatch, paired with the the podcasts (which I never listened to).

Fascinating, and glad I did it. Will probably do the same for BB sometime.

So one of the first season podcasts, they talk about building a show bible - usually the network wants it ahead of time. These guys have the info, but in a more modern version, like a Saul-o-pedia, maintained mostly by the assistants. They compiled all of Saul's screen time from BB as well to fold in and around the storylines.

So one of those lines was Jimmy talking about "running a Cinnabon in Omaha Nebraska". If this had been the 90s it might have been a TCBY, a Culvers, Quizno's (or the last Shlotzky's), or an Orange Julius or something. I still saw Quizno's and Schlotzky's and OJs in the 2000s, so maybe those. Maybe even a Baskin Robbins.

But they went with Cinnabon, which in my part of the world towards the late 00s became in-store-franchises, we had one that was inside of a Moe's Southwest Grill (before their recent buy out and venture-capital makeover). This would have worked with a Subway, too, but I figured no one wants to be associated with Subway. Or even an Auntie Anne's though I don't know if those got West (I've only seen them in the East) ... maybe Hot Dog on a stick (very west of the Rockies, after the few we had in the East died out, I had to go to Vegas to get some again).

But it had to be fast mall food, so Saul had exits. Or even an airport location. Pizza places might be stand alone, or on the corner of a strip mall ... inside mall you'd have warmth and no drivers, small staff.

ANYWAY, they picked Cinnabon or other rising-bread franchise. And how do you make breads, doughs? Mix a long time (in bulk, never took too long when I was doing single loaves), get it right, then set it aside in an environment to proof/rise. Sometimes you might end up punching it down and then letting it proof/rise again. Finally, you shape it (shape loaves, roll out cinnamon dough with layer of cinnamon, and cut), then bake it.

And this is jimmy, rising and resting, getting punched down, and rising again, finally baking to his final form as Saul the baker in prison.

Another thing to note: Season one, they talk about Jimmy doing something to help Kim, stealing the Kettlemans' money back (and taking from his savings to replace what he spent of their "retainer" to him). He helped her, but didn't "save" her. (I don't need you or anyone else to save me, I can save myself was a line from her I think.)

And that's how they ended it. She opened herself up to something, and while he didn't save her, he sacrificed his bishop for his queen, but more importantly (with the Chuck confession), for his queen's respect, even if she wasn't his queen any more.

I love the desert shots. I miss the desert so much. It's not my desert I see in BB and BCS, but it's damn near close enough.
posted by tilde at 5:33 PM on August 20 [2 favorites]


I'll also note that Cinnabons and Dominos are generally franchises, and they cost about a quarter mil to set up. He might not have had that much clean money to set himself up in a shell company owning it, so he gets cover, store profits, and a paycheck as manager, but if he had ... nice payday.

One thing about him using his "one phone call" when arrested reminds me of a line from one of my bosses who I called "the best boss ever" -- I told him that I was really glad to have him as a boss because he watched out for us very well (like Gene) ... and his response to that was "Well, you didn't know me when I was a bad manager."
posted by tilde at 5:37 PM on August 20


I am still internally chortling at "Well, if Alan Alda says it!....."

And: I really appreciated getting to see the legal aid clinic Kim visits. It's a storefront like Saul's office, but it's SO strikingly opposite in other ways. EVERYONE there is a woman - the clients and the staff (rather than the gendered Francesca-Saul split). There seems to be no opaque barrier between the waiting area and the consultation area - no gaudy inner sanctum. Practically the first thing a new client is told is "it's free".

And the client the lawyer is helping is a pregnant woman who is trying to escape a man -- a woman who, presumably, wants to be free of the man who impregnated her. I can't recall ever seeing Saul help a person in this circumstance. And Kim is kind of like this woman, trying to escape the man who has made a significant impact on her life.
posted by brainwane at 5:50 AM on August 21 [7 favorites]


And how do you make breads, doughs? Mix a long time (in bulk, never took too long when I was doing single loaves), get it right, then set it aside in an environment to proof/rise. Sometimes you might end up punching it down and then letting it proof/rise again. Finally, you shape it (shape loaves, roll out cinnamon dough with layer of cinnamon, and cut), then bake it.

And this is jimmy, rising and resting, getting punched down, and rising again, finally baking to his final form as Saul the baker in prison.
And sorry to quote myself, but the cooking in this show; as I re-read this, I thought about Chuck making his "camp stove" dinner for Rebecca when she visited, Gus making dinner with Walt and Jesse (separately), Lalo cooking as he replaces Tio Salamanca at the taqueria. Maybe baking is a doing something and doing it well, with a regularity and a rhythm that Gene and Saul Jimmy in prison can soothe with. With a bit of magic, if not razzle dazzle magic. MKR's Lady Astronaut series mentions this a bit, baking as a way to settle one's self, as well as pro-crasti-cooking; the magic of mixing three ingredients and always getting the result she expects (albeit with a bit more fiddling in space).
posted by tilde at 8:22 AM on August 21 [1 favorite]


The flashbacks didn't all work for me - largely because if I never had to see Walter White again, I'd be thrilled - but that scene with Kim and Jimmy at ADX Montrose was perfect. This ending was far kinder to Jimmy than I expected, and I'm glad they (we!) got that moment.

I'm over a week late, so I don't have much to add that isn't covered above, but thanks to everyone for their thoughts. I've really enjoyed these threads.
posted by the primroses were over at 9:27 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


thought about Chuck making his "camp stove" dinner for Rebecca when she visited,

He used his regular stove, which was gas, I thought...
posted by tiny frying pan at 9:40 AM on August 23


This is the ending that Kim deserves.

But... Jimmy is going to slip into Saul again - and he will OWN that prison...
posted by rozcakj at 12:03 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


And: I really appreciated getting to see the legal aid clinic Kim visits. It's a storefront like Saul's office, but it's SO strikingly opposite in other ways.

I saw it as Saul's storefront, repurposed after he skipped. It would certainly be a good idea to set up a law office in the place where clients will already be gravitating, and the legal aid aspect is nicely poetic.
posted by rhizome at 3:00 PM on August 23


Vince Gilligan talks about the finale and about possible future spin-offs. On redemptive "Christmas Carol" aspects of the final episode and why neither Jimmy or Kim were going to get killed off. I like that Gilligan comes over not so much as a master strategist as somebody who is a master of conversations: it may be that "the best idea wins" but you have to wander down a whole lot of blind alleys - and you need to be wide open to serendipity, before you can make a show like this one. (I love the detail that, in "Waterworks", the hand of the woman who is shown comforting Kim on the bus, is Gilligan's wife)

He is pitching his next TV show this week apparently. Not BB/BCS universe. In that respect, it is amazing how much promising material is left on the table : latter stories involving Jimmy or Kim - or earlier ones involving Gus or Mike or Lalo - any one would be have the makings of a great show.
posted by rongorongo at 5:46 AM on August 24 [3 favorites]


Late to the party due to being on holiday when the final aired.
I thought it was a perfect ending. So good. A real have your cake (Saul at his worst seemingly getting away with it; cameos that served the story) and eat it (86 years in prison; acceptance; resolution) ending.
The thing I feared the most was ambiguity but there was none of that. Yet we are still free to wonder how things play out from here.
I think Kim will just keep on keeping on in her new life.
I think Saul will end up getting shanked after about 10 years, after the more reckless side of character leads him in to hot water with a younger generation of inmate that have no time for or interest in or knowledge of his celebrity, and he’ll have run out of lives.
posted by chill at 11:15 AM on September 1


I think Kim Wexler's legal aid clinic is in Florida...
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:22 AM on September 2 [1 favorite]




Earlier:

I'll see you all again for the Kim Wexler: Florida Legal Aid show if there's any justice in the world.

Now:

Vince Gilligan, known for creating "Breaking Bad" and co-authoring "Better Call Saul," has inked a two-season, straight-to-series order with Apple TV+.

The yet-untitled project will also star "Better Call Saul" star Rhea Seehorn as the lead. The project marks the second collaboration between Gilligan and Seehorn.


YES! Fingers crossed.
posted by mmoncur at 2:54 AM on September 23 [1 favorite]


I have been re-watching Breaking Bad - and noted this exchange from Season 5 "Confessions" - where Jessie is being persuaded by Saul to use "Vacuum cleaner repair man" for new identity:

Saul: Goodbye Jessie Pinkmam - hello 'Mr Credit to Society'
Jessie: So, do I get to pick where I go?
Saul: It's your life, I imagine you get a say. Want a suggestion? How about Florida? You get a tan, meet the Swedish bikini team ... swim with the dolphins
Jessie: How about Alaska?
Saul: Well... that's a different vibe; never figured you for a big moose lover - but whatever floats your boat.

I'd be interested in whether Kim's decision to go to Florida was spawned from her own initiative or from Saul's obsession with old beer commercials.
posted by rongorongo at 4:45 AM on September 23 [1 favorite]


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