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Blasts From The Past And One Final Twist Mark Better Call Saul’s Conclusion

There was one person that the once and future Jimmy McGill would care about more than himself.

To borrow a phrase, Bob Odenkirk’s Saul Goodman “broke well” in the final episode of one of TV’s most consistently good dramas of the past decade. When Saul was finally caught, he set up a deal that would get him out of prison in seven years, which didn’t make much sense, but who’s counting? But then he saw a chance to clear the name of his ex-wife Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) and to return to his real name, which he had used before becoming “Saul” and lied all the time. Jimmy will probably spend the rest of his life in jail, knowing that he got there because of a moment of grace.

Better Call Saul’s Finale Recap

The end of this “Breaking Bad” offshoot, 14 years after the mothership debuted, symbolizes the end of this creative world. The “Saul” finale adds a little, fascinating tension to Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s conundrum. “Breaking Bad” was bleak. The show’s ending, with Walter White attaining all he wants before dying, offered audiences too much of what they desired. Now, the spinoff denies us the pleasure of witnessing Saul pull off one last huge score, making us consider the more complicated satisfactions of suffering for doing the right thing.

This ending seemed precise, from how it focused on Saul’s moral crises to how it used supporting characters to make its points. Odenkirk has perhaps never been stronger than in the courtroom scene, appearing certain in his decision to use his lawyering skills for someone else and secretly happy that the plot is working.

Seehorn’s performance as Kim remains blazing, with her pretending to be her ex-lawyer husband in prison a mournful reminder of all their grifts in better times. While I’ve sometimes thought “Better Call Saul” parallels to “Breaking Bad” clunky, Bryan Cranston’s flashback cameo as Walter earned its place. The kingpin tells Saul’s lawyer this as they discuss an early slip-and-fall scheme. Saul was born to be a criminal, says Walter.

Saul asks Walter if he has any regrets while waxing philosophically. Cranston makes too much of Walter’s refusal to understand the question; I’m used to Odenkirk’s less jagged rhythms and “Better Call Saul” overall. Later, Michael McKean reappears as Chuck, Jimmy’s betrayed brother. The scene between McKean and Odenkirk is sweet and sad because we know Jimmy won’t care about his brother. Chuck is reading “The Time Machine”

This finale is a time machine, and not just because it skips through Jimmy’s life. “Breaking Bad” concluded nearly nine years ago in a disappointing way. The episode was well-organized, but its facile resolution lacked grit and texture. Vince Gilligan has frequently tried to embellish the story, which is perhaps unsurprising. The story of Saul afforded him and Peter Gould (who wrote and directed the episode) a second opportunity at a series finale.

“Saul” was an improvement on its predecessor that might not have happened without it. “Slippin’ Jimmy’s” fall from grace hit sorrowful notes that “Breaking Bad” couldn’t. This show was funnier. The climax ratifies that sense, with Jimmy and Kim’s baleful parting — once together against the world, now separated by a prison wall — matching anything from “Breaking Bad.” It communicated in looks, not yells, so it may not have registered. We last see Jimmy as Kim sees him, a man who would seem like a ghost if he weren’t part of her past. A jail wall covers her vision of him, and he disappears.

“Saul” represents an age of television that seemed to expire before the show started. Its willingness to linger around the margins of its tale and faith in its audience reminded “The Americans,” something younger series lack. (It ties to AMC’s heyday as an emerging driving force in adult dramas, an era that, lacking a Sally Draper prequel series, looks to have ended.) The show’s propensity, especially in its final episodes, to mix huge and stunning moments with everyday sequences of characters’ daily lives was striking. It had a real-life texture, something you may not anticipate from a show about a corrupt lawyer in cartel fights.

Yet that’s what kept it going. The show’s propensity to be repetitive by having Saul retell his fall before a judge in the last episode so he can clear Kim is played long. Once viewers realize what’s happening, the tease delivers. It’s the final act of a six-season confidence game inverted from “Breaking Bad” Those who loved Walter White’s metamorphosis into Scarface saw a man who couldn’t stop committing wrong, even while trying to remain incognito. We now see what he’s been hiding: His heart.

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