Faced with the death, regret or redemption for his titular character, series co-creator Peter Gould delivers a farewell episode that dismisses the need for a choice.
[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Better Call Saul” Season 6, Episode 13, “Saul Gone.”]
The last season of Better Call Saul saw both death and resurrection. There’s a growing body of corpses balanced by a handful of reappearances of characters either presumed dead or confirmed dead in the life of a notorious criminal lawyer on the run. These weekly reviews made definitive statements that a particular person was as good as cooked. They were also close to speculating that his former partner was all but destined for a death of her own.
So it’s only fitting that the series finale, which many assumed would involve some physical and emotional carnage (as the previous show fitted into its final hour), offers one final zig, given the expected Zags. Written and directed by showrunner Peter Gould, Saul Gone isn’t just a rebirth farewell story. But it certainly offers more preservation than the Gene Takavic era denouement seemed to promise.
Like all planned final episodes, whether intentional or not, Saul Gone is a reckoning. And what is reckoning if you don’t see the lives of those you’ve wronged and survived, if only in memory? This finale welcomes Marie Schrader (Betsy Brandt), Walter White (Bryan Cranston), Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) and Chuck McGill (Michael McKean) to give their own take on Saul (Bob Odenkirk).
They come as character witnesses, each in their own way. (Given this creative team’s appreciation of and participation in TV history, it can be no coincidence that significant portions of this episode are drama series echoes of a finale for another of the greatest shows of all time.) Marie happened to be the representative guest for a final “Better Call Saul” program that sees Saul pacing a small cell in Douglas County, muttering, arranging a deal on desserts in sort of screen minutes. He offers a fabricated sob story – relating to Badger of all people – that conjures up enough of a specter of a hung jury to get a craft plea deal. His smug additions to the terms of his cooperation with the federal government come with the confidence of a man who will get what he wants in the end, even if he has to live in another state for a few months first.
However, there is one person who left the one void that Saul never knew how to fill. (Even amid the riches and riches of being a friend of the cartel, he still kept that tequila bottle cap.) In terms of where things end, last week’s Vince Gilligan-directed episode becomes Kim’s closing statement. At the mercy of the court and the Hamlin family, as well as her boyfriend’s dining choices, she eventually relinquishes control of her loose ends in Albuquerque (even if she kept her bar menu, just in case). She is present for Jimmy, who finally does the same for himself. Always the twister, his hearing becomes a site for a bait-and-trigger dumping of guilt that is both confession and profession. He trades the promise of a carefree life for a life with a clear conscience. He trades nearly nine decades of state-imposed punishment to reclaim a tiny bit of what he could never give up.
Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television
This certainly won’t be the last opportunity to pay tribute to the Better Call Saul creative team, but it’s worth mentioning some of the people who made this final collection of affirmations as clear as possible. There’s longtime DP Marshall Adams, who makes the grayscale world of “Future” pop, from the color of the batter at several venues to the black lettering on the back of Jimmy’s jumpsuit(s). Skip Macdonald has edited a handful of sequences this season that are masterful at building suspense. It wasn’t easy editing, either, juggling the bevy of reactions in the plea and court sequences. Costume designer Jennifer Bryan found the perfect funeral suit for Saul Goodman, a bright number that still screams as bright as his wardrobe even when presented in shades of grey.
And then there’s Odenkirk, who has stood on the line between three men for nearly a decade. It’s not exactly a revelation in Saul Gone, but this finale confirms that key to Odenkirk’s performance was an uncanny understanding of the nature of the performance. It’s not just the Fosse hands in the mirror, or the hair slicked back, or the little ring (one of the show’s only supporting characters not to return for the finale). Along with Gould, Odenkirk finds the idea that Saul Goodman was only as good as a reflection of his audience. Playing for clients, playing for Judges, playing for his wife: perhaps reducing the man to a simple Jimmy/Saul performance was a mistake. He consisted not of two or three men, but of thousands who made minute adjustments that fit his chosen end goal. In “Saul Gone” alone, he mirrors each of his flashback scene partners. Mike’s meticulous attention to detail, Walt’s ruthless efficiency, and Chuck’s respect are omnipresent in the testimony he makes in that final scene in the courtroom. Welcoming all of those shades into one person is Odenkirk’s enduring legacy on this show.
Analyzing whether this was the fate Jimmy deserved is almost missing the point. The flashbacks in Saul Gone, aside from all the Albuquerque friends gathering for one last party, are part of the case that Better Call Saul has been building for years in his own trial of Saul Goodman. As a pseudonym, Saul was also an idea. It’s one that Bill Oakley has grown accustomed to, at least in part, based on how he answers his phone (with an announcement and slogan before the caller can speak). It is reflected in every justified plaintiff, whose view of the law becomes all the more cynical when they see it tampered with. It’s the gaze of prosecutors when they sense that Saul Goodman is threading some obscure, tangential laws into his own personal Rube Goldberg machine.
Saul Goodman promised speedy justice. The truth for what remains of Jimmy McGill is more gradual and even more in the eye of the beholder. In a way, it depends on whether you view this bus ride to ADX Montrose as a winding path to hell or a prelude to an 86-year sojourn in self-imposed purgatory. Would justice be better served if it were not on Jimmy’s terms for the last word to be spoken on that podium based on someone else’s words? If there’s any ambiguity here, it’s on this question, one that Gould leaves to viewers, present and future, to weigh for themselves. Regardless of the final answer, in Montrose he is Saul. His earlier efforts at self-promotion fail him one last time when a Greek chorus of his fellow criminals twists his snappy slogan into a ghost he’ll never shake. Jimmy is destined to live a life without his chosen name and one without the color of his skin.
Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television
For at least a day, however, it’s one with Kim Wexler. Season 6 was peppered with reasons why Kim and Jimmy made too good a team. The McGill-Wexler alliance of the 2004 era was a toxic cocktail of ambition, cleverness, and defiance. It killed one man and started a few other deaths. In the full balance of their lives, however, Jimmy and Kim were a couple who also had periods when they brought out the best in themselves. By the end of the series, Kim finds herself in a place where she can use her powers for good, bringing her eye for organization and justice to a central Florida pro bono outfit. (It’s a nice touch that Gould somehow presents a giant jumble of casework files as an oasis only Kim could see. Seehorn allows a bit of Kim’s confidence to bounce back, but not too much that it negates what she has yet to overcome. ) Jimmy’s law days are over, but at least his energy is being put into making the kind of dough that has nothing to do with Berkshire Hathaway. Both get their chance at penance, no matter how deserving they may be.
I’m not sure if either of them would use the word atoned for, but they’ve both given up the idea of hiding from the guilt or consequences of their time together in New Mexico. As a result, both are not condemned to isolation. Their final moments together still have a bit of that old thrill, as Kim sneaks in under half-false pretenses. This time, however, it’s a harmless transgression that they can both live with.
It wouldn’t be a Better Call Saul finale without a nice bit of symmetry, so naturally the pair turn Montrose’s visiting room into their own time machine and fulfill the prophecy of Jimmy’s bedside table in Carrot and Stick. They share a wordless cigarette at an oblique angle in shadows beamed in from the ’40s, each absorbing what has become of the other. Is it a neat parallel to the start of their partnership? Secure. But as folks who’ve delved into their own slice of showrunning and engineered a whole elaborate trick for Season 6 that they essentially co-produced, it’s undoubtedly the ending they would have chosen for themselves.
Saul Goodman would have wanted the Hollywood end, either walking off into the sunset after seven years of serving time and good behavior, or guns flashing after telling an unseen pal he should have gone to a place like Bolivia. But as the show promised at the start of Season 2, “SG was Here.” Instead, Jimmy McGill’s index finger and thumb, which he borrowed from Kim, are the only thing he has left of the family. He doesn’t step out. He lingers and disappears into the building that now houses him. And leave it there we him, at least for now.
Saul Gone, the finale of the Better Call Saul series, is now available to stream on AMC+.
https://www.indiewire.com/2022/08/better-call-saul-season-6-episode-13-review-saul-gone-spoilers-1234752285/ “Better Call Saul” Season 6 Episode 13 Review: “Saul Gone” disappears