When asked to give a hint about how Better Call Saul would wrap up during a Tribeca Festival panel in June, Bob Odenkirk offered two words: “second life.” That clue turned out to be much pithier and more perfect than anyone might have guessed. And it What a kind of perfect ending—and a new beginning for Jimmy McGill.
Jimmy gave way to Saul who briefly gave way to Gene Takovic who gave way back to Saul who claimed a redemption for himself as Jimmy. That redemption came in the form of trading a seven-year prison sentence for an 86-year one to prove that, despite what people like Mike Ehrmantraut, Walter White, and his brother Chuck told him, he wasn’t all about slick, Slippin ‘Jimmy trickery in the end.
Busted Gene was done in by Marion, the gutsy Ask-Jeeves-searching lady who used her LifeAlert to notify the cops, complete with car description and license plate number, about Saul Goodman’s location. He tried to get away on foot after retrieving his bandage tin full of diamonds, but the jewels slipped out of Slippin’ Jimmy’s hands when he was hiding in a dumpster, and Omaha police officers led him off to the hoosegow. Showrunner and episode writer and director Peter Gould’s storyline sent Saul to jail early in the finale, which amped up the excitement about all that awaited us.
One of the biggest surprise appearances of the episode was Saul’s attorney, or rather, “advisory counsel,” Bill Oakley, the former Albuquerque district attorney who has taken Saul’s place on a bus bench, advertising his new position as defense attorney. No longer in awe of Jimmy’s success after he learned of his association with the Salamancas, Bill nonetheless took Saul’s call and agreed to represent him after Saul assured him it would do wonders for his legal street cred. And from the modest automobile he’s driving, we’re guessing he could use the high-profile work. Not that Saul is doing Bill any favors. Bill is there to help Saul have a little local street cred of his own, someone without a boatload of pending criminal charges to help Saul muscle the government into a very generous seven-year sentence at a cushy Club Fed-type prison (in Butner, North Carolina, the one Bernie Madoff died in), with golf privileges, and a weekly pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream. That last perk is Saul’s way to prove that he can get the upper hand, even in his situation, and defeat the prosecutor who he is told has never lost a case. He can totally own his opponent, even when he should be looking at decades in prison.
But then, a twist: When Saul tries to play one more card, offering up what he thinks is fresh, juicy info about the death of Howard Hamlin, he learns Kim already dished that dirt as part of the package of confessions she served up to the Albuquerque DA and Howard’s widow, Cheryl. He’s shocked Kim actually did what he told her to do during their recent tense phone call, telling all about her role in the circumstances surrounding Howard’s murder.
At first, we think Saul is angry that Kim got the better of him and has limited what he may be able to get out of the government. He really wants that weekly Blue Bell ice cream, and he tells Bill, in front of a marshal shepherding him to an Albuquerque courtroom, that he has one more bit of information he’s sure Kim didn’t share, intimating that it is something that will be used against her, perhaps causing her a devastating civil action by Cheryl Hamlin. Saul seems eager to make this happen, and when Kim is tipped off by Albuquerque assistant district attorney Suzanne Ericsen that Saul plans to introduce new testimony involving her, Kim shows up in the courtroom to witness his latest shenanigans herself.
But then there’s another twist, one that explains both Bob Odenkirk’s hint about the finale and the finale’s title, “Saul Gone.” With a brilliant shot of a courtroom exit sign brightly lit above Saul’s head, he interrupts the proceedings to stress to the judge that Walter White’s criminal enterprise earned him millions of dollars and that without his legal maneuverings on Walt’s behalf, Walt would have ended up in jail in a month. Saul gets emotional as he tries to talk about what happened to Howard, but then, when he sees Kim at the back of the room and sees that she’s really listening to him, he finally reveals what he did to Chuck, ruining his ability to practice law, to purposefully hurt him, after which Chuck killed himself. “And I’ll live with that,” Saul says. And just to make sure everyone knows, officially, what Kim realized when he turned around and locked eyes with her, Saul corrects the judge when she tells Mr. Goodman to take his seat. “The name’s McGill. I’m James McGill,” he says, pointing to himself, unbuttoning the jacket of his very shiny Saul suit.
Poor Bill tries to save some semblance of the case, because while Saul was getting his Jimmy McGill on and redeeming himself with Kim, he was costing himself that sweet government deal. Exit, literally, Saul, and cut to Jimmy riding the bus to prison…not the Madoff one, but Montrose, the one he had earlier described as “the Alcatraz of the Rockies.” And he’s scheduled to stay there for the next eight-and-a-half decades, ie a life sentence even with time off for good behavior.
All is not lost, though: During that bus ride, his fellow inmates recognize him not as Jimmy, but as “Better Call Saul,” and they stomp their feet and shout his catchphrase in appreciation of their hero. Inside Montrose, it’s clear he’s willing to get his Saul back on to live out that sentence as comfortably as possible. His cohorts refer to him as Saul, and a shot of him running a dough machine fools us into thinking we might be back at the Cinnabon until we see Saul is working in the prison kitchen baking loaves of bread.
And then he gets a visit from his attorney, but it’s not Bill. It’s Kim, who uses her old New Mexico bar card to visit her ex-husband. In another beautifully shot scene, Kim and Jimmy (that’s what she calls him) stand against the visiting room and share a cigarette she has snuck in for him. For a minute, they are those two people in the first episode of the series, “Uno,” when they are in the HHM parking garage, oozing chemistry while they are passing a cigarette back and forth.
This is a very emotional, if brief, reunion, and Jimmy stands in the yard, watching Kim exit when he shoots finger guns and blows on them as she leaves. They’re standing on opposite sides of the fences, of freedom, but Kim just might be back. She makes a point of telling Jimmy she got in to see him with that New Mexico bar card that has no expiration date on it. Kim, like Jimmy, still likes bending the rules a little herself.
- Which surprise flashback character cameo to love most: Peter Diseth’s Bill Oakley, Jonathan Banks’ Mike, Michael McKean’s Chuck, Bryan Cranston’s Walter, or the biggest surprise of all, Betsy Brandt’s Marie Schrader, back to try to make sure Saul is punished to get justice for her Hank? Organically fitted into Saul’s inevitable journey to prison, it was a welcome reunion of favorites.
- Jimmy’s big break began with dumpster diving for info to help the Sandpiper residents sue the company. His lifetime in prison started in another dumpster, where he dropped all those diamonds and ruined a chance to call Ed for another life on the lam.
- Undoubtedly the funniest line ever uttered about a craft store, as Jimmy describes to Chuck how his legal practice is going: “One of my clients, he got caught waving the weenie outside a Hobby Lobby.”
- During Jimmy’s flashbacks with Mike (during their infamous trek through the desert in “Bagman”) and Walt (from their time together in Ed’s basement while they were waiting to be transported to their new lives), he was curiously obsessed with what they would do differently with access to time travel. Walt, in his most arrogant and dismissive ways, points out time travel isn’t possible, then says all Saul really wants is to discuss what regrets they have. Later, in his flashback to the visit with Chuck, Chuck has a paperback book on the kitchen counter: HG Wells’ The Time Machine.