Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Saul Gone (spoilers!)

Well, sadly, it's over. Monday night marked the end of not only Better Call Saul, but also of the entire Breaking Bad universe. Although Vince Gilligan hedged his bets with, "Never say never," not only does he not have any plans for future projects in this world, he's already moved on to his next, non-BB/BCS show. With the cast aging and the braintrust moving on, it doesn't seem like we'll see any further adventures of Albuquerque's criminal and legal masterminds.

So how did it go? Kind of the way it had to. Not all tied up in a bow with Jimmy and Kim reunited to live happily ever after, not in a hail of bullets like its predecessor, but looking back on it, it kind of ended not so much the series but the saga of Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman/Gene Takavic the way it inevitably had to end, with all his misdeeds catching up to him and forcing him to make a decision on how - and in which persona - to make his final stand.

  • Gene should have gone with the vacuum cleaner man when he had the chance instead of trying to handle the taxi cab driver situation on his own. The cons are what always got him into trouble and he just couldn't resist. If he'd vanished again rather than approaching Jeff and Marion, he would have been able to stay ahead of the law and out of prison. 
  • Major (but only) gripe: Gene not closing the Band-Aid tin with the diamonds. I saw that coming a mile away. In fact, the whole time he was struggling to open the phone I kept saying, "Close the lid. Close the lid." Surprised these guys would be that sloppy. You could argue that Gene was frantic to make the call, but it wasn't like closing the tin would take a lot of time. A rare whiff.
  • And of course, the diamonds spilled. Doesn't matter as it turns out, because Gene didn't have time to make the call before the cops found him hiding in the dumpster, much less get away.
  • The return of Marie Schrader was a pleasant surprise. I always wondered what would happen to her in the aftermath of Hank's death.
  • Watching Gene revert back to Saul was both amazing and disturbing. Witnessing him manipulating the Feds to whittle a life sentence down to 7-1/2 years was Saul Goodman at his best/worst. The utter lack of remorse was kind of horrifying, especially after Marie insists to the Feds that they cannot make a deal with Saul, only to have him make a mockery out of the situation. That line about him only needing to sway one juror to escape a guilty verdict in a jury trial was stunning. "One. All I need is one." Welcome back, Saul Goodman. He's still got it.
  • The Feds did get a bit of mojo back when Saul tried to further sweeten the deal by offering info on Howard's death. Saul was unaware of Kim's recent trip to the ABQ and the Feds took great joy in breaking the news to him and taking some of the smug wind out of his sails.
  • Loved it when Walter, in the flashback, called Saul out on his time machine question - that the real question isn't about going back to another time, but about admitting regrets, and he was right.
  • Also loved when Jimmy, who had entered the room as Saul, reclaimed his real name in court. "The name's McGill. I'm James McGill." However, the chanting on the prisoner bus indicates that it's the Saul Goodman persona that will keep him safe in prison, because the criminals consider him one of them, if not flat-out idolize him. It's like Jessie's comment back in the early days of Breaking Bad: "You don't need a criminal lawyer. You need a Criminal. Lawyer." In prison, he will be Saul Goodman to his fellow inmates, and will therefore never escape Saul as he'll be there for the rest of his life.
  • From what I'm seeing on the internets, it seems like a lot of people feel like he's come full circle back to Jimmy and that was his redemption, but I'm not completely sure. It was good to see him take responsibility rather than weaseling out of the consequences of his actions yet again, but it also seems like Saul was the strongest of the three personas, and not one that he'll ever completely shed or escape as I mentioned above. Gene was easy to jettison - that was the skin he was never comfortable in and while probably the one he was safest in, it was also a prison of sorts. And even as Jimmy he wreaked havoc on so many people around him. So him going to prison for real was finally justice served, regardless of which person he decides to be. He did the crimes, and now - unlike Walt, Jesse, Mike, Gus, Lalo, Nacho, Tuco, Hector, and so many others - he will do the jail time.
  • Regrets? Yeah, I guess he had a few. Finally taking responsibility for all the shady shit he's pulled over the years and doing the time he's earned gives him some redemption, allowing him to go back to being Jimmy McGill. But nothing is wrapped up neat and clean - he will never leave prison, and what Kim's future might hold seems bleak. I just hope he doesn't regret it in seven years.
  • Speaking of Kim, I do like that they didn't kill her off, something that Better Call Saul fans were concerned about over the years. But her life is in shambles and if Jimmy had kept his seven year deal, they might have been able to get back together somewhere down the line. The fact that she made the trek to "The Alcatraz of the Rockies" to see him indicates to me that she may never be able to completely break off from him and get on with her life.
  • I'm also convinced this show is going to clean up at the next (it's last) Emmys, and that's going to include a long-awaited (by the show's fans) nod for Rhea Seehorn and guest star for Carol Burnett, whose character was instrumental in bringing Gene down by reporting his license plate number, depriving him of enough time to make his getaway and finally place that call to Ed The Vacuum Cleaner Guy. A frail old lady in Omaha, Nebraska finally brought Saul Goodman to justice. Crazy.
And that, Dexter peeps, is how you do a series finale that doesn't make the fans hate you.

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