The Final Pieces Are Coming Together for Saul… And It Ain’t Good, Man
The Return of TV’s Best Show
When we left Jimmy McGill, he had just embraced his destiny by pulling off his biggest con yet on the New Mexico bar association, and also taking on the name that will be engraved on his metaphorical tombstone: Saul Goodman. After spending much of Season 4 in limbo, he has decided that he can no longer be Chuck McGill’s bad brother, and has decided to try something bigger. That’s how Jimmy tries to justify to his beloved Kim (the impeccable Rhea Seehorn), and who he keeps trying to plan a future with, but who increasingly can’t understand the level of cons in the man she loves.
Darkness is looming for almost everybody else in the world of Albuquerque. Mike (Jonathan Banks, taking his masterwork to a new level) is still reeling from his assassination of a virtual innocent in the Season 4 finale, and who is isolating himself from Gus Fring and the family he has been saying he’s doing it all for. Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) is dealing with the delay of the superlab he thinks will give him everything, but is still trying to deal with the chaos of the cartel and the arrival of Lalo Salmanaca (a very impressive Tony Dalton), who in just a few episodes has already demonstrated that he is just as ruthless as everybody in the Salmanaca clan, but far smarter. As for Nacho (Michael Mando) he remains increasingly stuck between two monstrous drug kingpins, and can’t seem to find a way out.
Better Call Saul is becoming what Breaking Bad, for all of its magnificence, could never quite become: a genuine tragedy in the making. Jimmy may be embracing the shyster we always knew was lurking beneath the surface, but every time we see him interact with one of the darker forces on this series, we always can tell just how over his head he was. The more you watch him, the more you realize just how many lives could’ve been spared had Walter White just listened to the advice he gave. As brilliant as Bob Odenkirk has been in both series, it’s only in Saul that we realize that he is a tragic figure, and not just because of where he will end up. (We’ll get to that in a moment.)
Indeed, all around the series is the pall of tragedy. We don’t know what fate will befall Nacho, but considering we never saw him in Breaking Bad, it can’t be anywhere good. Mike, who seemed utterly soulless when we met him, we’re not getting a much clearer picture of who he was before he ended up being Gus’ fixer, and it’s unalterably sad. And poor Jimmy will no doubt lose Kim, not just because we know the future, but because Kim is unlike almost anyone in the world Vince Gilligan and his crew have created: she has a conscience, and as much as she loves Jimmy, she is increasingly appalled by who he has become.
Which brings us to something far darker. At the beginning of each season, we have seen increasingly longer flashforwards of Saul in Omaha. In the season premiere, Saul’s worst fear came: someone recognized him from his past life. He made a call to the ‘vacuum cleaner salesman’ (Robert Forster’s farewell gift) to the try and make new arrangements — only for him to say: “I’ll handle it myself.” Jimmy did many horrible things in his career, but is he finally going to cross the one threshold he never quite did in all of his years in the Gilligan verse and take a life?
The end is near for all of them. This is the penultimate season for Better Call Saul, and if its anything like Breaking Bad near the end, things are going to get much, much bleaker, and that’s before you consider that everybody else is doomed is some way. What is also clear is that Saul, currently the best series on television by a considerable margin, is prepping for us to enter the stages right before Saul ends up meeting Jesse and Walt. (We already know that Dean Norris is going to show up as Hank Schrader at some point this season, and while I’m glad to see him, he’s just another reminder of the body count that is in our future.) Part of me really wishes Jimmy would just take Kim and get the hell out of New Mexico, but we all know that’s not in the card. So all I can say is, before the one who knocks enters stage right, I think the Emmys Better… well, we know how it ends.
My score: 5 stars.