With its satisfying series conclusion, "Better Call Saul" takes a step in the right direction.
"Better Call Saul" delivered its last chapter, burdened with the hefty expectations generated by its Emmy-winning predecessor, "Breaking Bad," after six seasons building toward Saul Goodman's prophesied demise. The show presented a deep analysis of what turned the title character, and whether there was any way to atonement, by including callbacks from that series and expanding on its own run.
The show's slow-and-steady technique, which this season includes an entire episode ostensibly devoted to one drop-dead-funny sight gag inside a department shop, was repeated in the extra-long conclusion.
Still, the series came to a logical if subdued end, with Jimmy/Saul (Bob Odenkirk) performing a single noble, self-sacrificing deed in order to reunite, though briefly, with his ex, Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn). Her destiny had always been the show's most basic mystery, and the key to Jimmy's progress (or decline) into the fast-talking charlatan he became.
After being caught in a trash by a medical-alert bracelet (generating a wonderful guest starring role for Carol Burnett), Saul set about doing what he does best: manipulating the system.
It was something he was always prone to doing, as Walter White (Bryan Cranston) pointed out in a pointed flashback, which explains why he couldn't stop himself from reverting to his larcenous ways, finally leading to his imprisonment.
"So you've always been like this," Walt explained.
Back in his element, arguing on his own behalf, Saul looked to have outwitted the lawyers once more, getting an outrageously short sentence. That was despite the fact that another "Breaking Bad" alum, Marie Schrader (Betsy Brandt), demanded punishment for his role in the death of her husband, Hank.
The "Bad" characters had a purpose, with fellow transplant Mike (Jonathan Banks) expressing thinly veiled derision when Saul asks him about a time machine, claiming that he would utilize it to make a fortune by investing wisely.
"Is that it? Money?" Mike scowled.
But, in the end, Saul discovered something more essential, for what seemed to be less about saving Kim or protecting her from a prospective lawsuit and more about simply seeing her again. It was a costly cigarette in terms of years added to his sentence, but it was worth it to him in terms of retrieving at least a bit of his soul.
"Saul," written and directed by Peter Gould (who co-created the show with Vince Gilligan), couldn't give the same fireworks as the "Breaking Bad" conclusion, but it was rewarding in a way that seemed authentic to the program.
Notably, prior to the current season, "Better Call Saul" has never won an Emmy in any category. In addition to its pending nominations, this second batch of episodes — which aired outside the current eligibility window — will almost certainly put the series, and perhaps especially Odenkirk, who overcame a near-death experience to deliver a performance of a lifetime, in contention for next year, assuming anyone can remember that far back.
With his cover compromised early in the episode, Saul demonstrated his priorities by attempting to flee with his money. However, first Kim and later Saul/Jimmy had to atone for what, in retrospect, was the show's crucial moment: how their shared joy in perpetrating scams eventually ended, if only unwittingly, in Howard's murder (Patrick Fabian).
Any innocence was lost at that point, establishing a direct line to Jimmy's "Breaking Bad" years and his bleak, colorless future.
Even though, his Cinnabon-honed baking skills would come in handy, a talent he was shown using in his new duty as a prisoner. Because, like "Breaking Bad," "Better Call Saul" constantly found ways to connect the past, present, and future, even if it was as simple as Jimmy's ability to manipulate a new sort of dough.