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‘Better Call Saul’ Season 6 Recap: Jimmy moves towards his endgame

As it begins its two-part final season, Better Call Saul is still a double show — one compelling and one that, while well done, can feel like yesterday’s news. The good news for viewers interested in the plot of Jimmy McGill’s descent into amoral Saul Goodman and his crush on Kim Wexler is that this half of the series is as strong as ever. It continues to stand up for itself, differs from its predecessor, Breaking Bad, and is more convincingly grounded in a believable reality. The more mixed result is that this series is feeling more concerned than ever with making connections to Breaking Bad. The result is that even as the show nears its endgame, it can feel like it’s looking over your shoulder.

First, let’s address what’s working about this new series of episodes, out April 18th ahead of a second (and final) installment on July 11th. The acting duet of Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn is as strong as ever and draws on their characters. stories together. As Jimmy and Kim, the two held two perspectives on the law and its possibilities, perspectives that intermingled and eventually seemed to merge.

In fact, in the second episode of the season, the pair attempt to outdo two characters who haven’t been seen since the show’s early days as a stepping stone into a long-term grip. Seehorn, trying to be virtuous advocate Kim, is more involved than ever in her partner’s schemes – as if helping this underdog schemer would restore justice to the universe as a public defender could. Truly fearsome in her climactic threats against her unlucky grades, she draws on Kim’s love of achievement as well as her growing desperation to win the day. Seehorn remains the discovery of this series – an actor wonderfully able to animate the quintessentially human experience of knowing you’re making a mistake and doing it anyway.

And Odenkirk’s performance was next-level throughout Better Call Saul; Here was a character that seemed like a savory spice used effectively in small doses. In “Breaking Bad” he broke the tension of the series as the corrupt lawyer for the main character Walter White and was a somewhat outspoken expression of lawlessness. In this new season, he is exhausted from the many plates he turns. Some of the joy has drained from his harassment; when he threatens to swindle a country club clerk under false pretenses, the ease is less than it used to be. Jimmy hides in the club’s dressing room, twisting his body in unnatural ways and grimacing. The plot is delightfully complicated, fun for us at home, but – in rich development for a character we’ve followed – abysmal for Jimmy. (Given Odenkirk’s real-world health crisis on set during filming of the final episodes, it might be easy to read more seriousness into this season, but that strikes this viewer as an unfortunate coincidence; Odenkirk sells on performance, not real-life circumstances and Jimmy’s exhaustion.)

The only thing wrong with Odenkirk’s performance is beyond his control: There’s no more of it, and “Better Call Saul” seems reticent about what it’s about. In an episode of this new season, Jimmy stops by a restaurant called El Camino – a seeming reference to the standalone sequel Breaking Bad, which was released in 2019 – which is an early indication of where things are going. There’s growing indulgence for the tropes and concerns of “Breaking Bad,” a world where wrongdoing wasn’t limited to petty disputes between Albuquerque attorneys but encompassed vast conspiracies.

Where Jimmy the character ends up going – and it obviously makes sense to put him in that world. What frustrates, however, is the angle of attack. On “Breaking Bad,” Bryan Cranston’s Walter was thrown into an already full-fledged crime universe, and his clashes with the likes of Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) fueled the drama from the two men’s first moments together. On “Saul,” the formation and merging of the current state of the meth distribution scene ran entirely in tandem with Jimmy’s moral decline, forcing viewers to grapple with which of these stories feels new and which feels familiar, and not just from “Breaking Bad.” days.

I’ve written about this discrepancy in tones between the two series – the one that “Better Call Saul” was and the one it’s headed for – before, and it’s only gotten more pronounced. Perhaps this is just the show applying the story it tells to its structure: Jimmy grows ever closer to the world of big crime, and so his presence grows. (I suspect there was a way the story of Jimmy’s fall from morality and reality could have been told without simply restaging Breaking Bad, but I digress.) It’s hard not to overlook the skill with which old “Saul” went ahead. Fring, for example, never quite felt like a real person – just like Darth Vader, for example, didn’t. He’s acting on an iconic level, which was fine with Breaking Bad, which aimed for opera, not realism. Better Call Saul attempts to show a man rise from a petty ripoff to a big league mania, and perhaps the fact that his parts fit uncomfortably suggests it’s a tougher task than its creators anticipated to have.

Nevertheless, the show is definitely worth seeing for Odenkirk and for Seehorn. Kim’s frustration, played so beautifully by Seehorn, feels like the viewer’s own. Like them, we pledge to accompany our man wherever he goes. But it’s hard not to feel like he’s choosing a path that not only cuts through Jimmy’s humanity but also what made him interesting.

Better Call Saul Season 6 Part 1 premieres Monday, April 18 at 9pm ET/PT on AMC.

https://variety.com/2022/tv/reviews/better-call-saul-season-6-review-1235221223/ ‘Better Call Saul’ Season 6 Recap: Jimmy moves towards his endgame

Charles Jones

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