Better Call Saul Season 6 was Jimmy’s biggest trick of all

Saul Goodman is dead. Long live Saul Goodman.

After a devastating series of self-destructive, sloppy decisions that landed the con artist formerly known as Jimmy McGill in police custody, I was primed for a hopeless series finale, one that would have us all enjoying Saul and his sleazy schemes at the expense of real ruined lives. By halfway through the episode I was ready to write about the tragedy of a man doomed to be himself forever. But the series finale of Better call Saul proved it could throw sand in our eyes one last time, and ended satisfactorily on romantic optimism about change rather than nihilistic I-told-you-so about who Jimmy/Saul/Gene will always be should. Jimmy’s latest scam led us to believe it was completely uncollectible, and we all fell for it.

meticulously detailed, Better call Saul has always been a show about craftsmanship. We watch as Jimmy puts up a wall of sticky notes as he plots his revenge on Howard Hamlin; we watch Mike Ehrmantraut laboriously dig dozens of holes in the ground; We watch as Kim Wexler tightens her ponytail, buttons her suit and straightens her posture before each professional call. There is art in the skill these people need to pull through the plans they pull through. You can’t fear being exposed as a fraud if you’re not – if you’ve convinced yourself you’re right and if you’ve already run through and anticipated all the possible outcomes in your head. (I think all of these characters would look great The sample.)

a black and white shot of Jimmy McGill sitting on a prison transport bus

Photo Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

This has always been the case at the micro level of the characters, but part of the genius of Better call SaulStorytelling from was his utter inability to exist in a vacuum. You couldn’t miss an episode; You would be missing a tiny, crucial detail that would eventually grow into a big, devastating revelation. Better call Saul I counted on you to forget these small details until the last moment before they matter. They might not be able to keep track of everything, but Jimmy and Kim and Mike and Lalo and Gus sure could. Most of the best remembered episodes of Saul – “Chicanery” from Season 3, “Wexler v. Goodman” from Season 5 – could sound boring and procedural if described on their own and without context. “A lawyer does something clever in court” could be applied to the high drama Saul or the monotony of any CBS copaganda series. but Better call Saul often so satisfying because we, as viewers, have invested in keeping track of the behavior of these super-intelligent and competent characters, which often seemed counterintuitive until the moment it wasn’t. They left nothing to chance, no stone upon another, no breadcrumbs. It was immensely rewarding to be on this journey with them.

The tremendous tragedy of Howard Hamlin’s death at the wrong place and time midway through last season should have alerted us to the fact that no matter how well we got to know these characters, their circumstances and plans could still surprise us . In a way, it was silly to go into that finale believing that Jimmy McGill was irretrievable, that he had crossed moral boundaries that could never be lifted the way Walter White did breaking Bad years ago.

But Jimmy and Walter are different beasts. Heisenberg’s inherent bitterness and greed, hidden by suburban tedium and middle-class monotonous Americanism, turned a high school chemistry teacher into a monster once attainable power was introduced into the complicated equation of his life and illness. Jimmy’s motivations are lower. Less Shakespeare, more everyday life. They were both motivated by greed and hubris, but Jimmy never had the bloodthirstiness of Walter White. He was just as flawed and almost as misguided, but while Walter White wanted to show the world exactly what he was capable of, at his core, Jimmy McGill just wanted someone specific to be proud of him.

Saul Goodman sits at his desk in a purple suit and looks at someone from the off. The camera is focused on him signing divorce papers.

Photo Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

a black-and-white shot of Jimmy McGill wagging his finger at the judge in court; he is shot from below

Photo Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

That doesn’t necessarily apply to Saul Goodman, the walking mutation and coping mechanism that Jimmy became as he grew further and further from loved ones. Saul is motivated by wickedness in a way that Jimmy was not; He takes Jimmy’s “watch me” attitude and his desire to do things just because he can to a whole new, dangerous level.

It was a delight to watch Saul negotiate pleadings, charming and flattering, and applying the law as only Saul Goodman could. It’s so effective it’s commuting multiple life sentences into just seven and a half years behind bars — plus a personally-delivered glass of ice cream every week, for good measure. Watching a craftsman at work, no matter how little we actually want him to succeed, is incredibly satisfying.

Watching the handyman take down a hook in his hubris is also incredibly satisfying. Saul is at the end of his trial when he learns that Kim has already told the police everything they know about Howard’s murder. It triggers a pang of guilt, perhaps his first in a very long time. Hearing Kim’s name cracks the hard plastic of the Saul persona, revealing the insecure and eager Jimmy McGill hiding underneath.

This scene is cushioned by a flashback to a conversation he had with his brother Chuck, seemingly early in the course of the mental illness that would eventually erode their relationship and lead to his tragic death. I had forgotten how much Jimmy cared for Chuck and how much Chuck relied on Jimmy. The pain and resentment were always there, but so was the fact that Jimmy constantly wanted to prove himself to the people he respected.

Jimmy stands over the counter and talks to Chuck in a kitchen lit only by Chuck's oil lamp

Photo Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Jimmy is the lover, Saul is the ego holding him back. When Saul stands in court and says he wants to be tried as James McGill, he tells us who he chose. He wants to do the right thing because Kim — the love of his life, his accomplice, and everything else — is watching. He wants to make her proud, to face her cause and her morals. What good is intrigue if your accomplice doesn’t want anything to do with you?

Sadly, Saul is a person who will follow Jimmy until his death. After admitting in court that he was the mastermind behind the Walter White operation, Jimmy ends up on a bus and jailed for the next 80+ years (first he had to prove he could get off, next he had to prove he could). that it was him might have a hard time). He is recognized almost immediately as Saul. Denying his identity only draws more attention, and the other prisoners rhythmically begin chanting the slogan that made him famous for being the kind of person who would end up on a prisoner transport. Later we see him as Saul working in the prison kitchen and coming to terms with what he can’t just walk away from. It’s tragic that no matter how much he works on himself, he’ll still carry that big stain on his morale record, and he’ll always be known for the things he did when he was emotionally at his deepest and loneliest point was.

It’s tragic, but it’s not a death sentence or a fine thing. For six years we’ve watched Jimmy become Saul to Gene, but the previous versions of him were always available and accessible to the right person at the right time. We’ve seen Gene transform into Saul since he was thrown in prison; We saw Saul transform into Jimmy when he heard news about Kim being extradited to New Mexico. You can’t escape your worst reputation or most destructive behaviors, but you can change your actions and do the right thing at any time. And Jimmy does, as does Kim.

The latest McGill mutation – the one that brings Kim Wexler back into his life, who is willing to go through hard times to pay for his mistakes – isn’t a step back into the Jimmy McGill we first met, as he worked his way up the ranks at his brother’s law firm. He may have the same name, but he can’t hide from his mistakes and he’s no longer trying. The ultimate Jimmy McGill is a conglomerate of every Jimmy McGill that came before, meticulously built – like the series he helmed – to be better and greater than the sum of its parts. The Jimmy McGill at the end of this story chooses accountability over getting away with it. He prefers to share a cigarette behind bars with the person he loves rather than play the system he could have played to be back on the world earlier because he realizes that a world without Kim Ain’t no world worth cheating on

99% of Jimmy and Kim’s post-breakup scenes took place entirely in black and white, but the tip of that cigarette lights up gold when they find themselves in a jail cell together at the end of the series. You can make a million bad decisions, and light can leave your life as a result of your actions. But it’s reassuring to understand that it can always come back. You can always reclaim your identity from the public and change yourself for the better for the good of the people you really know. Better Call Saul Season 6 was Jimmy’s biggest trick of all

Charles Jones

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