Better Call Saul recap: season six, episode 13 – we never want another episode of this show

Fans got everything they could have hoped for in the finale of this superlative series. Let’s just leave it at that now – we’ll always have Albuquerque

Spoiler alert: this recap is for people watching Better Call Saul season six, which airs on Netflix in the UK. Do not read on unless you have watched episodes one to 13.

That’s Saul folks

Eighty-six years. Not bad for more malfeasance in 18 months than most could cram into a lifetime. Saul Goodman has been found, caught, tried and sentenced to a stretch in “The Alcatraz of the Rockies”. But in an unexpected turn of events, our protagonist pulls off one last remarkable plea deal: Saul goes to prison, yes, but Jimmy McGill gets to live.

The last few episodes of Better Call Saul have seen creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould throw as much into every moment as they could and this finale was no different. Flashbacks with not just Walter White and Mike Ehrmantraut but Chuck McGill? You got it. Little recherché call backs – from the courtroom exit sign to copies of HG Wells’ Time Machine? There you go. Marie Schrader for all those Marie Schrader fans out there? Why not. And then, of course, we got Kim.

Better days … Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut, Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman.
Better days … Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut, Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman. Photograph: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

The final scene of the show, I’m going to argue, is what we were all hoping for. Granted Jimmy and Kim don’t get back together, they don’t have a chance to build a new life together, but there is redemption for them both and a rekindling of their love, something embodied in one final shared cigarette and the throb of its glowing tip (yes that’s innuendo, and I’m pretty sure the two of them shared a racy thought or two in that moment as well).

After Gene is caught by Nebraska police fishing for diamonds in a dumpster, the twist this week is simple: we suddenly think that Saul is ready to betray Kim. He’s bartered down a potential life plus 190 sentence to seven years or so, but in his determination to ensure artisanal ice-cream he wants to share information on his ex-wife too. Word reaches Kim in Florida that a betrayal is in the offing and, so, she is there for Saul’s trial day to see precisely what happens.

Saul, with Bill Oakley in tow, has landed some of the most lenient sentencing Judge Samantha Small has ever seen. In his flashiest suit and his smuggest expression, Saul looks set to try to squeeze the process even more as he embarks on a speech he has already given the feds. Except, then, he doesn’t. After an oleaginous introduction of the sort we have seen from Saul before, he switches up and comes clean. He chose to work with Walter White, he says, because he saw the opportunity to get rich. He never actually pulled a trigger or added any blue colouring but his fingerprints were all over the Heisenberg project. “I was indispensable and I made millions,” he says, in a final egotistical flourish.

Just like Nacho and Howard before him, Saul has his final confessional speech, and in a way he also dies at the end of it. In sacrificing his liberty, Jimmy McGill reclaims his identity. More than that, he reclaims the respect of Kim Wexler, skulking at the back of the room. The pair make long lingering eye contact as he waits to be removed from court.

Reclaimed respect … Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler.
Reclaimed respect … Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler. Photograph: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

From there to jail, and the specific prison Saul wanted to avoid. It’s a place of big bad cons with plasters on their faces. They also happen to be the type of people who admire the legend of the crooked Albuquerque lawyer. So while Jimmy is back, perhaps inevitably Saul Goodman lives on too. And there’s a bit of Gene Takavic as well, toiling away in the prison bakery until he is summoned to meet his lawyer, who is in fact Kim, with a solitary cigarette and a dusky look in her eyes.

They talk only a little, she admiring his plea bargaining, him joking about getting his sentence commuted to only a few decades for good behaviour. There is quiet and a distinct sense of contentment on Jimmy’s face. Then Kim leaves and it’s more difficult to read her thoughts as she waits to be taken out of the compound. Jimmy is there in the yard watching, and he catches her attention, giving her a Saul salute, two smoking finger guns. It’s kind of pathetic but self-effacing too. She gives him no response, but it’s not clear he needed one.

Summing up

There was a smart comment last week which observed that I’ve written a bit about the “morality” of this show, or at least argued that there is one, and that maybe I was simplifying matters a bit by suggesting there was something as distinct as good and bad in this dramatic world.

Final redemption … Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman.
Final redemption … Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman. Photograph: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

That criticism is probably fair, especially in terms of the characters who carry good and bad within them in ways that are irresolvable (something brought out in each of the three flashbacks in this episode). However, as Better Call Saul ends I think we can say that there is such a thing as good and bad decisions that these characters can take and that doing the right thing, or the wrong thing, always has consequences. The final choice Jimmy makes is a moral one, whether to face up to his crimes or not, and he chooses good over evil. This means that, like Kim, while he suffers the consequences of his actions, he will at least no longer have to hide from them, or himself.

The time machine question – or in Walt’s sneering dissection the one about “regrets” – is ultimately answered by Jimmy. He regrets losing Kim. He ultimately chooses to act in a way that does the best he can to make up for it. The counterpoint with Mike and Walter and Chuck was interesting though. Did those three ever do the same? (In fact, did Chuck ever acknowledge any regrets at all?)

So a superlative series comes to an end and, like many I imagine, I hope we never get another instalment. The precision of the plotting, of the character development, has been spot on over the course of six seasons and the satisfaction of watching has been such that I wouldn’t ever want anything else to undo it. No Obi-Wan Kenobi in Albuquerque mini-series for me please.

There are lots of details I will have missed from this episode, both big and small, and one of the delights of doing these recaps has been to watch the collective act of pulling them all together in the comments. So before we go I’d like to say thanks for reading, thanks for commenting, and my favourite character is Lalo Salamanca.


Paul MacInnes

The GuardianTramp

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