From the Breaking Bad pilot, all the way back in 2008, to the finale of Better Call Saul some 14 years later, it’s been a wild ride. Series creator Vince Gilligan and his talented collaborators have created one of the most narratively gripping TV universes ever.
Let’s do this one last time. We’re breaking down the final episode of Better Call Saul, titled Saul Gone. Are you ready?
The Ghost of Mike
The episode opens with another flashback to Mike Ehrmantraut. We see Jimmy’s crashed Esteem out in the desert, as well as one of Chuck’s thermal blankets and a stray $100 bill stuck to a cactus. Jimmy and Mike are retrieving a huge bag of cash for Lalo Salamanca–it’s a scene from the Season 5 episode Bagman. While resting near a watering hole, Jimmy asks Mike where he’d go if he had a time machine. Mike briefly considers a date in 2001, presumably when his son Matty was killed.
He thinks better of it, however, and tells Jimmy he’d return to the day he first took a bribe. This conversation contains echoes of Mike’s “bad choice road” speech, given to Jesse Pinkman back in Breaking Bad. The episode’s main themes of regrets and going back to fix mistakes starts with another Mike conversation, a fitting place to begin the ending of the series.
Jimmy, on the other hand, says he’d travel back in time and invest in Berkshire Hathaway right as Warren Buffet takes it over. He has no regrets, or so he wants Mike to think–for him, it’s all about money.
On the Run
Back in the present, Gene Takovic is finished. Marion called the cops and there are police helicopters searching Omaha for the wanted criminal Saul Goodman. There’s nothing Gene can do. He scoops up a shoebox full of cash and diamonds, then grabs a prepaid cell phone, clearly planning to call Ed the vacuum repair man for another extraction and another false identity. He doesn’t make it far. After hiding from the police in a garbage can, Gene is arrested in an unflattering position.
The “Gene” persona melts away quickly once Jimmy finds himself behind bars and facing the prospect of life behind bars. He morphs back into Saul Goodman and sets about saving himself, as he always does. He calls Bill Oakley in New Mexico and tells him to come to serve as co-counsel on a trial that will put Oakley’s name in the headlines. Oakley scoffs at Saul, saying the DA has a mountain of evidence to put him away forever.
Still, Oakley relents and joins Saul in his long-shot bid to beat a series of intense allegations. The Albuquerque DA has Marie Schrader, Hank’s widow, confront Saul and make him face up to the consequences of his actions. Saul spins an elaborate lie, claiming that he was a victim of Walter White, just the same as Marie and Hank and that he was compelled on the threat of death to launder Walt’s money and serve as his attorney. He manages to talk the DA down to just seven years behind bars, using the threat of a hung jury to strongarm them into complying with his ludicrous demands.
The Ghost of Walt
In another flashback, we see Saul and Walt shortly after things went sideways in the Season 5 episode Ozymandias. Both men are waiting in one of Ed’s safehouses for a ride to their new lives. Walt can’t let a mild click in the water heater continue, so he begins making a terrible noise while trying to dismantle the appliance and get to the root of the problem. Saul asks why they don’t just turn the thing off, but Walt swears it’ll be a quick fix.
Saul brings out the same “time machine” question he posed to Mike, asking Walt what he’d do if he could go back in time. In classic fashion, Walt dismisses the very concept of time travel as a scientific impossibility, reminding audiences that Walt was an insufferable know-it-all who had to always prove how smart he was, even when speaking of thought experiments and hypotheticals.
Finally, he relents, telling Saul he wishes he could go back and remain a part of Gray Matter, the business he started with Gretchen and Elliot Schwarz. Saul, on the other hand, deflects again, saying his only regret was a bad slip and fall he performed when he was in his early 20s that resulted in his bad knees–the ones he complained about when audiences first saw him in the Breaking Bad episode Better Call Saul. Walt smugly remarks that he’s not surprised that Saul has “always been like this”.
Saul learns that Kim confessed to her role in Howard Hamlin’s death, and realizes that he has no more cards to play against the DA. He masterfully lets information slip that he plans to give testimony that could further incriminate Kim, ensuring she’ll appear at his plea hearing in Albuquerque. He appears in full Saul Goodman attire but quickly dismantles his own plea deal.
He owns up to everything, to Oakley’s horror and the DA’s perplexed delight. Kim is shocked but clearly moved by Jimmy’s change of heart. He’s got no angle this time–he’s just finally confessing his sins. He even owns up to his responsibility for his brother’s death years before. Saul Goodman is gone, and only Jimmy McGill remains. This is as hopeful of an ending as any fans could have asked for.
We get one last appearance of Chuck McGill’s ghost, in a flashback from early in his bout with his psychosomatic “electricity allergy”. Jimmy brings him groceries and the two have a routine conversation about Jimmy’s new clients and his burgeoning law practice. The camera lingers on a copy of the HG Welles novel The Time Machine.
Life Behind Bars
Jimmy is sentenced to 86 years in a maximum security prison. The prisoners love him, though they all know him as Saul Goodman, the slimy attorney who helped them or their friends get reduced sentences. Jimmy lives a modest life behind bars, working in the prison kitchen and keeping to himself.
There’s a glimmer of hope in his life, though. Kim Wexler visits him, bending the rules as usual by pretending to be his attorney. The pair share a cigarette and one last intimate moment, with the flame from Kim’s lighter offering the only splash of color in the entire episode.
Rather than end on this touching reunion and chance for redemption, though, the show goes on for one more shot. The last time we see Jimmy and Kim, they appear on opposite ends of the shot, separated by a wide yard and two fences. While Jimmy might have saved his soul and even saved his relationship with the woman he loves by owning up to his crimes, he’s still going to spend most of the rest of his life in isolation. But Jimmy is the first character in this entire franchise to finally step back from the life of crime and get something resembling a happy ending, so it’s hard to be mad at this last, bittersweet shot.