A strange thing happened while watching Better Call Saul last night. As the credits started to roll and the wait for season five began it dawned on me, that I had just been conned. That for four seasons I had been brilliantly worked over into believing I wanted something, and once that something arrived I realized that I never wanted it at all. No, I didn’t go into Better Call Saul thinking we’d never see Saul Goodman, and if you read some of my earlier reviews you’ll see I even anxiously anticipated him, but last night Saul finally arrived and I didn’t want anything to do with him. Instead of sitting in my chair saying “finally” or “about time” I swore under my breath and shook my head. We had asked for this and now we’re all getting what we asked for. For better or for worse.
“It’s all good, man.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. Much like Kim Wexler, I love Jimmy McGill. Granted the love I have is different than the love she carries, but I see something in Jimmy that I want to root for. Here is a character who can’t get out of his own way, is moderately well-intentioned, but isn’t douchey enough for me to turn on him. I root for Jimmy. I wish the best for Jimmy despite knowing where his path takes him. I’ve said it here before but one of the show’s greatest achievements is making us blind to the outcome. Tricking us into believing that the ending could be different, and there has never been a more defining moment of that than “Winner”. Better Call Saul took it’s four seasons long con and sucker-punched us in the gut, and then went away for an undisclosed period of time while we laid on the floor groaning in pain.
God damn it, Jimmy. The transformation into Saul was so effortless and easy that much like Kim we were left kind of spellbound. “What just happened? Did he… is he? What?” And it all stems off of Jimmy’s greatest performance yet. Standing in front of a panel of lawyers waiting to uphold his suspension for another year, Jimmy delivers what I believed to be a genuine, heartfelt, expression of love for his brother. With the cold open displaying a strained brotherly relationship (Chuck taking the karaoke spotlight being a metaphor for Jimmy’s life) that ultimately ended in drunken sing-a-long showing that they may not be on the same page but they’re still brothers, it seemed that Jimmy’s season-long avoidance of Chuck’s death had finally come to an end. Sure, the tombstone crocodile tears were classic Jimmy. So was the “anonymous” donation to the library, but the courtroom? The very same courtroom where Chuck stood by Jimmy’s side to be witness to his swearing-in. No, that felt real. Here was a man who actively forced himself to ignore the death of his brother coming to terms with it at the biggest moment of his life. There was a vulnerability. There was emotion. There was a man who both loved and hated his brother but understood he needed him. This was a raw and naked Jimmy McGill and Bob Odenkirk, much like he has for four seasons, delivered such powerful emotion that it was hard not to be swept up in the sincerity. I sat in my chair as tears danced in my eyes thinking what a defining moment this was for Jimmy. Finally, he would be able to put Chuck’s shadow to rest…
“It’s all good, man.”
Insert gut-punch here. There was nothing sincere about that speech. Jimmy, ever the people reader, played on the emotions of the panel and called an audible. Quickly ditching Chuck’s letter, which was most likely written by Kim, Jimmy gave the panel what they wanted. A younger brother who just wanted to make his brother proud. A broken, vulnerable man, who just wanted a chance to do his brother right. And boom! Just like that, he had them, and us, and he knew it. He knew it, and Jimmy McGill exploited the hell out of it. As soon as the panel was over and in the midst of celebrating with Kim, Jimmy shows his hand as he calls the panel a bunch of suckers. Picking them apart for crying and believing his rhetoric. At that moment we are Kim. We look at this man that we thought we knew. This man who brought tears to our eyes and we realize, we never really knew him at all. Jimmy’s severe lack of insincerity at that moment makes Kim, and us, question everything about him. If Jimmy is capable of being so devoid of emotional attachment why should we believe that anything he says is sincere? This confession isn’t just a slap in the face of Chuck, no, this is a slap in the face to Kim. The one person who has always been there for Jimmy. The one person who pushed him to be the best version of himself even through all the mistakes. The person who saw a man who she believed was hurting and suggested a therapist. The person who should have seen the red flags in coaching Jimmy to be sad about his brother’s death but ignored them because she believed that even if he didn’t get his license back that the experience would be cathartic for him.
Jimmy didn’t care about Chuck’s death. In fact, he uses it, in the end, to get what he wants because he feels Chuck owes it to him. Chuck never believed in Jimmy. Never fully supported him. Chuck raised a bar so impossibly high that the only thing Jimmy could do to compete was head in the opposite direction. To be the polar opposite of his older brother. Jimmy took all that anger and all that mistreatment and used it as the ultimate tool. He stood there and promised the panel that he would try and do the name McGill the justice it deserved, but in reality, he had gotten everything he needed out of the name. Now with a new license, under a new name, Jimmy can finally be himself. Free of the burden of his older brother. Free of the legacy of his last name. Free to be Slippin’ Jimmy and practice law how he sees fit. There’s no legacy to ruin if the person you create isn’t attached to anyone. Jimmy McGill has been a lie. For four seasons we have watched and hoped that even though Saul Goodman is a shallow, one dimensional, crook of a lawyer that maybe Jimmy McGill could be something more. That maybe, despite the outcome, he could find peace and solace. This was a character we wanted to root for and he spits in our faces because he never really was that person, to begin with.
“It’s all good, man.”… no, it’s not. I will mourn you, Jimmy McGill. Or what I believed you were because now I don’t know. I want to believe that the Jimmy we have spent the last four seasons with is some real semblance of who Jimmy is, but there’s no way to know that for a fact now. Saul Goodman is here. Hell, he could have been here this whole time, and we’re sitting here like a bunch of fools believing that Jimmy could have been saved. God damn, that is incredible storytelling. That’s something special. Peter Gould, Gennifer Hutchinson, Rhea Seehorn, and Bob Odenkirk have orchestrated an opera of such a high magnitude, and despite all the pain I’m feeling right now, I’d do it again in heartbeat. Because I want to believe that it’ll be all good, man.
Some other quick thoughts-
- In the midst of all this, we had a pretty stellar Mike story to deal with. Man, the final scene of Mike and Werner is beautifully shot and devastating. It shows us that Mike has never been a half measure kind of guy. For a while, I wondered if Mike would let his friend free to join his wife, but in the end, Mike knows how to conduct business. He doesn’t like killing Werner but it needs to be done. When see him again in the skeleton of the superlab staring at Gus in confirmation we see a man who hates what he has done but relishes in his ability to do a job. That’s why Gus needs him. That’s why Mike keeps coming back.
- Lalo, for all his charisma and planning, is a bit of a loose cannon. I still believe he’ll be a formidable foe for Gus, but if he wants to survive he’s going to need to act less irrational. It was clear that he never had a plan and you’re not going to beat Gus Fring, or Mike for that matter, without one. I’m very much looking forward to this rivalry heading into season five.
- Nacho survived. I honestly didn’t see that coming but was happy to see it.
- While the devastation to Kim Wexler is clear, I was happy to see her standing at the end of the episode. Since the show started I have watched every season finale in fear of the outcome of Kim Wexler, but alas, she lives to be in another season. As amazing as this show is, I’m not entirely sure if it survives without the heart and soul that Rhea Seehorn brings to the table. She is the light and once it goes out we will have lost Jimmy for good. I’m really dreading that moment.
- Ernie singing karaoke was a nice touch and a reminder of seasons past.
- Looks like Jimmy’s pep talk worked. Howard is back on his feet and is pretentious as ever.
- Jimmy’s pep talk to the student who failed to get the scholarship not only echoes the road Jimmy has traveled but plays into the hollowness of his final speech. That moment might be as real as Jimmy McGill gets.
There you have it Geeklings, that’s going to wrap season four of Better Call Saul. What did you guys think of the season finale? Were you surprised to see Saul Goodman show up in the end? Were you disappointed in Jimmy’s actions? Where do Kim and Jimmy go from here? Where do Mike and Gus go from here? Sound off in the comments. As always, if you’d like to talk more Saul with yours truly you can find me on Twitter @iamgeek32. It has been an absolute blast watching this show with you guys all season. I’ll be anxiously awaiting season five in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, things will be all good…man.