From the outset, this episode has a special significance. I said I’d get the series finished and reviewed before I returned to Spain and here we are; I fly tomorrow and I’m sitting in a hotel outside of Glasgow happy as a sandboy writing this.
Now, objectively for a moment: Was I happy with this as a finale, did it pay off ten weeks – or in the slightly dodgy chronology of our reviewing schedule, most of 2016 -viewing? Most definitely, yes.
If you’ve read these reviews you’ll know there’s been a lot of scepticism about whether the show could live up to the artistic charm, the seemingly irrelevant but entirely taut script and the dynamic acting of the mother show. But like the source material, Better Call Saul proved to be an equally protean creature and for all we know about where it has to end up, we know nothing of the route it takes to get there.
This was a patient episode, but then again hasn’t most of the season been a test of that? The full skit with McGill and Marco was genius, intrinsic and lead into one of the greatest and most stylised vignettes I’ve seen on television. Colourful and exaggerated, it was the epitome of the McGill character and really demonstrated his talent for flamboyant grifting (and where Saul eventually comes from).
Of Saul, he had moments of shining through. Marco’s ring – the same ring that he had on throughout Breaking Bad – finally got an origin story. Like a legal Green Lantern, he dawns it and gives him power. It represents a transition (as does his rejection of the law partnership offer); McGill has had enough and it will be interesting to see where this goes in season 2.
As for Breaking Bad and Saul, they both get a lot of attention in this episode. McGill’s breakdown, in the nursing home where he is hosting bingo, is the same one as Hector Salamanca used to/will reside in (there’s an artwork on the wall in the background that’s identical, sorry if we missed that). Speaking of which, how cool would it be just to catch a glimpse of him when he shows up there?
McGill’s breakdown seems to be the catalyst of the evolution of Saul and it was an absolute pleasure to watch Odenkirk expand his range into very emotional territory (as he did last week with his brother Chuck’s betrayal). Additionally, when the bingo machine is stuck on ‘b’ as McGill gets increasingly more agitated, how many of you thought he was going to say ‘B for…breaking bad, as in going rogue, doing it your way’. It would have been hokey but neat.
Speaking of the mother show, do you remember Saul saying to Walter White that he once made a woman believe he was Kevin Costner because he believed it to be true? “Hey – you’re not Kevin Costner!” “I was last night” has to be the greatest line of the series by far the best nod to Breaking Bad yet.
Of questions answered, I’d previously speculated about whether it would have been an unforgivable move to make McGill a sex offender (a flashback a few weeks back opened with Chuck coming to rescue him and McGill being warned that it was a charge of that nature). As it happened the guess was correct, just, with more to it: A Chicago sunroof (a new one for the slang dictionary) had young McGill defecating through a car roof of a man called Chet who wronged him, but he didn’t know that two children were in the car. Thus, indecent exposure, Chuck getting him out of prison and an event that’s haunted him since.
The episode pulled the strings tightly and has laid the groundwork for Saul emerging, and we’re edging closer to it. The opening credits, all different throughout the series, was marvellous in this one with Saul’s famed ‘World’s Greatest Lawyer’ mug falling and smashing on the ground. Beautiful.
This will be remembered as a good series but one that, if the formula stays true for the newbie show as it did for its original, will pale in comparison to what comes next. What we want to see next year is Saul being a “criminal lawyer”, teaming up with Mike, the appearance of Gus Fring and more of the ‘present-day’ Saul after the events of Breaking Bad where he’s managing a Cinnabon in Nebraska. We loved it, and we’ll be back next year.