Better Call Saul – A Great Show with a Stinky Ending

BQB here.

So, obligatory SPOILER WARNING. If you don’t want to know how BCS ends, look away now. No one else reads this blog anyway so feel free to join the club.

OK.

If you saw it, here’s my list of reasons why the ending stinks:

#1 – While the last few Gene-centric episodes were fun, they aren’t really fitting with the character. Saul was always a contradiction. Very loud, flamboyant and obnoxious but also very devious in his planning and careful in carrying out his plans. TBH, it’s hard to believe a guy on the run with a bag of diamonds and a recognizable face/highly wanted man wouldn’t just lay low in a hole in the wall apartment for a few years before going out into the world as a Cinnabon manager, but they wanted to turn that line from BB about him managing a Cinnabon into something real so, OK.

Fun as the last few episodes were, it’s hard to believe that Saul, when being harassed by a dude from ABQ who recognizes him wouldn’t just call the vacuum cleaner repairman and relocate again.

But OK, I’ll buy that “Gene” was bored, restless, got a taste for scamming, went back to his old ways, got greedy, and got caught.

#2 – One of the central themes of the show is that the legal profession is a very rich and very pedigreed club. If you want a job at a prestigious big city law firm, you might be one of the lucky few who gets there on their own, but more likely you a) need a rich family who can bankroll you through a prestigious undergrad and a prestigious law school as well as the connections to get you in and all the coaching on how to get in i.e. entrance exams, applications, interviews and so on, not to mention all the internships and experiences you’ll need to get to the big time. Ultimately, if you’re a slug like Jimmy McGill, you need not apply and thus, that was the heart of the show. The slug runs circles around the fancy lawyers all the time.

Jimmy’s brother Chuck is the rare top firm lawyer/self-made man so it is tragic when Jimmy bests him. The rest of the fancy lawyers are all country club dimwits who would be working at a drive-thru burger joint without family connections and money. Admittedly though, smarmy pantload that he was, it was still horrible what Jim and Kim did to Howard Hamlin.

Ultimately though, when Saul talks the big time fancy hot shot US attorneys from like, a bazillion years in prison all the way down to 7 in Club Fed, this is like Saul’s masterwork. His entire joy in life was bamboozling top shelf lawyers who view him as pond scum because of his American Samoa degree.

So, I have a very hard time believing that Saul, as in the character who has been built up over the past 14 years, would ever crap on his greatest legal wrangling achievement by copping to the whole enchilada thereby opening the door for him to get slammed with 86 years. I just don’t buy it.

I sort of get what the show was going for. There’s an argument that Saul was such a slippery weasel that the only lawyer who could successfully prosecute Saul was Saul. He wasn’t going to give it to the prosecution. He needed to make them know that he had the power to get up, do a song and dance about how Walt made him afraid and yeah, Walt’s reputation for murdering those who disobeyed him was so well known it is believable that one juror would have bought it and he only needed one.

So he let the fancy lawyers know he could have beat them, and essentially he did, then copped to it. Essentially, he prosecuted himself and put himself away for far longer than a whole slew of fancy US attorneys could have.

This is something that would have only happened on TV. Frankly, the 7 year deal was a stretch. I debate that. He did still make a boatload of money and surely there are money crimes but I suppose he could always argue Walt made him do it.

It’s just very unbelievable that the world’s most slippery weasel would have bailed on such a fabulous deal.

#3 – I do get it is the BB-verse and here, this is a place where crime never pays. Everyone who so much as bites a slice of the forbidden fruit that is the rotten apple of crime pays and pays dearly. So it would not have fit that theme if Saul had won. I think we all wanted to see Saul end with a big legal showdown where he walks scot free and maybe even goes back to practicing but ok. In the end, Jimmy felt bad about how he lived his life, wanted to atone, and saw the only path to pay for his evil deeds was to go to jail forever. In real life, I don’t buy it. Jail is a horrible place. If you can get off in 7 in a quasi resort style jail with golf and ice cream, literally no one will say no please send me to the supermax. Yes, the show was clear to point out that all the inmates love Saul for his defense of crooks everywhere but yeah, not all are going to love and protect him forever. Again, jail is a horrible place.

All in all, if they wanted a Jimmy redeems himself or pays for his crimes ending, another route might have been plausible.

#4 – A lot is left on the table and unanswered or at least I don’t understand it. Is Kim still on the hook for Howard? I feel like Jimmy copping to it only makes her situation worse, not better. Think about it. Kim admitted to a lot of bad stuff in her affidavit. They won’t prosecute because there is no body and neither Jim or Kim know where it is? OK. Not sure but I believe that is true. If there is no body then they could never 100 percent know for sure that a murder took place.

Even so, she did admit to fraudulently painting a prominent attorney as a drug addict, going so far as to even drug him so it looked like he was on drugs, for the purpose of damaging a law firm’s reputation so as to convince its clients to take a settlement offer early rather than continue with the case just so she and Jim could get their pay days early…come on. That’s a prosecutable crime, isn’t it? Doesn’t Jimmy’s confirmation hurt her?

Again, all crooks pay in this universe, so Kim will face a big time civil lawsuit. Still, eh…even without a body I’m pretty sure there’s some stuff that as long as she said she did it, she can be prosecuted for it. Jimmy could be prosecuted too.

Oh, that and they kinda sloughed off the whole forgetting to prosecute Jimmy for drugging and robbing a bunch of rich guys then threatening to strangle an old lady with a telephone cord to keep her from calling the police.

#5- There is a lot of good writing here. The time travel thing comes up again. The first time, Mike says if he could time travel, he’d go back to the first time he took a bribe and not take it, presumably to ensure that he lives a decent, law-abiding life. He regrets the path he took and understands the money isn’t worth all the evil he has done and a life as a regular, middle-class Joe would have been better. He also says he’d go to the future to check on his family. A laudable goal.

Saul says he’d go back in time to when Warren Buffet took over Berkshire Hathaway and invest 1 million so that it would be worth multi-billions today. Jerk. All about the money.

Time travel comes up again with Walt. Walt is his usual dickish self and as usual, blames Gretchen and Elliot rather than conceding he might have been a dick about that whole friendship breakup. Still, he brings himself to admit he should have stuck with the duo for he’d have big legal and legit bucks today. He at least sort of admits that he is a prideful dick.

Saul would go back to a time when he broke his knee in a slip and fall and not slip and fall so hard. Nothing about, oh I don’t know, not slipping and falling altogether.

The third time, Chuck tells Jimmy it’s not too late for Jimmy to change careers. Jimmy scoffs, telling Chuck that Chuck never changes so why should he? Jimmy leaves and Chuck picks up a copy of HG Wells’ Time Machine. Presumably, this is a sign that both brothers dream about time travel and the ability to go back and right their wrongs and fix their mistakes. If only their relationship was better, they could talk to rather than past one another and figure out how to help each other be happier.

So in the end, Jimmy does finally learn that it was wrong for him to be a scumbag and he sets forth in a very unlikely way to pay for his scumbaggery.

There is also great symmetry when Jimmy and Kimmy share a smoke in the end, as they did in the first episode where they first became co-conspirators/love interests. I think here, if they ended it with Kim saying with a smirk, “OK how do we get you out of here?” that would have landed the dismount. In other words, Saul copped to his wrongdoing, went to jail, now can these two tricksters figure out a way to get him out? But I suppose that wouldn’t be Jimmy paying for his crimes.

SIDENOTE: I have a hard time believing that Kim would still have a New Mexico bar card after that affidavit she signed.

IN CLOSING: Thanks Vince Gilligan and co. and cast and crew for the 14 years you spent on creating a very riveting TV show universe. BB had a great ending. This one, I really expected it would but was disappointed. I’m not sure how it could have been better. I suppose we all wanted to see Saul outwit everyone and I suppose an argument can be made that he did, but I just didn’t buy it.

I will give it credit. This is one of those shows that was hard to quantify. It was a legal procedural, but also a comedy about a scumbag who took pride in his scum-baggery and his absurdly humorous scummy methods, a saga about cartel gangsters at war (where many of such episodes rarely even involved Saul), and a show that was part prequel and part sequel, going back and forth to points in time before and after Breaking Bad yet somehow it did it well.

I just don’t buy Saul giving up a 7 year deal. Crime doesn’t pay and that’s one of the things this show gets right, but if they wanted Jimmy to take responsibility for his crimes, they might have found a more believable way. What that way would have been, I’ll admit, I don’t know.

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2 thoughts on “Better Call Saul – A Great Show with a Stinky Ending

  1. I actually thought the finale to BCS was one of the better (maybe best) series finales I’ve seen. I don’t think Jimmy’s decision had anything to do with Kim (other than seeing her was a possible catalyst) or with him crapping on any legal wrangling achievement. I think it had everything to do with a callous, immoral person finally finding his place in the world and finally taking responsibility for his life. Jimmy/Saul was a person who, for most of his life, abused and hurt a lot of people and was, according to his brother, responsible for the death of their father. The show was pretty much played for laughs, and for reasons you mentioned, he was portrayed as a legal underdog, so it was easy for us to “like” Jimmy/Saul. But in (my) reality, there was nothing to like about Jimmy/Saul and seeing him stop lying and scamming and accept responsibility was a reward. And really, he’s still the same Saul in prison and doing what he’d always done, but at least now he can’t really hurt anyone.

    • There’s the reality within the TV show vs the reality in the real world. In the TV show, the prisoners do the Better Call Saul chant, a sign that they see Saul as a hero who helped crooks get free so they’ll have his back. In other words, as low as our opinion of Jimmy/Saul might be, we don’t really want to see him get beaten up, abused, tortured in prison all day for decades.

      In reality, he would have fans but prison is a horrible place. I doubt every prisoner is going to adhere to the leave Saul alone code and even if they do, there’s the crippling loneliness and having your life run by guards and an uncaring govt system.

      So as bad as he felt, I doubt very much in reality he gives up a 7 year in a country club deal.

      Most of these shows aren’t grounded in reality though so if you overthink it, it falls apart. Personally, I have a hard time believing Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher who worked in the same city for a couple decades, wouldn’t have been recognized at least a few times when he was running around making his drug deals. Surely one of the crooks would have said “Hey that’s my old chemistry teacher!” and had leverage on him or one of the cops investigating would have seen a Heisenberg drawing and been like, “Huh, isn’t that my old chemistry teacher?”

      Anyway, it had to end somehow. Did you ever watch The Shield? Look away if you don’t want a spoiler, but that show ended with corrupt cop Vic Mackie benched. After years of using his badge to cash in on breaking the law, the Feds can’t beat him so they hire him. They hire him for the sole purpose that they’ll know what he’s doing and be able to keep an eye on him. He gets a desk job filing paperwork all day and it’s understood he’ll never be hired again in any type of job that will trust him to be a street cop. The look on his face at the end when he realizes the rest of his life will be sheer boredom, no more action or adrenaline rush of breaking the law and getting away with it…the best possible way he could have ever been punished.

      Similarly, I think Saul’s worst punishment was being a Cinnabon manager.

      I’d be curious if Saul walks a straight and narrow path as a model prisoner or if he runs Saul scams but the show has to end somewhere.

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