‘I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Ambiguity is delicious’.
In the poetic ending of the Albuquerque universe, Better Call Saul creators and show runners Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan dove deep into their character’s psyches, masterfully resolved Jimmy’s fate, and rewarded fans for their years of service without eliciting fan service. In other words, they wrapped up their Albuquerque universe, without any additional physical violence, while featuring storylines and callbacks (Walt’s watch, Chuck’s lantern, Jimmy & Kim’s shared cigarettes) that remind the viewer of the circumstances that helped Jimmy eventually become Gene.
And damn, they did a great job.
Let’s start with the most clever part of the episode; the return of the recently widowed (only 10 months in Albuquerque time) Marie Schrader (Betsy Brandt). Raise your hand if you saw that coming and bonus points if you saw Betsy Brandt almost stealing the episode.
Put your hand down, liar.
In Breaking Bad, I often viewed Brandt as the cast’s weakest link, which is probably a combination of her fierce acting competition and the comic relief nature of her character. However, given her meaty dialogue, serious nature of her scene, and because the viewer couldn’t see her trademark purple attire, Brandt dominated her time on screen and redefined her character – almost seven years after her last appearance.
Good for the Marie and good for Betsy Brandt.
In another callback, it was great to see Chuck (Michael McKean) again, especially the ‘kinder’ version introduced at the beginning of BCS and not the frazzled and discombobulated version at the end. This version of Chuck was less difficult to like, even though everyone outside of Jimmy knew that Chuck would never go the extra mile for his brother, should their roles ever be reversed.
Chuck’s demeanor towards his brother makes the audience sympathetic to Jimmy even though Jimmy is culpable in Chuck’s demise as well as in the deaths of Hank Schrader, Steve Gomez, and Howard Hamlin. I would say this sympathy was no easy feat, but Gilligan, Gould, and Odenkirk have been making the audience root for drug dealers, murderers, and crooked attorneys for the better part of 13 years,
So yeah, when it comes to working in medium of the ambiguity, Gilligan and Gould know their stuff.
And that is the biggest part of what made this slow burning, character driven drama so damn good. Characters were built and made in front of our eyes while the circumstances that brought them to where they find themselves are brilliantly shown in different timelines. None of the mains, perhaps outside of Lalo, were presented as a one-dimensional, black and white cutouts. Just like your neighbor, cousin, or local barista.
Was Jimmy born to be Saul, or did Chuck’s emotional abuse turn the tide? Was Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) the silver-spooned task master presented at the beginning of BCS or the yoga enthusiast/therapy recipient who was trying to save his marriage? Was Kim’s addiction to chaos born inside of her or did her incredibly difficult childhood ‘wet her whistle’?
The answer to these questions, like most things in life, is to be found somewhere in the middle. Well written television characters, like real life humans, are rarely only made or only born into who they are and that quality separates the character driven slow burn of Better Call Saul from plot driven, four-alarm fire that was Breaking Bad. And just about any show before or probably after.
I don’t know if I was born to be a television junkie, or it was an identity that I grew into, but I do know that I am going to miss this show.
BLUE BELL ICE CREAM & PRISON BREAD
- Once again, I just have to say, CAROL FRICKIN’ BURNETT. I really hope I get to type that again someday.
- I really appreciated the use of the Time Machine/ time machine conversations in the Christmas Carol ghosts of regrets.
- I also forgot what a complete dickhead Walt was. Good riddance.
- Walt was such a dickhead that he couldn’t admit that Jesse becoming enslaved, per the camera focusing on the watch, was his regret.
- I think that Jimmy’s regret was not taking a more righteous path, hence the camera focusing on Chuck’s weathered edition of The Time Machine
- ‘The name’s James McGill’. Goosebumps.
- Jimmy scamming poor Bill Oakley one last time was a delectable treat.