Better Call Saul ended its superb debut season not with a bang, or even a whimper for that matter, but with a weary, dispirited sigh. What a disappointment. Maybe I’m just used to the heart-stopping finales in the golden days of Breaking Bad. And yes, I know Better Call Saul isn’t Breaking Bad, nor should it be. The problem is that this finale felt more like a middle of the road placeholder episode than a satisfying ending for a strong season.
We start the episode with a flashback to Jimmy’s days in Chicago. He shares the news with his best pal and scam partner Marco that he’s moving out to Albuquerque to work in the mailroom of his brother’s law firm. Marco tries to convince him to stay, reminding him of his roots: “You’re Slippin’ Jimmy…”
Back in the present, Jimmy is still recovering from the news of his brother Chuck’s betrayal. He’s decided to take Chuck’s advice and forfeit his big case to HHM. He turns over all the information to the firm and heads to the retirement home for his Bingo hosting stint. This was the first moment when things started to get troublesome. While performing his Bingo MC duties, Jimmy ends up going on a long rant about how miserable his life is and reveals a little chunk of his past, involving something called a “Chicago Sunroof”, which involves defecating in an open sun roof of a parked vehicle. Little did he know that a couple of kids were in the car, hence the sex offender charges referenced earlier in the season.
Now, by this point we’re all well-aware that the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul writing team loves their monologues. In most cases, these speeches end up being episode highlights and fan favorites. In this case, it seemed like the writers were desperate to fill their hour-long slot. Jimmy goes on and on and on past the point of the point. Seriously, is there no security in this place? How did he get to ramble on and on like a maniac without anyone trying to take the mic from him? The speech grows tiresome and dull and when Jimmy finally ‘drops the mic’ the resounding thud seems representative of the whole pointless 10 minute scene.
But, hey, we’re only about halfway through the finale. Things are bound to get better, right?
Please let them get better. (*Spoiler Alert*: They Don’t.)
Jimmy returns to Chicago for some much needed recuperation time with best bud Marco. They return to their scamming ways and we’re treated to yet another extended scene in which they con an upstanding business man at the local bar. The scene goes on far longer than it needs to and feels extremely repetitive, considering we saw a near-identical scene in an earlier episode. Yet again, the writers exhibit their desperation to fill up the entire hour.
What follows is the episode’s only inspired moment: an upbeat montage of Jimmy and Marco’s many scams. It is then quickly followed by its absolute worst scene. And I’m sure by now you’re aware we’re in spoiler territory, but I’ll send up the SPOILER ALERT flag regardless.
So, while Jimmy and Marco plan to run their wallet scheme (the same one we saw in that previous episode), Marco has a legitimate heart attack. Jimmy tries to rouse Marco from his slumber, per their routine, but Marco isn’t reacting. Jimmy realizes what’s happening and asks the scam-artist victim to call an ambulance. The guy decides he’s got better things to do and scampers off.
As Marco slips away in Jimmy’s arms, he looks up and says the worst line of dialogue of the entire season: “Thanks for making this the best week of my life.” Then he dies.
It is a moment so clichéd and so contrived, I couldn’t believe it was happening on a show which, up to this point, has had some of the best writing on television. Jimmy attends Marco’s funeral and then decides to head back to Albuquerque to pursue a potentially lucrative opportunity set up by his bestie Kim. Basically, HHM has bitten off more than they can chew with Jimmy’s case and has hired another firm to assist them. Kim has set up a meeting between Jimmy and this new firm. Right as Jimmy is about to walk through the door, he decides to hop back in his car and drive off. Before he goes, a brief exchange between him and Mike at the booth:
Jimmy: “Did I dream it? Or did I have $1,600,000 on my desk, in cash? No one on God’s green earth knew we had it. We could have split it 50-50. We could have gone home with $800,000 each, tax-free! What stopped us?”
Mike: “I remember you saying something about doing the right thing… you wanna know why I didn’t take that money? Me personally, I was hired to do a job, I did it, that’s as far as it goes.”
And then Jimmy comes back with, “Yeah, well, I know what stopped me, and you know what? It’s never stopping me again.”
And that’s it. The end of the episode. I almost expected an inspirational music cue when poor Bob Odenkirk spouted that awful line of dialogue, but instead we got Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water.
And as I sat there in a state of stupefied disbelief, I realized something: if I had skipped this episode and picked up with season two early next year, I wouldn’t have missed a damn thing. Not a single new piece of information was conveyed and the episode treaded familiar territory while taking absolutely zero risks. It was so dumb and so out of character for what had been such a quality season, I almost expected a moment at the end where Jimmy wakes up in bed and says, “Thank goodness! It was all a dream.”
I’m sure the creative team will remedy their errors come season two and hopefully we’ll finally get to see some enjoyable Saul Goodman exploits. For now, we’re stuck with a strong debut season undermined by a mediocre finale.
Considering its track record, I was expecting much better from this season finale, but the shoddy writing and lack of compelling content held it back from greatness. Still, Better Call Saul's first season cannot be dampened by this mediocre finale. Looking forward to Season 2.