Spoilers ahead! Do not read if you have not seen tonight’s finale episode of Better Call Saul.
Saul Goodman has made his last commercial; Slipping Jimmy has run his final con; and Gene Takovic has baked his last Cinnabon roll. After six seasons of wily grifts, cheap suits and strained loyalties, Better Call Saul is finished.
It’s bizarre to think that the original idea for the series was a comedy—”basically Saul Goodman in his crazy office with the styrofoam columns and he’s visited every week by a different stand-up comic,” as star Bob Odenkirk once told Rolling Stone. Instead, the Breaking Bad prequel evolved into something far more serious, slow and unexpected: a hypnotic tone poem about a man obsessively drawn to risk. Like Breaking Bad, it is also an ode to the marvels of professional efficiency. Whether it’s a legal case, a long con, a murder or a fast food franchise, characters like Kim, Saul, Mike and Gus carry out their work with precision, patience and skill. So do the extraordinary actors who play them.
Better Call Saul became something of a time machine, flitting between the technicolor days of Jimmy and the future noir-scape of Gene, with glimpses of Saul’s gaudy high-life in between. The final episodes brought back Breaking Bad characters like Walter White and Jesse Pinkman as well as the much-missed Chuck McGill. They also granted some relief to those of us worried about the safety and sanity of Kim Wexler. But the show has always avoided the obvious choices—and its final episode was no different.
Peter Gould, a Breaking Bad writer who went on to become Better Call Saul’s co-creator and showrunner (along with Vince Gilligan), got on the phone to talk us through the emotional twists, surprising flashbacks and loose ends of the Better Call Saul series finale—and the chances of a return to the Saul-verse some day.
Vanity Fair: Tell me a little bit about the time machine motif in the finale, which we see in a number of flashbacks.
So much of the show is about bad decisions that people make. If there’s a bittersweet quality to the whole show, it is the feeling that the lives of these characters could have gone very, very differently. Especially for Jimmy, but also Mike, and Kim, and Walt—all of them have made decisions that I think, if they were to be honest about it, they regret. But Jimmy’s not willing to talk about regret. He’s not willing to go into the pain until very deep into this particular episode. And the time machine is a thought experiment: if you could change something in your life, what would it be? Of course, that’s not really what H.G. Wells’ book is about at all. But you can’t help think about the pages that you would go back and rewrite if you had the opportunity.
The characters’ responses to the question of what they would change are very telling. Mike wants to go back to the moment when he broke bad. Walter White wants to go back to a moment when he was weak. Jimmy just says he’d go back with his contemporary knowledge about Warren Buffett and get rich.
Mike is being honest. He opens up in that moment, and Jimmy closes down. When you watch Bob [Odenkirk] in that scene, you know, he’s got to be thinking about his brother. But is he going to say something about his brother, in front of Mike of all people? He decides it’s too painful.
I think Walt and Jimmy are on the same page. If you think about where we are in [the chronology of] Breaking Bad, Walt just had his son pull a knife on him and kidnapped his own baby. He just did all these terrible, terrible things and yet his regret is a missed business opportunity! There’s an evasiveness to both Walt and Saul in that scene—neither one of them is willing to really be honest with each other, and maybe maybe not even honest with themselves about the things that they’ve done in their lives, the things they regret or would change. And if you can’t think about your regrets, then you can’t change your ways. So these guys are all caught in cycles that seem absolutely unbreakable.