Major spoilers for Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad. It was back in 2017 that I picked up the first two seasons of Better Call Saul. As a die-hard Breaking Bad fan, I was skeptical that a prequel spin-off focusing on Saul Goodman’s rise as a criminal lawyer would be anywhere near as compelling or relevant since Breaking Bad set the bar so high. Initially, as naive and ashamed as I was, I believed Better Call Saul was a cash-grab, with AMC setting the sights on the next big drama to fill Breaking Bad’s bloody and brilliant boots.
Fast-forward the clock five and a bit years, and I’m writing this retrospective piece and realising how wrong I was. I spent the first lockdown in 2020 glued to Netflix and committed to the series – binging it in about six weeks. The series bristled with compelling characters, a sharply written, meticulously constructed narrative, and delivered by unfaltering, highly memorable, and heartfelt performances from the entire cast.
So, here I am, writing this. It’s not a review of the final episode as such – but more a way to document my thoughts as this beloved show ends – and it brings about the conclusion of the Breaking Bad saga. To round out the wave of cameo appearances returning to the spin-off, Betsy Brandt makes a surprising appearance as Hank’s widow Marie Schrader, and one more cameo appearance from Bryan Cranston as Breaking Bad’s eponymous anti-hero meth kingpin Walter White.
Together with Bob Odenkirk’s seedy lawyer – they talk about regrets. Walter regrets his lack of involvement in Gray Matter Technologies alongside his old university friends, while Jimmy regrets a slip and fall scam that left him with a crooked knee. It is a testament to the writing and performances that neither of them regrets their actions in building a drug empire that led to the deaths of DEA officers, prison inmates, and even a child. With Walt, Marie, and Hank, and a wave of other familiar faces from the parent show making appearances as Saul’s story nears completion, watching Better Call Saul at times has evoked a feeling of nostalgia that leaves me warm and giddy and excitable inside.
Of course, it’s not all the time I feel that way. Particularly during the back half of Season 6, as the spin-off draws rapidly closer to the Breaking Bad timeline, the show transitions in tone and mood and darkens considerably. Howard’s death and Lalo’s gunfight in the pitch-dark bowels of the unfinished meth lab with Gus made more for not only thrilling television – but left me reeling with dread and awful sadness as the credits rolled. Howard and Lalo are dumped into a makeshift grave beneath the meth lab, and tragically become a part of the foundations of a location we’d come to know so well throughout Breaking Bad.
The point I make is how I felt after the series finale aired – every character within Saul’s world was affected and changed forever, before and after. Howard’s demise is instrumental in the conclusion of Saul and Kim’s relationship and the lawyer’s transformation into Saul Goodman. He never looks back. In conclusion, Better Call Saul will live on in the memory for a long time to come – and it’ll take a little longer to process everything that has happened.
I am so glad I stuck with the show after purchasing the boxsets all those years ago and forged my way forward to sit through it all. If you only take away one thing from reading this article, it should be this. You would be missing out big time if you didn’t sit down and invest in this series. If you need to find your next binge – it could be this. It’s unmissable television made by the finest, most authentic creative minds. Gilligan has done it again.
The two series, side by side, share numerous similarities. Both stories follow the lives of two down-on-their-luck, working people in their rise toward corruption, violence, and power – only for their downfalls to come from their greed and inability to know when to call it a day. Incredibly, despite the similarities, the two shows could not be further apart – and one of my biggest fears going into the prequel was that they’d retread old ground to recreate what had come before.
I could not be more wrong. Saul is utterly original and unique – and for the majority of the run, found and stood on its own two feet. By the time it knew how the show could run and became so brilliant for it. It’s sad to say goodbye to such a production. It’d be hard to say whether the spin-off is superior to Breaking Bad – that show was in a league of its own. However, the show is stealing the crown for one thing: This is how a prequel series should be made. S’all Good Man.
For more Better Call Saul content, take a look at what Saul’s world would look like in 8-bit form as a Gameboy video game.