Better Call Saul fans rejoice, season six of the Saul Goodman story is now upon us. When the series premiered it started its run with some real challenges. It was a followup to what was and remains to be widely seen as one of the best television series of all-time, Breaking Bad. This meant it was destined for comparisons – an uphill battle for sure. The series was also set to feature an antagonist whose fate we more or less have already learned in the previous series raising concerns that the series could be anticlimactic.
Working in its favor that even after six seasons on Bad Saul Goodman remained an enigma so his backstory could be a great approach. Being created and produced by Vince Gilligan – the mastermind who transformed a mild mannered chemistry teacher named Walter White (Bryan Cranston) into Heisenberg, a feared drug kingpin that single handedly turned illegal drug trade on its head. Of course, there’s the talents of the amazing Bob Odenkirk. His character was supposed to have a three episode arc on Breaking Bad. He became a fan favorite and appeared throughout the series’ entire run.
The series kicked off with a black and white scene with very little context. Saul, now managing a Cinnabon under the name Gene Takavic returns home to drink alone in a dark room watching VHS tapes of his old television commercials, watching another former version of himself, Jimmy McGill. It is a near silent scene that has a very intense sense of foreboding. It starts the series by planting one thought in viewers’ brains… this doesn’t end well. It is haunting and masterful.
Fast forward to season six and we have been through a lot with Saul. We watched his transformation from Jimmy McGill to Saul Goodman. Numerous familiar faces have become series regulars, planting the series firmly in the Breaking Bad universe. Mike (Jonathan Banks) and Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), and Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) are all heavily intertwined as part of Saul’s story in one way or another. And although we know most of their fates it never prevents us from holding our breath when these amazing actors face off.
While always connected to the Bad universe, Better Call Saul never leans on it too heavily on its predecessor. It is actually quite safe to say that the series could exist without any crossover, besides the demands of fans who at the time were craving for more Breaking Bad. Entering the final season, Saul does so with its integrity intact. Sure it benefits from being part of the universe, but even non-BB fans walk away with the same emotional roller coaster. Gilligan never tried to recreate the magic and in doing so it created a much richer series for doing so, delivering the character study that I believe tops the series which it spun off from.
Watching Odenkirk teeter between McGill and Goodman is fascinating but would not carry a fraction of the weight without the presence of his partner in crime and wife-to-be Kim Wexler played by the series secret weapon Rhea Seehorn. It has been a major disappointment how underrepresented the series has been at the Emmys. Seehorn’s lack of a nomination on the other hand is downright criminal. She has been the moral compass on the series, delivering a nuanced performance which shocked us all when we started to see her bearings start to shift. It is her absence in that series opening scene that now haunts fans.
Season six opens with another mysterious scene that fills in more pieces to the puzzle that is Saul Goodman. Beautifully shot in slow motion, we watch the gaudy estate being stripped of his lavish possessions, packed away and carted off. It is a vanity palace which must have been inspired by Trump, a palace filled with bad suits, men’s health products, and golden fixtures, including a throne (aka toilet) fit for a king. It is all a reminder of just how much McGill/Goodman has changed since the start of this series, which makes you wonder what was the catalyst for the change, and there’s that pit in my stomach that this probably won’t end well.
Next we are transported to the immediate aftermath of the events of Season 5, Lalo (Tony Dalton) who is trying to figure out who arranged his assassination attempt which is the center of a multi-tiered chess match involving the Salamancas, Gus Fring, Mike, and Nacho (Michael Mando). Tensions are high and while we know most of their fates, Mando is holding his own giving us another character whose fate has yet to be spelled out to root for.
But the true heart of the series is the relationship between Saul and Kim, it is one that is consistently set in a legal (or illegal) environment. Kim and (then) Jimmy graduated from bar trick scams to an all-in scorched earth attack on Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian), Jimmy’s long time antagonist. The amazing thing is watching Kim’s transformation happen right before our eyes and we did not even see it. It is heartbreaking to watch, the once series moral backbone, the one we feared would be corrupted by Jimmy is the one driving the moral demise of their relationship. Taking down Howard this late in the game will dominate the rest of the season meaning they are heading down an irreversible path.
As the scheme is set into motion, season six promises to close out the series which is playing at the top of its game. It is storytelling at its finest; more incredibly tense moments, masterfully written dialogue and plotting peppered with razor sharp humor, clever editing and cinematography that adds to the intensity of already anxiety-inducing scenarios. Creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould are geniuses.
We are only two episodes in, but it looks like the series will end its run avoiding all the pitfalls that it seemed destined to hit. The series’ most admirable quality, besides the top-notch writing and performances, is the patient storytelling. Like our protagonist Saul, we are nearing the end of a long con. Small calculated moves that have been lining up the dominos. After the dominoes fall will any be left standing?
Better Call Saul is a series I never want to end and at the same time, I am dying to learn the fates of Kim and Jimmy. When the bandaid is pulled off, not sure what we will find but I have a bad feeling it’s going to hurt.
The 13-episode season will take place in two parts. The first seven episodes of season six will run through May. It then returns six weeks later for the final (welp!) episodes starting on July 11. This is an all-timer television series deserving of recognition, beginning to end. The good news is that by splitting the season Better Call Saul will be in Emmy competition in 2022 and 2023. So voter, you have two chances to get this right.