AMC’s Better Call Saul
6×13: “Saul Gone”
Directed & Written
by Peter Gould
* For a recap & review of 6×12, click here.
We open on the desert with Saul helping to carry bags of money through the desert. He rushes to water, drinking it and splashing it all over him. Soon, Mike arrives, too. At least they don’t have to drink any other bodily fluids now. They stop a while and sit to rest. Saul suggests taking the $7-million in the bags, splitting it, and leaving, though Mike thinks that’s probably a terrible idea. Mike wonders if Saul’s okay. Saul then talks about taking most of the money to “build a time machine.” He asks Mike where the latter would go first. Mike says December 8th, 2001, then corrects himself and says March 17th, 1984—the day he took his “first bribe.” He says he’d like to “go forward” after that, 5 or 10 years ahead to check on some people. Saul says May 10th, 1965 and he’d go back to 1965 before Warren Buffett took over Berkshire Hathaway, put the rest of the $7-million dollars into stock and make money. Interesting to see the juxtaposition between Mike and Saul; one cares about people and his own soul, the other only cares about money and material things. And that’s exactly why Saul finds himself where he is in this series, past, present, and future.
Speaking of the future, we jump ahead to Gene, as he flees Marion’s place. Marion calls the cops, naturally, and Gene goes back to his place to grab a few things. While Gene’s at home he listens to the scanner he has constantly playing, hearing that the cops have the make and model of his car, and then he notices a cop car already outside. So he slips out a window with his shoebox full of priceless belongings, and surely money, and he’s in the wind. Except he hears a helicopter overhead nearby, sending him running faster. Just think: Saul used to be rolling in money and rubbing shoulders with powerful, as well as dangerous, people, now he’s reduced to running around with nothing but a shoebox, hiding amongst dirty ravines and disgusting dumpsters. A pretty far fall. At least Gene still has the Best Vacuum Repair number and instructions for getting away. He’s also got a burner phone to do his calling.
But then the cops find him.
When Gene’s at the station he hears cops watching one of his “Better Call Saul!” commercials, looking out at him with grim faces. He takes time to call Cinnabon and make sure the week’s schedules are posted, as well as puts in notice they’ll need to find a new manager. Perfectly hilarious. Afterwards, Gene’s in a holding cell, mad at himself for finally being caught, and he punches the door, hurting himself. He stares at a wall and sees someone’s carved in the words MY LAWYER WILL REAM YOUR ASS. He cracks up laughing at it like a madman. He wants to make a phone call, and he calls his old lawyer pal, Bill Oakley, who’s quite surprised to hear from him. He wants Bill to be his “advisory council.” But Bill doesn’t necessarily want any part of it, though Gene/Saul talks a good game and soon, Saul’s back to being Saul, shaved clean, and he has Bill with him.
Later on when Saul walks in to his meeting with the lawyers prosecuting him, he sees none other than Marie Schrader, widow of Hank. He tells the lawyers to ask her in the room with them, rather than keep her outside. Marie remarks how it’s fitting Saul was found in a dumpster. She then talks about her love for Hank, how she admired his will to help other people, and she also mentions Steve Gomez. She’s disgusted that Saul helped those involved and doesn’t think any punishment is enough. Saul talks about how Marie and Hank are “victims,” but then he says he was a victim, recounting how Walter White abducted him into the desert and his life became horrible after that moment. A great sob story. Saul claims he didn’t go on the run because of the law, he did so because of his associates. He thinks he has a decent chance at getting out of all this mess by going to trial. He’s pushing the prosecution for a potential deal to avoid a trial and jury.
What’s so compelling about Better Call Saul, as opposed to what made Breaking Bad so interesting, is that while in the original series we saw Walter White go from someone who’d never been a criminal to a terrifying criminal kingpin, here we’ve watched someone who was meant to uphold the law go from a greasy lawyer tugging on the strings of justice to win cases to an utter menace helping the cartel do their dirtiest work. The scene when Marie shows up really does a wonderful job of showing just how heartless Saul’s become, attempting to compare his complete complicity with the cartel to Marie’s husband being murdered.
Saul lays out his request to go to a particular prison, one with “a golf program” where Bernie Madoff was sentenced. He further asks to have a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream every Friday for the duration of his sentence. On top of it all, he has “a sweetener” for the prosecution: a “previously unknown felony homicide,” the death of Howard Hamlin. The lawyers laugh, revealing Kim Wexler already went to the Albuquerque district attorney a month ago to tell them everything about Howard’s murder and the coverup of his disappearance. Saul has no more hands to play now.
We go to Saul and Walt bunking out together, in hiding. Walt’s busy trying to fix the hot water while Saul asks him the same question from earlier, questioning Walt about the time machine question. The ever condescending Mr. White talks down to Saul about a time machine being bullshit. Saul just wants to do a little “thought experiment” about changing the past, yet Walt sees through it, knowing the lawyer’s only talking about regret. Walt mentions the company, Gray Matter, he helped found with Elliott years ago, and regretting leaving, how it would’ve changed his entire course through life if he’d stayed. Saul mentions being twenty-two and doing a slip-and-fall that ultimately injured his knee forever.
It’s crazy that even Walter regrets how his life turned out, and he’s the worst of all of them apart from Gus, but Saul still doesn’t regret anything he did, seeing himself somehow as removed from all the murder just because he wasn’t out there doing it himself. Another perfect juxtaposition that shows exactly how far down Saul’s fallen; when you’re less self-reflective than Walter White, you’re not doing very well psychologically.
Saul finds out from his lawyer that Kim went to Howard’s widow with the revelations about Howard’s death, opening herself up to a civil suit. He decides he wants to potentially pile on, telling Bill that he has something that’ll make the prosecution’s “toes curl.” Even Bill wonders why Saul wants to do that, and the latter only replies that it’s “really good ice cream.” This whole episode is PACKED with brilliant instances of portraying the true rotten core of Saul’s soul, showing us how far gone he’s become after everything that’s happened, and this may be the pinnacle, valuing the ice cream he might get in prison over Kim. Saul’s a bit chilling here, honestly, feeling more like a serial killer than a cartel lawyer, and the look he gets from the federal marshal accompanying him while he’s sitting there stoically is a stunning shot. Breaking Bad made Saul out to be a goofy, albeit criminal lawyer. Better Call Saul has painted a fuller picture to illustrate that Saul is a monster in a jester’s skin.
Meanwhile, Kim’s now doing work at a legal aid office in Florida. It’s only filing and answering phones, but it’s a step back towards her old life. One day she gets a call from ADA Suzanne Ericsen, who tells her about Saul getting arrested and taken back to New Mexico. Suzanne says Saul’s going to give testimony that affects Kim.
What a shot as Saul, dressed to the nines, is escorted into the courtroom. He goes in and immediately sees Kim, as well as Marie again. Then it’s “showtime.” We find out that, obviously, Saul’s going to represent himself, along with Bill as advisory council. The judge is curious why the recommendation for prison time is only 7 years, considering all the RICO-related charges against Saul. That’s when Saul wants to have a word, which the judge advises against but he disregards.
Saul tells the judge his story about meeting Walter White for the first time, repeating mostly the same thing he told Marie when they met, y’know, like it’s a rehearsed tale. Except he admits to taking an opportunity at “big money.” The judge says Saul is contradicting sworn statements. But Saul wants to go ahead, willing to tell “the whole truth.” So he’s sworn in officially under oath. First thing he does is absolve Kim, saying he made up a bunch of things to feed the prosecution. He admits to knowing murders were happening while he was keeping Walter out of jail. He admits to being the reason Walter was able to do so many horrific things. Bill’s trying to back pedal and get Saul out of it, whereas the prosecution wants Saul to keep talking. And Saul goes on. He talks about Howard’s murder, and he mentions his brother Chuck, specifically how what he did drove Chuck to suicide. He wants to confess everything, even if it’s not technically a crime. He further tells the judge he wants to be known as James McGill, not Saul Goodman. For once, he’s actually doing the right thing.
Walter White couldn’t have done it without me.”
Back to a moment between Jimmy and Chuck. Little brother’s delivering some groceries to his older brother. Chuck says he could have someone from the office get his groceries, but Jimmy wants to do it for him. Older Brother wants little brother to stick around and have a chat. They laugh about some of Jimmy’s ridiculous cases, though Chuck says everyone deserves a proper defence. Chuck wants to talk about something more sentimental, but Jimmy has to rush off for a client. He mentions that there’s no shame in going back to “change your path.” It’s this moment that’s resonating with Jimmy now. Also, that day, Jimmy left Chuck a copy of H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine. Something else still resonating with Jimmy.
Now the lawyer formerly known as Saul Goodman, Mr. Jimmy McGill, is headed for prison in a transport bus. Saul’s staring at the guy in front of him, who turns around angrily and then recognises him as Saul. The word about Saul starts to spread around the bus. Everyone recognises him. One guy starts a chant and they’re all shouting: “Better Call Saul!” The recognition at first was making Jimmy uncomfortable, but after a little while he seems to enjoy it. Maybe there’s a benefit in prison to people knowing Jimmy’s other identity.
One day, Jimmy’s called away from kitchen duty to speak with his lawyer. He gets to a room where Kim is waiting. She offers him a cigarette. They smoke together. Kim mentions Saul’s sentence is now nearly 90 years instead of the 7 he’d originally negotiated with the prosecution. Later, she leaves the prison with tears in her eyes and sees Jimmy in the yard outside. Amazing shot of them separated by the fencing, having just been inside together sharing a cigarette, and the last shot we witness is of Saul disappearing literally behind the wall of the prison as Kim walks off.
A perfect end.