Saul Goodman’s clean conscience

Review of the series “Better Call Saul” with Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn, Michael Mando, Giancarlo Esposito and Jonathan Banks.

From Cicero to Albuquerque to Omaha, Jimmy McGill, Saul Goodman and Gene Takavic, Bob Odenkirk, have given us some of the greatest series characters in television history. First seen in the eighth episode of the second season of the Shakespearean epic methamphetamine opera breaking Bad in 2009, Odenkirk’s Saul Goodman quickly established himself as the fast-talking, fast-thinking, conniving court jester infamous for his late-night advertising.

But, thanks to the incredibly fertile imagination of the creator of breaking BadVince Gilligan, and Odenkirk’s brilliantly executed work, we’ve seen Jimmy/Saul/Gene evolve into one of the most complex, scheming, manipulative, cunning, sometimes downright evil, and yet somehow empathetic characters around. , this side of Tony Soprano.

Two years after the shocking, violent and twisted season five finale and with Odenkirk surviving a major heart-related health scare during production last July, Bether call Saul it returned for a sixth and final season, with seven episodes scheduled for July.

Gilligan has created a precise microcosm that follows its own logic. The story of a cancer-stricken chemistry professor who becomes the mastermind of a major criminal enterprise was one of the most surprising mix-ups in television history. You could find a family drama, a comedy of errors and coincidences, an amoral anxiety movie, western plays, and most importantly, a piece of excellent entertainment. A lot, and probably not all. The poetics of the absurd is captivating, especially in the masterful use of the soundtrack, but also in the genre scenes. The sight of clients in the waiting room of Saul Goodman’s kitsch law firm was reminiscent of Stanislaw Bareja movies.

In the end, the question that arose in the moving and masterful finale of Better call Saul It wasn’t if the main character Saul Goodman, aka Gene Takavic and as Jimmy McGill, would go to jail.

Arrest and imprisonment seemed inevitable, given the events of the penultimate episode, where Saul, who had been hiding from the law under the name Gene Takavic, had a boring job managing a Cinnabon restaurant in an Omaha mall, was exposed to police. He had been discovered by the mother of an accomplice in a new scam he had set up, unable to resist the temptation to return to the scene of the crime.

Instead, the question that hung over the show’s final episode was a simple one: would Saul ever develop a conscience? Would he ever allow himself to feel true regret?

Better call Saul began in February 2015 as an ambitious project: a follow-up to one of the most acclaimed dramas in modern television history and an origin story for Saul, one of the most iconic characters in television. breaking Bad .

The spin-off began with a scene showing Saul after the events at the end of breaking Bad . He is living under the radar as Gene Takavic, working a menial job, depicted in images shot in a drab black-and-white format that looked elegantly cinematic and lifeless and lifeless. Immediately, he set up the elaborate two-step that would define the series, alternating between Gene’s monotonous life in the present and Gene’s evolution into Saul, which intensified in later episodes.

Those images answered a question that had been troubling fans of breaking Bad ever since they saw high school teacher turned drug lord Walter White meet his maker in that show’s finale two years earlier. What happened to Walter’s chatty lawyer, an amplified counselor to the drug cartels who had TV commercials as a personal injury attorney and prattled on as a used car salesman?

After that quick introduction of Gene, the first episode of Better call Saul went back in time six years, transitioned into color, and introduced viewers to aspiring lawyer Jimmy McGill (Saul’s given name). Once known as “Slippin’ Jimmy” for his habit of falling in front of companies to rip off injury settlements, he was struggling to make ends meet and caring for his brother Chuck, once a brilliant attorney, who had to resign from his work.

Better call Saul it would spend the next six seasons exploring that answer, producing one of the best dramas on television. We saw Saul confront his brother at a bar association hearing, exposing the unbalanced belief that his brother was too sensitive to electromagnetic fields. Chuck, played with agonizing grace by Michael McKean, eventually killed himself.

We saw Saul marry Kim Wexler, masterfully played by Emmy nominee Rhea Seehorn, a lawyer who is drawn to the rule-breaking scams her husband believes in until, seeing the terrible collateral damage they can bring , decides to leave him with that, his career.

It’s a testament to the quality of the show that these new characters became just as compelling as the figures from breaking Bad who rejoined the party, including Mike Ehrmantraut, the magnificently tortured cop turned cartel enforcer for Jonathan Banks, and Giancarlo Esposito fast food businessman/drug lord Gus Fring.

The series showed the growing dissonance between the guy Saul thinks he’s trying to be, a smart and cunning lawyer who finds the simplest solution to any problem, and the toxic consequences he creates for others. The final season wove all these threads together in one tremendous climax, when a lawyer being scammed by Kim and Saul is unexpectedly murdered by Gus’s greatest rival, a murder that would not have happened if the lawyer, Patrick Fabian’s officious Howard Hamlin. , he would not have been involved in the couple’s scam.

The producers made massive creative changes that turned the episodes into tightrope acts. Four episodes before the end, shortly after the lawyer’s shocking death, they plunged the story back into Gene’s world, switching to black-and-white footage in a way that almost felt like a different series had begun.

The final episode stayed in that black-and-white format, showing a captured Saul negotiating a deal with prosecutors for a light sentence, before realizing that Kim had already confessed to his role in the lawyer’s death.

Saul then lies to get Kim into the courtroom to finalize his plea deal, where he admits everything he did to enable Walter White’s drug empire and his part in Hamlin’s death. This is the moment when Saul becomes Jimmy again: a man who takes on the responsibility of regaining the respect of his ex-wife whom he still loves. (Among a very long list of clever cameos in Better call Saul the return here of Betsy Brandt as Marie Schrader, wife of a murdered DEA agent in the final season of breaking Bad, ranks as one of the best). In one scene, when Saul shares a cigarette with Kim during a prison visit (he was sentenced to 86 years, after all), the question Gould asked in 2015 seems to be answered.

Why be good? To have a clear conscience.

As different as the story of Better call Saul, his ending also revealed a fundamental similarity with breaking Bad. Both shows are about men facing something terrible at the core of their being, admitting the terrible damage they have caused, and finally coming to terms with the consequences of their behavior.

Better call Saul could be the best of all time, if he can keep landing. In stories about antiheroes, there’s always the question of what separates them from the villains. Why do we support Tony Soprano and not his uncle Junior of his in The Soprano ? Or Ozark financial planner, Marty Byrde, about the leader of the Camino del Río cartel? Often the difference is values ​​and awareness; antiheroes have them and villains don’t.

In The sopranoscreator David Chase seemed to enjoy slowly shedding everything that had allowed fans to see Tony as the kind of charismatic outlaw we love in pop culture, forcing the audience to admit that they had been rooting for a psychopath all time.

breaking Bad Y Better call Saul they tell a different story. In these shows, the antiheroes are forced to face the toxic truth about themselves and ultimately take responsibility for the pain they’ve created as a final admission to those who love them and realized the truth about them. them long before themselves.

That’s why Saul’s questions about repentance, which appear in two crucial scenes in the finale, mean so much. In flashbacks, he asks two of the franchise’s other antiheroes, Jonathan Banks’s Mike Ehrmantraut and Bryan Cranston’s scathing Walter White, in another inspired cameo, what they would change about their lives if they had a time machine.

Mike would want to undo the moment he took his first bribe as a cop. Walt would want to go back on his decision to walk away from a successful company he created, which led to a wounded ego that fueled all of his later dysfunction.

Saul’s answers were always about making more money, running a better con, finding a better way to get to the top. And by comparing his answers with those of his compatriots, Saul (and the viewers) could see that something important was missing.

The series began with Jimmy McGill desperate to prove everyone who saw him as a loser in his life wrong. And it ended with a gritty ending that shows Saul Goodman realizing that those people were more right about him than he wanted to admit.

That’s the stuff of legendary television.

Saul Goodman’s clean conscience