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Why ‘Better Call Saul’ Was More Than ‘Breaking Bad 2’

Before discussing the “Better Call Saul” finale, the series demands questions. What do you call this guy? Who is he really?

The title seems to give us the answer. The series reintroduces Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), who we met in Season 2 of Breaking Bad as the sleazy lawyer to chemistry teacher-turned-drug lord Walter White.

But we meet him in “Sole” as Jimmy McGill, the name he was born with, working a scam and first law-abiding, and as Gene Takavik, where he hides out and cinnabons in Nebraska. is an alias that runs after Walt. The methamphetamine manipulation collapses.

Jimmy is hungry and in a fuss. Sole, grooming, peacock. Jean, it hurts to be beaten. Each has a little bit of the other inside him. In the closing run, “Better Call Saul” flies around in time, shelling out these identities like moving targets in the game. Which one has the peas?

On Monday night, the series provided that answer. With a strong finale to say the least, it engaged a theme that allowed the series to avoid the fate of an extra sequel. “Better Call Saul” asked more broadly: How do we become who we are? Do we have a choice on this matter? And what does it take to become a new person?

Jimmy, whom we meet at the premiere of “Better Call Saul,” is an ill-fated public defender and respected New Mexico attorney set in 2002, six years before the events of “Breaking Bad.” Chuck’s legal partner Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) rejects Jimmy’s attempts to join the firm, and Chuck tells Jimmy to know his limits and be patient, albeit well-intentioned. offers patronage advice.

Patience is not in Jimmy’s skill set, a former gliding artist with a flair for gab. His wheels grind very finely, not slowly. They run in overdrive and spark. He wonders why his talent should be insulted. Why should legitimacy keep his motormouth stuck in first gear?

He finds an ally, and eventually a wife, in Howard and Chuck’s firm attorney Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn, who gives one of television’s most polished performances). She’s both a balance and an accomplice, a cooler customer who shares Jimmy’s gifts.

But Jimmy can’t let the trick of deception remain a hobby. it consumes him. it will be him. He carries out a revenge plan that drives Chuck to suicide. He adopts his own business name and builds a customer base for drug dealers. With Kim’s help, he enacts a plan to ruin Howard’s reputation, inadvertently leading to Howard’s murder by one of Saul’s gang clients in this year’s midseason finale.

The shock of the murder ends his and Kim’s marriage. The guilt of it derails her legal career. The incident also kicks off the end of the weak half of the series, a drug-world thriller that recreates the bloody narco-noir exploits that Walter White fans have come to expect.

With the “Breaking Bad 2: Breaking Badder” section of the storyline complete, creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould focused on the central characters in the final installment. Despite the reappearances of Bryan Cranston as Walter White and Aaron Paul as sidekick Jesse Pinkman in flashbacks, the final half-season was more of an attempt to reprise “Breaking Bad.” A more productive conversation with it, perhaps even a friendly discussion.

“Breaking Bad” is a highly moral show with no illusions about Walter’s depravity. But it also intoxicates his criminal genius. Financially struggling and suffering from lung cancer, Walter finds masculinity and purpose in his heinous deeds. He breaks both bad and bad.

In “Better Call Saul,” the crimes are mostly just sad, and they get even sadder as the series draws to a close. The final episode returns to Gene in his Nebraska exile, shot in bloody black and white, looking like an off-brand Walter White, all the way down to his soupy mustache.

As Saul says of Walter, in a late-season flashback, “That mustachioed guy probably hasn’t made many good life choices.” It seems that. To replenish the nest egg and perhaps his self-esteem, Gene hires a dim-witted cab driver to rob a department store, escapes a string of rich marks, and ends up with a cancer patient.

It’s a sad sack version of the final spree that left Walter with a pile of cash about a cup. california king mattressIt ends in disgrace, with Jean ID attached by an elderly woman (Carol Burnett) whom he tricked into starting a ruse. “I typed ‘con man’ and ‘Albuquerque’.” The man who escaped the law and survived the cartel Eunice Higgins.

Over a decade and a half, the “bad” universe has developed a lot of narrative real estate. The ‘Saul’ finale continues to find little pockets of revisiting story within it, reprising Saul’s first run-in with Walter, and having Kim meet Jesse in the ‘Breaking Bad’ timeline. .

Similarly, the finale takes its theme and structure from flashbacks of three dead characters: Mike, Walter, and Chuck. Mike tells him he takes his first bribe as a police officer and goes back to the days when his life went off track. Then he says he will go to the future: “There is someone I want to check”.

Mike describes “Better Call Saul” itself. Both prequels and sequels are time machines where you go back in time to find out how the guy failed and move forward to see where he ends up. Explore how much of our destiny is within our control.

As Saul tells Walter (in a scene picked up from their last encounter in “Breaking Bad”), his time machine hypothesis is a “thought experiment.” But it’s also the kind of impostor fantasy that has always appealed to him: shortcuts, quick fixes, and loopholes to defeat the system.

It’s kind of a no-brainer that he seems to find halfway through the finale. But what Jimmy/Saul/Jean ultimately has to accept is that none of the weird tricks can make his life right. He lives in a time machine that only moves forward.

But he doesn’t discover this himself. Kim has long been the show’s moral center, not because she’s a paragon, but because of her willingness to address her flaws more honestly. Knowing does Jimmy what Chuck couldn’t do.

The “Breaking Bad” finale is set as a series of victories for Walter. Walter defeats his enemies, secures his family’s finances, and ends up on his own terms. The climax of “Saul” seems to follow a similar line at first. Instead, the protagonist utters something you never expected to hear from Saul Goodman in court—the truth—and blows up his plea bargain.

Unlike Walter White, he has his own destiny and has found no way to cheat it.Like when Walter puts his wife away, he doesn’t on the phone End Kim’s troubles instantly as the police listen. He does not go out into the flames of glory. he sentences himself to his life. As Saul said to Walter White at one of his first “Breaking Bad” meetings, “Conscience costs a lot, doesn’t it?”

Maybe he’s finally less like Walter White than Don Draper in “Mad Men.” Time MachineHe has a history of running away from trouble by changing his name. His final game is not that of law-defying mobsters, but of men who, like Don, find integrity in their fragmented identities.

Finally he was able to be himself and at the last minute “Better Call Saul” was also possible. I don’t want to hype the demise of the antihero – first of all, “Barry” is still around. But for about 15 years in a row, “Breaking Bad” and “Soul” are making an era.

‘Soul’ benefited from the experience without being bound by the complacency of his incumbent. It was his one of the best shows on television. (Check out the reprise of Kim and Jimmy’s final sequence share a cigarette I challenged myself to be more than just a new version of something I once loved. And it ended up staying true to its idea and its main character.

So who is this person after all? The title of the finale, “Saul Gone,” gives us a hint. “Gene Takavich” died in a trash can in Nebraska where police arrested him. ‘Saul Goodman’ lives on as a legend to fellow inmates who know him from his TV ads. But we know him by the name he eventually gave to the judge.

Call him James McGill. He is no longer Saul. he may still be a good man.

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