If there’s one thing we could have expected from Better Call Saul‘s first season finale, it was that it’d be pretty unpredictable. As regular viewers know by this point, this is not a series that adheres to typical TV formula; it’s as if the producers know what we’re anticipating — and then they go in a completely different direction. Frankly, it’s pretty damn refreshing.
So if you were expecting a typical season finale in which all the characters get together to share some sweet moments, remind the viewer what we’ve learned, and lay down a cliffhanger for next season, you’ll probably want to stick with something a bit more conventional.
What’s probably most refreshing about Better Call Saul is how that, no matter what small detours the series may make, it always comes back to Jimmy. Better Call Saul has a brilliant little ensemble cast, but it’s a character study first and foremost, and that designation is never clearer than in the fantastic tenth episode, “Marco.” As usual we get a few satisfying moments with Chuck (Michael McKean), Kim (Rhea Seehorn), Howard (Patrick Fabian), and Mike (Jonathan Banks), but “Marco” is all about Jimmy and his litany of moral conundrums.
Plot-wise, Jimmy is still reeling from Chuck’s underhanded betrayal regarding the Sandpiper lawsuit. After a brief visit with Howard (in which Jimmy’s nemesis redeems himself in rather subtle fashion), Jimmy suffers an emotional breakdown while calling a bingo game for his favorite (ancient) clientele, which inspires him to pack up and head home to Chicago. Obviously it doesn’t take long for Jimmy to hook up with his old con game partner, Marco (an excellent Mel Rodriguez), and together the devious duo spend a week basking in the glory of their masterfully sneaky ways.
On most TV shows, this is not what you’d get from a season finale, but “Marco” does a wonderful job of reminding us that Better Call Saul is not about Kim and Howard and Chuck, or the Kettlemans, or Nacho, or even the quietly awesome Mike Ehrmantraut. It’s about Jimmy McGill’s journey from being a kind-hearted scam artist to becoming the wonderfully cocky attorney we all know and love from Breaking Bad. As the first season finale of Better Call Saul illustrates, Jimmy’s not exactly there yet (hell, he still has yet to adopt the “Saul Goodman” moniker), but after all he’s been through — especially that gut-punch he got from his big brother — the guy seems pretty excited to misplace his moral compass, stop worrying about other people, and focus on being a bit more selfish.
Sort of like the Saul we love.
Kudos to Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, and the entire cast & crew for pulling off one mean feat; I was among the skeptical eyeball-rollers when I first read about the Breaking Bad spin-off plan, but after ten truly fantastic episodes full of subtle mood swings, unpredictable plot machinations, consistently great writing, and top-notch performances across the board, you probably won’t find a much bigger Better Call Saul junkie than yours truly. Only time will tell if BCS can maintain the staying power of its predecessor — but as long as they keep making ’em, I’ll keep watching ’em.
And yes, in case you haven’t heard, a second season of Better Call Saul has already been green-lit. And you can rest assured that we’ll be covering it.