Better Call Saul: Review of Final Season Premiere
Who makes the call?
AMC brought back Better Call Saul for its final season with a two-episode premiere that eases us back into Saul’s world. Its been two full years since season five ended and this over two-hour premiere takes its time re-establishing the show’s patient tone. That last season finale ended on a cliffhanger after the failed hit job on the current crime world menace, Lalo. Now danger looms for all. Let’s get into the premiere.
The premiere breaks the tradition of all previous Better Call Saul season openers, by not starting with a black-and-white sequence of Jimmy/Saul’s current new life as a sad Cinnabon manager in hiding. Instead we are treated with a languid scene of movers packing up the contents of Saul’s opulent home. It is assumed this is his abandoned ABQ home from the Breaking Bad era (that we never actually saw during that show), full of gaudy artwork, expensive clothes and furniture, and all the trappings of a life of material pursuit, with a golden toilet. This is the life he had to flee, these digs that crime bought
The final shot of this speechless sequence is a pull-in on the cap of the ultra-expensive tequila that Jimmy and Kim conned an obnoxious frat boy insurance salesman to shell out for. The cap is the keepsake of one of Jimmy’s sweetest scams (the mark deserved it, in his eyes) that was made ultimately more toothsome since Kim fully joined in on the deception. Last season, Kim brought this ill-gotten prize home when she quickly left her corporate law firm job and the emptiness it gave her. She barely took anything, but couldn’t leave this memento behind.
It’s an emblem of when straight-laced Kim had gotten taste of the breaking of the bad and would never be the same. Jimmy/Saul is a born con artist. But if someone as upright as Kim Wexler could have her own breaking bad journey, couldn’t we all? Back to this opening scene, laying in the gutter, the cap glimmers with mysterious portent.
Kim’s story takes as much or more screen time than Jimmy/Saul in this premiere. As already mentioned, she had recently left the high-earning but soulless existence of being a corporate lawyer. Now her professional energy is spent on helping the poor and underserved. She admits that a day of helping needy clients (instead of banks and corporations) was “the best day of my life… my professional life.”
At the same time, she spends a more significant portion of the premiere planning a royal scam with Jimmy, often taking the lead. This caper is one of revenge against ultimate privileged officer of the court, Harry Hamlin, whom both Jimmy and Kim have their own legitimate reasons to despise. And it allows Kim to explore another side of the coin, where her legal acumen can be used for malice. We see her drive this scam to destroy Hamlin’s reputation, his most important attribute. And she obviously enjoys this much more than she ever did negotiating contracts for Mesa Verde bank.
Jimmy, who thinks that he and Kim are out of danger, does the footwork for this long revenge con. This episode as usual provides imaginative and mannered scenes that takes their time revealing their significance. Each scene of Jimmy enacting one of their scams is delightful on its own. But I have to wonder why, at this crucial late stage in the show’s run, is Jimmy concerning himself with this frivolous and non-profitable con. Sure Hamlin is a stuffed-shirt heal that we love to hate, but this caper seems tangential and unnecessary now.
This fool’s errand is fun, but it’s reallyjust treading water. Lalo lives. Danger still looms. And the full transformation to the Saul Goodman we met in BB season two has to be completed. Jimmy, we’re dying to see the full evolution!
Moreover, about half of the premiere follows Nacho’s exploits in rural Mexico. In the last season finale, Nacho helped the assassin squad in their attack on Lalo, which happened to fail. Lalo lives. Now he’s on the run, with the drug cartel goons, the Federales, and everyone else looking for him. His story is compelling. Among all the drug dealers on BCS, Nacho is most sympathetic and the least psychotic of his ilk. But again, this show is Jimmy/Saul’s story. The Nacho scenes of shoot-outs and survival are ultimately filler since they do not affect Saul (his escape from an encounter with the silent, sharp-dressed cartel brothers was fun!). Though Nacho’s plight does affect Mike, who has a respect for Nacho and wishes that his decency was valued more “in the game.”
Mike has a curious scene where his crew switches out the safe at Nacho’s house. His plan is not completely obvious. But we see that they were preparing the place for later when the cartel crew comes to ransack the house. Mike wanted to make sure the cartel did not find something, not sure what. I assume this will be revealed later.
The premiere was not the thrill ride I expected to follow the ominous cliffhanger of last season’s conclusion. But Better Call Saul is back on track. Jimmy is free to pursue his cons around the grey areas of the law, and Kim is more than game to be part of the hustle. Nacho and Lalo are in a battle to the death (it’s hard to imagine either surviving this season). And Mike is trying to keep what peace he can among this deadly chaos.
The places have been set for this ultimate season.