|Better Call Saul episode
|Original air date
|August 15, 2022
"Saul Gone" is the series finale of Better Call Saul, the spin-off television series of Breaking Bad. It is the thirteenth and final episode of the sixth season and the 63rd episode of the series overall. Written and directed by Peter Gould, who co-created the series with Vince Gilligan, the episode aired on AMC and AMC+ on August 15, 2022, before debuting online in certain territories on Netflix the following day.
"Saul Gone" continues directly from the previous episode. It deals with Jimmy McGill facing the consequences of the conflicts caused by his three identities: the actions he made throughout the series under his birth name, the federal crimes he committed on Breaking Bad as Saul Goodman, and the schemes he ran in Omaha, Nebraska, as Gene Takavic. The episode also sees Jimmy and Kim Wexler coming face-to-face for the first time in six years. Several characters from Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad returned for guest appearances.
An estimated 1.80 million viewers saw the episode during its first broadcast on AMC. "Saul Gone" received critical acclaim, with many critics praising Jimmy's character development and his reconciliation with Kim. The episode was considered by critics to be a "masterful" conclusion to the series.
Flashbacks show conversations Jimmy McGill / Saul Goodman had with Mike Ehrmantraut,[a] Walter White,[b] and his brother, Chuck McGill.[c] In the first two, he asks Mike and Walter what they would do if they could travel back in time. Mike says he would stop himself from taking his first bribe, while Walter says he would have stayed at Gray Matter Technologies, the multi-billion dollar company he founded in college. Jimmy refrains from answering the question sincerely with Mike, and tells Walter he regrets injuring his knee during a cheap scam; Walter recognizes that Jimmy always had inherent criminal traits. In another flashback, Chuck asks Jimmy if he ever considered a different career path, but Jimmy counters that Chuck himself never did. Chuck invites Jimmy to stay and consult with him about his new legal clients, but Jimmy brushes him off defensively after a perceived insult. As he leaves, Chuck picks up a copy of The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.[d]
In the present, Jimmy as Gene Takavic evades the authorities before being apprehended in a dumpster. In jail, he obtains Bill Oakley's services. Facing a life sentence plus 190 years, Saul is offered a deal of 30 years. Marie Schrader, Hank Schrader's widow, accuses him of being complicit in Hank's death through his association with Walter. Saul convinces the lead Assistant U.S. Attorney that he could influence a jury into a deadlock by portraying himself as a victim of Walter. Bill and Saul negotiate a seven-and-a-half-year sentence, but further talks end when Saul offers information about Howard Hamlin's death, unaware that Kim Wexler had already done so. Saul learns that Howard's widow Cheryl may file a civil lawsuit against Kim. In the U.S. Marshal's presence, he tells Bill he will testify to further information relating to Kim.
District Attorney Suzanne Ericsen warns Kim that Saul's testimony could affect her. Kim attends the sentencing in Albuquerque, where Saul admits he lied just to get her in the room. He confesses to willingly participating in Walter's schemes and admits his role in Chuck's suicide before declaring himself by his real name, James McGill. He is sentenced to 86 years in federal prison, where he is revered by fellow inmates who recognize him as Saul. Kim visits him and they share a cigarette. As she departs, he goes to the prison yard to see her off and "shoots" her finger guns.[e] Kim acknowledges the gesture, and then leaves.
"Saul Gone" is the series finale for Better Call Saul, and was written and directed by series co-creator and showrunner Peter Gould. Gould wrote the Breaking Bad episode "Better Call Saul", which introduced the character Saul Goodman, and co-created the spin-off with Vince Gilligan. Gould and Gilligan initially served as co-showrunners before Gilligan left the writers room to focus on other projects, resulting in Gould becoming the sole showrunner.
In the week leading up to the finale, Gilligan stated that the episode would likely be the last entry in the Breaking Bad franchise, as he and Gould were both ready to move on to new stories. Gould later acknowledged that by the premiere of Breaking Bad's finale, he and Gilligan were already working on the spin-off, but when Better Call Saul's finale aired the two were working separately on new projects.
Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, and Rhea Seehorn are the only cast members listed in the starring credits. Gould considered the finale a mix of the world of Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad characters, as the episode featured several returning actors from both series. This included Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut[f] and guest stars Bryan Cranston as Walter White,[g] Michael McKean as Chuck McGill,[h] and Betsy Brandt as Marie Schrader.[i] Brandt's character appeared in the present timeline, whereas Banks, Cranston and McKean's characters appeared in flashbacks. Gould compared the reappearances of Mike, Walter and Chuck to the three ghosts of A Christmas Carol, each showing Saul repeating the same cycle in his life. Cranston's appearance was filmed months before to accommodate his schedule, McKean was able to film his scene before traveling to the United Kingdom for another project, while Brandt spent a relatively longer time in Albuquerque due to her having more screen time than the other guest stars.
Gould wanted to bring back other Better Call Saul actors, such as Patrick Fabian, Giancarlo Esposito, and Michael Mando, as well as others that appeared on Breaking Bad, including Anna Gunn, RJ Mitte, and Dean Norris. However, wanting to avoid an "overstuffed epic", he and the writing staff were unable to incorporate them into the finale.
The episode, season, and series ends with Gene Takavic getting caught by the authorities and, under his legal name of Saul Goodman, getting sentenced to prison for the crimes he committed in Breaking Bad. Gould and the writing staff knew by the time the fifth season finale aired that this was the right ending for the series. They realized that Saul spent his career making a mockery of the justice system, so it was fitting to them that he ended the series as a part of it, only this time as a prisoner. Gould further elaborated that in the finale, Saul had gone from someone who ran the courtroom to becoming the subject of one. Production staff initially struggled to find a location for the courtroom scene, but were eventually granted permission by the New Mexico Supreme Court to film on the top floor of their building. Filming had lasted three days on the scene; Odenkirk mentioned they had to reshoot the scene after initially completing filming of it.
Gould and the writing staff felt strongly to end Better Call Saul differently than Breaking Bad and its sequel film El Camino (2019). Comparing the fates of the three works' main protagonists, Gould explained that Walter White achieved his ambitions but ended up dead, Jesse Pinkman suffered greatly but found freedom, while Saul Goodman chose long-term incarceration but regained his humanity. When comparing the finale of Breaking Bad to the finale of Better Call Saul, Gould said he felt that Walter dealt death to people, so his series ended "in a blaze of glory"; in contrast, Gould believed Saul was a man of words, and that his ending needed to be more dialogue-focused. Odenkirk described the ending as being "more psychological and quieter and slower. It's deeply about character".
Gould considered Better Call Saul's ending an optimistic one, not just for Saul Goodman, but for Kim Wexler as well. With the two characters finally confessing their misdeeds, Gould felt both chose to end their cycles of self-destructive tendencies and would refrain from making the same mistakes again. He further acknowledged the challenging circumstances that awaited the two characters, with Saul spending his life in prison and a civil lawsuit hanging over Kim, but Gould believed that in cleaning their conscience, both regained a part of their humanity and could begin living more honest lives.
Saul and Kim sharing a cigarette while leaning against a prison room wall was the last scene filmed during principal photography for the series. Gould considered the moment, which itself was an homage to the first episode, as the two characters relating to one another without speaking. Odenkirk detailed the scene as being a "big deal for us, and it felt incredibly organic and natural, the feelings of acceptance and love at a level they've never shared before", furthermore describing the two characters as "bigger people than they had shown themselves to be, and that scene grants them that intelligence as well as the bravery to do that — to own their shortcomings". While the scene was filmed in black and white, as with all other parts of the Gene timeline, a brief use of color on the cigarette was included. Gould said this use of color, as well as prior use of color when Saul's flamboyant ads were shown in the Gene timeline (used both in the pilot and in the penultimate episode) were signs of Gene recalling his fondness for his time as Saul and his relationship with Kim. The scene's music was reused from the first episode, and was Dave Porter's first composition for Better Call Saul.
The writers room discussed the idea of having the prison room scene be the last shot of the series. However, Gould did not want the show to end with Saul and Kim together in the same frame, feeling it more honest to finish with the two of them apart. He instead chose to end the series with the two parting in the prison yard to deal with the likely truth that Saul will be incarcerated for the rest of his life. Many viewers noticed Kim's right hand subtly gesturing a gun in response to Saul shooting finger guns at her. Odenkirk and Seehorn said an alternate take was filmed of Kim fully shooting finger guns back at Saul in response to his gesture, but Gould felt that this could be interpreted as Kim going back to her old ways. As a result, the scene that made it to air used the take of Kim merely looking at Saul instead. Seehorn described the overall scene as being "about the acknowledgement of their bond that is still there, and the part of their relationship that was true".
"Saul Gone" received universal acclaim from critics. On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the episode received an approval rating of 100% based on 30 reviews, with an average rating of 10/10. The critical consensus reads, "The lawyer who broke bad finally comes clean in 'Saul Gone,' an emotionally powerful and thematically fitting conclusion to one of television's great dramas." Many critics highlighted Jimmy's character development, his redemption, and reconciliation with Kim, in addition to the motif of time machines in the episode. Giving the episode an A grade, Kimberly Potts of The A.V. Club called it a "supremely satisfying sendoff" with "blasts from the past and one last twist". At IGN, Rafael Motamayor gave the episode a 10 out of 10 rating, describing it as a "subtler character study, exploring regrets and change in its protagonist". He also noted the episode title and praised it for "a thematic bookend on a show that was never really about Saul Goodman" and highlighted the motif of time machines. Similarly, Vulture's Jen Chaney also discussed the motif of time machines in the episode, and commended it for offering more depth and context to Breaking Bad, and felt the series was superior to Breaking Bad, as it "dared to widen its scope and go bigger than Breaking Bad ever did". In addition, the website's Scott Tobias gave it a 5 out of 5 rating and wrote, "'Saul Gone' [...] finds an ending for Jimmy that's hopeful and authentic without feeling rosy or unearned."
Miles Surrey of The Ringer discussed the scene in which Jimmy testifies before court, and highlighted the inner conflict between his Jimmy McGill and Saul Goodman personae, ultimately feeling Jimmy won, as he had realized "the prospect of reconciling with [Kim] takes him on a new path—one toward redemption". He praised Jimmy's characterization in the episode, and felt that the series "showed that it's never too late to stop breaking bad for the ones you love". At Variety, Daniel D'Addario highlighted Odenkirk's performance in the court scene, and felt the episode was "meticulous" and commended Gould's writing and narrative structure. He felt that the episode was superior to that of Breaking Bad's series finale, "Felina". James Osborne of The A.V. Club complimented the return of Betsy Brandt as Marie Schrader,[i] saying that despite audiences sympathizing with Jimmy over the course of Better Call Saul's six seasons, Marie's appearance served as a reminder of how his actions on Breaking Bad directly affect her and as to why he was in the courtroom in the first place. Meanwhile, David Segal of The New York Times felt Saul's discussions with Mike, Walter, and Chuck about time machines helped "riff on the theme of regret and second chances", and also noted Jimmy's internal struggle in the episode, and thought his Goodman persona would win "in part because the rapacious side of Jimmy and Saul kept getting highlighted. Especially in this episode". He also observed a "symmetry" in his character, opining that Jimmy became the "toxic version of Saul" and "morally fastidious version of Jimmy" due to Kim.
An estimated 1.80 million viewers watched "Saul Gone" during its first broadcast on AMC on August 15, 2022. This made the finale the series' most-watched episode since third season finale "Lantern", which aired five years prior. Including delayed viewing totals gave the final tally a total of 2.7 million viewers on AMC.
Upon the episode's initial release on AMC+, the network's streaming platform, the app experienced an outage, causing many users to be logged out. AMC later reported that first-day viewing numbers for the finale on AMC+ was four times as big as the season premiere, and called the final season of Better Call Saul the highest acquisition driver in the history of the streaming service.
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