Season Finale of ‘Better Call Saul’ Assures Us ‘It’s All Good, Man’ (TV RECAP)

[rating=9.00] “Winner”

With season four now closed, Better Call Saul has pushed its narrative forward and entered a new era. The time of Jimmy McGill has ended and the reign of Saul Goodman is now upon us. Knowing what we know of his fall, we’ve only to see how he ascends, and what tragedies await him on his path to glory.

As with everything Better Call Saul, the central drama hinges largely on subtlety. Jimmy’s path to Saul Goodman isn’t necessarily one filled with big moments—contrasting Walter White’s path to Heisenberg, which is punctuated by moments of shock—but one of tiny steps, exploring how corruption can occur in degrees rather than sweeps.

That’s the thing about degrees though. Enough of them built up over time can be as dramatic as a single massive sweep. To be sure, Jimmy was never entirely straight and narrow—he did, after all, try to scam the Kettleman’s all the way back in season one, episode one—but he had something of a moral compass to guide him. Chuck’s death as seen the atrophying of that compass, however, and more and more he’s becoming the sleazebag we first met in Breaking Bad.

He’s fully embraced his manipulative nature now, as we saw last night during his attempts to persuade the bar’s appeals committee to overturn his denial. He gave new meaning to the term crocodile tears, standing over Chuck’s grave on the anniversary of his death, tearfully greeting mourners in an effort to get the word out about his devastation to make him appear more sincere and showing up to the law library dedicated to his brother. He even took the time to sit with the scholarship board as they picked their inaugural recipients.

Which, incidentally, led to one of the most powerful moments of the evening. While the three students picked by the board (led by Howard Hamilin) were certainly deserving of their award, Jimmy tried to persuade them to pick someone a little less qualified, Christy Esposito, who had been convicted of shoplifting two years earlier. Naturally, his motion was denied. But that didn’t stop him from seeking Christy out to offer some words of wisdom.

There was an air of beautiful nobility to his speech to Christy, in which he encouraged her to ignore what all those people in their ivory towers would have to say. They’ll only ever remember her for her mistakes, but that should be the excuse she needs to play dirty and to succeed by any means necessary. She didn’t get the scholarship, but that shouldn’t be the end of her war. It was, in many ways, Jimmy’s dying gasp before succumbing to Saul Goodman. His final act of pure goodness before breaking bad.

We can’t deny that his final speech to the review board wasn’t beautiful. It was everything the original hearing was looking for. It was heartfelt, it was emotional, it was reverent, it was sincere. Except, of course, it wasn’t. Jimmy has finally learned how to appear to be what the world wants him to be in order to get what he wants. And it worked. In the closing moments of the season we saw that Jimmy was approved to practice once again. For a brief moment, we got to see Kim be proud of her man.

Heartbreaking, then, to see her crestfallen as she realizes it was all manipulation. The man she feared Jimmy might be has proven to be the man that Jimmy is. She watches stunned as Jimmy reveals his real face, horrified that no, he hasn’t learned anything, and shocked when he reveals he wants to practice under a different name. A name we all know so well. Her face as Jimmy walks away, assuring her that “it’s all good, man,” tells us that it is anything but.

So where do we go from here? We know we’re now a little less than four years from the events of Breaking Bad, which gives Jimmy a long way to climb before his epic fall. But everything has changed now, and how Kim reacts to his shift in demeanor remains to be seen. The question now is whether she can survive Jimmy’s climb intact or if his journey to the top will ultimately break her. That’s an answer we’ll need to wait for, unfortunately.

Elsewhere, the tension between Gus and the Salamancas is heating up with Lalo in town, though the pressure is mostly on Mike for the time being. It’s a terrible, no good, very bad day for Mr. Ehrmantraut as he seeks to find Werner, who absconded last week for a tiny get away with his wife. Hot on his trail is Lalo, who’s trying to find out more about just what Gus is up to. Mike’s quick thinking allows him to get away, but that only gives us a chance to see just what Lalo is capable of, and it’s extreme. Mike may have won this race, but Lalo is being established as one of the best villains of the series so far, and his prospects for next season are frightening.

And we got to see the further decline of Mike who, under protest, takes responsibility for Werner’s escape and offers to make it right for Gus. In this case, Gus being who he is, that means Werner has forfeit his life. Mike doesn’t want to do it—let this just be a mistake, he implores Gus—but he knows that if he does it, he can be certain Werner dies with dignity. It’s an emotional scene, and instinctually we had to know that Mike had done some killing for Gus before, but seeing it was something else entirely. Mike has crossed a bridge here, and the tragedy of it is that we know where it leads: to him bleeding out by a river, shot by Walter in a childish tantrum, over what amounts to nothing.

Over all, it was a riveting season of Better Call Saul, one laced with subtext and implication. Now that Saul Goodman is on the scene, it can only get more dramatic and more shocking. How will the changes that everyone’s undergone affect things from here out? We’ll have at least a year to ponder these questions. Can’t wait to see what they’ve got in store.

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