“Better Call Saul” returns for one last season

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore, Flickr.

After a two-year break, “Better Call Saul” is back with its sixth season on AMC+, and its return, of course, is the only reason to sign up for a free trial.

What began as a comedic sleazy lawyer side-character who was supposed to appear in only a handful of episodes in the second season of “Breaking Bad” — arguably one of the best television shows ever to air on American network television — turned into a six-season prequel that many consider even better than its predecessor.

This season had to surpass many hurdles in order to be fully produced, including starting production amidst the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as well as the main star, Bob Odenkirk, suffering from a heart attack on set and barely surviving it. Odenkirk was able to recover with the help of his fellow castmates and their quick reaction, as well as his doctors and the fact that he got in incredible shape for a film he shot in between the seasons called “Nobody.”

Even with these setbacks, all the stars aligned, and the final 13-episode season has begun airing, and it will finally conclude the story of this universe, created by Vince Gilligan and developed by him and Peter Gould.

From its start in 2015, it was clear that “Better Call Saul” was not just another cash grab production trying to earn money based on the massive success of the original show, but a continuation of the world that was created and beautifully executed in “Breaking Bad.”

The story focuses on Jimmy McGill, later known better as the fan-favorite Saul Goodman, as we follow his downward — or perhaps upward — spiral from somebody trying to become a proper lawyer to getting involved with the cartel and becoming what we see in “Breaking Bad.” This transition is not only believable and entertaining to watch because of the consistently high quality of writing, but also thanks to Odenkirk's comedic and dramatic abilities.

He is not the only character whose destiny we get to witness, as the show also focuses on some other fan-favorites from the previous series, such as Mike Ehremntraut and Gus Fring, both performed to perfection by other “Breaking Bad” alums Jonathan Banks and Giancarlo Esposito, respectively.

“Better Call Saul” also introduced some unbelievably well-executed new characters to the universe, such as Saul’s brother Chuck McGill, disgustingly well-portrayed by comedy star Michael McKean, and his partner in crime, Kim Wexler, played by the scene-stealer Rhea Seehorn. That side of the storyline is rounded out with Howard Hamlin, played by the wonderfully charming Patrick Fabian, who does not have a lot of screen time, but is as memorable as any other cast member.

On the cartel side of the story, characters of Nacho Varga (played by Michael Mando) and Lalo Salamanca (played by Tony Dalton) are also at the forefront of the narrative. These characters were mentioned by name all the way back in season two of “Breaking Bad” and seeing them finally brought to life by such an impressive cast is a dream come true for any fan.

Not only is “Better Call Saul” arguably the best written and acted show on television right now, its direction and cinematography make it seem like the viewers are watching a film every week rather than an episode of network television. The balance between the world of lawyers and the world of the cartel is impeccable every week, and the show keeps positively surprising its viewers, despite the fact that we know the fate of most characters already.

With all of that said, the viewership for “Better Call Saul” never reached the heights of the original, which is a shame, to say the least. Season five brought the two shows closer together than ever before, and the first two episodes of this final season keep chugging along in the same direction, promising a brutal and satisfying conclusion to this universe.

 

lmarjano@ramapo.edu