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Once upon a time, it was easy enough: It’s all about Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) becoming Saul Goodman, the quick-witted criminal lawyer from the Breaking Bad days. But the season five finale turns over another card, revealing another possibility for Peter Gould’s AMC drama’s endgame: It’s the story of Kim Wexler’s transformation from aspiring Atticus Finch to transcendent Saul Goodman.
Armed with two finger guns and a veritable satchel filled with harmful intentions, Kim ends Better Call Saul with an eye toward ruining Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) and clearing the way for a whole mess of money for what she deems a higher purpose: opening a practice where she can take on pro bono cases, very financially comfortably at that. Even Jimmy is taken aback at the notion, suggesting that perhaps Better Call Saul wasn’t the story of his turn toward the dark side after all, but Kim’s turn — even if we all know some of the ways in which this will all shake out for Jimmy, thanks to Breaking Bad.
With all that said, and with a lot of time on the board before the final season begins shooting (though Gould says a virtual writers room is already hard at work, with even co-creator Vince Gilligan along for the ride), here are some of the questions the season five finale, “Something Unforgivable,” has left us chewing on in advance of the end.
1. How far will Kim break bad?
Where does it stop, in other words? If Kim carries through on a plot to take down Hamlin, and she frees up the Sandpiper money to put it to “good use,” is that the ballgame? Does she sink lower? Indeed, does she rise higher? Given her recent confrontation with Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton), could Kim rise from being friend-of-the-cartel-adjacent to being a full-on BFF? Perhaps she rises so high within those ranks that that’s the reason she isn’t on Breaking Bad — not because she’s dead, but because she’s risen higher in the world than even Saul Goodman. The stomach turns at the possibilities, and one hopes this is nothing more than catastrophic thinking. But if anyone has paved the way for catastrophic thinking these days …
2. How will Jimmy and Kim’s relationship end?
It’ll at least end with Jimmy on the run, moving to Omaha to start a new life as Gene the Cinnabon manager. But will the clock run out on Jimmy and Kim before then? Is she not on Breaking Bad because she’s out of Jimmy’s life? That’s been common consensus for some time, though it’s not impossible she exists within the cracks of Gilligan’s original crystal meth drama. Given “Something Unforgivable,” however, the stage is set for Jimmy to pull the plug on the relationship. He nearly did as much before Kim turned the tables and ordered the pair some delicious room service burgers. (Mmm. Green chili burgers.) Just as Kim’s turn toward a darker path is shaping up to be one of the tragic Better Call Saul twists, perhaps Jimmy being the one to end the relationship with Kim will be another twist in its own right.
3. What’s Lalo’s next move?
He’s not quite the king, but a modified version of the adage applies: If you come at Lalo Salamanca, you’d best not miss. And boy oh boy, did Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) miss. Lalo survived a brutal attempt on his life, even if his loved ones did not. He also bought himself some time, walking away from the encounter with the wrong word on the street about how the assassination played out. The big bad boogeyman is out there in the wild now, stalking the streets, with an eye toward the person who wronged him — but who that is in his mind, it’s anyone’s guess. Gus fits the bill, for sure. Maybe he’s got an eye on the cartel bosses, but we know that they (and Gus for that matter) will survive until Gus gets his way with them in Breaking Bad. So who does he go after next? Does he return to Jimmy and Kim, now that he can assume his instincts about Jimmy were correct? Or does he turn to someone more local …
4. How much worse will it get for Nacho?
Have to imagine the answer is somewhere within the realm of “much.” Nacho (Michael Mando) put the pieces in place for Lalo’s “assassination,” unlocking the door and skipping town. Earlier in the episode, he makes his grandest ambitions known: to live a life where he no longer has to look over his shoulder. Don Eladio (Steven Bauer) more or less laughs in Nacho’s face, telling him he picked the wrong line of work. And. How! Nacho couldn’t have gotten far from Lalo, and Lalo — who does all his best thinking at night — is presumably on the man’s tail. Remember how bad it got for Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) in the Breaking Bad homestretch, living in a subterranean prison cell, cooking meth for Nazis? Whatever the Lalo equivalent of that is, it’s quite likely coming for Nacho.
5. Where are Walter and Jesse?
It’s the obligatory question, one that I’m loath to posit at this point, because Better Call Saul has shown that it can more than stand on its own two feet without diving too deeply into the greater Breaking Bad world. Sure, it’s fun to see Hank (Dean Norris) back in action, but looking back on the grander scope of season five, his return was truly a blip on the radar. The reason to pull in Walt and Jesse is simple enough: Jimmy’s story eventually intersects with theirs, as is the case for Gus and Mike (Jonathan Banks). How do you resolve their stories — Gus and Mike especially, killed by Walt’s plans — without bringing Heisenberg back into the story? Whatever solution Gould and company concoct, don’t chalk it up to an inevitable return for the odd couple of Misters White and Pinkman. Better Call Saul has more than held its own compared to its predecessor, and very well can do just fine without them in the homestretch.
6. How much Gene time can we expect?
Every season begins with Jimmy’s new life as Gene. Expect nothing different from the final season premiere. But then what? Are we really going to resolve the flash-forwards with an extended season six prologue teaser, and that’s it? Almost certainly not. Much likelier: The events of Better Call Saul eventually collide with the Gene timeline for a period of time in the rush to the end. The question is, how much time? Are we talking a series finale’s worth of material? More? The Gene of it all remains as tantalizing a mystery as any still left on the board, with only 13 episodes left to resolve it.
7. Will there be more?
First, there was Breaking Bad. Now, there’s Better Call Saul — and soon, no more. But is that really the end of the line? Will Saul open the door for another character to serve as the basis for a third series set within the greater Breaking Bad universe? A wise man once said, “nature abhors a vacuum.” Is there more story to tell beyond the tale of Jimmy McGill — a story about Kim, for example, if we’re just getting started seeing how low she can go? Lalo is still alive; could he wait in the shadows for long enough until the Gus dust clears, and he moves into Albuquerque to take on the meth scene? The creative team have indicated their desire to move on to new worlds, so for now, it’s best to savor every drop of Better Call Saul until there’s nothing left to drink except for … well, you know how that worked out for Jimmy this season. Best not to think about it.
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