Spoilers for the Better Call Saul Season 5 finale follow below.
I said it in my review and I’m even more convinced of it now that Season 5 is over: Better Call Saul is not just one of the best shows on TV, it’s a better show than Breaking Bad. That’s not to take a dig at Breaking Bad (which is indisputably one of the best TV shows of all time), but to heap praise on this prequel series that has, over the course of five seasons, failed to make a single false move. And what makes Better Call Saul a more emotionally impactful show is that unlike Breaking Bad, in which Walter White grew more monstrous as time went on, BCS is at heart a tragedy. We know where Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) ends up, so watching him try so hard to do the right thing is absolutely heartbreaking.
But the Better Call Saul Season 5 finale threw yet another tragic wrinkle into the mix, complicating matters as we head into the show’s sixth and final season. All along Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) has felt like Jimmy’s moral compass. Whereas Jimmy has been morally flexible all his life, Kim has always felt steadfast in knowing what’s right and what’s wrong, and the implication we got was that maybe Jimmy was corrupting Kim.
Howard (Patrick Fabian) says as much in the finale, telling Kim what Jimmy did to his car and his reputation and warning her that he’s no good for her. That he’s already negatively impacted her by causing her to leave her law firm. Kim is angered by this, saying she makes her own decisions. And indeed when Jimmy tries to tell Kim this “isn’t her” after she brainstorms a con to ruin Howard’s life in order to get the Sandpiper case to settle—and to receive a cash windfall herself—and that she wouldn’t do this in broad daylight, Kim replies, “Wouldn’t I?” The final, devastating blow is Kim shooting finger guns at Jimmy as she heads to the shower, a move nearly identical to the Season 4 finale in which Jimmy completes his transformation into Saul and says to Kim, “It’s all good, man!” In the Season 4 finale Jimmy devastated Kim with his truth. In the Season 5 finale, it appears Kim is devastating Jimmy with her truth.
It’s a surprising place to leave off, again because most assumed Kim was Jimmy’s moral center, and now it seems like Kim has either broken bad or has been “bad” all along. Speaking with Rolling Stone, co-creator and showrunner Peter Gould says “what happens to Kim?” will be a central question heading into Season 6:
“In a lot of ways, Kim is the soul in question here,” says Gould. “We know, for better or worse, who Saul Goodman seemed to be on Breaking Bad. But what happens to Kim Wexler? Where is she headed? There’s a lot of possibilities, and a lot of not-so-great possibilities.”
But the decision to have Kim make this turn happened late in the game developing Season 5, which was not an uncommon occurrence on Breaking Bad and was inspired by BB creator Vince Gilligan’s attitude towards story plotting:
Following Gilligan’s longstanding advice “to look very carefully at what’s already happened,” Gould realized that the season premiere concluded with Kim swearing she would never scam her own client — followed immediately by her doing exactly that, albeit with a pure-hearted motive. “As we approached the last half of this season,” Gould says, “it started feeling like — and maybe this isn’t the best phrase to use — maybe Kim Wexler breaks bad?”
Speaking with THR, Gould says whatever changes in Kim has been happening inside her for a long time:
“Something seems to have changed inside Kim Wexler. Her perspective on life seems to have shifted a good ways. I think that something has been clearly in the works for a long time, but it surprises me when I see it, and boy does it ever surprise Jimmy.”
Gould says Kim wants agency—she wants to feel like she’s in control. And looking back on this season, at many turns she finds she’s not in control, that she’s being played. Both by Jimmy and by Mesa Verde. Her decisions in the final two episodes this season feel like her making an overly strong course-correction, perhaps too far in the other direction:
“I think it’s important to Kim to feel that she’s not a passenger. She wants to feel and to know, and I’ve sometimes used this phrase, that she is the captain of her own ship. She says in that great line that Anne Cherkis wrote a few seasons ago: ‘You don’t save me. I save me.’ She has a pride in herself and a pride in her ability to take care of herself and to make her own decisions and so I don’t think she ever wants to feel that she is playing second banana or following someone down a road.”
As for Lalo (Tony Dalton), it appears we have our Big Bad for Season 6 as he narrowly escaped his assassination attempt. You may or may not recall that Saul Goodman invokes Lalo in his first appearance on Breaking Bad, asking Walt and Jesse, “Who sent you? Was it Lalo?” That would seem to suggest Lalo is alive when all is said and done, but curiously Gilligan admits to Rolling Stone that for years he pushed back on including Lalo on Better Call Saul:
“I’m embarrassed to admit this now,” Gilligan says, “but back in Season One or Two when I was more active on the show, Peter kept saying, ‘We’ve gotta answer who Lalo is,’ and I finally said, ‘I don’t know that we need to answer every single question.’ And man, I was wrong. If Peter hadn’t pushed, we wouldn’t have Tony Dalton. We wouldn’t have this amazing character. So, some of the ones that I found the most frustrating to deal with, that I said, ‘Ah, the hell with them. Who cares?’ tend to be the best ones of all.”
Gilligan wasn’t in the writers room full time on Season 4 or Season 5 as he was busy prepping the Breaking Bad movie El Camino, but Gould says he’s roped Gilligan back into working in the writers room full time for this final season, to finish what they started together.
As for how much of the show’s ending they have planned out, just as with Breaking Bad they take things season by season, but Gould does tell Rolling Stone that they have a bit of an idea of where this show will end up now:
While writing Season Five, Gould says, “The fog started to clear slightly about where we were going with all of this. So we started to think about how this all relates to where we’re going. Having said that, I don’t want to say we’ve got it all figured out. I’m very happy to have Vince in the writers room this season, even though we’re doing it remotely, because we’re getting to finish this thing that we started together. But we’re deep in the struggle. Even though we have ideas about where we’re going, we’re always ready to jettison them.”
Better Call Saul Season 6 will consist of 13 episodes, more than any other season of the show thus far, but after that this story will be over. Writing has continued remotely due to the COVID-19 shutdown, but it remains to be seen when production might be able to continue. It was a year and a half between Season 4 and Season 5, and it could be just as long if not longer between Season 5 and Season 6. But one thing’s for certain: these writers have earned the benefit of the doubt. We can rest assured knowing it almost certainly will be well worth the wait.