Better Call Saul first season finale recap/ review
Creator/ show runner Peter Gould took on directing and writing (in addition to producing) duties for the season finale of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” spinoff “Better Call Saul,” and wasted no time reconciling protagonist Jimmy McGill’s wayward past with the primary 2006 storyline following Jimmy’s rise among the legal ranks in New Mexico. “Marco” opens with…Marco, Jimmy’s friend and scam partner played by character actor Mel Rodriguez (“The Last Man on Earth,” Panic Room) who was introduced during a flashback in “Hero,” the fourth episode. Marco runs a trick on a few bummed out bar patrons who leave as Jimmy McGill with long hair (that’s how you know it’s a flashback) enters the bar—fresh out of prison. Jimmy explains to Marco that Chuck had to fly out from New Mexico to save his hide from worse consequences and how he’s saying farewell because he’s also leaving town—Cicero, Illinois—with his brother. Marco tries to make Jimmy stay, but he hardly offers a sound reason and Jimmy departs.
In 2006, Jimmy sits on a comfortable bench inside the HHM building when Kim sidles up next to him and asks why he’s there. The youngest McGill confesses that he’s taking her advice and will turn the case over to HHM. Howard then summons Jimmy to his office where the air feels much lighter and there’s no tension between the two of them anymore. After learning about Chuck’s betrayal in “Pimento,” Jimmy apologizes to Howard and tries to make good by what he’s said to Howard over the years. “I’ve always liked you, Jimmy,” Hamlin tells him as he maintains his businesslike demeanor and cuts a check for the agreed amount. As Jimmy finishes his business in the HHM parking lot, Kim walks out and joins him for a chat where she asks about his feelings toward Chuck after she told him about the betrayal. Jimmy says that Chuck is his brother and will never totally abandon him. Kim commends her friend’s maturity, but he writes it off with, “Dalai Lama’s got nothin’ on me!”
We then catch up with Jimmy calling the Bingo game he sponsors at the senior home. After a string of numbers in the “B” column that summon up all manner of words and feelings, McGill loses touch and bares his soul to the elderly crowd. Perhaps it was handing his precious case over to Howard, his brother’s betrayal, or both, but Jimmy asks the clients and potential clients if they’ve ever heard of a “Chicago Sunroof.” He describes the act by way of a soul-crushing anecdote and brings the Chuck flashback in “Nacho” full-circle. It would seem that years ago back in Illinois, Jimmy had a few too many while out at a bar and spotted his wife in a vehicle belonging to a man named Chet who owed him money and slept with his now-ex-wife. When the vehicle came to rest, Jimmy climbed the vehicle and pooped down the open sunroof to ruin Chet and his wife’s evening. Unfortunately, Chet’s children were in the vehicle—hidden behind illegally tinted windows—and Chet used a connection with the DA’s office to charge Jimmy as a sex offender. As we know, Chuck swooped in to save his brother’s ass and Jimmy avoided the charges. The seniors hardly seem interested in Jimmy’s heartbreaking tale of woe, asking if he’ll ever call the number. Jimmy indicates that this one incident is to blame for his current socioeconomic status and bails on the game, leaving the prizes for everybody to claim. “Jimmy” actor Bob Odenkirk wrote the dialogue for the scene and absolutely killed it. Perhaps AMC’s tradition of award-winning leading men will continue on after Bryan Cranston and Jon Hamm.
In the next scene, a taxi drops Jimmy off in front of Arno’s bar in Cicero. He left town for a few days to go home and see some friends. McGill wanders into the bar and tells the bartender to let the owner know that “Slippin’ Jimmy says hello.” The bartender seems mildly impressed as he’s heard a story or two about this character. Jimmy orders a couple Old Styles and wakes his buddy Marco up from his status of passed out at the bar. They catch up while drinking, but it’s not long before they’re back the old routine of ripping people off for cash. They try a JFK silver dollar routine where Jimmy sells Marco a rare coin with a mistake in the mint—the President’s head faces the wrong way! They successfully scam a mark that buys the coin and then they’re off to the next grift. The camera takes us to another morning during the week where Jimmy wakes up on an inflatable mattress in a dirty basement. The waitress who wakes up next him correctly accuses Jimmy of not being Kevin Costner. “I was last night,” he tells her. She calls him a name he deserves and calls out for her friend in Marco’s room. The waitresses bail as Jimmy listens to his voicemail—the clients can’t be ignored forever. He explains to his friend that he has to go back home because of his new elder law endeavor. Mel Rodriguez gives one of the best guest performances of the television season in this episode, particularly in this scene when his character begs Jimmy for one last scam. He expresses happiness for Jimmy in finding something he loves to make a living, but the circumstances are significantly more depressing for Marco’s state of affairs. He asks Jimmy for one more watch grift—not because he needs money—he needs this.
Jimmy can’t say “no” to Marco, so the two old friends find themselves beginning one last scam. Marco waits alone in the alley from “Hero” and begins humming Deep Purple’s rock classic “Smoke on the Water” when he starts a coughing fit. He collapses and passes out when Jimmy and the mark walk approach him and see his body on the ground. The mark runs away with the money as Jimmy attempts to help his friend. As he lay dying, Marco confesses to Jimmy that he messed up and that the last week was the greatest week of his life. Jimmy stays in town for the funeral, where he inherits Marco’s pinky ring. He was first a confidence man and will wear the memory of Marco, “Slippin’ Jimmy,” and his past life. He then receives a pleasant phone call from Kim who tells him that the case is too big for HHM to manage, which required the help of another firm, Davis & Mane. D&M appreciates the loyalty Jimmy and his clients share, prompting them to try and hire him as a partner. Jimmy manages to go to the courthouse to meet the reps from D&M, but thinks on Marco’s ring and bails. Mike dismisses Jimmy on his way out, but Jimmy’s not as quick to keep going. He asks Mike why they didn’t keep the Kettleman stolen fortune. Mike suggests that he didn’t do it because it wasn’t a part of the job that Jimmy hired him to do. He tells Mike that he’ll never “make the same mistake” again and peels away humming “Smoke on the Water.”
There you have it—the first season of “Better Call Saul” completely in the books. After a brush with Tuco Salamanca, stealing stolen money via Mike, uncovering sabotage from an agoraphobic older brother that saved his hide from a predator list, and dumpster diving for shredded documents that could potentially amount to a multi-million dollar lawsuit, the man that would become Saul Goodman built the foundation for a character who would do business with Walter White, Jesse Pinkman, and, most chillingly, Gustavo Fring. There were rumors of jumping back to Omaha, Nebraska, one final time to check in with post-BrBa Saul that obviously didn’t happen. Gould and Vince Gilligan showed Saul managing a Cinnabon in Omaha in “Better Call Saul’s” pilot episode, “Uno,” and never returned to the present day. Nacho also took more of a backseat this year than expect. Actor Michael Mando received a credit for more episodes in which he didn’t appear than those in which he had. With Saul’s new outlook on life, the possibilities are endless for Slippin’ Jimmy. There’s certainly no dire need for Walt and Jesse to appear on the show as “Better Call Saul” seemingly isn’t a bubble series, but come on. That’d be television gold.