As AMC You better call Saul stands at the precipice of its sixth and final season (or technically, the first half of an oversized final season that will be split into two parts, just like the final season of its predecessor breaking Bad), one has the feeling that its narrative possibilities expand and contract simultaneously.
For one thing, the big picture seems to be falling into place, paying for years of meticulous plotting as the disparate fates of its characters finally converge somewhere in the hellish sprawl of Albuquerque’s underworld. On the other hand, we already know more or less where the limits of this overall picture lie, having seen the consequences of You better call Saul already on breaking Bad.
You better call Saul
A thrilling start to an inevitable end.
It remains to be seen how satisfactorily the series can navigate between these conflicting directions. But the first two episodes sent to critics, at least, continue to reflect a confident drama that is firing on all cylinders, and which shows every indication of coming out as brightly as it came in.
One of You better call SaulHis most impressive qualities throughout his run have been his consistency, and that remains true in season six. The pleasures of the show remain his pleasures. His performances haven’t missed a beat, and neither has his writing – if anything, these characters and the world they inhabit have only grown richer and more complex over time. (I beg of you, Emmy voters: Stop sleeping on Rhea Seehorn.) The actors and writers (led by showrunner Peter Gould) maintain their gift for dancing between breathless tension, painful tragedy and genuine LOLs; the first two episodes have moments from all three.
It remains a show that relishes the intricacies of a complicated scheme, whether it’s a bit of legal mischief by Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) or the methodical groundwork undertaken by Mike (Jonathan Banks) in the part of a larger criminal plot by Gus (Giancarlo Esposito). And it’s still one of the most striking shows on television, with an eye for the beauty and meaning of shot composition, and a playful habit of planting the camera in odd places – with a package passing through a machine x-ray, or up close with an ordinary insect going about its business.
At the same time, his flaws are still his flaws. For most of its run, You better call Saul seemed to be two parallel series. One is a superb, often devastating character study, set mostly in the legal world and charting Jimmy’s transformation into Saul Goodman. The other is a perfectly successful crime drama about the power movements and deadly conflicts in and around the Salamanca Cartel. Sometimes these storylines intersect, and the final episodes of season five tie them together more tightly than before under the vast, looming threat of Lalo (Tony Dalton).
But the first few episodes of season six see the show return to its typical bifurcated state, and as usual, it’s hard not to notice how one half is more interesting than the other. New episodes pick up immediately after the explosive season five finale, and while the premiere doesn’t count as a break, exactly – it still does. You better call Saulso there are still thrilling moments where lives hang in the balance – it feels like a time for the characters to re-evaluate, regroup and redirect their attention to interpreting the consequences of major decisions they made last season .
For You better call Saul, it’s downright a matter of survival as they scramble to figure out the lay of the land after the (unsuccessful) assassination attempt on Lalo. The start of season six is largely about what it means for Nacho (Michael Mando), who has often been sidelined over the course of the series for fan favorites like Gus.
But the choice to put it in the spotlight now turns out to be prudent. Not only is Nacho one of the friendliest characters in a cartel populated by characters whose coldness borders on the superhuman (see Hector, the Cousins or even Gus); he is also one of the few whose destiny has not already been defined in breaking Bad. The threat to his life gives these scenes an urgency that, say, Mike never could, since we know Mike lives to see the rise of Heisenberg.
At this point, however, You better call SaulPerhaps the most pressing question is what happens to Kim (Seehorn) — which has come to mean not just the question of whether she survives, but whether her soul does. She and Jimmy are still thick as thieves when we pick up with them, but her turn to the dark side in the season five finale seems to have shifted the balance between them in a small but significant way. As Kim rapidly moves forward in her career pivot, a new sense of hesitation seems to weigh on Jimmy. It’s like he, too, realizes on some level that he’s reached a turning point and is hesitant to let go of Jimmy McGill and embrace his next life as Saul Goodman.
But the turning point of the chapter of You better call Saul for breaking Bad is inevitable, underlined by the already announced arrival of Walt and Jesse this year. In the second episode of season six, a minor character knocks over a domino and knocks down a whole line of it. It seems like as apt a metaphor as any for what’s to come. For five seasons now, You better call Saul laid out the tiles, dazzling us with the intricacy of its design and the patience required to do it justice. Now is the time to sit back, hold our breath and watch them fall.