October 9, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Better Call Saul”


BETTER CALL SAUL reached a milestone in the final scene of its fourth season, as Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) formally assumed the mantle of Saul Goodman, the character he’ll be in Breaking Bad.  As the prequel series journeys toward its destiny, though, this Season 4 turned out to be a ruthless essay on the myth of second chances.  They’re a critical part of the American ethos:  the “comeback,” the memoir and talk show tour that follows a scandal, the route that used to include apologies as a matter of routine, but these days may instead go by way of contempt for the accusation and accusers.  In Better Call Saul‘s view of the world, second chances are hard to come by, and achievable only through cynical deceit.

That was how Jimmy regained his legal license.  It may have come as a surprise to Kim (Rhea Seehorn, brilliant again this season), who enjoys the con game ride with Jimmy but still has a hard core of principle, that Jimmy’s seemingly spontaneous burst of emotion to the bar appeals board about his dead brother and his own feelings of unworthiness turned out to be a calculated manipulation.  For the rest of us, though, it was inevitable, presaged among other things in the earlier scene where Jimmy tried to teach a young law student and reformed shoplifter that success is the best revenge.  The scholarship board rejected her application, but Jimmy had years of experience to tell him how to play the moralizing authorities.

There was no second chance for poor Werner (Rainer Bock), who fatally took a break from his job building a meth lab (that will one day be Walter White’s) for Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) for a few days with his beloved wife.  Mike took another step toward his own hell when he accepted Gus’s instruction to kill his German colleague with a bullet to the back of the head.  Werner had lied, and as Mike wearily told him, no one would ever believe him again.

As is always the case on Better Call Saul, the script for the finale by series co-creator Peter Gould and Executive Producer Thomas Schnauz was impeccable, building themes and plot toward an inevitable yet jarring conclusion.  (It was a bit surprising, though, that the 85-minute runtime didn’t find space for Michael Mando’s Nacho, a virtual third lead through most of the season, except indirectly by the presence of Tony Dalton’s Lalo, who will clearly be bedeviling the show’s drug-related characters in Season 5.)  Adam Bernstein’s direction was similarly clean and deadly, particularly expert in the depiction of Mike and then Lalo pursuing Werner via an unfortunate money transfer office.  The cast delivered flawlessly, from Odenkirk and Banks to the cameos from favorites like David Costabile and Michael McKean in the season finale.

For all of Better Call Saul‘s superb execution, it’s hard to get excited about the show in the way we sometimes do about much messier, less accomplished pieces of television.  Partly that may be because its pieces fit together so neatly, with little room for random pleasures, and partly because we all know where the series is going.  (In this season, the emotions of Jimmy’s complicated relationship with his brother were also in the past.)  It’s a show that will probably be adored more in retrospect, when its grand design has been fully realized.  Even now, though, it’s a beautiful, dark piece of work, a rare example of narrative artists hitting every goal they’ve set for themselves.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."