Lalo is pissed. Nacho is screwed. Jimmy is deeply concerned. And Kim is … up to some sort of no good. After a two-year hiatus, the final season of Better Call Saul will arrive in less than two weeks, and here's where you brace for impact.
"Turbulent" is the word that Bob Odenkirk — who stars as lawyer-turned-consigliere-turned- fugitive Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman/Gene Takovic — chooses to describe the first few episodes of the final season of AMC's Breaking Bad prequel spin-off. "This show mostly progressed incrementally, and the characters make choices that are incremental," he tells EW. "Mostly. And now in this final season, I see much bigger things happening, much faster. It's just a more turbulent show. The plotting just gets amped up."
As Jimmy hurtles toward doom and danger, he'll shed the last remains of his conscience and fully embrace his destiny as Saul Goodman, the morally bankrupt lawyer forcibly employed by Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in Breaking Bad. "We watched Jimmy McGill get beat around for five years, and he gains and loses some sense of his ethical compass," says Odenkirk. "He doesn't have much of one, but sometimes he has it, and sometimes it comes back. But to get that last bit of ethical compass cut out of his brain, it's some deep surgery and it's gonna be bloody and … painful."
A laugh, then he deadpans: "But in the end, he loses it and he becomes Saul, so everything works out great."
His wife and confidant, Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), is going through her own transmogrification; she surprised Jimmy by pitching a rather dark scheme at the end of season 5. But there's a far more unhinged force in his orbit. Cartel player Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton) was last seen limping off in anger after a (botched) assassination attempt on his life in Mexico, one that was commissioned by Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) and facilitated by Nacho (Michael Mando). "Lalo is not okay with being embarrassed like that and pushed around," he says. "My assumption is that Lalo thinks, 'Well now, I've got two lawyers. They owe me, both of them. And she's sharp. So now I've got a really high-class, sharp lawyer.' "
In recent years, as the cartel game intensified and the timeline crawled toward the dawn of Blue Sky, Better Call Saul bumped into Breaking Bad in the darndest of places. This season, they bond on an even deeper level. "In the final season of Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul have never been more entwined," Odenkirk says. "It's just amazing how many overlaps they've discovered and mined for this season of our show. It's stunning! And it's going to be cool. For people who watch this, it's going to be like, 'I gotta go watch Breaking Bad again,' as soon as they're done, they're gonna have to press play on Breaking Bad, because there's just so much interaction now. More than any other season. By a lot."
Of course, Saul also takes viewers past the demise of Heisenberg, when Saul flees Albuquerque with the help of the Disappearer (the late Robert Forster), who sets him up with a new life in Omaha. Alas, Cinnabon manager Gene has now been recognized as Saul. And when viewers last saw Gene, he called the Disappearer for another emergency extraction request, only to have a sudden change of heart, telling him: "I'm going to fix it on my own." Thoughts, Bob? "I don't see Jimmy making Cinnabons forever," he teases.
What is the appropriate fate for this tragically flawed character? After season 5 ended, Saul co-creator Peter Gould told EW that viewers should ask themselves if Gene deserves the harshest of karmic punishment or some form of redemption. Perhaps not surprisingly, the man who embodies him is rooting for the latter. "You can't help but start to like a person that you play for that long and want him to be … okay. Or better," says Odenkirk. "If you look at Walter White [in Breaking Bad], you see that over time he revealed a dark side of himself that was more powerful and more who he was than the lighter, good side of him. In this case, Jimmy's got a lot of goodness hidden inside him, compartmentalized. First couple of seasons, we learned that there was a really good guy there, and his feelings were hurt, and he tried to just get love and appreciation from people he loved, and he was pushed away at every turn. I would like him to reconnect with that person he was when he was younger and find some way to be hopeful again and be a good person and maybe even be a better person because he knows how bad people think."
"I told this to Vince [Gilligan, Saul co-creator] and Peter that sometimes people learn the right lessons from life," he continues. "They don't always learn the wrong lessons. Usually they do, but they don't always get worse and darker and meaner and more selfish and more resentful. Sometimes they feel more connection and let go of their pain and let go of their anger and connect with other people. So would it be possible that he could go on that journey?"
That may be a tall, wishful order, but possibilities abound and may astound in these story-stuffed final episodes. "These writers put so much story into an hour that you almost can't keep track of it," he marvels. "At the end of the season — especially a 13-episode season — it's like, 'What? I can't remember what happened at all!' "
It was an indelible, whirlwind, exhausting season for many reasons, including the fact that Odenkirk collapsed on set after suffering a heart attack and nearly died. (He recovered fast enough to resume filming five weeks later.) "The heart attack and the effects and the resonance of it — I'm going to be thinking about that for a long, long time," he says.
He also thinks that, in classic Better Call Saul form, the events of this final season will not be forecasted or expected. "One of the great things about this show is you're not going to predict what the hell is going to happen next, but it all follows with the characters that they've set up," he hints. "And this ending, it is really great. Very satisfying."
Your final satisfaction begins on Apr. 18 with a two-episode premiere. Better buckle up.
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Better Call Saul review: The (leisurely, tense, funny, horrifying) end begins